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Occupying a roughly 515-square-mile swath of southeastern Rajasthan, Ranthambore National Park is India’s most famous wildlife-spotting destination. The park’s rugged hills, thick forests, and large lakes—many of which are punctuated by the ruins of ancient forts and temples—are best known for their resident population of endangered Bengal tigers. But they are also home to a dazzling array of other wildlife.
Visiting Ranthambore typically means exploring in the same way you would on a traditional African safari: Via 4×4 vehicle, alongside local guides who will make sure you see as many wild creatures as possible. Happily, there’s an embarrassment of riches here; the park is home to 40 different mammal species (including leopards, sloth bears, and striped hyenas); 35 reptile species (among them marsh crocodiles, chameleons, cobras, and vipers); and 320 species of birds (such as sarus cranes, rose-ringed parakeets, and serpent eagles).
Though Ranthambore is open to visitors nine months out of the year—it’s closed only during the monsoon season, July through September—there are some specific considerations that may help you decide when to plan your safari there. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind (and, of course, to discuss with one of Micato’s India specialists).
After months of monsoon rains, Ranthambore’s landscapes erupt into verdant bloom. In the early winter, the park’s grasses are high, flowering vines proliferate, and the banyan, dhok, and tamarind forests are in full leaf. The lakes and water holes are also at their fullest, which can make for some beautifully dramatic photos (for instance, you might capture a centuries-old fort, or thirst-quenching leopard, mirrored by its reflection in a watery surface). It’s not uncommon to see tigers at this time of year; like human visitors, the cats appreciate the mild, pleasant temperatures (averaging around 70°F during the day), and sometimes lounge out in the open sun. But you’re more likely to spot other animals, including langurs, servals, jackals, nilgai antelope, chital deer, and sloth bears.
Temperatures plunge in Ranthambore during winter—down to around 60°F by day, and the 40s at night—but so do the numbers of visitors. That means you’ll not only get to see the park wreathed in atmospheric mist on your morning safari drives, and have a more private audience with the park’s mammals (including the occasional tiger). You’ll also get to see the masses of migratory birds that throng the park’s lakes in the winter months, such as demoiselle and sarus cranes, painted storks, greater flamingoes, and many colourful species of duck. Thinned-out forest foliage during this time of year also allows greater visibility of many of the park’s year-round avian species, including eagles, kites, and owls; curious hornbills; darting kingfishers; vividly coloured bee-eaters and parakeets; and India’s cherished national symbols, peacocks.
If it’s tigers that you long to see (and really, who doesn’t?), you’ll maximize your chances by visiting Ranthambore in spring and early summer. Though the daytime temperatures hover between sultry and sweltering (averaging around 95°F), these hot-weather, pre-monsoon months are when water in the park is most scarce—and the greatest density of animals throngs the dwindling lakes and ponds. If you’re lucky, you might spot a tiger crouching to drink in the early morning, or sheltering from the midday heat in the shade of a tree. You might even hit the wildlife jackpot: spying a mother tiger with her litter of newly born cubs.
To start planning your trip to Ranthambore—and some of the other jewels of northern India—request our India brochure or let our team of India specialists lend their expertise. And for a taste of what your journey to India could be like, we invite you to enjoy this video: