KC wanted to take a trip in year end. I was keen on Jaiselmer but it is a long journey… there were no train tickets available for Udaipur/Jodhpur or Bandhavgarh. I wanted to visit hill stations when it snows. We finally decided on Ranthambore National Park… we decided to drive down. After a lot of research, the trip was planned… it take 6.5 hours through Alwar and 8 hours through Jaipur (no stops). I booked Abrar Wildlife Resort after reading reviews on tripadvisor. The tariff is 6k/night for food and stay. The safari was completely booked online and I requested the resort to make the booking. They charged me 3 times the amount due to the peak season.
We got our car serviced… packed snacks for the trip… packed enough woollens for the trip… updated the maps on mapmyindia gps. KC wanted to make sandwiches, pack his bag and fill fuel in the car at 4 am… I put my foot down and it was all done one night prior. On 29th morning, we left at 4.20 am. We wanted to reach by 12/1 pm. The safari was booked for 3 pm.
The drive to Ranthambore has below important routes:
– Gurgaon to Delhi Jaipur expressway… normal drive specially at 4 am
– Expressway to Bhiwadi… there is a left which we would have missed if not for our gps. There was some traffic on the road that early in the morning.
– Bhiwadi to Alwar: Mostly a straight road… there were so many bumps on the road and no signs. Our car literally flew over the bumps since it was dark. I drove at 100-125 km/hr and we saved a lot of time
– Alwar-Sikandra-Dausa: Crosses a few villages/towns where the roads are pathetic. There are many tolls on the road. The strange part was that the good road ended outside the town. It was a shitty pebbled road inside the town and the good road started once we were out of the town. Our government is full of shit.
– Dausa- Lalsot- Ranthambore: A decent road with beautiful fields.
KC and I took turns driving. We stopped only once for tea and reached the place by 11 am. Exactly 6.5 hours.
The resort was ok… room was decent but the food and menu was pathetic. According to me, 6k is a lot of money for 1 night… I had expected good Rajasthani food but we got normal dal, chawal, roti, sabji.
I had booked 2 safaris…. In RNP, there are 8 zones… 5 are core where most tigers stay and 3 are non core where the tiger spotting is rare. Which gypsy goes to which zone is decided by lottery by the forest department 1 hour before the safari. It was just our luck that we got zone 7 on day 1. The gypsy driver turned up late to pick us up. The other 4 people in the gypsy were all foreigners. This was a good sign because I read online that foreigners get more attention compared to Indians. Winter is a peak season in Ranthambore and there were around 50-60 vehicles against 22 guides. Since we were late, we did not get a guide. Each of us has paid Rs 400 for a guide (Rs 2400/gypsy). Nope, the money was not refunded. Zone 7 is parallel to the road… it does not have any animals and is mostly a barren area. It was a complete bummer and it was so cold. I had worn a sweater, cap and gloves. The lack of muffler did me in.
The view was amazing. Sharing a few images.
The next day our safari was at 7 am. I was so sure we will get zone 7 again. Our driver turned up early and yes… we had zone 7 again. I was adamant that we will not go. I didn’t want to go to the fuck all place again in the cold. The driver assured us that he can change it to zone 6 with an extra 300 bucks. We picked up another family of NRIs, paid the driver a bribe and off we went to zone 6. This time there was a guide… who assured us that there was a bear and leopard spotting the day before. We would also be able to spot them today. All we spotted were deer (so many of them), a tiger paw mark, a leopard paw mark and birds. This time I wore 4 layers of clothes- a woollen top, long woollen tunic, sweater, jacket, muffler, gloves, cap and was protected against the cold.
The rest of the day was spent lazing around in the warm room. I was not feeling too well and had to drive the next day. We left at 7 am on 31st morning and reached Gurgaon around 2 pm.
It was a good trip. Here are a few tips if you want to take a trip too:
– Drive down… it is a good drive… very pleasant… roads are good, view is awesome
– Book the safari in advance atleast 1-2 months. Try and book for 1-5 zones. There is a canter which has 20-25 seats and gypsy- 8 seats. All the online reviews recommended the gypsy. You can go for either… canter is cheaper. I would suggest canter
– Ranthambore has very expensive hotels. A cheaper hotel also looks shady. Ensure your hotel is decent and safe.
– Bribe. It is a very commercial place… everyone expects to get a cut. A safari which costs Rs 500 online… cost me 1300 bucks. The hotel took its cut… the agent took his cut and I am sure the forest department also took its cut.
Ending the post with a few images: