Jeep reservations open early…hurry to get the best seats!
Well it’s already that time of year again, the safari reservation systems have opened in three of the major ‘tiger states’; Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. We really didn’t have to wait long after the parks closed for the monsoon at the end of June to hear rumours of the first of the online systems going live earlier than expected in July, and once they have opened we always need to move fast to secure jeep bookings before Christmas.
First to open was Maharashtra (Tadoba etc) and Madhya Pradesh (Kanha/ Bandhavgarh ...), and just this morning the Rajasthan (Ranthambhore etc) safari reservation systems have now opened. The good news is that vehicles quotas, available zones and booking processes have remained largely unchanged across the board.
So Tadoba was once again in the top 3 for tiger sightings last season (October to end June). Celebrity tigress Maya rewarded our guests with relaxed sightings of her two young cubs, and there have been exciting (rare) sightings of a very dark coated leopard also in the Kolara zone. The core park zones are due to open on the 1st October, and jeep reservations will be open 120 days in advance of the safari date (currently up till 6th November). Since February 2018 there is a significant premium for safaris on Saturdays and Sundays (doubled entry fee), and so far, this seems to have tempered the previous rush to sell out almost immediately, but it pays to book your accommodation ASAP – availability at our favourite lodge ‘Svasara’ is already hard to come by for certain key dates.
The beautiful buffer zones throughout the parks of Madhya Pradesh have remained open for safaris this year during the usual closed season, and the core areas will open from the 1st October in a slightly staggered fashion – some zones of Kanha don’t open until the 16th October. The Wednesday afternoon closure remains, and all the MP parks close for Diwali on 7th November. Currently the system is accepting reservations up until 29th November (and will roll on 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 3 buffer zones. Thankfully last season Bandhavgarh was finally back in the top 3, with regular sightings in Tala and Magadhi zones. Availability is currently good between the 1st and 16th October but reducing rapidly between the 17th October and 6th November (and private jeeps in all core zones are sold out from the 8th to 25th November). For visits in December and January you should firm up your plans without delay.
At Kanha all core zones open from 1st October, this park had a very encouraging season (Oct-June) with most tiger sightings reported in the Mukki zone (23 individuals identified, including cubs), followed by Kanha (3 separate tigresses with litters of 3 and 4 cubs each) and then Kisli (territorial disputes between aging tigers and young contenders) - something of a reversal of fortunes. In terms of availability, jeep reservations around Diwali are nearly sold out in the core zones, and throughout November jeep seats in the Mukki zone in particular are down to single figures (or less). As at Bandhavgarh, for visits in December and January you need to confirm things swiftly.
Jeep availability for Pench National Park, Satpura and Panna is currently OK, but for peak periods such as Diwali, Christmas and New Year, it is wise to firm up your plans ASAP. Likewise, for Nagzira and Pench Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra.
Ranthambhore had another fabulous season, with record breaking tiger numbers recorded this year (21 males, 20 tigresses and 26 cubs), but tiger experts fear that 67 is beyond the current capacity of the park – leading to increased tiger/ human conflict as the big cats seek new territory (see Tour Operators for Tigers). Meanwhile sightings from zones 6 to 10 in July (which have remained open in the off season) have been promising, particularly zone 6 and 7 – proof that these cats really love a little rain! Although the system only went live this morning (for bookings 90 days in advance), already jeeps in zones 1 to 5 are nearly sold out until 29th October. 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 November or December we strongly advise to confirm without delay.
Corbett reservations are not yet open for the season ahead, the Bijrani and Durga Devi zones are expected to open from 15th October and Dhikala will not open until the 15th November (also Lohachaur and Sonandi zones). Jhirna and Dhela zones have again remained open during the off-season – subject to weather conditions of course. Any stays inside the park (at Dhikala FRH) will need to be confirmed ASAP once reservations open.
Sasan Gir opens from the 16th October, and jeep reservations are currently open up until 2nd November (3 months in advance). Availability is currently good. If you are planning to visit Gir over Christmas/ New Year we strongly advise to confirm your plans ASAP.