Ranthambore National Park, India
Voted #1 Best Small Hotel in the World in TripAdvisors’s 2017 Travelers’ Choice Awards, the Oberoi Vanyavilas maintains— as a happy matter of Oberoi policy—the highest standards of Indian hospitality (which in turn are the world’s highest standards). Micato guests (and its staff) treasure Vanyavilas for its brisk, cheery service, its commitment to thoughtful luxury, and for its stunning tents—based on the finest East African models—which remind us that we’re here for a spectacularly worthwhile reason: seeing Royal Bengal tigers in their natural habitat.
Vanyavilas’ beautifully designed tents are spread around the hotel’s 20 lovingly-gardened acres, linked by torch-lit pathways and charming bridges over lily ponds. (As we say more than a few times in the African section of this website, these superbly conceived tents resemble the tents of our youth like a Tesla resembles a 1974 Chevy.) Each triple-canopied tent features an exceptionally large bathroom with an old-fashioned bathtub (and new-fashioned shower), and a quiet, traditionally furnished sitting area.
Vanyavilas’ exquisitely designed restaurant—a tribute to Rajasthan’s artistic heritage—features indoor and al fresco courtyard dining, and an internationally inspired menu. The hotel’s spa, built to resemble a Rajasthani haveli, or mansion, offers a wide range of services, from Ayurvedic treatments and small yoga classes to an Oberoi trademark: deep, untroubled relaxation.
Vanyavilas would be a lovely place to spend a few days or weeks in creative leisure, but with the tigers of Ranthambore National Park just 10 or so minutes away, we’re keyed up to see the great beasts. (As you know, Micato is an Africa-born company. But since our ancestral roots are in India, we must, with all due respect to the King of Beasts, bear witness to the unquestionable fact: Panthera tigris tigris, the extremely royal Bengal tiger, is the Emperor of Beasts.)
Elsewhere on this site, we describe and picture a typical tiger safari. Short version: We and our Micato Tour Director make the short drive to Ranthambore National Park headquarters, where we join with an astute local guide and his assistant, then drive into the park (which carefully limits visitors; these tigers are a national treasure, and their welfare is a matter of strict concern). We spend the morning (and typically, the afternoon, after returning to Vanyavilas for lunch) searching for signs—dinner plate-sized paw marks on the dusty roadway, or a sudden squall of noise, the jungle’s lesser beasts announcing the presence of Shere Khan. The sight of a tiger in the wild is like winning an Olympic gold medal; it can’t be taken away from you. Lordly, insouciant, graceful beyond measure, the tiger burns bright in the forests of the night and day and memory.