The 392 sq km of Ranthambhore National Park is perhaps India’s finest example of Project Tiger, a conservation effort started by the government in an attempt to save the dwindling number of tigers in India. Situated near the small town of Sawai Madhopur, the Park has seen its ups and downs, and there were times not so long ago when poachers were having a field day in the Park. But recently thanks to the devoted work of some good field staff the forest has been restored to its old glory and is now seen as a much needed stronghold for the tiger which is battling for survival. The Park was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1955 and as a National Park in 1980, seven years after the launch of Project Tiger. In 1984, the southern and northeast forests were declared as Sawai Man Singh and Keladevi sanctuaries.
Ranthambhore has a wide variety of dazzling landscape to offer. The most frequented areas in the Park are around the beautiful lakes where a large number of the wild conjugates. One also gets a chance to drive through rolling grasslands, rushing streams, open scrubs, heavily wooded valleys and through deep ravines walled on either side with steep cliffs.
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).
Ranthambhore National Park spans an area of about 400 sq km with a tiger population of about 32. The tiger is relatively easier to spot in Ranthambhore than in many other National Parks, thanks to the tourist friendly nature of the tigers and the openness of its surroundings.
The Park also supports a large number of other wild species including leopards, the highly endangered caracal, jungle cat, hyena, jackal, sloth bear, wild boar, marsh crocodile, porcupine, common langur, spotted deer, Indian gazelle, sambar (Asiatic stag) and nilgai (bluebull). Some of these species (especially the nocturnal ones like the leopard and the caracal) are difficult to spot and sightings are rare, but then that is bound to happen when every eye in the Park is looking for what Ranthambhore is best known for – the tiger.