Ranthambore National Park in 24 Hours

Spotting the tiger is a matter of luck.
Image courtesy: ©Rudra Narayan Mitra/Shutterstock

An early morning train on chilly December Saturday brought me and my husband Shaunak to Sawai Madhopur at around noon. We had little more than 24 hours before our scheduled departure back to Delhi and we were determined to make the most of Ranthambore National Park.

We were staying at the regal-sounding Dev Vilas, as befitting a couple still bearing their newly-married status. The hotel had welcoming exteriors in a warm peach-pink set against neat green lawns and pretty orange flowers, wide sunlit hallways and large comfortable rooms.
Ranthambore Fort
Image courtesy: Shaunak Choudhury

After a hearty lunch, we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the Ranthambore Fort. My husband, the budding photographer, set out armed to the teeth with his DSLR camera and myriad lenses. A 20-minute drive brought us to the formidable hill fort set inside the national park. Built in the 10th century under the Chauhan Rajputs, the fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We set off along a path that loped its way gradually up the hill. Having opted out of a guided tour, we found plenty of little detours off the beaten path to wander around in and play shutterbugs, capturing the magnificent ruins and breathtaking views.

Silhouettes at dusk.
Image courtesy: Shaunak Choudhury

We stayed until the light gradually faded, rewarding us with pretty silhouettes against a darkening sky. Having booked an early morning safari through the hotel staff, we then returned to our hotel to turn in for the night.

I woke up unusually fresh at 6am (an impossibility in the concrete jungle we live in) and feeling lucky. We were going to spot that tiger. I just knew it!

Ranthambhore has more 300 species of birds.
Image courtesy: Shaunak Choudhury

After a quick hot breakfast, we were off in a 20-seater canter. A bumpy ride took us through the uneven terrain of the park which was mostly dry and brown but with occasional green thickets. We saw many of the park’s inhabitants including deer, nilghai, langurs, and a variety of birds. But the royal cat remained elusive through the first half of the safari as we stopped at a meeting point for a short break. “We’ll see one, don’t worry,” I confidently assured a now-skeptical Shaunak.

A tigress basks in the sun.
Image courtesy: Gitanjali Lal

After the break, we set off again. An hour passed and just as we were about to lose hope, there was a flurry of excitement when the canter ahead of us got word of a sighting nearby. We followed them closely to the spot in hushed silence.
“There,” someone whispered.

And there she was – nestled among the greenery under a patch of sunlight – regal, powerful and magnificent. She glared at us accusingly as if blaming us for disturbing her moment of solitude and then rose and stalked off, disappearing into the trees.

After a moment of revered silence, the group broke into excited chatter before we were shushed by the driver and guide. The safari came to a close on a high note and we returned to the hotel. It was time to leave and catch the 1.30pm train back to our city lives. We bid farewell to Ranthambore with promises to return.

It’s an easy trip. All we need is 24 hours.

AUTHOR'S BIO: Combining her love for writing and travel, Gitanjali Lal is working her way through a rather long bucket list, accompanied by her shutterbug husband. She especially loves to explore nature – from wildlife to untouched beaches. She is currently working as a Copy Editor at Lonely Planet India.

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