Monday, March 4, 2013

The Tiger Diaries: 02-Ranthambore Safari Day 1

Tobin David
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Day 1: The Journey begins
A Washout?
The journey started with an early morning flight from Mumbai to Jaipur. It was a short and pleasant flight with the flight taking-off and landing on time.

A good start to the trip indeed.

Next was a road trip of 3 hours from Jaipur to Ranthambore covering a distance of 160 kms. As the vehicle reached the outskirts of Jaipur, the roads turned from good to bad, narrow, pot-holed and very bumpy. And the heavy truck traffic early in the morning ensured that we were moving at a snail’s pace. And then came the final blow. Rain! It was raining in Jaipur in the middle of February!!! As unseasonal as could be! Not a drizzle or a shower, but a proper thunderstorm with lightning for added effect.

It didn’t seem to be a good start to the trip anymore!

Dark Thunderclouds looming, Jaipur, India

Dark Thunderclouds looming

Wet roads and Overcast skies, Jaipur

Wet roads and Overcast skies

As the road journey continued, the roads got better though the thunderstorm did not show any signs of abating. The odd doubts started creeping in. Will the rains follow us upto Ranthambore? Will the safaris be cancelled due to the heavy rains? Will my second trip to Ranthambore be a washout?
On a positive note, the rains added to the beauty of the rural countryside. The brown and green of the landscape contrasted with the grey clouds and blue sky. I couldn’t resist stopping the vehicle and taking a few photographs along the way. As we neared Ranthambore, the weather got better. We left the thunderstorms behind and the sun peeped out from behind the clouds.

I was beginning to feel good about the trip again!

Wet roads and Overcast skies, Jaipur

Wet roads and Overcast skies
Finally we reached Ranthambore. I checked into the hotel (The Ranthambore Bagh), had lunch and geared up for the first safari that afternoon.

About the Safaris
The safaris are conducted by the Rajasthan Forest Department. The park remains open from October to June and remains closed for the monsoon season (June/July to September).

Safari Timings in Ranthambore
Safaris in Ranthambore are scheduled in the early mornings and late afternoons. Each safari lasts for about 3.5 hours.
Period                                 Morning Trip                      Evening Trip
October                           7:00 am to 10:30 am        2:30 pm to 6:00 pm
November to January      7:00 am to 10:30 am        2:00 pm to 5:30 pm
February to March           6:30 am to 10:00 am        2:30 pm to 6:00 pm
April to mid-May              6:00 am to 9:30 am          3:00 pm to 6:30 pm
Mid-May to June              6:00 am to 9:30 am          3:30 pm to 7:00 pm

Safari Vehicles in Ranthambore
The safaris are conducted either in gypsies (8-seater open jeeps) or canters (21-seater open trucks). The gypsies are the preferred mode for most tourists as they are much quieter and enter the park on time, as there are only 6 seats to fill. These factors greatly improve the chances of sighting tigers. The bookings are on first-come-first-serve basis.

Advance Safari bookings can be made online (ideally, book well in advance) at

Alternatively, you can get the advance booking done through a travel agent or your hotel, by paying a premium over and above the online rates. The premium depends on the travel agency or hotel, which you approach. 

You can also book your safari under current booking at the park gates. However, there are chances that you may not be successful as all the seats may be booked well in advance. Therefore your chance of getting a safari seat will depend on cancellations, which may be a big risk.

Zones in Ranthambore NP
There are a total of nine zones in Ranthambore. Zones 1 to 5 are within the Ranthambore National Park while Zones 6 to 9, are newer zones outside the National Park. When booking your safari you can either book a safari within the National Park or in any of the specific zones outside the park.

Ranthambore Fort, Ranthambore, India


Ranthambore Fort

Each safari trip is conducted in any one of the zones and you cannot travel across zones in a single safari. When you book a safari within the National park you do not have the choice of selecting your zone ( 1- 5). The zone is assigned automatically by a computer-based system about an hour before the safari begins. Zones (1 – 5) are generally preferred over the newer zones, because of the higher number of tiger-sightings in these zones.

Let the Safaris begin
The first safari was in a canter. The canter entered the park gates about 3 pm and just when we were getting warmed up for the safari, tragedy struck! Thunderstorms! With thunder and lightning, the thunderstorm had managed to catch up with me.

Spotted Deer Stag

Spotted Deer Stag 

As the downpour soaked my back and seeped into my clothes, the first priority was to protect my camera and lens. Second priority was to keep myself from getting soaked to the skin. The canter was driven back to the main gate before the mud roads became slushy and difficult to travel on. After about half an hour or so, the rain gods took pity on us and the downpour stopped.

The safari continued in a different zone (zone 5) which wasn’t as hilly as the previous one(zone 1). It was one of the most disappointing safaris I’ve had in terms of animal sightings. We sighted some owls and Spotted deer (Chital). Due to the rains, most of the animals were hidden and did not venture out into the open.

Spotted Deer, Ranthambore, India


Spotted deer enjoying the rain drenched forest

Within a short time it was time to call it a day and head back to the hotel. The rains had played spoilsport. 

Collared Scops Owl, Ranthambore, India


A Pair of Owls

Sunset, Ranthambore, India



But tomorrow was a brand new day and I looked forward to it.

Tobin David

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