When we have an idea to go for a safar holiday in any national park, so many questions comes in our mind which are needs to be answered. For a fresh visitor, who had no past safari holiday experience, need to know some basic information about safari holidays so that they can draw a rough plan in their mind and accordingly proceed further. As we know that in any tour-plan development cycle, planning is the beginning phase on which rest of the tour experience will depend upon. If our planning will be poor, then our tour plan execution will suffer and which will result into negative trip feedback. These basic information will help us to make best suitable tour plan for us in which we will not regret find any surprise during trip. These points are applicable on any type of safari holiday within India as rules and regulations are more of less same with some minor differences. Here we have used both ther terms safari-permits and safari-tickets. They both means same i.e. legal permission to enter for jungle safari. Normal public understands it safari ticket whereas in official term they write it as safari permit. Let us check them one by one.
To be very frank, we mostly plans for safari holiday for any popular national park or tiger reserve. When we say popular wildlife destination, it means that destination will be frequently visited by wildlife lovers and thus it is possible that their will be some dates or period when majority of tourists will prefer to visit such place on same dates and thus may result to either unavailability of safari permits or hotels which will may spoil our tour experience. This it is importnat to have some basic information about peak seasons, possible challenges so that we can plan accordingly. Here in India, wildlife tourism is already popular among tourists so domestic tourists registers their presence on some durations. These dates are Dussehra festival, Durga-pooja festival, Diwali, Holi festival dates. Similarly Christmas & New Year dates (23rd Dec to 05th Jan) remains fully packed. We advise to avoid these festival dates as safari permits on these dates often gets soldout on peak dates thus we may not get good safari zones and thus will not be able to enjoy safari drives, despite of making peak season charges. Similarly period of summer i.e. from 15th Mar to 25th May is the photographers & school holiday time when tiger sighting remains good and thus tickets get booked in advance. National parks like Ranthambore, Kanha, Pench, Bandhavgarh, Panna, Tadoba etc. remains sold out in this period. Thus we must need to plan in advance period i.e 150 days before actual travel date. If your plan is for North East India wildlife destination like Kaziranga, Manas national park etc. then try to visit these national park before May month as monsoon arrives normally with the beginning of May month and flooding is common in these park so try to complete the trip till April month.
While deciding number of visitors in small group of friends it is important to know the seating capacity of safari vehicles, room occupancy conditions so that we can design an optimum combination of visitors, which will enhance not only our travel experience but ensure a value for money trip. Unually in Indian national parks, maximum 06 tourists are allowed in one safari vehicle. If you are photographers, carrying your photography kit then choose the combination of maximum 04 person per safari vehicle so that you can comfortable undertake your prime motive i.e. photography without any disturbance / inconvenience. In most of the deluxe & luxury trips, most 04 tourist per vehicle combination is preferred. So we should decide our group size multiple to 06 in normal conditions and multiple to 04 in photography or luxury trips. This is for exclusive or non sharing safaris modes. But if you are going for sharing option then no such condition prevails as seats are availed on per person per seat basis. In such mode, you will be acompanied by maximum 05 other tourists, in addition to driver and guide. The rules of sharing safaris, vary from state to state. Per seat system of safari is more frequently used in Ranthambore where as it is also used in Central Indian national parks like Pench, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Panna, Satpura national park but rules are slightly different. If safari is not your preference list but purpose is just to just do a normal visit to any wildlife destination then you need to understand that maximum 03 beds are provided in one room of hotel under Standard/Deluxe/Luxury category. Accordingly you can decide your number of required rooms. Family room or inter-connected room option is not easily available under hotels of these category.
While planning for wildlife tours, you need to allocate little bit more budget in compare to heritage or cultural or pilgrimage tours. Here we have to undertake jungle safari drives which are normally costly and thus comprises considerable part of total package cost. So we need to be first mentally prepared for comparatively more cost. By increasing or decreasing the number of jungle safaris, you can do the adjustment the trip as per your budget. Ideally we recommend at least 02 round of jungle safaris in normal trip. If you are more interested in wildlife and would like to increase your probability for tiger sighting, then do at least 04 rounds of jungle safari in any national park. If you are wildlife photographer with limited budget then choose the combination of budget hotel and more jungle safaris say around 05 rounds.
Here in India, all tiger reserves are divided into core-buffer forest. As the name suggestsCore forest means the forest under inner circle or central forest area. Where as Buffer forest means that forest area, which is on outer circle. In simple terms Buffer forest is surrounding jungle of Core forest which shares its outer boundary with outer world and inner boundary with Core forest. It provides cushioning effect to core forest animals and can be considered as protection layer. Both of these forest areas are further divided into zones. We do jungle safaris on safari zones of some area of Core forest and Buffer forest. Their is no physical wall or fencing that restrict animal movement inbetween these zones so it is for human understanding only and not for animals. Certain safari zones are more popular among tourists due to probability of animal sighting, birding or scenic beauty. By default, we also try to book safaris on these popular safari zones. If you have knowledge of those popular safari zones then you should also understand the fact they will be in demand and often gets soldout in advance. In order to book jungle safaris on those popular zones, we need to take decision in advance (160 days) and speficy our preference. If we delay the decision, it is possible that we may not get safari tickets for popular safari zones which will compromise our safari experience. At the same time we would like to say that never underestimate any safari zone as animals can freely move in between any zone and jungle is full of surprises. Popularity level of any safari zone is not permanent, sometime it changes with season means in summers, some safari zones shows more tiger sighting result than in winter of same year. Sometime certain zone remain popular in one year but becomes unpopular in next year so popularity based on animal sighting probability, is not permanent and can change anytime as per decision of animals, which is not in our control. We can only predict but can't guarantee anything. Safari zones are very large in size which can't be covered in single safari drive so more than one safari in same safari zone is not a problem. Sometime safari zone selection is also influenced by our hotel location. National parks often have different safari zones, accessible by different entrance gates, located at long distance. In such case if we will stay at one hotel, we can access only some restricted number of safari zone/s only. In order to access other safari zone, we may need to change our hotel as per other zone entrance gate. Such situation arises in Tadoba, Satpura, Pench, Corbett, Kaziranga national parks.
Decision of number of safaris is sometimes easy but sometimes confusing for a tourist, having sufficient budget for their trip. It is not a big question for those tourists, who have limited budget as they can do only those number of safaris which is allowed in their budget, only required thing is to know the safari cost and check how many rounds possible in that budget. Every visitors plans for wildlife trip with some expectations in mind and it is jungle safari which is believed to be the tool to realize those expectations. If we use this tool intelligently then probability of success will be high. In normal conditions, we recommend 3-4 safaris in any national park. In case of low budget we advice for 02 safari rounds. If you are wildlife photographer and can adjust your budget than we recommend to do 4-6 safaris in any national park. Here you also need to not that number of safaris will also depend upon the number of safari tickets available for different safari zones. Suppose if safari tickets left for only single safari zone and others are sold out then you take 1 to 3 safari in that safari zone, as per your budget and interest. Such situation often arises in popular national parks like Tadoba, Pench, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Ranthambore etc. Their is one more case which we often face in national parks like Tadoba, Satpura & Pench. In such case, national park is having different safari entrance gates and each gate allows access to one safari zone only. In such case, if we will not change our hotel as per entry gate, we will not be able to visit other safari zones thus it restricts our possibility to explore different safari zones and thus it can influence the decision of number of safaris in any national park. We can avoid such compulsive situation by doing advance booking.
During wildlife trips, after completing safari drives, we spend considerable time in our hotel as other activities options are limited and less time left after back to back safaris. So we have to decide our hotel/resort carefully, after keeping in mind, many factors. Hotel decision can't be based of just one factor i.e. its price or popularity. If your budget is less then it is obvious that our choices will also be limited so decision can be taken easily. Problem arises for those who have standard or good travel budget and thus they have many options in hand. In such case, how to choose most suitable hotel will depend upon certain factors which we have discussed here. If sufficient number of safari tickets are available in different safari zones and park is having just one entrance gate or other entrance gates are just nearby like in Ranthambore, Bandhavgarh, Panna national parks, we can decide as per price, reviews & location. Sometimes, national parks have many entrance gates, at long distances, offering accessibility to limited safari zone only and our plan is to cover different safari zones, then we have to consider more than one hotel for stay to cover different safari zones. This is common in Tadoba, Pench, Corbett, Kaziranga and Satpura national parks. If you don't want to change hotels during trip then we have to compromise with our safari experience by doing more safaris on same zone. In jungle areas, we can find accommodation options in different possible themes like home-stays, boutique hotels, eco-friendly lodges, resorts in farm-house theme, tented accommodation, tree-house, cottage style, duplex style, villa style etc. Variety of accommodation options are available now a days. If your budget is more than average then you will have many options to choose. While choosing a hotel, first of all we should check our budget. If it is very limited then choose one budget hotel, as per its price, review (derived from service), power backup and location. In such hotels must check for terms & conditions and beware of hidden charges as this often becomes reason for later disputes, at the time of check-out. Close to entrance gate should be preferred as manytime we have to visit entrance gate for safari issues. If budet is good enough then shortlist hotels as per their reviews and accommodation style like cottage, chain of rooms, tent or wooden cottage or concrete structure, possible view from room, number of rooms etc. Home-stays are oftern disturbance free and we can expect personalized service. If homestay is of some eminent wildlifer then it is a bonus for us. In deluxe & luxury category, we often find similar rates and similar reviews for two different type of hotels in which one will be more on eco-friendly theme and second one will be on luxury theme. Now in such situation, decision will depend upon our own taste. Generally Foreigner tourists goes with eco-friendly theme where as domestic tourists goes with luxury theme. Sometimes competition arises in luxury category between eco-friendly vs luxury vs heritage hotels. In such case, what to do if we are not able to decide. When we are not able to decide what to do due to our inexperience of stay in different categories then best thing is to their independent reviews, their location and management team. Many time when hotels are under some well known hospitality team then we can blindly go with them without doing too many analysis. Here we need to understand the basic fact that we will get more competitive accommodation facilities in already established national parks like Ranthambore, Bharatpur, Bandhavgarh, Kanha national park, Pench national park, Kaziranga. Where as in upcoming destinations like Satpura, Tadoba, Manas, Nagarhole, Chambal wildlife sanctuary etc. where business is limited so hotel options will be limited & costly. In such places, go with experienced hospitality group only and avoid any experimentation. Budget hotel of already established destination can be trusted but they should be avoided at offbeat or upcoming destinations. In summer season trips, power-backup service becomes a decisive factor. It is the time when Central India experiences severe heat waves and stroms due to which electricity often disrupts and takes long time to restore. In such situation, powerback facility matters alot. Now a days, hotels equipped with solar power generation facility can be given preference.