Our hotel, the Hammir wasn't exactly in the lap of luxury. The fact that the AC wasn't working in the extreme heat when we arrived wasn't very comforting. That said, the hotel manager is quite willing to help guests out and help he did. I'd definitely recommend the hotel if you're backpacking and are looking for budget accommodation. I'm inclined to try the RTDC hotels or the Ranthambore Bagh the next time I go there, but I wouldn't recommend against the Hammir.
Our first drive was in the absolutely picture postcard - Zone 3. Mind you, Ranthambore is a huge forest (1400+ sq km), but the tiger reserve itself is only 392 sq km. To ensure minimal disruption to wildlife, the reserve is divided into 6 zones and the officials are quite strict to ensure that vehicles don't cross over. Zone 3 is truly a wildlifer's dream - we didn't see a tiger (clearly), but the quality of wildlife and bird sightings were to write home about. The zone's centerpiece, the Rajbaug lake attracts birds and animals alike. You could sit by it's edge for hours and never tire of the sight. Our drive ended with a sighting of T-28 (a.k.a the 'Star Male') in deep sleep at the hunting palace in the distance. Disappointing drive for tiger sightings, but full marks for everything else.
Our third and penultimate drive on 6th May morning was unusually dry. We had to go to Zone 1, a picturesque, hilly part of the park. Unfortunately for us, the forest chose to show us nothing that morning. For the most part, it was a long drive through the forest, with neither mammal nor bird sightings. I have so little to say about the morning, that Zone 1 remains my least favourite part of not just Ranthambore, but perhaps the entire trail. For some reason, Saad was very stressed that we hadn't seen a tiger. We didn't mind all that much, but it was going to be disappointing to leave without seeing the big cat in action.
Come afternoon, we decided that if we were really desperate to see a tiger, then that called for desperate measures. In India, when on important 'failure is not an option' kind of missions, we often wear a bandana on our heads. I got myself just that from a nearby handicrafts store. We couldn't let India's most famous tiger reserve let us go without some tiger photos. Our drive had an auspicious beginning- we were heading into zone 4, home to Machili, the world's most famous tigress.
As we returned back to our hotel in readiness to hit the road, we talked about how awesome this sighting was. We'd heard no end of the quality of Ranthambore sightings and this one surely lived up to the mark. I personally thought that I'd just gotten a sampler of this wonderful, enigmatic forest - I've got to come back here next year to truly enjoy the forest for an extended duration of time.