Our pre-booked train from Agra Fort to Sawai Madhopur (#12948 / Azimabad Express 1225-1625) (click here to read about travelling by train in India) was running late, so it eventually arrived around 2pm. This meant it was going to run late and we eventually arrived into Sawai Madhopur around 7:30pm. Our hotel had a driver waiting at the train station to collect us (very good considering we were 3 hours late!) and we eventually made it to the where we were staying. We visited an off-license nearby to buy some beer for the night, and then ate at the hotels onsite restaurant for dinner.
We stayed at the Ankur Resorts, Ranthambore and sorted all of our safaris through them. In hindsight, we may have taking more time to book these ourselves to have more control over what zones and where we were heading. It certainly is easier to book through your hotel, and you do have to book months in advance to really get to pick your excursions, but booking online or in person is tricky!
The main takeaway from our stay here was that it was too quick a turnover. We stayed for just one night, and completed two safaris over one day, and then rushed to our train onto Jaipur after a very quick dinner. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any elusive tigers, and completing more safaris would certainly increase our chances of spotting one! You can read below some helpful hints and tips to make your Ranthambore trip extra special!
When is best to visit Ranthambore?
Of course, most people don’t have the flexibility to arrange their India trip around a trip to spot a tiger, however if you find yourself in Rajasthan during these months, an excursion is definitely worth it. The greatest number of tigers are spotted in Summer – March to June – as this is when it is hottest, and big cats and other mammals will be spotted at water holes and rivers, and less foliage on trees will make these animals easier to spot. Visiting in March and October is better as it can be quieter due to fewer crowds. The park has been traditionally shut from 1st July to 30th September due to monsoon season however for the last few years, zones 6-10 have been kept open during these months (the chances of seeing a tiger in these zones are however much slimmer).
Where should I stay when I visit Ranthambore?
The main town closest to Ranthambore National Park is Sawai Madhopur, and here you will find many hotels and hostels, as well as restaurants, bars and ATMs. The train line is linked nicely to major cities such as Jaipur, Jodhpur, Agra and Delhi, so getting here is very easy! The nearest airport is in Jaipur, where you can grab a train to Sawai Madhopur or a taxi for a 3 hour journey. We stayed at Hotel Ankur Resorts, but there are many other hotels in the area to choose from.
Which safari zone is best to spot a tiger?
Ranthambore National Park is divided into 10 zones: the original zones 1-5 and (newer) buffer zones 6-10. Most blogs suggest that the buffer zones 6-10 have limited sightings, however the expanding number of tigers in the area has proven that mostly wrong. Zones 1-5 are also shut during monsoon season, so if visiting during this time 6-10 might be your only option. It’s useful to also know when planning your trip that zones 1-5 share the same main park entry gate just outside of Sawai Madhopur, where you will likely stay. The entry points for zones 6-10 are all spread out further away and could take you up to 45 minutes to get there.
You can read more about Ranthambore’s zones here.
What type of safari should I go on?
Ranthambore offers three types of safaris: regular safari, half-day safari, and full-day safari. By far the most common (and most affordable) is the regular safari. These typically last 3.5 hours and you stay inside a single zone in the park. You can book either a 6-seater gypsy jeep or a 20-seater canter truck. All vehicles are open-topped, and the cost is on a per-seat bases (no canters are allowed in zone 2). The exact timings for the morning and afternoon regular safaris change based on the season but you can generally expect your morning safari to start 30 minutes after sunrise and your evening safari to end 30 minutes before sunset. If booked through a hotel, you will generally have pick-up and drop-off to and from your hotel arranged for you.
Prices for regular safaris have gone up in recent years. We paid ₹2500 (£30) per person per safari for a gypsy ride (canter safari was ₹2000) when arranged through our hotel, but our travel guide lists the price as ₹1470 and ₹1250 respectably. The park’s official website now lists the fee as ₹2900/₹2300.
You should plan at least two regular safaris. Most people will recommend more as it takes on average three to get one tiger sighting (of course you might be lucky and see one straight away!). We did two regular safaris (a morning and a evening) in two different zones, and were unsuccessful in our sightings.
Half-Day and Full-Day Safaris
A higher cost, but a more flexible option is to take a half-day (6 hours) or full-day (12 hours) safari. These longer safaris can only be booked in-person at the booking office or through a local agent (hotel or travel agent). You will have the park nearly to yourself outside of the normal morning and afternoon safari times. Only 5 full-day safari jeeps and 5 half-day safari jeeps are allowed each day. A big advantage of these safaris is that you can go into ANY zone. The guide can use other sightings that day to choose the zone and you can switch zones part way, if you want. Half-day and full-day safaris are booked on a “per-vehicle” not “per-seat” basis. All half-day and full-day safaris are in a 6-seat gypsy (no canters). For a full-day safari, expect to pay at least ₹100,000 (over £1000!). For a half-day safari, plan to pay at least ₹60,000 (£650). These costs include the safari permit, entry fee, vehicle, and guide charges for 1-6 people.
How should I book a Ranthambore Tiger Safari?
The online booking process is quite complicated, and often wouldn’t work when we tried before our trip. We were happy to pay a minimal commission for our hotel to arrange the safari for us. It is certainly a lot easier, and they will also arrange transport to and from the gates. Make sure you do your research into zones though, and when you book in advance through you hotel, try and request the zones you want along with what type of safari. Of course there is no promise of a tiger sighting so any zone is fine for the experience – you will definitely see something! Bookings open a year in advance now (it used to be 90 days), so as soon as you know your travel plans, make your booking to ensure the best zones!
Blogger ‘Ivan the Intrepid’ has a very good in-depth post about booking your safari online & in person. You can read this here.
What should I bring to my safari?
- Warm jacket and hat for chilly winter mornings
- Hat and sun cream for the summer
- Lightweight scarf to cover your face (roads kick up lots of dust, and jeep fumes can be overpowering)
- Water and snacks. Lots of water
- Binoculars to view and search for wildlife
- Passport to check against your booking
One last thing…
I totally understand that you’re probably in Ranthambore to see a tiger, but try to enjoy the landscape and other wildlife too. You should see lots of other animals and birds. You would hate to come away disappointed that you didn’t see a tiger having forgotten about all of the other wonderful things you did see. Enjoy the experience, and a tiger is the jewel in the Ranthambore experience.