The Best Places to Spot Tigers in India

 

With their power, ferocity and striking stripes, tigers have always garnered a lion's share of attention from cat enthusiasts and anyone who appreciates wildlife and the importance of their conservation. This ultimate solo hunter, with acute reflexes and tremendous muscle strength, has managed to survive in virtually any habitat despite a high demand for its body parts for use in Asian medicinal beliefs.

 

To see this elusive animal even in India, which holds over half of the world tiger population, is quite an effort. Having said that, if you keep your eyes peeled and ears open, head to these selected places, where you have more than an even chance to come across this powerful feline in the wild.

 

 

 

BANDHAVGARH NATIONAL PARK

District Umaria, Madhya Pradesh

Opens from: 15th October to 15th June

Closed: Wednesday afternoons.

 

If you are looking for a park with a high density of tigers, then Bandhavgarh National Park in the Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh is your best bet. This beautiful reserve is located against the backdrop of the 811m high 10th century Bandhavgarh Fort, an erstwhile abode and hunting lodge of the royal families of Rewa.

 

There are three zones in the park, from where a limited number of open top vehicles are allowed in, on selected times, for the morning and afternoon game drives.The best months to see tigers and other wildlife are from March to June, when animals congregate on the waterholes. Apart from the Bengal tiger, the park holds a healthy population of gaur (Indian bison), leopard, deer, sloth bear and over 200 species of birds.

 

 

Even though Bandhavgarh offers stellar opportunity for spotting the royal bengal tiger, it is advised to book through reputed companies like Naturetrek, who have expert naturalists leading their wildlife tours. Needless to say, having a knowledgeable guide increases your chances in the dense Sal forests manifold. 

 

 

KANHA TIGER RESERVE

District Mandla, Madhya Pradesh 

Opens from: 15th October to 15th June

Closed: Wednesday afternoons

 

Jeep safaris in open 4WD vehicles, accompanied by a naturalist, offer the perfect opportunity to observe the wildlife of the lush and green meadows of Kanha National Park. The park is home to the barasingha, a species of deer endemic to Kanha. Other animals regularly sighted here apart from the tiger are leopard, hyena, deer, hair and langur monkeys.

 

With a density of one tiger per ten square kilometres, Kanha is a well established destination for a safari of this impressive big cat. The best chance of seeing the big cat is in the grasslands when they are out to make a kill.The park is also a birder's mecca with over 220 species known to have been recorded here, including the forest beauty, Malabar Pied Hornbill.

 

 

 

CORBETT NATIONAL PARK

Ramnagar, District Nainital

Opens from: 15th November to 15th June

 

Named after the legendary British hunter Jim Corbett, this National Park has a picturesque location in the foothills of the Himalayas. Though the beauty is unparalleled, the dense vegetation makes it a bit difficult to spot tigers, as such one has to totally rely on the alarm calls of the deer and monkeys to locate their presence. 

 

Lookout also for herds of Asian elephants and the endangered gharial, a freshwater crocodile which thrives in the waters of the Ramganga river which flows through the park. As far as birding goes, it is probably the best in Asia. 

 

 

Another plus point about Corbett is that it is the only park in India where visitors are allowed to stay within its boundaries, especially at Dhikala, situated on the edges of the majestic Patil Dun valley. This is one of the best wildlife experiences you can enjoy in India. 

 

 

 

RANTHAMBORE NATIONAL PARK

District Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan

Opens from: 1st October to 30th June

 

This is one of the premier wildlife reserves in the Indian state of Rajasthan, famous for its scenic location amidst rolling hills and tranquil lakes. With the tenth century Ranthambore Fort dominating the park, the chance of seeing tigers here is very high, primarily because of the open desert landscape.

 

 

Apart from a good number of sixty odd tigers, Ranthambore National Park has other iconic animals like the Indian wolf, sloth bear, leopard, hyena and more. The varied terrain and an ample supply of water has resulted in a sensational amount of birds, over 270 species, being found here.

 

 

TADOBA TIGER RESERVE

Chandrapur, Maharashtra

Opens from: 15th October to 30th June

Closed: Every Tuesday

 

At 1727 square kilometres, Tadoba National Park is one of the biggest parks in the state of Maharashtra and also the most scenic. With a good tiger population, Tadoba always remains more crowded than the other parks. The hills and the undulating terrain provide good shelter to this big cat, which has resulted in exceedingly good sightings throughout the year.

 

There are two entry gates to the park where different kinds of stay options are available for the visitors. The park has also reported good encounters with sloth bears and wild dogs (dhole). On the birding front, some of Central India's best woodland species are found in Tadoba.

 

 

 

 

SATPURA NATIONAL PARK

Madai, Sarangpur, Madhya Pradesh

Opens from: 15th October to 30th June

 

 

This is one park of Central India where you won't find any crowds or a large number of vehicles piling on one another at a tiger sighting. With just twelve jeeps allowed in every safari slot, most sightings of the big cat are in complete isolation with no other vehicle to disturb the memorable experience. The Sonbadhra river, which flows through Satpura, is the ideal place to see these animals either swimming or cooling off on the banks during the hot season from April to June.

 

Satpura National Park is the only reserve in India where one can go on guided walks inside the park. While the tiger is no doubt the star animal, there are other species which are equally fascinating like the endangered arboreal flying squirrel, Indian giant squirrel, leopard, hyena, black buck, wild boar and the extremely elusive porcupine. Boasting of some unique luxury eco-lodges, Satpura is an underrated gem of India. 

 

 

Spotting tigers in the wild is a wildlife experience to cherish for a lifetime. No matter how many times you get close to this magnificent animal, the sight is sure to remain etched in your memory. Having said that, to strike a proper balance between tourism and conservation, the government has imposed strict restrictions on the number of vehicles to be allowed inside a park on a given day. It is essential therefore to make an online booking for a game drive on the respective portal of the park at least 120 days in advance to avoid disappointment.