I am posting this since many visitors to Ranthambhore NP do not manage to obtain details pertaining to the safari bookings & hope many find this info useful.
Safari booking tips - Ranthambhore National Park :
Are you planning to head over to Ranthambhore National Park for some tiger sightings ? Get ready for do's & don'ts to book a safari.
On the face of it, it is all very simple. You can book online (http://www.rajasthanwildlife.in/) get an instant confirmation and be done. Or you could walk down to the booking office atleast an hour or two before a safari starts, and buy a seat in the current booking. Only there is more to it. Read carefully so as to can maximize your chances of getting on to a safari – and spot a tiger.
* The park is divided into 5 zones, numbered 1-5.
* Zone 3 (Lake area) is the most popular but sightings aren't guaranteed even there.
* Chances of Tiger sightings are higher in Zone 2, 3, 4 & 5.
* Don't even bother getting onto other Buffer zones 6 (Kundal),7 (Chidikho) or 8 (Balas) unless you intend admiring only the topography,there are hardly any animals over there.
* If you are booking online, in the Tiger Reserve preferance section, choose "Ranthambhore NP Zone" without fail.
* There are two safaris a day and you could choose either.
* You can book to go on a safari in either a Gypsy SUV (seats 6) or a Canter (an open bus seating 20). The Gypsy is always a better option – fewer people, can navigate better and faster and you have greater control in telling the driver and guide what to do. There are a total of 20 each, and these are divided equally in all zones.
* AVOID the canter, unless you fancy your back taking a 3 hour pounding. While the canters cannot take you into narrow routes it'd be a breeze in the Gypsy.
* Each vehicle comes with a driver and a guide.
* When you make a booking, the zone and the guide you get is allocated in a sequence. So it is your luck what you get. If the Driver allotted to you turns out to be Mr.Shambhu (an aspiring F1 driver), be prepared to check into the nearest hospital soon. If the Guide happens to be Mr. Dinesh Sharma, rest assured of tracking the Big cats for some awesome sightings.
* The peak season runs from autumn to spring – the weather is moderate at this time. It is best to book your safaris in advance to avoid disappointment. Funnily, it is also the time when tiger sightings are fewer. The hotter it gets, the more the sightings.
* Best time to go is April – June. The park closes after this for about 3 months due to the rains. Tiger sightings are highest at this time but day temperatures can cross 45 degrees Celsius. Surprisingly, I went in May but the thrills of the safaris did not allow the heat to bother me.
* Advantages of online booking: (1) You are assured of a seat; this is normally not a problem in summers though but don’t take any chances (2) You don’t have to wait for a full house to get a booking. Yes, when you go to the booking window, and want a Gypsy, the booking process is successful only if you are a group of 6 or there are 5 other people willing to go with you. Unless you are willing to pay for the vacant seats – not a bad option if you can afford it, many professional photographers use this option. Gives you more room.
* Disadvantages of online booking: (1) You have no control over the zone you will get; it is allotted by a computerized system. (2) It is non-refundable, and non-transferable (so is the current booking) (3) If you have bought, say 2 tickets, and two more friends want to come along by making a current booking, it is next to impossible to get on to the same safari.
* Current Booking: This starts at the booking office (located near the Sawai Madhopur Lodge, a Taj Hotels property) about an hour before each safari. Since you have limited control over the zone: at the time of booking, you could ask which zone is available. If you don’t want it, you could step back and wait for someone else to make a booking and then try for the next available zone. But this is possible only during summers – there is too much of a rush in the peak season for anyone to even bother talking to you.
* Bribes rarely work as everything is computerized to ensure there is no jostling and fighting to get the desired zones and guides.
* A few hotels do manage to book you on a Gypsy safari but at exorbitant prices.
* How do you know which zone to choose, if you have a choice: Ask around where sightings are more likely during the time you are there. Most guides will tell you they are everywhere and it is all luck. They are partly correct but there are instances when certain zones have definite sightings during a certain period. You will have to make a judgment call after talking to many people.
* If a Tiger has been been spotted in a particular zone in the morning safari, there are 99% chances that you'd find the Tiger in the same area during the evening safari as well.
* Be nice to guides and drivers, and you'd bring out the best in them.
* Rest assured, you might perhaps get a nice Tiger sighting if you are NOT OBSESSED by Tiger sightings.
* Do not get disappointed in case of no sightings, do more safaris and thereby increase your chances.
* Ranthambhore is one of the best reserves to spot the Big cat.
* 1st October to 31st October: 7.00 A.M. to 10.30 A.M.; 2.30 P.M. to 6.00 P.M.
* 1st November to 31st January: 7.00 A.M. to 10.30 A.M.; 2.00 P.M. to 5.30 P.M.
* 1st February to 31st March: 6.30 A.M. to 10.00 A.M.; 2.30 P.M. to 6.00 P.M.
* 1st April to 15th May: 6.00 A.M. to 9.30 A.M.; 3.00 P.M. to 6.30 P.M.
* 15th May to 30th June: 6.00 A.M. to 9.30 A.M; 3.30 P.M. to 7.00 P.M.
* Canter (Diesel): Rs. 334 (Indians); Rs. 313 (Indian student); Rs. 513 (non-Indians)
* Canter (Petrol): Rs. 364 (Indians); Rs. 344 (Indian student); Rs. 544 (non-Indians)
* Gypsy: Rs. 429 (Indians); Rs. 408 (Indian student); Rs. 608 (non-Indians)