|A Royal Tryst with Nature Once-in-a-lifetime sightings of regal tigers and other rich wildlife in the verdant surroundings of the Ranthambore National Park can only be matched by the luxurious splendor of Rajasthan’s Nahargarh Resort..
The dusty air wobbled above the simmering Rajasthani roads as the blistering sun turned Jaipur’s royal palaces almost mirage-like. Almost magically, the fever pitch of Goa’s season winding down and the glitterati of The Navhind Times Viva Goa Achievers’ Awards dissipated in the heat of the desert city. Work commitments had drawn me to Rajasthan, and the tide of luck turned my way in the unlikely form of earthquake tremors that evacuated me from the eighth floor of a hotel straight to the safety of the regal Nahargarh palace near Ranthambore National Park.
Barely 130 kms off Jaipur, the majestic hotel appeared pearl-like in the haze of the setting sun. Surrounded by a 16th century style fortress, the recently built Nahargarh has enshrined a traditional Rajput hunting palace for the ages as one of the most luxurious hotels lying sedately at the foothills of the Aravali hills. Its vast ‘Char Bagh’ or formal garden typical of Mughal times forms the centre piece of aviary courtship and the resort’s expansive outdoors witnesses the daily theatrics of the local fauna.
We retired to an early dinner, catching snippets of the tales of the Alsisar family who own Nahargarh. The Alsisar group of hotels is run by the eighth generation of the descendants of Alsisar, Thakur Samrath Singhji who wrestled control over the Alsisar Mahal in 1737. At Nahargarh, consistent with the original architecture, the grandeur of dinner fought hard with the décor of the dining room – gold leaf painting on the ceiling, offset by original vintage oil paintings and chandeliers from France and German candle-sticks, against the staff smartly styled in traditional Rajasthani outfits with colourful turbans.
Still dark, the alarm clock triggered an agonising groan from the comfort of my royal bed before I dragged myself out to catch the sunrise as safari jeeps arrived with our guides. My company was Omar Adam Khan, a successful wildlife photographer-cinematographer-artist, who had a knack for spotting wildlife camouflaged in the desert brush and was already picking out small birds and wandering animals as we made our way to the Ranthambore National Park.
One of the largest and most famous national parks in the country, Ranthambore started out as a hunting ground favoured by the maharajas of Jaipur. Today, as many as 56 known tigers stalk the verdant landscape, drawing awe-struck gasps from tourists and wildlife lovers alike. The only shooting that happens here now is from wildlife photographers and filmmakers who scour the 1,334sq km sanctuary looking for shy animals or the much-loved striped felines tending to their young.
Not long after we entered the park, the guttural call of a tiger announced the presence of the royal beast. And soon enough, amid the twigs and bushes lay T26, numbered so by the forest department to keep track of the park’s many tigers. More than six jeeps and 30 pairs of eyes gazed in a stupor at the sight, yet she only acknowledged us with an occasional yawn. After a 40-minute laze, T26 rose to her feet and set off purposefully. Our guides were excited as she was perhaps beginning her hunt, but she artfully sneaked off into the thickets, leaving us with an experience to treasure for all time.
The jeeps then bumped off to the nearest watering hole at which small herds of cheetal deer, sambar and a troupe of monkeys with their little ones quenched their thirst from the heat of the sun. They kept a wary eye on the sinister crocodiles floating slyly in smaller ponds nearby. Our guides pointed out an array of wildlife, including wild boar and painted stork, which arrived for their daily splash. A common kingfisher swooped passed, a bright streak against the sun, while a spotted owlet and Eurasian Thick-knee sat in the shade of a tree.
For a few seconds, Omar Adam’s keen eye found the spots of a skulking leopard but it vanished before we could find it. The fleeting glimpse signalled our return to the luxury of the hotel, still excited from our sightings yet keen to explore the plush surroundings of the Nahargarh fortress. Favoured for conferences and fairytale weddings alike, Nahargarh’s 68 large aristocratic deluxe and super deluxe rooms offer private hideaways and stunning views. Individual courtyards attached to the first floor rooms leave you enchanted by the beauty of the lush jungle just a furlong away. On the second floor, guests enjoy the spectacular play of Creation in the national park from their private terraces.
Modelled after the style of heritage palaces, guests are welcomed into the traditional Char Bagh, where four gardens meet. We walked through an intricate archway to find the resort’s first courtyard, accommodating the dining area and Lancer’s Bar, where we refreshed ourselves later that evening with some spectacular cocktails.
Another courtyard led us on to the facing rooms, spa, swimming pool and other amenities. The dry heat had set in following our morning adventure and the weary safari lot decided a dip in the pool was just what the doctor ordered. I took it a step further with a relaxing LomiLomi massage executed to perfection by the spa therapists.
The traditional Hawaiian treatment follows ancient techniques using the palms, forearms, fingers, knuckles and elbows to massage the body.
Satisfied by sumptuous meals, enchanted by the beauty of natural surroundings and pampered by royal luxury, the night beckoned a warm and comforting sleep despite an approaching storm.
(A resident of Goa for the last seven years, Sinead currently works for four international travel magazines, including National Geographic Traveller UK and the Association of British Travel Agents, where she promotes India as a destination to the trade and consumer market of the US and Britain. She also contributes articles on travel, hospitality and wellness to local publications).
Pics – Courtesy of Omar Adam Khan
For More Details: www.alsisar.com