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 Situated near the town of Sawai Madhopur, midway between Bharatpur and Kota, Ranthambhore National Park is one of the prime examples of Project Tiger’s conservation efforts in Rajasthan. Sadly, it also demonstrates that programme’s overall failure; for it was in this park that government officials were implicated in the poaching of tigers for the Chinese folk medicine trade. Experts reckon that the tiger population here may now be as low as 15, although the official figure is 22 –down from 44 a few years back. There’s still a reasonable chance of seeing one, but you should plan on two or three safaris. Other game, especially the larger and smaller herbivores, are more numerous. 
The park itself covers some 400 sq km and its scenery is very beautiful. A system of lakes and rivers is hemmed in by steep high, crags and, on top of one of these, is the extensive and well-preserved fortress of Ranthambhore, built in the 10th century. The fort is definitely worth visiting and there are superb views over the park from the ramparts. The lower lying ground alternates between open bushland and fairly dense forest and is peppered with ruined pavilions, chhatris and ‘hides’- the area was formerly a hunting preserve of the maharajas.
A good network of four gravel tracks crisscrosses the park and safaris are under-taken in open-sided jeeps driven by a ranger. If you’ve ever been on safari in Africa, you might think this is an unduly risky venture but the tigers appear unconcerned by jeep loads of garrulous tourists touting cameras only metres away from where they’re lying.
The best time to visit the park is between October and April, and the park is actually closed during the monsoon from 1 June to 1 October. Early morning and late afternoon are the best time to view game.

There’s a tourist office in the Project Tiger office is Sawai Madhopur. It is tucked away half a km south of the railway station. Just follow the tracks south from the station, through the overpass, and the office is on the left, just before the cinema, which is on the other side of the tracks.
The number of vehicles allowed into the park is strictly controlled. There are four trails within the park, and on each safari two or three jeeps take each trail. There are also large trucks, seating 22 people, but they’re limited to only two of the trails.
It’s 10 km from Sawai Madhopur to the first park gate, where you pay the entry fees; and a further three km to the main gate and the Jogi Mahal. The accommodation is strung out all the way along the road from the town to the park. Advance booking is essential during the busy Christmas and New Year periods.

 Places to Stay
There’s some basic accommodation in the town itself, while the better places are along the park road. When stepping off the train you’ll be besieged by touts trying to drum up business. Taj Group’s Sawai Madhopur Lodge; (one km) formerly belonging to the maharaja of Jaipur. It is suitably luxurious, and has a bar, restaurant, pool and beautiful garden.
 Getting There & Away
Sawai Madhopur is on the main Delhi to Bombay broad-gauge railway line and, as most trains stop here, there’ a wide range to choose from. The 108-km trip to Kota takes two hours and 10 minutes, while to Agra Fort it’s 226 km, a trip which takes eight hours.

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