Going on safari is something I had always wanted to do so when we were planning our trip to Rajasthan in India and I discovered that we could go on safari right there, it had to be done.
Ranthambore National Park is known for its tiger safari. Located just outside the small town of Sawai Madhoper, it is a popular destination for tourists from all over India, while international visitors enjoying a tour of Rajasthan often stop off there too.
There really is only one real way to get in and that’s by train. If Ranthambore is likely to be your first stop after landing in Mumbai, an overnight train leaves Mumbai Central Station most days of the week which will take you straight to Sawai Madhoper. Alternatively if you have already made your way to Jaipur, Sawai Madhoper is just a couple of hours away with trains leaving serveral times a day.
We got the train from Mumbai into Sawai Madhoper which was easy enough. We booked our tickets in advance and travelled first class so we had plenty of space. On the way out we caught the train to Jaipur picking up the train tickets that morning. As the journey was a relatively short one, we chose to travel General Class. The train was very busy but people made space for us on the long wooden benches. Just be prepared for people to have some genius ways of making use of every inch of space – luggage racks provide a great place to store children!
Where to stay
There is an abundance of hotels to pick from around Sawai Madhoper. The two big internationally owned Indian hotel chains, Oberoi and Taj are both represented, however there are also a lot of excellent quality independent hotels too. These tend to get overlooked by international tourists, who opt for one of the big two but there are many reasons why you may prefer to opt for one of the independent hotels. Firstly, the cost – for a fraction of the cost of one of the chain hotels, you can get five star service. Secondly, if you are anything like us, you’ll quite like putting money back into the local community of this small town father than feeding it on to the balance sheet of a large company.
We opted to stay at the Jungle View Resort. Owned by a local man called Mr Quereshi, the Jungle View Resort offers a selection of bungalows and tents for guests to stay in. We opted for a tent and by tent I don’t mean your typical two man Vango dome tent! These tents were more like small, canvas marquees, each with a double bed, fresh bed linen and an en-suite bathroom. It was a brilliant way to spend a couple of nights and felt very authentic sleeping under canvas in the countryside of India.
Food at the resort was excellent – we were provided with breakfast, lunch and dinner and I don’t think we’ve ever eaten so much or so well! Breakfast in particular was a favourite of mine. Masala scrambled eggs was one of the nicest breakfasts I’ve ever had and as much as I’ve tried to recreate it at home since and opted for it from other hotel menus around India, nothing quite matches up to the first I had at the Jungle View Resort. The hotel is also happy to arrange for someone to take you on a walk around the area to explore the countryside. Unfortunately due to time constraints we didn’t manage to do this but it sounds like an interesting experience.
Safaris take place twice a day – once first thing in the morning and once in the afternoon. The easiest way to book them is through your hotel. Safaris can be taken in a six ‘gypsy’ seater jeep or in a larger ‘canter’ van which seats about 20 people. You will be picked up from your hotel and shuttled to the entrance to Ranthambore, usually via other hotels on the way.
There are an estimated 61 tigers in Ranthambore National park and they are something of a celebrity to those vitiating the park, although It is difficult to tell if they are famous or infamous! The main aim of the safari is to spot these tigers but it seems they are very well hidden and few people do get to see a tiger. Despite not being lucky enough to spot a tiger, the thrill of the ‘hunt’ is fun and you see lots of other wildlife around the place from water snakes and bores, to various types of deer and all sorts of beautiful birds flying through the sky and in the trees. There’s also some spectacular scenery around the park and it’s great to get to grips with some of India’s more remote countryside.
The cost of the safari varies depending upon whether you are an Indian or foreign tourist and whether you would like to travel by jeep or by van.
The cost for Indians ranges from RS. 800 to RS. 1100, where as for foreign tourists it ranges from RS. 1400 to RS. 2000 ( £16-£21).
Jungle View Resort – the official website for Jungle View Resort
Ranthambore National Park – the official website for the national park
Cleartrip – the best place for booking indian train journeys