Arriving into Sawai Madhoper was a breath of fresh air after the hustle and bustle of Jaipur. It felt a million miles away. Our time in this rural town was full of incredible safaris, dramatic storms and heaps of time to relax. It was just what we needed and we managed to see a range of wildlife across our 3 safaris.
One of the best things about our stay here was undoubtedly the hotel. We stayed at the Rajputana Heritage and were immediately greeted by Vishnu, the owner who I’d already had a lot of contact with regarding our stay and safaris. He arranged everything for us, and more importantly, managed to get us in the best areas for wildlife sightings on safari, and ensured we saved money where we could. He could not have been better.
Ranthambhore National Park
This vast national park is home to a plethora of amazing wildlife, the most notable being tigers. This is what everyone comes to see and we were dying to see one before leaving. The park is split into 10 zones, and zones 7-9 are where you are least likely to spot the stipey beast. Depending on recent sightings, it can be more or less likely in any of the other ones. When we were there, the recent sightings had been in zones 4, 6 and 10, and these are exactly where our amazing host managed to get us on safari. Typically you are allocated vehicles and zones completely randomly and you don’t know where you are going until you step into the jeep or canter. Not for us. Vishnu knew everything, especially the fact that we would see tigers.
We had originally asked for only jeep safaris, which hold up to 6 people and are known to be able to access more areas of the park due to their size, and therefore have a higher chance of spotting the illusive tigers. Canters are like open top minibuses, holding about 20 people. We were dead set against these after reading online, but Vishnu had arranged 2 canter safaris for us and assured us we would see tigers. He was right. On both of our canter safaris we saw tigers (4 all in all), and on the jeep one we didn’t end up spotting any tigers. It was a beautiful safari none-the-less, but I think it proves that the zone is actually more important than the vehicle (in our experience).
Here are the amazing tigers we managed to spot. These were in zones 4 and 6, one morning safari and one afternoon, both canters.
Wildlife in Ranthambhore
Tigers were only the tip of the ice berg when it comes to the national park. We saw so much wildlife and each was as exciting to spot as the last. We were able to get pretty close without bothering the animals, and it was amazing to be able to see so much in such a short time. My favourite were the monkeys, which we also saw in the cities, and the deer.
Landscapes of Ranthambhore
Not only was it incredible to see so much diverse wildlife, we also got to drive through this stunning park and see so many different areas of it. Each was very different and made it such a pleasure to meander through in the open top vehicles. Zone 10, where we didn’t see any tigers, was my favourite. There was an incredible viewpoint, and it’s where most of these photos were taken.
Out of 3 safaris, we returned like drowned rats on two of them. Not a normal occurrence for the area, which we thought it might be, it was just a freak few days of stormy weather. And didn’t it rain. We were all completely soaked through, hurtling through the park to try and get back before the lightning began. The rain was so heavy and the clouds angry and dark, but luckily, it didn’t stop us seeing the beautiful wildlife. We spent a couple of afternoons sat in the comfort of our stunning hotel room, watching the violent lightning outside, and it made a big change from the sunny 40 degree heat days.
After one morning, one afternoon, and another morning safari, we decided to make the most of the clear weather and head to Ranthambhore Fort on our last afternoon in Sawai Madhoper. The fort is in/near zone 6, and is so very beautiful. We had already visited a few forts since being in India, but this one was different. Within the enormous fort, situated on a mountain side overlooking the national park, is a temple regularly used by locals. The long winding path up to the fort was packed with temple-goers, and there were hardly any foreigners.
One of the hotel staff took us up to the fort and walked us around it, even into the temple. In amongst the locals visiting the temple, we felt honestly felt pretty awkward. Walking around with someone who didn’t speak much English and couldn’t explain anything, does have its downfalls. The whole experience was a little strange, but the fort was incredible. If we could have chosen, we would have gone alone.
Ranthambhore National Park was more beautiful than I imagined, and the safaris were beyond amazing. We were so lucky to see so much wonderful wildlife, including 4 tigers, and the safaris were a barrel of laughs, and simultaneously a water ride. It was such a great experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
It wouldn’t have been the same without Vishnu at our hotel, who arranged everything and allowed us to see this amazing park in it’s true glory. Tiger sightings are rare, and we were so lucky.
Costings (in rupees):
- Canter safari 2000 (approx. £22)
- Jeep Safari 3500 (approx. £39)
- Fort trip (jeep to take us) 2000