Rajasthan had always been a dream holiday destination especially because of the historical monuments. When we planned for a week long trip in November, we hadn't thought of a forest. As a friend suggested that Ranthambore is a must visit, we did some quick online research about the commute options while we had only 2 days left to begin the journey to Jaipur. Luckily, the train we had booked - Mumbai-Jaipur express was going via Sawai Madhopur station, the nearest to Ranthambore. We booked a train from Sawai to Jaipur at 7pm on the day of visit. Apparently, the last planned destination became the first one we were to see.
The train left BCT (Mum Central) at around 6.50pm, reached Sawai at 11:30 am. The journey was short and thus less tiring. I noticed water tanks painted with tiger pictures the moment I jumped out of the train.
After a round of chai, we headed towards the exit. On the way, an information center caught our attention and we went in right away. After some enquiries about how to reach Ranthambore and the timings, we stepped out of the station to have lunch. Sawai Madhopur station was not just another place, it had huge wall paintings of tigers and other jungle themes. Sadly, as we moved out after appreciating the pictures, nothing but crowded dirty streets were seen. Fat wild boars feeded on garbage thrown liberally on the streets.
After lunch, we went to the office again where the staff called an auto driver to pick us. The auto driver came in 2 min, he asked us to keep the luggage in cloak room.. 2 important points here
1. safari park doesn't allow you to carry big luggage 2. In cloak room they won't allow to keep ur luggage without locks. We went to a nearby shop and bought locks.
We reached Ranthambore safari ticket counter in 10min. A guide quickly caught us to explain his deal. Seeing the huge rush near the counter we agreed to pay him 100 Rs extra. It costed us 1200 for 2 entry tickets. We opted for the safari truck and never thought of going in a gypsy. We imagined how the tigers will be roaming, how far they may come if they see us,..etc
The truck pulled off at around 2.30pm, a guide got in on the way, and we picked many other guests from their hotels. The truck had a lot of families with small kids. Our guide was an entertainer and very talkative guy. He explained details about the tigers and their history. We were assigned to take the trail no.1. The air was dusty and warm. Mr guide told us we will all use the jackets during the return as the weather will turn very chill. Listening to the chit chats, I started noticing the change in scenery...sandalwood color mountains appeared, trees were greenish brown, maybe due to the dust or lack of water during the season. The truck stopped near a small lake where we saw crocodiles in a distance.
Then there were monkeys, spotted deers and Sambar deers welcoming us. I clicked pictures whenever the truck slowed down. A mother Sambar was feeding her child, we disturbed their peace...the mother started moving away but the child kept following her for milk..we all suggested we leave them alone.. At another spot Mr.guide asked to stop the truck and explained us that two Sambar deers were beginning a fight...to our surprise, quickly the two deers interlocked their horns and began a fight...they made strange noises. When we asked what must be the reason for the fight, Mr.guide pointed to a female deer standing at a distance. He said - for her. We all laughed and enjoyed the fight scene. It was probably the most natural and memorable occurrence of the whole trip. We spotted owls, peacocks and yes 2 black bears too walking in their natural habitat. When I enquired, Mr.guide told me the bears feed on termites and other insects. On the way back, we stopped at an open space in the forest to take some pictures. Suddenly a bird (Rufous treepie), flew down and sat near me, I thought it very friendly and clicked some pictures. In a moment I saw more of them coming and sitting on the truck. They had come in search of food. A few co travellers fed them with popcorn and biscuits. The birds picked the food from their hands with no fear at all.
Although we heard some warning calls from the deers, we couldn't spot the big cats. According to Mr.guide, we were lucky to see the bears and forest is not just about the big cats..we should all enjoy the experience, then everything that we see will be worth remembering. He stressed on the need to feel positive. I mentally agreed to his advices. I felt happy with the visit because, the forest was very different from the ones I have seen in South India, the narrow bumpy tracks which the truck took was a great rare experience, I could see in real how the deers and monkeys send out warnings calls for their safety from the big cats, I saw a deer head skeleton lying on the ground (made me think of the plight of that poor creature), last but not the least Mr.guide made sure we were not disappointed at the end of the trip.
We called our auto wala who dropped us back at the station. Tips to remember: Never try food from Sawai Madhopur station, it's horrible.
You may drop in a message if you need any suggestions for this visit. Also you may see stay options near Ranthambore safari park, but I suggest that it is not needed.