I was in Jaipur on research for a feature film, and since Ranthambore is only 120 km away, at Sawai Madhopur, I decided to drive down for a few days. Only after experiencing it, did I realise why many people call it it King Of Parks in India. Ranthambhore has a backdrop of a magnificent ancient fort, built in 944 AD by the Nagil Jats. In most areas of this Park, you can see ancient fort ruins amidst dense vegetation. And if you are lucky, you get to see the Tiger lying amidst them.
Ranthambhore in the setting sun’s amber flourish.
The Ranthambhore National Park was declared part of the Project Tiger Reserves in 1973 and in 1991, the tiger reserve was enlarged to include the Sawai Man Singh and Keladevi sanctuaries. The park covers an area of 392 sq kilometres and its most famous for its Tiger, followed by other large mammals like the Leopard, Sloth Bear, Jungle Cats, Hyena, Sambar, Chital, Nilgai etc.
The forest trail in Ranthambhore. One can often spot large carnivores like the Tiger (Panthera tigris) on these trails. Big cats have very soft paws and prefer the relative comfort of a trail to thorny undergrowth.
The park is divided into ‘tourism zones’, and my favourite is zone 3, because of its fabulous backdrop of historic ruins and the beautiful Malik Talao, a wetland reservoir which is covered with a beautiful red algae. Although (and rightfully so) no one is allowed on foot or in private vehicles, there is a wealth of plant, animal and bird life to be photographed. I only wish I had a good monopod and a ball head with a car rig. Sitting in an open 4X4 and photographing birds, any kind of stabilisation (beyond the in-lens VR) would help.
A Grey Francolin (Francolinus pondicerianus). These graceful birds are much hunted for their meat, which is served illegally.
An Indian Scops Owl (Otus brucei) sleeps the day out.
A Great Egret (Ardea alba) with a catch of fish in its beak in Malik Talao.
A Great Egret (Ardea alba) in Malik Talao turned red with algae.
A Rufous Treepie (Dendrocitta vagabunda) whispers in the ears of a female Sambar (Rusa unicolor). The Sambar is a favourite meal of the tiger and is in the IUCN ‘Vulnerable’ list, due to habitat loss and illegal hunting.
Portrait of an Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) commonly known as the peacock
A male Sambar (Rusa unicolor) deer. Sambars are crepuscular, and the males live alone for most of the year. They are also the favourite meal for a tiger.
The Chinkara or the Indian Gazelle (Gazella bennettii). These beautiful, shy gazelles are often hunted by stray dogs in the fringes of protected areas.
A Grey Headed Canary-Flycatcher (Culicicapa ceylonensis). These beautiful insectivores build nests bound with spider web.
Black Headed Ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus) is on the ‘Near Threatened’ list of IUCN.
Painted Storks (Mycteria leucocephala), sit as if in meditation. IUCN status: near threatened.
A White Breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) caught in the act in between two White Browed Wagtails (Motacilla maderaspatensis).
A Spotted Owlet (Athene brama) couple sleep it out. They are extremely useful in keeping rodent populations in check. They are known to feed their young with cockroaches and little reptiles.
A Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus).
We saw a lot of wild birds and mammals, and got very lucky on the last day. It rained. I witnessed for the first time, rain inside a forest. The smell of the first drops of rain on the forest floor, the cold breeze and the cheer it brings to the wildlife, parched after a long dry winter… its all the stuff magic is made of.
And then, we heard the calls. The Peacocks. Followed by some Rufous Treepies, and picked up by the Chitals (spotted deer) and then the Langur monkeys. In the tall grass next to Padam Talao, lazed a large male Tiger. I was glad I carried my binoculars and after getting a good view, took out my Nikon D800 with the new 80-400G.
And finally, the King of Ranthambhore, the Tiger (Panthera tigris). Poached for fur, bones and body parts, these are endangered and unless conservation efforts are made more severe, we risk losing these beautiful predators.
I was hooked to Ranthambhore.
Paramvir Singh is an award winning Cinematographer with strong interests in Technology and Wildlife. He blogs his travels at theuntourists.com.