Ranthambore National Park – A Complete Guide

Noted among the largest protected wildlife reserves in Northern India, Ranthambore National Park or simply Ranthambore is located in Sawai Madhopur district in the royal state of Rajasthan. The reserve forests were named after the eponymous ‘Ranthambore Fort’, which is located within the forest atop a hill.

Boundby the Banas and Chambal Rivers of Rajasthan on two sides, Ranthambore is spread across an area of 392  km2. The Ranthambore National Park is one of the best places to see the majestic Royal Bengal Tiger in action, along with other exquisite species such as Leopards, Sloth Bears, Jackals, Hyenas, Sambhar Deer, Chital, Jungle Cats, Nilgai, Langur, Sloth Bear, Indian Wild Boar and Black Bucks etc. along with a large number of migratory birds.

Best Time to Visit (October to March) – Like most places in Rajasthan; Ranthambore is best visited during the winters, as the climate is mild and the wildlife activity is at its prime. Ranthambore enjoys a pleasant winter with temperatures ranging between 10° – 25° Celsius. Light winter clothing like jerkins and pullovers are advised.

Visit with Caution (April to June) – As Ranthambore is located in the arid lands of Rajasthan; the place experiences a hot climate throughout the year. The months from April to June are the hottest and temperatures tend to rise above 47° Celsius which do not make it a good time to visit. Nevertheless, the summer marks the off season and the influx of visitors are low so one could think of making a low-budget visit to the park.

Closed (July to September) – Rainy season occurs during the months from July till September, during which the park is closed due to the breeding season.

By Rail – Trains are indeed the best and the cheapest way to reach Ranthambore. Ranthambore can be easily reached via trains from cities like Jaipur, Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

  • Sawai Madhopur: A major railway station located at a close distance of 10-15 kilometers from Ranthambore. Sawai Madhopur is well connected with all the major cities in Rajasthan such as Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur and other major cities in India.
  • Kota: It is another nearby railway station, which is located at a distance of 130 kilometers from Sawai Madhopur. Kota provides more than 50 trains to reach Sawai Madhopur from other cities in India.

By Road – Although rail is the quickest & the best way to reach Ranthambore, travelling by road is also a convenient way to reach Ranthambore.

  • Buses: Buses are easily available from Jaipur, Delhi, Udaipur, Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Jaipur and Kota being the closest to Sawai Madhopur are well connected via roads. Bus services are offered by both government and private operators and are frequently available from major cities like Delhi and Ahmedabad.
  • Private Taxis: Alternatively, one could also take private taxis that are easily available from Jaipur which is located at a distance of 180 kilometers from Ranthambore. One could also take a taxi from the Delhi, which is located around 350 kilometers from Ranthambore.

By Air – As there aren’t any direct flights to reach Ranthambore, travelling by air isn’t preferred by most people. Nevertheless, there are a few nearby airports that can be used to reach Ranthambore.

  • Jaipur: It is best to reach the city of Jaipur which is well connected via flights from Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Ahmadabad, Bangalore and Lucknow etc. Jaipur being located at a short distance of around 180 kilometers from Sawai Madhopur has more than 20 trains that can be used to reach Ranthambore and Sawai Madhopur.
  • Sawai Madhopur: It has an airport as well, but it is not yet open (as of August 2015) for commercial flights.
Clothing: Being located in the semi-arid lands of Rajasthan, Ranthambore experiences a warm dry climate during the summers. Although the summer season should be mostly avoided, wearing light and mild colored clothes is the best option. Flashy and bright colors can scare the animals in the park and ruin the chances of any photography. Hence, it is important to wear mild colors that help you blend more easily in the surroundings. If you visit during the months between November and February, it is best to carry adequate amount of warm clothes. Morning Safaris can be a little chilly during the winter months and wearing a padded/leather jacket and gloves are advised.

Essentials: Mosquitoes are a big nuisance during the summers so it is advised that you carry a mosquito repellant. Also, the sun can be scorching during the summer months so do not forget to pack sunscreen lotion, a wide brimmed hat, binoculars and some necessary medicines. A water bottle and antiseptic cream are also some of the important items that you shouldn’t forget to carry in Ranthambore. Although, most safaris get over before dusk, carrying a small flashlight can also come in handy.

Camera: Although there is no charge for carrying a still-photography cameras, carrying specialized video cameras require special permits and additional fees (INR 600 for Indians & INR 900 for foreign tourists – prices are not likely to change till March 2019). Carrying extra battery packs, memory cards and camera reels is also a good option as these items aren’t available in Ranthambore.

How to travel inside Ranthambore?

The majority of visited areas inside the park are connected via jeepable dirt roads that spread across 300 kilometers.

  • Traveling inside the park can only be done by booking open top gypsies and open top mini-buses known as canters, which have been approved by the reserve authorities. Nevertheless, private vehicles are allowed till the Ranthambore fort and the Ganesh Temple.
  • However, all the visitors must carry valid identification proof before booking a safari. The foreign visitors must carry their passport and the Indian nationals must carry a government approved ID (passport, driving license, PAN card, voter ID card etc.) when visiting Ranthambore.
  • It is common for the head of the forest department to disallow the use of mobile phones inside the park during peak seasons. As the mobile signals and radiation can disturb the wildlife, it is often better to leave your phones in your hotel room.
  • Ranthambore features 10 safari zones for the visitors and each group is allotted a zone when they enter the park. Once the route is allotted, the vehicles are not allowed to stray from them so one must choose the routes carefully.
  • One must make bookings at least 2 months in advance for open-top Gypsies, as demand is extremely high during the peak tourist season (October- March). Canters however can be booked just a few hours prior to your visit and can also be booked through travel agents.

Once the safaris are booked, the visitors get a written confirmation and the amount is non-refundable in case of any cancellation.

Most people prefer to board the safaris from the main booking office, located at Circuit House road, or the entry gate at Sherpur. However, one could also start their safari at the following places in Sawai Madhopur.

  • Taj Vevanta – Sawai Madhopur Lodge
  • Ranthambore Bagh
  • RTDC Vinayak
  • Helipad at Sherpur
Gypsy Canter
Maximum People 6 20
Date Morning Evening
1st October to 31st October 6:30 AM to 10:00 AM 2:30 PM to 6:00 PM
1st November to 31st January 7:00 AM to 10:30 AM 2:00 PM to 5:30 PM
1st February to 31st March 6:30 AM to 10:00 AM 2:30 PM to 6:00 PM
1st April to 15th May 6:00 AM to 9:30 AM 3:00 PM to 6:30 PM
16th May to 30th June 6:00 AM to 9:30 AM 3:30 PM to 7:00 PM
1st July to 30th September Closed
Shared Open Top Gypsy
(per person per safari)
Shared Open Top Diesel Canter
(per person per safari)
Indian Nationals (INR) 727 509
Foreign Tourists (INR) 1467 1249

Service tax is extra.

Note: Above prices are not likely to change till March 2019. These are actual prices charged by Forest Department. However, travel agents & hotels can charge additional fee for arranging safari. No tickets / charges are required for children below 5 years.

Online bookings are available for Gypsies and Canters but since routes are automatically allotted, it is always best to make bookings on phone and choose the routes (zones) manually. Online bookings will cost additional transaction fees and currency conversion charges.

How to get the best out of Ranthambore?

Being a large protected zone, it is impossible to explore all the reigions of Ranthambore in a single trip. For those who want the best out of Ranthambore, must try reading the following tips.

It is common for people to get confused between the two, as traveling by any of these have their fair share of pros and cons.

Canters

  • While canters are easily available, the large seating capacity (20 people) makes it little uncomfortable and a little overcrowded for a jungle excursion. While this doesn’t sound like a problem, but a single noisy family on board can ruin the trip for you.
  • Canters tend to be uncomfortable for a 3 hour safari. The seats in canters aren’t as comfy like the Gypsies and the bumpy routes are sure to end in a severe backache.
  • Compared to gypsies, canters cannot be taken to the deep areas where chances of wildlife encounters are higher. The large size also makes it a little difficult to tread into the remote areas of the jungle.
  • Since most canters run on diesel engines, they create more environmental and noise pollution. Although the petrol variants with less noise and pollution are also available, the high seating capacity makes it a poor choice for smaller tourist groups.
  • However, as canters can be availed without making any prior reservations, they pretty much become the last resort for a safari when Gypsies are unavailable. After all, a safari in a canter is better than no safari at all.

Gypsies

  • Gypsies on the other hand are available in both petrol and diesel variants. Although the diesel engine is slightly noisier, it is much quieter as compared to the canters.
  • As the gypsies are smaller in size and feature a 4 wheel drive, they can go much deeper into the forests for a much up-close and personal encounter with the wild.
  • Petrol engine gypsies cause less noise and are the best when it comes to photographing the majestic cats.
  • Being able to seat not more than 6 individuals, a safari in a Gypsy is much better than sitting in a crowded bus. Although bigger tourist groups and families can easily fit in a canter, the seats are not very comfortable and can cause considerable amount of back pains by the end of the safari.

Nevertheless, as already mentioned, gypsy bookings have to be done well in advance, as availability can be a major problem during the tourist season (October- March).

With a total no. of 10 safari zones, Ranthambore is a haven for wildlife lovers from all across the globe. As all the zones lead straight to the center of the park, there is no particular zone that can be called bad and wildlife sightings are frequent across all routes. However, when booking your safari, routes can be chosen 90 days prior to the visit.
Most wildlife sightings happen during the dull hours of the day, i.e. early mornings and late evenings. However, the time and the views depend on the season you have chosen. The park opens half an hour after sunrise and closes half an hour before sunset. Hence,it is always better to book early morning safaris during the summers and evening safaris during winters.

10 Places to Visit in Ranthambore

The attractions found in Ranthambore include Palaces, Forts, Lakes, Hindu Temples, and ruins of Historical Monuments that not only entertain the wildlife and nature lovers but history buffs as well. Click here to check out all these 10 places.