We arrived in Ranthambhore after a bumpy 3-hour drive from Jaipur airport, 160km away. The sun had set long before our GPS directions led us into a desolate area of scrub wilderness – pitch black and vast – unhelpfully telling us that we had now arrived at our destination. The road stretching ahead of us had deteriorated to a solitary sandy track, doing little to fill us with confidence.
Desperately hoping that our driver wouldn’t abandon us here in the heart of India’s tiger country, we called the resort who promised to send out somebody to fetch us. Before long a jeep appeared through the darkness to lead the way further down the track. Surprisingly, out of the wilderness appeared a small oasis indicating that we had finally arrived at Jungle View Resort.
Camping at Ranthambhore
Ranthambhore National Park is currently home to around 62 wild tigers – numbers having increased since 2005 when only 26 tigers were recorded – and it is widely regarded as one of the best places in India (and probably the world) to spot the majestic animal from Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’ stories. Allegedly, the best way to fully enjoy your jungle experience is to camp and so our accommodation for the next 3 nights while we attempted to see Shere Khan himself was a gorgeous luxury tent, fully equipped with a/c, shower and a flushing toilet. Having never been ‘glamping’ (glamorous camping) before, this was a huge step up from the exciting camping trips that shaped my childhood.
What could be better than falling asleep to the sound of nature?
2.10 a.m: We could deny it no longer: the sounds outside indicated that there was an animal just the other side of the canvas. I didn’t know what to do. With no zipper on the tent, we were vulnerable to any creature that tried to come in. Should we turn on the lights? Make a noise? Stay quiet? Why hadn’t we asked the owner what to do if an animal came into the resort?
My mind went into overdrive. We were visiting a region where we hoped to catch a sighting of a wild tiger and we’d decided to stay in a tent? Were we mad?!
I knew that Ranthambhore is also known for hyenas and jackals – we had read Trip Advisor reviews where guests claimed to have heard wild animals at night, and even to have seen leopards beyond the resort walls. It had all seemed so exciting in the light of day when we booked. Now, in the darkest of the night, and with only a sheet of fabric protecting me from an unknown creature, it seemed completely insane.
The animal started to make low grunting sounds. *Phew*. At least that rules out a tiger or a leopard. But what noise does a jackal make? Or a hyena? Hell, even a wild boar can do some hefty damage.
We lay still – too afraid to breathe in case the creature came closer to investigate. Although I was now convinced that it was a scavenger – most likely a pig of some kind – I couldn’t shake off the fear that maybe something larger and more deadly could be lurking outside. After about 30 minutes the animal moved off, but it was a long time before I fell asleep. I’m a city girl after all – most animals scare me.
How was I ever going to sleep? Like any travel blogger would, I turned to Twitter.
— RunawayBrit (@RunawayBrit) March 19, 2016
— RunawayBrit (@RunawayBrit) March 19, 2016
The next morning I asked what the creature could have been. I expected the manager to reassure me that no dangerous animals would come into the resort, but he simply shrugged and said, “Maybe a leopard, jackal or hyena…”. But now, in the daylight, the spirit of adventure had rekindled in me and I was no longer afraid. The resort has CCTV coverage, and some of the men sleep in the open. If they are not worried, then there is no need for the guests to be.
Actually, after the first night we had no more night-time wildlife encounters and I managed to sleep very well for the remaining two nights, despite our morning discovery that Jungle View Resort is less than half a kilometre from Zone 1 – one of the zones in Ranthambhore that has the highest percentage of wild tigers! My snapchat from the first day conveys my anxiety of that first night!
However, the anxiety soon eased off and the rest of our stay at Jungle View Resort was highly enjoyable. We picked the resort because Trip Advisor reviews said that Mr Qureshi, the manager, would do his utmost to help us see a tiger during our stay. When we weren’t heading out on safari, we enjoyed excellent hospitality and great food – all of our meals were included and there was always plenty to eat. The grounds were peaceful and relaxing – a calm haven away from the usual chaos of India. Despite having absolutely no way to secure our tent, either at night or during the day, we knew that we were in safe hands. It is a nice feeling to know that the world can be a trustworthy place, after all.
Jungle View Resort is a wonderful place to stay and I highly recommend it if you are planning to visit Ranthambhore. You can find more information about Jungle View Resort on their website. And before you wonder, this is not a sponsored post. I paid in full to stay there and said nothing about writing a review of my experience.
Stay tuned for my next post to see if Mr Qureshi managed to arrange a tiger viewing for us.
Have you visited Ranthambhore? Would you ever camp near wild animals? Let me know in the comments below.