Spoiler alert – we did not see a tiger. As disappointing as that was, our visit to Ranthambhore National Park was a wonderful experience.
The weather was beautiful, clear, low humidity, blue skies, and cool. The scenery was so much more varied than I imagined. We traveled through dense forest and open fields, around huge lakes, along sandstone cliffs, forded rivers and saw more types of vegetation than I will ever sort out.
Birds were plentiful and we saw many of the species we see in south Florida as well as bright blue flycatchers and huge owls. There were plenty of spotted deer, and huge Sambar deer, both good prey for the 60 tigers and 80+ leopards that inhabit the Park. Marsh Crocodiles and monitor lizards reminded us of our American Crocs and iguanas. On our third drive, we spent a long time waiting in hopes of seeing a tiger because the deer and the monkeys were all sounding their warning calls repeatedly. I just know the big cats could see us . . . even if we didn’t see them.
We went on three safari drives, in zones 1, 5 and 3 respectively; each about four hours in length. The Park is divided into 10 areas based on tiger territories and drivers are assigned zones by the Park officials for each entry. We had made sure to stay in a lodge that could provide a private vehicle and driver (otherwise visitors travel in a 20-person hulking monstrosity). The smaller group is really the best way to enjoy this experience. We shared our comfortable Jeep-style ride with a British couple from Switzerland, our expert guide Yad and driver extraordinaire, Shankar. I say comfortable because the ride was as nice as possible, but you do bounce – a lot. At times I felt like I was riding a horse. You ride open-air, so it’s very chilly during early morning drives and when returning late in the afternoon. We piled on the fleece, ours and those belonging to the camp. We were advised to have a scarf due to dust and that was excellent advice. The camp provided clear eye protector glasses to keep out the dust as well as binoculars and water.
I must say a word about the camp. We stayed at Sher Bagh and it was an amazing experience. Our luxury tent was super comfortable, with a large private bath and every detail you’d expect to find in a first-class hotel. It’s a Relais & Chateaux property and as you can guess, the food does not disappoint. The entertainment was really special and we were honored to celebrate the annual Diwali festival while there.
Ranthambhore was a real enhancement to our Indian journey – an experience not to be missed.