It´s been high on my bucket list for years, to see a tiger in the wild.
Most of the top 10 national parks in India to spot a tiger are located in central or southern India with an exception in the northeast of India in the Assam.
If you’re in the north of India for the classic tour of the golden triangle (Delhi–Agra–Jaipur), including one of these wildlife sanctuaries as part of your vacation, can be both time-consuming and expensive.
Still, it neither has to be costly or time-consuming.
There are some incredible national parks in the north of India, where the striped black and yellow big cats can be seen. One of these is Ranthambore National Park in Sawai Madhopur District, Rajasthan State.
Ranthambore is often considered to be the park with the most significant chance of seeing Bengal Tigers in India.
This wildlife sanctuary is relatively small compared to other parks, but also easier to navigate. There are 62 tigers in Ranthambore National Park according to the 2014 census. You just have to keep your fingers crossed that you get to see one!
The number of tigers has increased from 48 in 2013 and 25 in 2005.
Due to the recent increase in the number of tigers in Ranthambore, is the park is planning to transfer a few to other parks, such as Sariska Tiger Reserve roughly 200km/124miles north of Ranthambore National Park.
This was actually my 3rd attempt to see Tigers in the wild in India. I’ve previously been unlucky spotting Tigers in Sundarban national park close to Kolkata and in Kaziranga National Park in the state of Assam.
But I was finally lucky here in Ranthambore National Park.
According to the latest estimates, India has 2,967 tigers in the wild.
Most of them roam the jungles of Madhya Pradesh in Central India and Karnataka in Southern India.
The population of the Bengal Tiger had risen by 33 percent based on the latest census in 2018 compared to four years prior, thanks to increased awareness and the efforts of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
While this is good news, some states like Odisha and Chhattisgarh have shown worrisome declines.
But the National Park with the highest density of Tigers in the world in Kaziranga National Park in the state of Assam in northeast India with an impressing 32.64 tigers per 100 sq.km., the highest in any known tiger habitat in the entire world.
So, if you want to see a tiger in the wild, here’s how to do it in Ranthambore National Park on a quick and budget-friendly 3-day trip from New Delhi.
Located about 170km/106miles south-east from Jaipur, Ranthambore National Park is the former hunting grounds of the Maharaja (king) of Jaipur.
Ranthambore National Park is home to 30 different types of mammals including, tigers, leopards, striped hyenas, jackals, blackbucks, as well as sambar, chital, sloth bears, Indian Wild boar and nilgai deer, and two types of monkeys langurs and macaques.
The park is also home to 12 types of reptiles including Marsh Crocodile & amphibians, 272 types of birds and 300 species of trees, 50 aquatic plants.
Smaller animals found here include porcupines, mole rats, long-eared hedgehogs, Indian mongoose, and Indian gerbilles.
But the biggest draw to Ranthambore National park, of course, is the magnificent Bengal Tigers.
Safari Timings in Ranthambore National park.
The park is open the whole year, but some parts close down from October 1 to June 30 each year (confirm on the official website before you plan). Safaris are conducted twice a day, ones in the mornings between 6:00 and 10:00 am and evenings between 2:30 and 7:00 pm (check for seasonal changes in timings). The park is divided into 10 zones.
You can go in a 6-seater open jeep called Gypsys, or a 20-seater open-top bus called a Canter. I would recommend the Gypsy since the canter can be annoying with large family groups and lots of noisy children.
Advance bookings are recommended. You can do this either through the lodge where you’re staying or make a booking online.
The price for the Jeep/Canter is set by the National Park, and it´s the same price no matter what guesthouse or hotel you stay at. The National Park runs all the jeeps and guides. The price for Foreigners are 1850RS(25usd) 1000RS for Indians.
If you want to book the whole jeep for yourself will you have to pay for all the 6 seats.
How To Reach Ranthambore National Park from Delhi.
Option one: Take a flight to Jaipur in the morning. It’s a quick 45-minute flight, and if you book well in advance, the fares are quite cheap. We paid Rs. 3500/- (US$50) per person for the return Delhi-Jaipur-Delhi flights. Quite a bargain!
If you leave Delhi by a morning flight and you can arrive at Jaipur airport at 9 a.m. From there, the airport, you can get your hotel to pick you up for Rs. 9000/- ($130) including fuel. Divided into the number of people in the car.
Option two: is to drive from Delhi to Ranthambore (390 km/240 miles). Road trips in India can be tough. Don’t go by distances. Poor road conditions can make travel slow. I took the road back to New Delhi because there a problem with the rail line for 2days and all trains got cancelled. Going on the highway in India is scary. Very scary, I was more scared travelling on the NH 48, then I was on my trip to Aleppo in Syria when ISIS attacked the road.
That said, the Delhi-Jaipur highway is one of India’s best and the road to Ranthambore is in good shape. It’s about a 5-hour drive from Delhi to Jaipur and another 3 hours from Jaipur to Ranthambore. But 8 hours on an Indian highway can be scary and tiring.
Option three: Take the train. Trains for Sawai Madhopur leave from Delhi Hazrat Nizamuddin or New Delhi Railway Stations and take about 4-5 hours. This is the most comfortable and cheapest way of travelling between New Delhi and Sawai Madhopur.
Where to Stay in Ranthambore National Park.
While there´s no accommodation inside Ranthambore itself, so are all the accommodation options just outside the National park in and around Sawai Madhopur.
You got tons of budget options, and you can stay in backpacker style places for under US$20 a night/room, to luxurious 5* star places for 160usd+ night. Prices are higher during weekends and public holidays, while from Monday – Thursdays can you get some really good deals.
One of the most luxurious places to stay around Ranthambore is at Nahargarh Ranthambore, a former royal palace set on a 10-acre plot near the forests.
This gorgeous royal retreat is built in the Rajasthani palace style with lush landscaping and tranquil gardens. The rooms were massive, airy, and bright with vintage furniture.
But remember it doesn’t matter if you pay 20usd a night or 800usd a night, you are never guaranteed to see wild tigers no matter how much you spend. It´s still the same national park and the same animals in Ranthambore.
Did We See a Tiger in Ranthambore National Park?
We did two safaris, one on Friday afternoon another on Saturday morning. I didn’t enjoy the afternoon safari, it was hot and dusty, and unfortunately, the elusive big cats did not reveal themselves.
The morning safari was lovely in terms of pleasant weather (in April). As soon as we reached the park (zone 6), a ranger sent our jeep driver to a water hole. When we got there, on an embankment behind the water hole, sat a magnificent tigress!
The thrill of seeing a Bengal tiger in the wild has to be experienced first-hand. “Our” tigress was T-8 Ladli (a Hindi word meaning “the loved one” or “the dearest one”). She got the name because she was the weakest of the litter and her mother’s favourite.
Sired by Big Daddy and born to Kachida, this approximately 11-year-old tigress has gone on to give birth to four litters herself. One of her brothers, Romeo, lives in the Chiroli area of Ranthambore while another sibling was moved to Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary.
3 Tips for Visiting Ranthambore National Park.
Avoid weekends and public holidays. The rush can be crazy. Within half an hour of our spotting Ladli the tigress, there were about 20 jeeps, and four canters crowded around the water hole!
Go on a morning safari when the weather is pleasant. Spend the hot afternoons relaxing by the pool in your hotel.
Of course, if you go twice a day, your chances of seeing the big cats is higher.
Go with an open mind. It’s a wildlife sanctuary and not a zoo. You may or may not see a tiger. Try to enjoy the open areas and the other animals you see. If you spot a tiger, that’s a bonus!
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