India was the fourth destination for this epic 25 day Around the World by Private Jet Wildlife Safari that I was photographing and filming for Abercrombie & Kent.
Landing in Jaipur, we were greeted with a traditional maharajah’s welcome and got to marvel at India’s fabled “Pink City”.
The search for the Bengal tiger in its largest remaining wild habitat of Ranthambore National Park was at the top of our list and boy we were not disappointed. Guided by expert trackers, we were privileged to view incredible sightings of not one but two Bengal tigers, arguably the greatest of all the great cats. They are so endangered that there are more specimens in captivity in the United States than remain in the wild.
Spanning about 250 square miles, the forests of Ranthambore were once the private hunting grounds of the maharajahs of Jaipur, and their desire to preserve game in these forests is partially responsible for making Ranthambore the finest habitat in the world to see wild tigers.
The morning and afternoon jungle drives were exceptional. Whilst on the lookout for predators, we also got to see numerous other species that call the park home, including wild boar, deer, antelope, sloth, bear, crocodile as well as a plethora of brightly coloured birds. The scenery throughout the park was lush and enchanting with Mughal ruins, palaces and tombs dotting the tree-clad hills.
We also had an unexpected and thrilling sighting of another big cat in Ranthambore. Driving in the park we were alerted by the shrilling alarm calls of the peacocks, peahens and monkeys. With such a cacophony of noise there had to be a predator present. Following their gaze to the rocky escarpment on the other side of the valley, movement was eventually detected and for a fleeting moment, we had a clear sighting of an Indian leopard. So majestic and graceful, it really was a privilege to see this fine feline before it disappeared into the thicket. Being so focused on wanting to see cats with stripes, the sighting of this one with rosettes totally blew everyone away.
Learning about the region’s history was a fascinating part of our trip and an early morning visit to the 16th Century impressive edifice of the Amber Fort and the palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was wonderful. Breathtakingly beautiful, the fort built in sandstone and marble sits majestically on a hill with magnificent views. It was super exploring the courtyards, temples, colonnades and marvelling at the elaborate frescoes.
As well as time on safari, guests enjoyed being pampered in the hotel spa, exploring the local village and its market, visiting a historic fortress as well as learning the art of Indian cuisine in a private cooking lesson with the hotel’s critically acclaimed Head Chef.
We were opulently accommodated at two imposing properties whilst in India. The first was once a palace for the Maharaja of Jaipur. The opulent Rambagh Palace sprawls across 47 acres of lush gardens where we dined on sumptuous fusion street food in the grounds whilst enjoying the most spectacular fireworks display. The second was the luxurious Oberoi Vanyavilas with its exquisite tented suites in Ranthambore which was reserved exclusively for our Wildlife Safari.
The last evening in India was unbelievably outstanding. Set in the beautiful Mango Orchard, an intimate natural space hung with lanterns, intricate patterns of petals decorating the lawn and the air suffused with the scent of blossoming mango trees, our farewell feast was held in a torchlit amphitheater which was an incomparable venue.