It’s likely that people travel to Ranthambhore, India, for reasons other than seeing Bengal Tigers in the National Park (there are just 58 in the area according to the most recent census; nearly 4000 total in the country), but I’m not sure why. Perhaps for the sole purpose of visiting Oberoi Vanyavilas, indeed a spectacular property with just 25 luxury tents … but that is probably not the case.
Our journey from Agra to Ranthambhore was via train with a “first class” compartment. From leaving the hotel via car to being greeted at our destination was 4+ hours. If you saw the movie Lion, you know young Saroo spends a few days on a train with barred windows. That mode of transportation still exists today — either in 3rd or even 4th class. Fortunately our luggage was driven separately for us, so that was definitely a plus. The folks from andBeyond were there until we boarded the train and waiting for us at the other end, which was extremely helpful. And we had a friendly and informative traveling companion in our compartment (after he was fully awake, that is).
We learned from our 2016 African safari that sightings are promised to no one. Indeed the first afternoon drive was hot, long and “whiplash” bumpy with only a brief sighting of a female tiger plus monkeys, deer, wild boar and many birds. The next morning was worth the entire journey, even with the 6am departure.
Barely 10 minutes inside the park (the government divides the park into zones and the assignments are random; this was Zone 6), a very large male — nose to tail 12′ and in excess of 500 lbs — crossed our path out in the open. After that, we were very lucky to encounter a female with her 4-month-old cubs — still being carefully guarded by mom. In other words, a family of Bengal Tigers. Mama and babies were consuming a large deer carcass, after which they strolled for a bit. Our guide Farooq had a hunch they were headed to a nearby water hole and he was absolutely correct. We were the first of several vehicles, and thus had a prime spot.
What can one say? These are simply gorgeous creatures. The stripes on the cubs are quite narrow and continue to spread as they grow. One could die from the cuteness of them. It was extraordinary. The upside of traveling to India in April is the tigers are more apt to be “out” than certainly in the colder months, and the park is shut down completely for three months during the monsoon season (July-September). The moral of the story? Take the good (great) with the bad (hot)!
Four drives and two sightings — one major — was just tremendous. Couple that with incredible accommodations, food, spa and staff, and it was a thrill. Next stop: Jaipur.