It was worth the very early start (5.30) to watch the sunrise and the park coming to life. Ranthambore National Park is one of the largest and most famous national parks in northern India. It was once the hunting ground for the Maharajas of Jaipur, and its royal heritage is still present in the hunting lodges, chhatris and fortifications dotted around the park. The name is derived from the historic Ranthambore fortress which lies within the national park. It was established in 1955 and was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1957, and in 1974 it gained the protection of “Project Tiger”. It got its status of a National Park in 1981. Besides tigers, the reserve has a thriving bird population with more than 270 species. Other residents include wild boar, spotted deer, samba deer, crocodiles, Indian gazelle, black buck, cranes, mongoose, nilgai, dhole, sambar, hares, peacocks, squirrels and chital. It is also home to a wide variety of trees, plants, and reptiles including cobras and vipers. Covering an area of 392km², Ranthambore is also the site for one of the largest banyan trees in India, and several lakes. According to non-government sources the number of tigers in the park were 34 in 2008 when more than 14 tiger cubs were also recorded. This was largely attributed to sustained efforts by forest officials to curb poaching. Villagers in the region were being given incentives to stay out of the park and surveillance cameras were also fitted across the reserve. At the time of my visit there were 38 tigers, sadly we didn’t see one.