When I received my final itinerary for my tour in India, I wondered why I had been booked for three safaris in Ranthambore. I soon got to find out as our first outing ended up in a cold trail of the big cat.
Ranthambore National Park is located in Sawai Madhopur district of southeastern Rajasthan. The park covers an area of 1334 sq km and is home to an estimated 38 species of mammals, 315 species of birds and 14 species of reptiles.
Our guide mentioned that there were about 40-50 tigers in the entire park. However, 80% of the park was closed to the public. During our first outing, we spotted lots of peacocks, a few wild boars, several monkeys, deer and an antelope but not a single tiger.
Even though the chances of spotting a tiger are high in Ranthambore, several expeditions have been unsuccessful. It seemed like the sightings were a matter of luck, although some zones have higher chances than others. While we were unlucky with our first outing, a few people allocated in the same zone as ours spotted a tiger.
Safaris at Ranthambore are conducted twice a day in 10 designated safari zones allocated randomly by officials. The outings are either done in a six seater open jeep or a 20 seater open bus. I rode in the jeep but I didn’t quite feel safe in it as I would have very much preferred to be in an enclosed vehicle.
It was terribly cold when we set out in the morning. We were handed blankets for the ride by the hotel. However, the afternoon was a lot better.
The safari ride itself was very bumpy along narrow dusty paths.
After we’d driven for about thirty minutes in the afternoon without a sighting, another jeep drove past us telling us that they’d just seen a tiger behind, only a few minutes after we’d driven by. Our driver made a mad dash back to the entrance and as luck would have it, our tiger hadn’t wandered very far.
And what a magnificent sight!
The rest of the afternoon was leisurely spent. With no pressure for a sighting, we drove around taking in the views of the Ranthambore Fort and hoping that we might be lucky to spot more tigers or perhaps a leopard or a bear.