Ranthambore National Park is a fascinating blend of history and nature. Inside the park is a formidable fort that was built in the 10th century and coveted by many rulers due to its strategic position between north and central India.
The park itself is situated at the joining of the Vindhya Plateau and the Aravalli Hills, and is characterized by rocky plains and steep cliffs. It supports a diverse range of flora and fauna, including around 30 tigers.
In India’s desert state of Rajasthan, 450 kilometers (280 miles) south west of Delhi and 185 kilometers (115 miles) from Jaipur. The main gate and fort are 3kms inside the park.
How to Get to There:
The closest airport is in Jaipur, four hours traveling time by road. Alternatively the closest railway station is at Sawai Madhopur, 11 kilometers (7 miles) away. It’s easily reachable by train from Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra.
Tours to Ranthambore:
This 14 day Tigers, Temples & Wildlife Adventure small group tour offered by G Adventures includes visits to both Ranthambore and Bandhavgarh (another top park for seeing tigers in India). It starts from and returns to Delhi.
When to Visit:
The most animals are seen during the hot months of March through to June, when they come out in search of water. However, it’s more comfortable to visit during the preceding cooler months. Be sure to bring warm clothes if visiting during winter.
The park is open from sunrise until sunset. Safaris run for two and a half hours from 7 a.m. and again from 2 p.m. The core zones 1-5 close from July 1 to October 1 due to the monsoon rain. However, the remaining zones on the outskirts of the park stay open for safaris. They're not good for spotting tigers though.
The park has 10 zones (the tenth one was opened in January 2014 to try and lessen the tourist pressure on the park). Zones 1-5 are in the core area, while the remaining 5-10 are in the surrounding buffer area. Tiger sightings in the buffer zones are much rarer than in the core zones.
Entry and Safari Fees:
The Rajasthan Forest Department offers safari seats in a canter (open topped truck seating 20) or a gypsy (jeep seating six) for 400 rupees per person. Park entry fee is additional to this. Foreigners pay 530 rupees in a gypsy or 475 in a canter. For Indians, it's 131 rupees in a gypsy or 75 rupees in a canter. Discounts are offered for students. Each person also has to pay a guide fee of 60 rupees (both Indians and foreigners) in a gypsy and 25 rupees in a canter. It's preferable to take a gypsy than a canter -- it's much more comfortable, plus there are fewer people, and the gypsy can navigate better and go faster.
How to Book Safaris:
The safaris are bookable on-line 90 days in advance. When booking you have the option from choosing a safari in the core zones or other zones. Unfortunately, seats go very fast in the core zones as hotels make most of the bookings. Alternatively, you can go to the booking office (located near the Taj Sawai Madhopur Lodge hotel) a couple of hours before the safari starts. Be prepared for huge and aggressive crowds though. Plus, you can only book whole vehicles, not individual seats. The easiest, although not the most cost effective, way of going on a safari is to let your hotel take care of the arrangements.
Where to Stay:
Deciding on a Ranthambore hotel can be difficult. There are all kinds of properties in the area, ranging from resorts with luxury tents, to wilderness retreats and farm stays. To get an idea of what's on offer, check out these 5 Recommended Ranthambore Hotels.
This national park is very popular (and crowded) due to its proximity to Delhi and the fact that tigers are relatively easy to spot here. Traffic into the park is highly regulated. Private vehicles are not allowed to enter, and the number of jeeps is restricted to 20 at one time. Some zones, particularly two and three, are better than others for seeing tigers. Zone one is highly avoidable. However it’s not possible to choose your route. Selection is carried out by forest officials. This has given rise to reports of bribery to get a preferred route.
The fort is really interesting, so do take some time to explore it.