Ranthambore National Park: Chasing The Arrow Head

It was noon when we reached Sawai Madhopur on the day of Makar Sankranti. Makar Sankranti is celebrated with fanfare in Jaipur; it’s a local holiday. Recognizing the opportunity for a brief trip, I decided to visit Ranthambore National Park at Sawai Madhopur town, approximately 160 km from Jaipur.

The hills and forests of Ranthambore


As soon as we checked into a hotel, we enquired about a tiger safari in Ranthambore National Park at the reception. Finding safari tickets at the eleventh hour is tricky in the middle of a peak tourist season. Tickets are reserved online for many months in advance. The national park is divided into many zones, and the most desired ones are zone 1 & 3 followed by 2, 4 & 6.


The receptionist told us getting a gypsy for the safari is not possible; it was all sold out for the day. Considering no options, we chose Canter tickets in zone 4. It’s an open-air bus which accommodates 20-21 people, unlike Gypsy which seats 4-5 people.

The Canter

We were informed to reach the hotel lobby by 2 PM. All safari vehicles pick-up guest from their respective hotels.

The check-in process and lunch got us delayed. The restaurant manager assured us that we need not rush because Canter pick-up takes place between 2-2.30 PM. However, Our canter arrived precisely at 2 PM & we were late to board. Our guide, Syeed was furious. On our way to the park, the Canter picked some more travelers from the hotels. By the time we reached the park gate, the vehicle was completely packed.


The rules require the entry permits signed at the forest check posts. There were two of them, one near the park entrance & the last one was right opposite to the zone 4 gate. While waiting for the Syeed to return from the checkpoint a rufous treepie decided to board our Canter for the safari.


As the Canter set in motion on the zone 4 trail it became clear it would endure a harsh ride with a hilly dirt track. The initial section had a gradient of 25-30 degrees!




The Ranthambore National Park forest is dry & deciduous similar to the one found in and around Jaipur but denser with an immense variety of flora. It is dominated by three or four distinct types of trees-Dhok, Gurjan, Ficus family trees like Banyan and Peepul among others.

Read Anogeissus Pendula| the resident tree of Aravalis and Peepul, truly a people’s tree?

Dhok Tree

The forest landscape is dotted with Thor Danda on the rocky surface and Munj grass (Saccharum Munja) on flat land.

Read I bet you haven’t heard about Thor Danda

Thor Danda

Syeed, who had shown a bit of attitude earlier had mellowed down a bit. He mentioned he is a freelancer naturalist.

On our way, we saw Sambhar, the preferred prey of the tiger. We also saw Neelgai, Cheetal deer, Kingfisher, and a Mongoose. Not very exciting for the Indians, it’s fascinating for the foreigners.

Clambering to catch the action

We kept moving through the dirt tracks searching for the tiger, Arrowhead or T84, a tigress ruling zone 4.

The dusty trail of zone 4

The mother of Arrowhead is T19 or Krishna as she is popularly referred. It is designated so because of a mark on her cheek which resembles an arrow. She moves in an overlap between zone 3 & 4. Krishna was one of the popular tigers in Ranthambore National Park, but she was not as admired as her mother-Macchli or T16. Macchli is famed as the most photographed tiger of Ranthambore. Once she ruled zone 4 Krishna replaced her. History seems to be repeating once more.

After a twenty minute ride through the dusty trail, we reached a vast lake with a picturesque setting. The only wildlife visible over here were crocodiles.


With the Gypsy approaching from the opposing direction, both drivers slowed down for a brief chat. They were exchanging notes on the sighting. This seemed a customary practice to follow the tiger’s movement. The Gypsy driver remarked they had been unsuccessful until now.

Approaching Gypsy

In a few minutes, our Canter was parked atop a towering cliff presenting a birdseye view of the vast expanse of forest. Ranthambore National Park is spread over an approximate area of 300 sq km.


Syeed, in an attempt to survey the landscape for a tiger sighting, selected this spot. The driver killed the engine for a few minutes; all we could experience was cold January breeze atop this hill. Syeed was a bit disappointed not getting any signals for the presence of a tiger, we headed towards Lakarda.

Syeed, our guide
The driver in a dejected mood

On our way, all of sudden the driver pushed the brakes bringing Canter to a halt. Syeed leaned ahead and pointed towards the fresh pugmarks of a tiger. The marks indicated movement in the opposite direction. Naturalists are trained for keen observation powers and pugmarks are one of the directest hints of a tiger.

Tiger pugmarks

It was 4.45 PM when our Canter reached Lakarda Forest Chowki. There were a few more Canters parked here. Syeed announced a scheduled stop for 5 minutes. Lakarda is a rustic place with just a forest Chowki and toilet facilities for the visitors. It is placed in the middle of the forest. I believe this place is devoid of electricity.

The pitstop at Lakarda. Notice the Rufous Treepie on trees

What made this stop interesting was the presence of many Rufous Treepie on the trees. Everyone got busy clicking these lovely birds. Tree Magpie is a distant cousin of the crow. They are in abundance in the Jhalana forest in Jaipur where I used to frequent until the Jhalana Leopard Safari was launched.

Read Rufous treepie in Jaipur




Once everyone boarded, the Canter set towards the entrance park. Syeed mentioned all safari vehicles need to return and report at forest check-post near the entrance by 5.30 PM. A delay beyond 5 minutes attracts a hefty fine.

The sunset at Ranthambore

On the way back, the sun looked absolutely beautiful inching closer to the horizon with every passing minute. A Gypsy appeared from a nearby trail and raced forward full throttle causing dust barrage.


I realized clothes were smeared with a thin layer of dust thanks to the drive over the dirt trail of zone 4. It was something that I didn’t even anticipate since this was my first wildlife safari.

I’m averse to taking a safari in a national park as the idea of animals safari doesn’t appeal to me. I feel animals need to be left alone in their native habitat. Realizing this is the sole way to witness the beauty of Ranthambore, I gave in. Ranthambore possesses one of the best dry deciduous forest in India apart from the ones in Madhya Pradesh.


For once, I didn’t have any regret of being unable to sight a tiger. The ride and the dust were worth the experience. I can’t say this for everyone because the tiger sighting brings everyone to Ranthambore.

The ride way back to the hotel was full of cold wind with the intermittent views of a setting sun. By the time we alighted from Canter at the hotel, it had been dusky; the coffee at the hotel was waiting. It wasn’t a good day for the driver and guide because the sighting of a tiger promises tips from the guests. But what can anyone do when the tigers of Ranthambore decided to stay away from the tourists?

Catching a setting sun on way back to the hotel

In the absence of tiger sighting, the only picture I have of a tiger is this sketch which was sketched by an artist in the hotel.


Is Ranthambore National Park A Good Place To Visit?

Yes, it is if you love wildlife, nature, or quietude.

Wildlife – Ranthambore is one of the most popular tiger reserves and national parks in India. Apart from Corbett, and Bandhavgarh forest reserve, Ranthambore ranks high on the list of wildlife lovers. The tiger sighting is not guaranteed but is considered as fairly easy. The industry is fairly organized therefore obtaining a permit or a safari vehicle is not difficult. Wildlife safari in Indian national park is cheaper than the one in Africa. For this reason, many wildlife lovers opt for safari multiple times during a 2-3 day stay.


Nature– Ranthambore is one of the most beautiful dry deciduous forest reserves in the Aravali hill range. It has a variety of flora and fauna and spans over a 300 sq km area. People who have undertaken an African Safari in Serengeti, Masai Mara or elsewhere in Africa confirm that topography of Ranthambore tiger reserve is different from the African Savannah.


Ranthambore has many resorts and hotels. A few are modern contemporary resorts and hotels while some are heritage properties converted into a hotel. It offers peace and serenity, away from the hustle bustle of a modern city. Ranthambore is 11 km from the dull Sawai Madhopur town, a renowned area for supplying some of the amazing Guavas in India after Prayagraj. A few of the well know resorts are Oberoi Vanyavilas, Nahargarh Ranthambore Resort, Ranthambore Forest Resort, and Vivanta Sawai Madhopur.

One of the reasons for the popularity of Ranthambore National Park is accessibility. It is well-connected with Delhi, Mumbai, and Jaipur.

How To Reach Ranthambore National Park?

Flights– The nearest airport at Jaipur 160 km away. Jaipur is well connected with all notable cities of India – Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkatta, Guwahati to name a few.

Trains– The nearest train station is at Sawai Madhopur which is 11 km away. Sawai Madhopur station is connected with the Delhi-Mumbai train route. It is also well connected with Jaipur.

Road– The best way to visit Ranthambore by road is by taxi or self-drive car. There are many buses too. For people visiting Ranthambore from Delhi, there are two route options. One can opt for either Alwar-Dausa or Jaipur-Niwai highway. Both roads are in good conditions.

What To Wear During Ranthambore National Park Safari

If you are taking a Ranthambore safari in winters, layer well as it is pretty cold. During the afternoon safari, make sure you are carrying warm clothes because it gets cold around sunset. You will be driving through the dusty trail so expect lots of dust. Cover your head with a hat, cap, or scarf. During summers, stick to cotton clothes. Carry enough water and cover the skin to avoid sunburn.

A thumb rule to stick by during safari-avoid flashy colors; stick with earthy colors for safari. Olive green, khaki, brown, and grey are one of the best colors to camouflage during a safari.

Best Time To Visit Ranthambore

October to March is a favorable season to visit Ranthambore as the weather is not too harsh unless you live in hot tropical weather. March to May/June is considered good for tiger sighting. For all practical reasons, Nov-Feb is a major tourist season. The core area of the park is closed during the monsoon season every year between July to September. In 2018 the forest department opened the buffer zones during the monsoon. In 2019, zone 6 to 10 will be open in the monsoon season while the rest will be shut down for the tourists.

Travelers relaxing at a Ranthambore Hotel

How To Book Ranthambore Safari

The best way to book Ranthambore Safari is by booking it online from the forest dept. website and then choosing SSO login. If you are a new user, you will need to register first and then come back to the main website-fmdss.

There are hundreds of websites having domain names consisting of the word Ranthambore to fool travelers. Most websites charge an exorbitant amount which is a waste of money. If you prefer not to book online, you can get it done from your hotel which will be pricier. I paid double the amount by booking through the hotel! As of now the cost of Ranthambore Safari in Canter is Rs 510 and Rs 727 in a Gypsy. Frankly, if you want to save yourself from many hassles (which is inevitable when booking on state-run websites) it worth spending extra money to buy it from your hotel. This ensures you have someone to run to in case of any deviations. Safari vehicles pick & drop from the hotel at the designated time. Safari can be undertaken during the morning or afternoon. A large number of travelers prefer undertaking both!


Which is a better option- Canter Safari or Gypsy safari?

I have only undertaken a Canter safari but my friends who are wildlife enthusiasts prefer Gypsy as it allows them to drive deeper into the jungle. Canter ride is noisier and less comfortable vis a vis Gypsy. Do note taking a Gypsy doesn’t guarantee tiger sighting. Generally, a Gypsy ride costs one and half times that of a Canter. Your Ranthambore safari experience also depends on your driver, guide and luck.

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108 thoughts on “Ranthambore National Park: Chasing The Arrow Head

  1. Oh wow!!! I agree safaris have a lot to offer besides the sought after sighting. I am currently writing on my safari experience in April end. Beautifully photos as always Arvind. Loved the trees full of Rufous Treepies. I have one frequenting my bird feeder at home 😍

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I’ll look forward to reading your experience, Monika. I believe that jungles have many dynamics. The craze for Safari is fuelled by tourism lobby which relies on tiger sighting. If we are truly nature lovers we should know that we are trespassing in their territory.
      Happy to hear that you enjoyed these pictures. You are blessed if you have this beautiful bird visiting your home.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes, things are more commercially driven instead of a holistic approach.

        You have given such detailing about the place, which one who sees beyond the tiger can only observe and share.

        The landscape seems to wear a different look every season …..

        I hope the feeder can attract more birds ….. Which means patience 🤞🏼


      2. Monika, that’s the way things are whether we like it or not! We need to realize that the Tigers are only one of the many elements of this national park. Unfortunately, wherever there is a strong tourism lobby, the strongest element is marketed well. No one talks about Periyar or Rajaji with respect to elephants (one of the key elements) but Corbett, Ranthambore, Bandhavgarh are all used in conjunction with Tigers.

        Monika, the sunlight in winters is magical. In summers, the pictures tend to be flat- the magic disappears!

        I’m surprised by the fact that you only have Rufous Treepie as a visitor. Don’t you get other birds?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Sparrows, mynah, brahmini mynah, pigeons, crows, common tailor bird, parrot besides the squirrel 😀

        I meant other than them whom i see sometimes, but not at my bird feeder

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Usually, birds depends on its ecosystem. You will find a large variety of birds if there are trees around along with a water source. Plant more trees and enjoy these beautiful creatures. I’m sure you must have arranged water for the birds. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love to go to Ranthambhor. The presence of Fort adds to the grandeur and mystery of Ranthambhor. The first time I went it was a Dec morning. Once inside the gates, the fort gave me goosebumps. The fort had seen several invasion. Akbar badshah had fired Canon on the fort. To see a tiger, this is the right month. In the months of May and June tiger comes out and sits on water to cool itself. By the way Rufous Teepie would sit on your palm if you carry peanuts. Anyway, Ranthambhor is good anytime. It has a mix of mystery and history.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I agree with you, Arv! Wild animals should not be put on a show whether in a park or even worse in a zoo. They need to live in their natural habitat. Unfortunately it is being reduced by man to the point that many animals are driven close to extinction.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Most of us fail to realize that Tigers are necessary for the tourism industry. The hotels in this area survive on Tiger safari.

      I have seen this brilliant documentary, Edward Bernays, Master of Propaganda. He knew how humans can be played around. If you ever get time, do watch it.

      I realize how everyone can be fooled with a careful manipulation and psychology. Tiger extinction? Humans are the most ferocious animals on this planet. The cause of extinction of all the species. Isn’t it so?

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I have been wanting to visit this place for a long time but it never happened. A few years ago, I saw a documentary in a private screening on Ranthambore Fort. I was amazed by its history and events. It is one of the most massive forts around. I agree on summer being the best month for tiger sighting.

    Did you visit Ranthambore recently?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Marcus. Tigers are essentially Asian cats. They can be found in territory up to Thailand and Myanmar. There’s Siberian Tiger too which many believe migrated from SE Asia and adapted. Have you undertaken many safaris in Africa, Marcus?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Having lived in Southern Africa and visited many more times, I had plenty of Safari experience. I even did a few posts about it (search “safari”). But our only Safari in Asia (Chitwan National Park in Nepal) went without a Tiger sighting!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s great, Len! Vietnam is full of natural beauty and culture. Hope I can visit Halong and Hoi An someday!

        Let me know if you need any help in planning your Rajasthan trip. 🙂 I suppose you will be visiting in winters.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. March is a bit tricky. Sometimes it is pleasant but generally days are a bit warm and hot. End of February to first week of March is better. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for taking us along arv, slowly building up hopes of sighting the wild cat and then… just the dust! I am glad you were not disappointed. It is actually the experience that counts, the memories and the journey that enriches us.
    This story reminds me of the safaris I took…three of them, with precious memories of Jim Corbett park, Sariska and Kaziranga. Even Bharatpur birds are still fresh in my mind.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. we need to understand that the entire ecosystem is beautiful and not just the cat. Unfortunately, the media and tourism industry has highlighted only tigers for obvious reasons. I feel the topography of this forest is beautiful. Forest was main motive for undertaking the safari.

      I’m glad that it rekindled your memories. Did you visit all these places in the recent years?


  6. Arv, even if the Tigers have eluded you, you must have had a wonderful experience being in the forest. I always love the ambience of the forest, be it of any type – deciduous, evergreen, or others I just love the feel of being within and any wildlife that I get to see is a blessing. I agree that these days with growing tourism in the forest the wildlife habitat and their lifestyle is disturbed. As the tourist increase more and more forest areas are cleared to make hotels for accommodation, more and more vehicles are introduced in the forest and above all the unruly tourist who does not know how to respect the wildlife and their habitat keeps committing nuisances.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sarmistha, Probably, I can go on this topic. May be some other day. Baring the wildlife enthusiasts tourist has a scant idea on how to behave. For them it is like a picnic. Eating, drinking, clicking selfies, conversing loudly etc are all part and parcel of this “adventure”.

      Even though the tourism industry wants tigers but only to the extent it keeps bringing in tourists and money. So we all need to get the reality check done.

      I think for me it is forest that is paramount. Without this ecosystem we will have no wildlife. You are right, all forests are beautiful. This is what makes me hike in jungles in the surrounding. It is here we feel alive in the natural environs and fresh air. Cities are artificial cocoons.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Tour looks amazing. This would be really exotic to me- seeing a mongoose! I can relate to the animals not playing ball though. In Canada my husband and I went whale watching and bear spotting on guided tours but saw neither! We then saw a whale out the window of our cruise ship and a bear popped out of the bushes when we were in Juneau!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Whale watching? wow! that sounds exotic to me! haha! different world different perception!
      Well, who can predict what animals like? Clearly, they haven’t been paid to show up! LOL!

      Did you visit Canada recently?


    1. Marian, the fine was for not logging out from the national park on time. His frustration was valid but we were not at fault. we were wrongly informed by the hotel guys on pick up time.

      Do you have any national park in the vicinity?


  8. It does look wonderful. Your posts are always so interesting. I have to admit….Id like to go on a safari but only if I was completely enclosed. Bars on the windows and unbreakable glass! Maybe a padlock on the door too….just in case! 😂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha! Don’t worry, Gloria there haven’t been many incidents. It is quite safe from what I believe. But who can guarantee?

      Is that the only reason that withheld a wildlife safari?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It looks wonderful, Arv. Well, I also agree that meeting those animals also depend on our luck. When I did safari in Maasai Mara, I intended to meet the Big5 animals. But, our group was not lucky, since we missed the Rhinos. Well, a week later, my friend who used the same company and driver met all of them during his travel. Your photos look amazing as usual..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, Nurul its their territory; they are free to decide if they are in mood to meet the guests or not 😉 Safari is like that.
      Masai Mara? I suppose that’s number one wildlife park in Africa. Did you witness other animals?
      I’m happy you liked this post and pictures, Nurul. Do you have wildlife Parks in Indonesia?

      Liked by 1 person

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