This winter – head up North to tiger country Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan. Famous for its photo-friendly Bengal tigers, the Sawai Madhopur Tiger Sanctuary inside the Park is possibly one of the best sites for wild tigers in the world. All in all this is one holiday that is enjoyed equally by children and adults!
We wanted to plan a family holiday near Delhi. The weather was perfect, early October when the North is neither too hot nor too cold. But the challenge really was that we had to find a destination that would cater to 4 adults and my 4 year old son.
We hit gold with Ranthambore in Rajasthan – India’s very own tiger paradise! Tigers are probably the first animals that make it to a kid’s vocabulary. By the time they’re about 4 or 5 most kids are familiar with Tigger from Winnie the Pooh and a trip into the wild is a great way to introduce them to animals in their natural habitat.
The travel was easy enough as there are plenty of train options from Delhi to Sawai Madhopur Station. We carried our own snacks – sandwiches, juices, chips, a pack of cards and an ipad loaded with movies that kept us going for the 5 hours on the train. My son really enjoyed “the lovery morning” (sic) we spent on the train and before he lost his patience we were at our hotel. The day was a little warm so we spent the afternoon in the hotel swimming pool, cooling off.
Evening trek up to the Ranthambore Fort
In the evening we decided to trek up to the Ranthambore Fort inside the Ranthambore National Park. It’s a scenic walk through the ramparts of the 150 year old Fort with multiple troops of long tailed langurs for company. The Fort overlooks one of the many beautiful lakes inside the Park and we were lucky to spot herds of deer who’d gathered there for their evening drink of water. The trek ended with a stop at the Ganesha temple that’s visited by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims through the year.
On our way down our guide told us to hurry up and sit in the gypsy as a tiger was on the move near the exit of the Park. We were all bursting with excitement. But to our dismay we only caught a glimpse of the beast on our way out. But just that tiny glimpse left us craving for more and we couldn’t wait until the next morning for our first safari into the Park.
The Tiger Safari
It’s an early start and everyone was up and about by 5.30 AM to set off into the forests by 6 AM. The Park is divided into Zones and gypsies and canter safari’s can be booked online on the Ranthambore NP website. We were late in booking our safari so we ended up with the unwanted Zone 6 which is at the periphery of the Park and therefore not as populated with tigers as the core zones. But we were optimistic and decided we would have fun – tiger or no tiger!
Being in the calm and serenity of the forest is a feeling like no other. And even a 4 year old can appreciate that. My son was thrilled at the sight of peacocks, kingfishers, crocodiles, deer and langurs and we regularly pumped him with jungle stories and facts to keep him interested. But we were all looking forward to spotting a tiger when suddenly our hopes materialized with our guide yelping “tiger,tiger”. We jumped to our feet to see far into the bushes at a moving mass of yellow and black. But even before we realised we should take a picture, the tiger was gone. But the guide didn’t give up. He drove as fast as the forest rules would allow him to outpace the tiger and end up at the exit of the bush where he’d disappeared into. And before we could recover from the bumpy drive we were staring right into the tiger’s eyes, with nothing but a few meters of grass between us. It was terrifying yet amazing and my son got his first hard look at a real tiger in the wild. It was thrilling! And we even managed a couple of clicks.
After the safari, we went back to the hotel for lunch and a quick nap and were all geared up for our afternoon round. Just for the experience, we booked seats on the canter. And even though we didn’t see any tigers this time, we still enjoyed the forest view in the fading evening light and saw some owls and other jungle birds.
Back at our hotel they’d organised a bon fire and some traditional folk performances in the premises followed by dinner so we got a taste of Rajasthan (this is routine at any hotel you might stay). The next day we took a mid day train back to Delhi and were back by the evening. Overall Ranthambore made an action packed 2 day getaway with memories we will all cherish for a long time.
All in all this is one holiday that is enjoyed equally by children and adults! With an abundance of deer, nilgai, bears, crocs and birds to keep you busy till a tiger stops you in your tracks, it’s a great way to introduce kids to the wonders of the wild and with no mobile networks inside the Park an easy detox recipe for parents.
- Must carry a cap and keep enough water with you.
- Keep the kids covered in the winter as the mornings and evenings get very cold. Especially in the forest.
- The morning safari starts fairly early so make sure your kids get a good nights sleep so they can be fresh for the drive.
- There are not many restaurants outside hotels so choose a hotel that offers all meals.
- October is very busy as the Park opens for the first time after the monsoon so book your safari’s online and in advance – it’s easier and probably cheaper than booking through an agent.
- Familiarise your kids with the tiger and other animals found in the Park so that they know what to expect and the safari becomes fun by looking out for animals and spotting the ones they know.
Ideal stay: 3 to 4 days is ideal as there’s considerable travel time.
Travel time: Fly from Bangalore to Delhi or Jaipur. There are plenty of train options from Delhi & Jaipur – Sawai Madhopur station. Or it’s a 6 to 8 hours drive. There are also train options from Bangalore to Sawai Madhopur but takes up to 45 hours.
Best time to visit: October to June is ideal. March to June is also a good time although its very hot but it is also the best time to spot tigers around water holes.
Cost for hiring a Jeep:
Sharing Basis – 2000 INR per person
Exclusive: 12000 INR per vehicle
Cost for Canter:
1500 INR per person