We visited Ranthambore in May 2016 with our 6-year old twins. I was apprehensive about the oppressive heat and harsh conditions. It was our first time in 47°C. It was the first time my children were going to visit a National Park. I was also concerned about whether they would be able to take the gruelling schedule as we had booked 5 safaris for the 2.5 days we intended to spend there. As it turned out, we had a great time and the children took it very well, contrary to my fears. Of course, it helped that we were travelling with friends who also had children…so the kids had company.
We had great sightings and overall, the trip was fantastic! On the way back from Ranthambore in the train, my sons asked me when we were going to come back! They also told me that the next holiday we plan should be once again to the Jungle!
By their own yard-stick then, it was a well-enjoyed trip. But apart from the experience, if I were to list out the top five things my kids learnt on the trip, here’s what the list would look like –
- Dealing with Extreme Conditions
The temperatures in summer in Ranthambore soar to over 45°C in Summer. The heat is unbearable. The conditions extremely harsh. The hot dry air and dust blowing into your face as you drive through the Park is anything but comfortable. The tree cover in summer is minimal and there is little shade. The roads are uneven and the ride is bumpy. The patience and endurance required to deal with these kind of conditions is exemplary.
One of the useful outcomes of Ranthambore was the exposure my children got to such extreme conditions and learning to cope. And cope they did extremely well! I was pleasantly surprised to find that children can be extremely hardy. It is the parents who needlessly fuss over them. They had absolutely no problems in these conditions. In fact, they had an awesome time!
- Sitting quietly and observing for a long duration
One of the biggest lessons my children learnt at Ranthambore was to sit patiently for a safari over 3.5 hours. Young children do not have long attention spans. Moreover, parents today often take the easier option of thrusting a mobile phone into their hands to keep them occupied, leaving little chance to sit and observe. I have always resisted taking this route and I do take pride in saying that my children are not addicted to phones and gadgets. Still, it is hard for a child to stay focused and engaged for over three hours in the blistering heat, day after day, safari after safari.
But my kids did just that, without a fuss. This I would say, was the biggest takeaway from our trip to Ranthambore. To develop the ability to sit quietly and observe. (To read more about how you can hone these skills in your children, click here)
- Understanding the significance of Water
In the blistering heat of May, as we drove around the unforgiving dry landscape of Ranthambore, our throats and mouth went dry every few minutes. We carried several bottles of water with us and yet found that it just wasn’t enough! Trying to save every drop of the fast-emptying last bottle, we hoped for some reprieve. And as luck would have it, driving past the arched gateway towards the end of the park, we found a water pump. We promptly hopped off the jeep to refill our bottles with cold water and poured some more over ourselves. The taste of Water has never been sweeter!
I think the experience and the outing helped my children understand the value of Water. Especially in places with harsh summers and little or no rain. I think they also understood at some subtle level that while people could live without the internet and phones, cars and television, Water was indeed most essential to Life!
- Learning to read jungle signs and signals
One hot afternoon, we were waiting in our jeep by a water body, hoping for a tiger to come by to the watering hole. A group of Chital were drinking water from the pond. Suddenly, the deer scampered away. Only a fawn continued drinking blissfully. As the rest of the herd ran on, her mother turned back and waited. Her tail went up as she stood in vigil. Our guide told us that the erect tail was a sign that the deer was alert and in attention. She soon called out to her baby, calls of alarm, urging the fawn to run. As mother and child darted off into the shrubbery, sure enough, T-17, one of the most majestic tigers we’ve seen, came prowling down the hill-slope like a king, towards the pond and submerged its body in the cool water for an afternoon dip. The deer had run off just in time.
Watching these signs and signals and understanding how to interpret them was a vital learning experience for my children in the jungle. Not the sightings alone, but understanding various signals of the jungle also greatly enhance the experience of the Safari. (To read more on how you can teach your child about Signs and Signals of the Jungle, click here)
- Understanding Predator-Prey relationship
On one of the afternoon safaris, our driver spotted a kill. The remains of a sambar deer. Both my children looked upon the skeletal remains and felt sorry for the deer. Unfortunately, it so happens that in an overwhelming number of children’s stories and cartoons, the predator is villainized and the reader is made to sympathise with the prey.
I had to explain to the children that the tiger has to kill in order to survive and if the tiger had not killed the deer, she and her own babies would go hungry and die. It was necessary to explain that the predator was not evil, but merely doing what it required to do to survive. It was necessary to stress that the Tiger was not bad and the Deer not necessarily good! Understanding this relationship between the predator and the prey, I think, helped them look at Life more openly with a non-judgemental approach.
There are plenty of other things my children learned and experienced at Ranthambore… I could go on.
Take your child there and experience it for yourself!