The name Ranthambore is derived from two hills in the area, Ran and Thanbhor. Another version says that Ranthambhore was once called Rana Stambhapura or City of the Pillars of War.
The Ranthambore National Park was the hunting ground of Maharajah of Jaipur. In 1955, it was declared a game sanctuary; in 1980, it became a national park. But with the commissioning of Project Tiger in 1972, it was included in the project. With the addition of neighboring Keladevi and Mansingh sanctuaries, the total area of the national park stands at 1,334 sq km. But the entire park - the core area is just 392 sq kms - is not open to the public. The Ranthambore Park is set between the Aravalli and Vindhya ranges. Its deciduous forests were once a part of the magnificent jungles of Central India. The terrain is rugged and there are rocky ridges, hills and open valleys with lakes and pools.
Ranthambore is a heritage site because of the picturesque ruins that dot the wildlife park. There are lake palaces, 'chhatris', old fortifications and a majestic 1,000-year-old fort, overlooking the park. The lovely Jogi Mahal is located at the foot of the fort and gives magnificent view of the Padam Talao, painted white with water lilies. The Ranthambhore park is famous for tigers and due to conservation efforts, the tiger population has stabilized if not increased here. The tigers can be spotted quite often even during the day, at their normal pursuits-- hunting and taking care of their young ones. Ranthambhore is one of the best places to see these majestic predators.
The most fascinating and most popular excursion taken from the national park is to the Ranthambore Fort. This fort was built by the Chauhans in the 10th century. The fort is located at a very strategic position between north and central India and hence it was always coveted by many rulers. This fort is famous for the 'Johar' (suicide by immolation to escape humilitaion) by Rajput women in 1301AD during the siege by Ala-ud-din Khilji. The temples and tanks add to the beauty of the fort. The seven gates and massive curtain walls, crowning a fall-topped hill presents a majestic view.
Ranthambhore forest is dry deciduous with dhok (Anogeissus pendula) trees as the main vegetation which is an important fodder tree for animals. Kulu (Sterculia urens), ronj (Acacia leucophloea), ber (Zizyphus maudrentiana), khimi (Manilkara hexandra), tendu (Diospyrous melanoxylon), polas (Butea monosperma), peepal, mango and banyan are prevalent in Ranthambhore. But perhaps the most spectacular is the flame of the forest which blooms in April, enveloping the forest in a spectacular fiery red aura. The four lakes in Ranthambhore are surrounded by a numerous species of trees like salar (Boswellia serrata), gurjan (Lannea coromandelica) and gum (Sterculia urens).
Among the more fascinating features of Ranthambhore are the banyan trees, some of which are known to be at least a 800 years old and are mentioned in ancient texts. Ranthambhore can also boasts of the superb specimen of the banyan tree that casts its magnificent canopy behind Jogi Mahal, the old hunting lodge by the lake built in the latter part on the last century by the Maharaja of Jaipur.
The langur is the only primate found in Ranthambhore and is abundant in these forests. It is not the tiger's best friend. Actually it is a source of great annoyance to the tiger, since it has a remarkable eyesight and from its high perch it can spot the slightest movement; its shrill alarm call effectively warns all the other animals of danger. But if you are looking for tigers you should be listening carefully, a langurs alarm call or for that matter a chitals (spotted deer) call might be a good indication of the presence of a tiger in the area.
Another animal that is sure to come you way in Ranthambhore is the sambar. It is among the tiger's favourite prey. Largest of the Asiatic deer, the sambar stands some 1.5 metres at the shoulder and weighs more than 270 kilograms
Ranthambhore is also rich in migratory, water, and woodland birds. There are about 270 species of birds in the Park including a large number of migratory birds. Some of the many varities of birdlife to be found here are the great Indian horned owl, various species of eagles such as Bonellis eagle and the crested serpent, spoonbills, partridge, quail, parakeets, kingfishers, owls and storks, geese and ducks. But perhaps the most visible bird in Ranthambhore is the peacock, India's national bird. Every evening the peacocks of Ranthambhore line up on the walls of the fort which stands on a cliff above the Park and, after much calling, descend to specific roosting trees for the night.
The most exciting aspect of a visit to a wildlife sanctuary is the safari into the jungles, of meeting the unexpected and completely missing the expected. Animals can be seen in a zoo also, but the dangerous thrill of actually encountering a wild beast in its natural habitat is a sure method of testing ones patience and bravado.
The Park is open from October to April, after which the monsoons make it impossible to enter forests as the muddy trails are washed away. The best times to view wildlife are the early mornings and evenings, as fixed by the forest department, and in Ranthambhore there is a fairly good chance of spotting a tiger. A network of four tracks crisscross the park. A maximum of three open jeeps are allowed on each trail at a time. There are open roofed canters (small trucks) but these are not very good for viewing wildlife as they seat 20 people who can get really excited on seeing an animal and scare it away. Also, canters are shaky vehicles and photography is nearly impossible from them because their drivers stop and start on their own whims and without warning. Rides into the jungle in open jeeps is pretty safe as most of the wild animals are accustomed to human presence.
The best time to visit the Park is between October to February. Jeeps can be booked upto five months in advance and even a day earlier. Each safari takes about three hours.
Min 4, Max 47 (deg. cel.)