Jeep bookings open NOW!...Am I too late?
Each summer we wait with baited breath for the safari reservation systems to reopen across India, and we usually hear rumours as early as July that they preparing to ‘go live’ imminently. In reality they tend to roll out between August and mid-September, and once they open we need to move fast to secure jeep bookings before Christmas.
First to open was Maharashtra (Tadoba etc) and Sasan Gir, and in the last few days the Madhya Pradesh (Kanha/ Bandhavgarh ...) and the Rajasthan (Ranthambhore etc) safari reservation systems have opened. The good news is that vehicles quotas, available zones and booking processes have remained largely unchanged across the board.
Also see Madhya Pradesh update
So Tadoba was firmly in the top 3 for tiger sightings last season (October to end June). Some buffer zones remained open throughout the monsoon period but the core park zones don’t open till the 16th October. It is no surprise to see that few jeeps remain (in Kolara and Mohurli zones) on weekend dates in October and November, but there is availability of jeeps for weekday safaris and early to mid-December looks good. With reservations open for the next 120 days (currently up till 1st January), predictably Tadoba is best avoided over Christmas/ New Year unless you have already booked your stay in advance.
Ranthambhore had another staggeringly good season, and news from zones 6 to 10 in July and August (which remained open) has been more than exciting, with new cubs being sighted and some large males being increasingly visible. Although the system only went live this week (for bookings 90 days in advance), already jeeps in zones 1 to 5 are nearly sold out from 1st October until 1st December. Seats in canters remain available (in zones 1-5) as do jeeps in zones 6 to 10 for most dates, we can still be lucky enough to find 1 or 2 jeeps seats or secure a last-minute cancellation. If you are planning to visit Ranthambhore in December/ January we strongly advise to confirm ASAP.
The parks of Madhya Pradesh open from the 1st October in a slightly staggered fashion – some zones of Kanha and Pench don’t open until the 15th October. The Wednesday afternoon closure remains, and all the MP parks close for Diwali on 19th October. Currently the system is only accepting reservations for October visits, November to January are yet to go live (anticipated within days for bookings 120 days in advance).
All zones of Bandhavgarh are scheduled to open on the 1st, being the 3 core zones (Tala/ Magadhi/ Kithauli) and 5 buffer zones. Availability is currently good between the 1st and 17th October, but reducing steadily between the 17th and 31st October. For visits between November and early January you should firm up your plans without delay.
At Kanha the Kisli and Mukki zones open from 1st October along with the 4 buffer zones, but the Sarhi and Kanha zones don’t open till the 15th. Jeep reservations a few days either side of Diwali are nearly sold out, and jeeps for late October dates are reducing rapidly. As at Bandhavgarh, for visits between November and early January you should firm up your plans without delay.
Most zones of Pench open on the 1st October, but Jhamtara zone is not open till the 15th. Jeep availability is currently OK, but for peak periods such as Diwali, Christmas and New Year, and weekend visits, it is wise to firm up your plans ASAP. This situation is similar for Satpura and Panna.
Sasan Gir opens from the 16th October, and jeep reservations are currently open up until 4th December (3 months in advance). Availability is currently good with the exception of the Diwali long weekend (18th to 23rd Oct). If you are planning to visit Gir over Christmas/ New Year we strongly advise to confirm ASAP.
Corbett reservations are yet open for the season ahead, the Bijrani and Durga Devi zones are set to open from 15th October and Dhikala will not open until the 15th November, along with Lohachaur and Sonandi. Jhirna and Dhela zones have remained open – subject to weather conditions of course. Any stays inside the park (at Dhikala FRH) will need to be confirmed ASAP once reservations open.
Kaziranga safaris are not subject to the same rush to book online, but you do need to book early for certain preferred lodges. Traditionally Kaziranga is open between 1st November and 30th April, but last year the western range opened earlier on 1st October, and the park was not closed until 16th May – no official announcements have been circulated to date. Given the heavy monsoon in this area it is hard to foresee to an early opening this year.