We booked our tickets to India and we outlined the trip to India, now we want to focus on what we think could be the most competitively booked part of the trip. The Safari in Ranthambore National Park. There are some big challenges in India that we mainly don’t need to worry about elsewhere. Most specifically, scams and untruths can result in us paying for something that we don’t get. I still question if we are looking at the official national park website.
See how we decided on go to India.
About Scams in India
Let’s talk about the scam problem first. First of all, over 95% of international scam phone calls come from India so scams are integrated pretty well into their society. In fact, scams are so prevalent that Karl Rock created a youtube channel that has him walking through scams in different areas of India and beyond. He has shown people asking for much more money than the government requires them to, tourist offices that are fake and have very high fake prices for various tickets, etc. So being a native New Yorker I want to make sure that we do things right.
Scams impact our research. How much should X really be will always be a question that I will ask myself as I go through India. Am I actually booking something or is it fake?
Limiting the Hotel Selections in Ranthambore
Since our safari is going to be in Ranthambore which is a very important part of our trip for us, we decided to find a reputable hotel first. Historically my wife would do the research and choose the hotel solo, but I wanted to provide her with a few options to help expedite that process. Now, we are aware that all of our friends who went to India eventually had a sick day due to food. My wife wants to avoid that by staying in good hotels that provide a nice breakfast and eating only in very reputable locations.
This means that staying in a nice-looking place for a few hundred Indian Rupees is not going to happen on this trip.
Selecting a Hotel in Ranthambore
The nice thing is that the hotels in Ranthambore are mainly grouped together on a single road near the entrance of the Ranthambore National Park so the exact hotel location is not of primary importance. The downside is that there are many options and determining cleanliness and an ideal stay could be challenging. Moreover, determining if the hotel we were looking at we actually being booked, or whether it was a scam was a mild concern.
Booking the Hotel in Ranthambore
We settled on Khem Villas, an expensive but gorgeous place to stay at least in my opinion. Plus my wife always wanted to stay in a luxurious tent, which we are able to do here. When I look at the pictures of the so-called tent, I mainly think that this is the least tent-like tent I have ever seen but I digress. It has both heating and cooling so we will enjoy our time there.
Also, we are aware that the primary reason we are there is to go on 4 safaris. So if we spend extra time in the room relaxing not big deal. Alas, there is actually a lot of interesting things to do in that area besides safari so we’ll see if we relax!
Safaris in Ranthambore
Studying the various options we have for safaris we discovered the following. The Bengal Tigers -the thing to see, has about a 25% success rate of seeing them per outing. In addition, there are a total of 12 zones that can be explored by jeep or canter. Jeeps hold 6 people and are pretty cheap. Canters seat 20 people and are a bit cheaper. Naturally, we want a jeep experience.
The downside, there are a ton of websites claiming to be the official Ranthambore National Park website with safari bookings available.
From my research, I learned that zones 1 – 6 are the zones where we are most likely to see the Bengal Tigers and in particular Zones 2,3 and 4 sounded the most ideal. Zone 2 is a less dense jungle where you can see longer distances, which up the possibility of seeing a Bengal Tiger. Zone 3 has a famous lake in it, I don’t know why the lake is famous nor do I care, but I understand that the Bengal Tigers more often are seen around this lake. Finally, zone 4 sounded like an excellent mix of land, water, and ability to see into the distance.
Over the time that we are in Ranthambore, we can go on 4 safaris.
We reserved one slot for a “River Safari” which is a new offering for us to try and a “non-tiger” safari so that we highlight other animals. This is especially important to us because if we don’t see any tigers then we at least want to see other animals. We figure 2 safaris for Bengal tigers are enough.
Booking the Safaris
The “River Safari”, was offered through our hotel, so I reached out to them to book it. Since they offer it, it won’t too scammy just priced for tourists.
For the other 3 safaris, I asked the hotel how to book them. They first sent me to a website that required registration, but alas the website errored out when I was trying to register. Technology issues always surprise me in India. I work in technology, there are a ton of Indians who are amazing coders! What’s going on here?
Since booking it direct failed, I asked the hotel contact to provide me with 2 names of people who can help book this on our behalf. They provided 2 contacts.
Choosing who will help us Book the Safaris
I knew that booking direct would cost 2300 Indian Rupees per person.
The first contact, got back to me immediately and quoted me 2800 Indian Rupees per person (+$ 6.50 USD per person) and the second quoted me 4500 Indian Rupees per person (+$27.00 USD per person). But there is more to consider here than the price. The first contact consistently gets back to me immediately. The second can take many hours even though they have a crazy high price. Also the first seems less professional than the second.
I asked each of them to tell me why there is a price difference.
The first said that the pickup and drop off to the hotel accounts for the added cost which I am willing to accept. They also double-confirmed that the zones I was looking to book were still open for the dates and times I am targeting.
The second said something along the same lines.