Ranthambore, and the tiger safaris, were definitely one of the highlights of our trip to India in October 2018.
Ranthambore National Park is one of the best places to see tigers in the wild in Northern India. We booked two tiger safaris – both in the afternoon – through our hotel. It’s probably worth booking the safaris well in advance as we didn’t have much choice when we tried to book. Normally, you can choose between a canter (20 people) or a gypsy (jeep) but there were no jeeps left when we booked and no morning slots available. The canters cost 1700 rupees each [£18].
It was very hot, so we applied plenty of sun cream and I wore a thin cotton scarf to cover my shoulders. We were the first couple to get picked up, and initially sat at the back, but it was very bumpy, so we quickly moved towards the front. We ended up sitting just behind the guide which was great both for views and information.
We were in zone one of the Ranthambore national park. The park is one of the biggest in Northern India, located in the Sawai Madhopur district, about 130km from Jaipur. The park covers 392 square kilometres, but only about a tenth of it is open for safari. There is a strict limit to the amount of people who can go into the park at any one time, and it seemed pretty well run. You can find out more about Ranthambore national parks, and the tigers, on their website: https://www.ranthamborenationalpark.com/
We bounced around the track for a short time before we pulled up to where another two canters and a jeep had stopped. They had found a tiger! At first it was difficult to see what they were looking at. At one point I saw a blob that I thought was the tiger, but it turned out to be a bush! However, once it was pointed out to me, I could see the orange body among the bushes. The guide told us this tiger was the female, Noor. The guide took some pictures for me and using the zoom, I could see her face. A little later, I could see her licking her paws like a domestic cat and could see her long tail handing down from the wall where she was lying.
In the end I stopped trying to get a photograph and just enjoyed being in the presence of a beautiful wild creature. Some of the other tourists were climbing all over the canter in desperate need to get a picture and I’m sure I had a much better time just relaxing and watching her.
The safari lasted about three hours. The canter went very fast on the way back and it was extremely bumpy. There was a fair bit of traffic on the roads, including camels and tractors with disco lights and pop music blaring out of them. We passed a whole family of wild boar running down the street alongside cows, goats and dogs, children tractors, motorbikes, cars and jeeps!
Our second safari, the next day, was not as successful. We were among the last to be picked up this time, so had no choice of seats. It was a noisy group and they were pretty irritating. A lizard fell onto the lap of one of the women (who, to be fair, was quite fine about it) but it caused mayhem in the canter with lots of people screaming and squealing and making a huge fuss.
During the safari we saw sambar and red spotted deer, langur monkeys and peacocks, but sadly no tigers! The canter stopped several times to see if a tiger would pass us as there had been sightings in the area, but to no avail. The scenery was very pleasant though and even though we were sad not to see another tiger, it was lovely to be out in the countryside.