A group of 39 students, along with 4 Teachers- Mr Mukul Sharma, Ms Jaskirat Sekhon, Ms Anu Sharma & Dr Shaveta and tour guide Mr Shoaib, started their trip to the gorgeous Ranthambore National Park, which is nestled lazily in the foothills of the magnificent hilly terrain of Aravalli and Vindhya ranges, on 20 December 2022. All of us reached school extremely excited for the long yet thrilling journey ahead of us. We boarded our AC coach and left the school premises at 4:30 a.m. We were able to see the beautiful sight of the mustard fields and trees passing by, once the day was clear and the fog had lifted. We stopped for our meals enroute, at beautiful Havelis, where we were served sumptuous Indian meals. Despite our efforts to conserve our energy for the exciting days ahead, it was difficult to contain ourselves as we were buzzing with enthusiasm. We finally reached the Pugmark Resort at 8 p.m. All our exhaustion from the long hours of travel was immediately forgotten when we looked up at the night sky and were able to see the stars completely free from the light pollution of the cities. At the resort, we were welcomed warmly by Rajasthani folk artists, playing beautiful folk music for us. We also witnessed a thrilling fire show which kept us all on the edge of our seats. Post our dinner, we were briefed about the next day.
On the Second day of our trip, 6 am was the wake-up call and we had to be ready for breakfast by 7:00 am. We were divided into two groups before we set off for our visit to The Ranthambore Fort, which lies within the National Park in our respective canters. Our tour guide informed us about the rich cultural history of the Ranthambore Fort, while we were all enthralled by its beauty. The fort had seen many battles & sieges under different rulers and probably the most famous among these is the war of Rao Hamir in 1301, against the Sultan of Delhi, Alauddin Khilji. The fort is also related to the historical legend of the royal women performing Jauhar when Alauddin Khilji laid siege on this fort in 1303. The Fort is an architectural marvel, and it was truly a privilege to learn about yet another historical gem of India. The gates of the fort were strategically placed and built to deceive potential attackers and lead them into a trap. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a major tourist attraction. After our return to the resort, we were taken to an open field for a session about Astronomy, where we observed the sun and its sunspots by using a pinhole camera, solar eclipse goggles, and even a telescope. We were taught how to make rockets out of paper, plastic, and clay and we even launched them using water pressure. Post lunch, we sat in the canters once again for an exciting Jungle safari, to zone 4 and 5 of the Ranthambore National Park, where we hoped to spot a tiger. The park stretches over 1734 sq. km in the Aravalli Hills out of which only 350 sq. km is open to tourists. It is home to 75+ tigers, 120+ leopards, 100+ sloth bears, and many other animals. We were able to spot animals like crocodiles, sambar deer, monkeys, spotted deer, peacocks, parrots, wild boars, mongoose, and even a crested serpent eagle, which is a rare sighting. But we were disappointed not to see a Tiger, and at the same time hoping to see the magnificent creature, the next day. On our return to the resort, we freshened up in our rooms and once again went to the field to observe the stars for our second Astronomy session. It was slightly cloudy, which obscured our view, but we still learned a lot about the different types of constellations, the pole star, and the location of the planets that were visible, such as Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars, which we were able to observe through a telescope. We also observed the timings of the rising and setting of each constellation through a device known as a Planisphere, provided to us by the organizing team, which gave us incredible information about the stars and the hidden wonders of the night sky. This activity was followed by dinner and a briefing about the next day, for our morning safari.
On the morning of the Third day, which happened to be the winter solstice, we all woke up at 5:00 am, well-clad for our morning safari in Zone 2. We had been advised to wear warm clothes and cover ourselves completely. Everyone was optimistic and hoping to sight a Tiger. Our guide kept things interesting by telling us all about the flora and fauna and also some fun facts about the park and its history. Around 3500 trees and plant species could be found in the National Park, out of which around 350 were medicinal. The forest used to be known as Dhonkvan after the tree Dhok, which is a deciduous tree with small copper-colored leaves. Another tree, Palash, has flowers that are known as the flame of the forest due to their bright red color. We saw several other trees including banyan, amaltas, conch, saltavri, and attiballa. For almost an hour, we saw no animal. It felt like even the deer had disappeared. Just as we were about to lose hope, we saw a pugmark!! We finally saw T39- the magnificent tigress, Noor. The tigress crossed the path in front of us. Its muscles rippled as it walked with such elegance. It stared at us with its glowing amber eyes and left us all with our mouths open. Everyone watched with admiration as this striped, powerful animal crossed us with padded feet, making no sound at all. We watched it drinking water nearby, and basking in the sun, rolling around like a housecat. After thirty minutes of us gawking at it, we left it in peace with our hearts full of this beautiful visual treat. Back at the resort, we took a break and dipped our feet into the pool and had our refreshments. We also visited the Craft Centre of a non-profit organization, known as Dastkar. It aimed to develop a rural income-generation program in the villages around the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, with a special focus on women. They focused on bringing back old crafts like black pottery and block printing and helped women step out of their homes to work. We had a chance to interact with some of the ladies working there and were happy to see how much they enjoyed working. The beautiful crafts left us wanting to buy everything. Post the visit, we had some fun team-building activities and learned a cute penguin dance as well. In the evening, we had our third Astronomy session, where we were taught about nebulas, galaxies, and stars. We ended the day with a rocking DJ party.
On the Fourth day, which was the last day of our trip, we bid goodbye to Ranthambore and started our journey back home. We had our breaks for meals & refreshments enroute. However, each one of us wished that the trip never ends. On reaching school at around 7:30 pm, we all felt like going back for the trip once again.
It was indeed an incredible experience in nature, with fresh air and sunshine in abundance. A trip that made us realize and acknowledge the importance of community living, teamwork, and digital detox. The Astronomy Sessions were interesting and truly engaging. We sincerely wish we could go more often for such amazing outdoor experiences.
We are thankful to the school for creating this one-of-a-kind opportunity for outdoor learning for the students of Class X. We thank all the teachers that accompanied us for making this a memorable and fun-filled trip.
All inputs compiled by: Navika Singh & Dia Lekhi