Is Ranthambhore the best place for a tiger safari on your India wildlife holiday? One of the most common questions we get asked here at Wildlife Trails from people planning their India wildlife tour is ‘which is the best tiger sanctuary to visit?’. Having visited most of India’s tiger parks multiple times in the last 23 years, we are better placed than most to compare and contrast the various options. However, since our first visit to India back in 1997 involved a month long stay in Ranthambhore for our MD Allan Blanchard, it is perhaps not suprising that he is prone to wax lyrical about this dynamic and very accessible park, and often helps clients plan their tiger safari here; ensuring the best guides and a realistic time frame for the tour to maximise their wildlife encounters.
Let’s first look at some of the key facts about Ranthambhore which is only a 5 hour train journey from the capital Delhi. One thing which strikes you even before you enter the park, is the sheer beauty of the entrance road to Ranthambhore, which twists and turns over steep hills, goes under ancient gates, before amazing visitors with the first views of the magnificent Ranthambhore Fort. Believe us, it is a photographers dream to be able to see this and take pictures of this amazing mixture of wildlife, temples and palaces and is one of the reasons Ranthambhore has become the most famous tiger park in India.
We then have the density and visibility of tigers in Ranthambhore and the sheer charisma of some of the resident tigers; some of which like Machli have enthralled visitors for nearly two decades! Her legend became bigger when she was filmed and photographed killing a 14 foot Marsh Mugger crocodile near one of the dry lakes in Ranthambhore back in 2003. It is her daughters that now dominate Ranthambhore with the same vigour and supreme hunting skills that were trademarks of Machli.
It is not just about the tigers in Ranthambhore, as this park is also excellent for sightings of Sloth Bear and occasionally Leopard; especially in the hot season, where Leopards can sometimes be seen after your tiger safari has finished and you are passing through the rocky ravine that leads back to the main Ranthambhore road, and the comfort of your hotel and an ice cold beer. With the many different water bodies both inside and close to the park, Ranthambhore is a birders delight, and any people visiting during the migration season (Nov-Feb) will find that the Ranthambhore Bird List is large and diverse.
When Allan first visited in 1997, he came back with an impression of rushed wildlife tours to Ranthambhore and clients being kept behind their hotel gates and not interacting with local people at all. With the help of our inspirational award winning guide, Mr Vipul Jain, we changed the way tiger safaris were organised in Ranthambhore for ever. We insisted on a minimum 4 day stay at the park and added in tours to Lake Surwal and Devpura (great birding and Black Buck Antelope) as well as to new zones like Number 9, which were starting to be developed as future tiger habitat - this zone now has two tigers living in it, including the amazing Fateh - T42.
Wildlife lodges in Ranthambhore can broadly be divided into two groups; resort style hotels located along the main strip of properties a 10 minute drive from the station and then more wilderness style properties located closer to the park entrance, where years of tree planting and careful conservation efforts have created a beautiful tranquil landscape, that attracts its own wildlife. Our favourite resort property is without a doubt the wonderful Ranthambhore Regency; run by the Jain brothers and their superb staff. For a wilderness lodge, our choices would be Sherbagh, or if you win the lottery, how about the magnificent Aman-i-Khas, which we witnessed being built many years ago next to our friends John’s home.
One thing we can assure you of with 100% certainty, no travel company anywhere in the world knows Ranthambhore as well as Wildlife Trails and no-one has been more involved with community projects there, such as tree planting, water harvesting and setting up a private computer school in the village of Ranwal and funding a teacher for the kids. So why not join us on a India tiger safari in Ranthambhore and make your India wildlife tour complete.