Yet again, we find ourselves in the Northern parts of India, specifically in Jaipur. Rajasthan is famous for its culture, architecture, food and especially its natural diversity. The biodiversity of Rajasthan is quite interesting when you stop and think about the sort of landscape, terrain and resources the state has access to and how so many species live together. We decided to take the Hyundai Tucson and head on a mile-munching journey from Jaipur to Sawai Madhopur, home to the worldrenowned Ranthambore National Park.
Throughout history, it was seen as a prime hunting ground for kings thanks to its abundant population of wildlife, however as times passed, we came to realise the value of preserving said wildlife and in 1955 was established as Sawai Madhopur Game Sanctuary, and it spanned as far as 282 square kilometres. Fast forward to the 1970s, and it was declared one of the Project Tiger reserves and became a national park in 1980. By 1992 the sanctuary saw an expansion and now sits over a massive area of 1,334 square kilometres. Ranthambore earns its name from a fort located in the heart of the park and where the Maharajas spent their time hunting.
Located about 200 kms away from Jaipur, our journey was expected to be long, but what we weren’t expecting was the fabulous roads we’d encounter on the way. Rajasthan is known for its roads and is renowned for having some of the best roads in India. The road from Jaipur to Sawai Madhopur was no different and was an eight-lane, practically deserted highway. As the roads were built relatively recently, the infrastructure in the surrounding area hadn’t caught up just yet. So you were left with Y endlessly straight highways with no soul in sight and animals and birds all over the road hanging out like they owned the streets.
After driving for 5 hours and allowing the Tucsons ADAS to take over and make the mile-munching even easier, we finally made it to Sawai Madhopur, a small town with a few ruins scattered across. The hotel we were staying at was nice enough to arrange a safari for us the following day, giving us enough time to rest and prepare. Ranthambore has up to 11 different zones; you can choose between zones 1 to 8 or 9 to 11. During peak monsoon, certain zones are closed, and you’d be limited to only a few zones, so the best time to visit Ranthambore is winter. Unfortunately, during monsoon, Tiger spotting can be extremely difficult since there are plenty of water bodies, and the wildlife has easy access to them, so they never have to venture off the beaten path.
We left early in the morning and were greeted with beautiful lush green forests and the sounds of birds echoing through the jungles. As we went deeper and deeper into the forests, we saw a large group of deer gathered together, grazing and holding their strength in numbers. I was hoping there’d be a Tiger around the corner waiting to pounce on this buffet but alas, no Tigers on the prowl. After venturing deeper into the woods, we did find an old kill that explains why the well-fed Tiger is probably not on the lookout for another meal. Tigers tend to be highly territorial, so it’s rare to spot random other Tigers in another’s territory.
Regardless we continued deeper into the forests of Ranthambore, hoping to find some more wildlife. Our guide told us how Tigers and Sloth Bears aren’t the best friends here and often got into fights over prey and territory. Unfortunately, after spending four hours in the forests of Ranthambore, we could not spot any carnivores and were left feeling slightly disappointed. We didn’t pick the best time of the year to visit, and hopefully, next time, we can get lucky at spotting some wildlife.
The Safari is beautiful, with tremendous off-road terrain that dives deep into nature with water crossings, dense jungles and open plains surrounded by mountains. All this makes you feel like you’re in a Lion King movie about to sing the infamous opening theme in your head. With that, we continued once we left the sanctuary to discover some roads and trails around the park and found some lovely muck trails leading to a massive lake. Thanks to the capable drivetrain on the Hyundai Tucson, we could get to these places hassle-free and never once felt under-equipped for the terrain we aimed to tackle.
After taking in the sights and scenes in nature, we returned to Jaipur to conclude this episode and enjoy the well-paved tarmac on our way there. The NE4 road is one I’d highly recommend to anyone who wants to experience not just ADAS but also the freedom of driving on an eight-lane road all by yourself. Though you should hurry because it’ll only stay empty for some more time before civilization catches up, and so does the traffic.