Ranthambore National Park was our next destination. After touring the Taj Mahal, spotting a wild tiger was next on our list for India. India is one of the only places in the world where tigers still roam free, but even in India your options are limited. There are several parks and reserves dedicated to protecting wild tigers, and Ranthambore is one of them. The tigers at Ranthambore roam in and out of the park, but due to the amount of water sources and food population inside the national park, many of the tigers stay for years, or even their whole life.
After touring Jaipur, we caught a train to Sawai Madhopur, the town closest to Ranthambore National Park. We were shocked when we got off the train that we weren’t greeted by loads of rickshaw drivers fighting for our business. Actually, there wasn’t a rickshaw driver in sight. We just headed in the direction of the town on foot while hoping a hotel wasn’t too far down the road.We passed several hotel options until we came across Ranthambore Palace, a hotel recommended by our guidebook. It looked new and modern, and above our price range. However, Jared walked up to the front desk and bargained them down until we were in the high-end of our budget ($13/night). My jaw dropped open when I saw our nice A/C room equipped with wifi and a flatscreen TV. It was clean, tidy, and so peaceful. Actually, we were the only guests in the hotel for our entire stay. The bathroom was the best part–white and sparkling with a rain shower. It may not look like much to you, but as backpackers traveling through India, this was luxury.We wondered around town later that day and stopped in at a restaurant for some more delicious Indian food…We got some rest that night and headed out on foot early the next morning to get our safari tickets. When we arrived at the ticket office at 5am, there were several other Indian men getting tickets for clients. We got our tickets, and then headed outside to find our safari canter and guide. Our guide met us at the canter, and then headed towards the park. He stopped at various hotels along the way to pick up guests who had pre-booked their safari. The safari started out with an abundance of deer, peacocks, and monkeys. We kept a sharp eye out for a tiger, but didn’t see one.
We stopped at the lake towards the end or the tour in hopes we would see a tiger coming out to cool off or get a drink. No such luck. Our tour time was about up, so we piled back into the canter and started heading back to the entrance of the park. And that’s when we saw her. Our guide told us her name was Machli. She was the most famous tigress in all of India. She had just caught a deer and was mulling it apart. It was amazing to watch a giant cat in the wild. We were very luck to spot a tiger on our first tour. We thought about going out for a second tour, but Jared became ill that afternoon and we took the next day to rest and recuperate. Remember that food from earlier? We are pretty sure it’s what made him sick. But thankfully, that was the first and last time one of us got sick on our trip.