It has been noticed as the number of tigers has dwindled in India, people have become more interested in watching these big wild cats in their natural habitat. The term Tiger Safari has come into more popular use and the number of visitors in the national parks have also increased. Since India is the prime destination in the world where you will find major population of tigers, it has attracted wildlife enthusiasts from all across the globe. Along with their profound interest in tiger sighting, these wildlife aficionados have paid much heed to the rich biodiversity in India, which has resulted in making India not only a great place for tiger spotting but also for sighting hundreds of exclusive flora and fauna species. So, in a way, tiger safari in India does not limit itself to merely spotting a tiger but it focuses on other important aspects of wildlife that includes bird watching, butterfly sighting, learning more about wildlife conservation and being more aware of our natural environment.
There are certain wildlife reserves in India, which honestly give better opportunities for tiger safari than the rest and here is our list that sorts it out for you:
There can be no better destination than Bandhavgarh National Park for tiger sighting in India. Nestled amidst the Vindhayan Hills in Madhya Pradesh, this national park boasts of the maximum population of tigers in the country. The park is divided into four major zones, namely Tala, Magdhi, Khitauli, and Panpatta; they together constitute the core area of about 694 sq kms. The buffer zone is spread over the forest division of Umaria and Katni and covers 437 sq kms of area. The best zone for tiger safari in Bandhavgarh is said to be Tala Zone, which is rich not only in tiger density but also in terms of biodiversity. The national park was home to some of the widely famous tigers like Sita (who once appeared on the cover of National Geographic magazine), Charger, Mohini, B2 and Bamera. Even today, when these tigers are no longer alive, they are remembered and their descendants dominate the forest. You may get lucky in the national park and can spot tigers like Blue Eyes, Mukunda, Rajbehra, Mirchaini, Banbehi, Mahaman, Sukhi Pattiya and Damdama.
Apart from tigers, Bandhavgarh National Park is home to more than 250 species of birds like Plum-headed parakeet, Orange-headed thrush, Brown-headed barbet, Coppersmith barbet, Common myna, Alexandrine parakeet, Indian grey hornbill and Rock pigeon. About 80 species of butterflies can be sighted along with a large number of reptiles and migratory bird like Sarus Crane (spotted in the monsoon season) in the national park.
Offering a safe shelter to the tigers in India, Ranthambore National Park in Sawai Moadhopur, Rajasthan is ranked second as a good prospect for tiger sighting in India. The park is one of the few places where tigers can be seen basking or ambling in the sun. The reserve is spread over an area of 392 sq km and is divided into many zones out of which Bakaula, Kachida Valley, Lakarda and Anantpura, Rajbagh Ruins, Padam Talao and Ranthambore Forts are some of the important places. Like Bandhavgarh, Ranthambore has some widely known tigers like Machli (reckoned to be the oldest tiger alive), Slant Ear (son of Machli Jr, on whom a documentary was shot and was shown all across the world), Sultan or T-72 (who is believed to be the next big territory holder in the park) and Mala (whose beaded line across the neck has earned her this name). According to a report in 2014, the tiger population in Ranthambore National Park has reached 65, let us touchwood and hope and pray that the population multiplies in the future.
Ranthambore National is a major wildlife destination in Rajasthan and other than tigers, it shelters a sizeable population of wildlife species like Leopards, Striped Hyenas, Sambar deer, Chital, Nilgai, Common or Hanuman langurs, Macaques, Jackals, Sloth bears, Black bucks, Rufoustailed Hare, Indian Wild Boar, Indian Flying Foxes, Indian Foxes, Indian Gerbilles, Indian Mole Rats, Indian Porcupines, Longeared Hedgehogs, Ratels, Small Indian Mongoose, Small Indian Civets and Common mongoose. There are also about 272 species of birds that include Graylag Goose, Woodpeckers, Indian Gray Hornbills, Common Kingfishers, Bee Eaters, Cuckoos, Parakeets, Asian Palm Swift, Owl, Nightjars, Pigeon, Dove and Crakes. Reptiles like crocodiles also catch lots of attention of the tourists here.
Amidst the pristine forest of Kanha National Park is the safe shelter of a decent population of tigers and that is why Kanha is reckoned to be amongst the best places to spot tigers in India. Sprawling across the central highland of the Mekal Range, Kanha National Park covers an area of 940 sq km. This forest covered with Sal and other trees and interspersed by meadows is known for sheltering many tigers, which are often heard roaring and many a times their pugmarks can be traced. If you are lucky you can spot tigers while they come out to drink water from the crystal clear streams or while they bask in the winter sun. Currently the dominant male in the national park is named Munna, who also has a symbol that can be read as CAT over his head.
Other than tigers, the pride of Kanha National Park is Swamp Deer or Hard Ground Barasingha. Indian Gaur, spotted deer, sambar, barking deer and the four-horned deer are other commonly spotted animals in the national park. Reptiles like pythons, cobras, krait, rat snakes, vipers, keelbacks and grass snakes are also found and amphibians like turtles can be sighted every now and then in the reserve. Kanha also has a large variety of exotic plants and trees; a sizable number of birds can also be spotted in this forest reserve.
The oldest national park in India, Corbett sprawls across two districts of Uttarakhand (Pauri and Nainital). Covering an area of approximately 1288 sq km (including the buffer area), Corbett is one of the best places for a tiger safari in India. The national park is divided into 5 major zones, namely, Dhikala, Jhirna, Bijrani,Durgadevi and Dhela. Since the area is large, you might find it difficult to spot tigers here, however, a recent incident in which 5 tigers were spotted has given wildlife enthusiasts the hope of fair chances of sighting tigers in Corbett. It also cannot be forgotten that Corbett was the first national park that initiated Project Tiger in India. So, if you are fortunate enough, your trip to Corbett can bring good result as you may get the chance to spot this big wild cat in its natural habitat.
Rich in biodiversity, Corbett houses about 488 species of plants, 500 species of resident and migratory birds and more than 50 species of wild animals. The national park strongly encourages ecotourism as well. Corbett is also one of the few places where accommodation is available inside the forest area.
Here’s why you should go for tiger safari in Tadoba National Park: in 2014, 65 tigers were spotted in Tadoba (29 in Tadoba, 24 in Pench National Park and 5 in Navegaon Nagzira Tiger Reserve). Yes, that is good news and an invitation as well! This national park, situated in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, is spread over an area of about 625 sq kms. The best time to spot tigers in Tadoba is during the summer, when they spend time in Tadoba Lake and waterholes like Pandharpauni and Panchadhara. The other fact that makes Tadoba a great place for tiger sighting is that there is no core area that is not open for visitors, hence you have better chance to spot wildlife.
Tadoba is reckoned to be the largest national park in Maharashtra and is home to mammals like tiger, leopard, sloth bear, gaur, striped hyena, nilgai, dhole, small Indian civet, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, jungle cat, chital, and four-horned antelope. One has the good opportunity to sight 74 species of butterflies here along with 195 species of birds.
Satpura National Park in Madhya Pradesh is a part of a unique central highland ecosystem. Although, this national park remains unexplored by tourists, Satpura is one of the favourite haunts of Bengal tigers. The national park is spread over an area of about 524 sq km and is home to many wildlife species including the tiger and the leopard. The dense forest is the perfect shelter for the tigers that mark large territories for themselves here. Since, the national park is still unexplored, the wild animals here roam freely and without any fear. Summer is the best time for tiger sighting as these big cats can be spotted near the water holes and at River Sonbhadra, where they come for a swim.
Satpura National Park is a newer establishment and is probably amongst those few wildlife reserves where one is allowed to explore the park on foot (led by a guide). Apart from tigers, the park is home to hyena, leopards, gaur, sambar, chital, barking deer, chin Kara, mouse deer, wild boars, wild dogs, bears, black bucks, foxes, porcupines and flying squirrel.
Although the tiger population is small in Pench National Park, it is reckoned to be amongst the few wildlife reserves that offers decent chances to sight a tiger. Many a times, visitors had to be contented merely with a trace of pugmark but there have also been enthralling incidents where a couple of tigers were spotted together at Pench. The Collarwali Tiger is the dominant female in the reserve; she is also known for giving birth to five cubs in the winter of 2013. The national park is spread over an area of 257 sq kms in the south of Satpura hill ranges, along the northern border of Nagpur district. Pench is rich in biodiversity and is also considered one of the most scenic national parks in the country.
Tiger sighting remains the utmost interest of wildlife lovers in Pench National Park, however, the commonly spotted animals like Chausingha, Flying Squirrel, Sloth Bear and Spotted Deer also manages to grab attention of the visitors. The national reserve is home to about 33 species of mammals, 50 species of birds and 30 species of reptiles. It is also a great place for bird watching as this national park is a safe shelter for about 150 species of birds.
A lesser known national park, Nagarhole is said to be one of the safest places for Indian tigers. Living in an uninterrupted atmosphere, tigers can have their unperturbed large territories here. Although tiger sighting is unpredictable, it has comparatively increased from early 2000. Most of the tiger sightings here are reported on the bank of Kabini River that flows through this national park. Apart from the tigers the national park is also famed for its large population of elephants. This scenic wildlife reserve is situated in Kodagu district of Karnataka and is spread over an area of about 643 sq kms. Nagarhole along with Bandipur National Park, Mudumalai National Park and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary make for the largest protected area in South India covering 2183 sq kms of area in total.
Dotted with the teak and rosewood trees, Nagarhole National Park is home to predators like tiger, leopards, wild doh, hyena and sloth bear. The herbivores like spotted deer, barking deer, for-horned antelope and elephants are the most commonly spotted animals here. The national park is also the haven for birdwatchers as about 270 bird species consider it their home.
Bandipur is yet another good place for tiger safari in India. This national park extending across an area of 874 sq kms is known for its rich biodiversity and good tiger count. According to a census in 2010, there were about 115 tigers living in unperturbed territories in this national park. So, you see, one actually has a fair chance to sight a tiger in Bandipur National Park. On your safari into the wild, other than tigers, elephants can be of main interest here. Elephants, wild boars and gaur are commonly spotted in the park near some waterhole. In 2014 a freak fire damaged a major part of the national park and since then all these areas are under self revival period, only one zone opens for the tourists.
The national park is only 80kms from Mysore and houses animals like leopard, elephant, gaur, sloth bear, Asiatic wild dog, striped hyena, barking deer, sambar, spotted deer, mouse deer, mongoose, and the slender loris. The wildlife reserve is also home to about 230 species of birds that include eron, stork, egret eagle, sandpiper, falcon, peafowl, kite, lapwing and woodpecker. Bandipur is an ideal weekend getaway from cities like Bangalore and Mysore.
Periyar National Park is a notable tiger reserve in South India. Situated in Idukki and Pathanamittha districts of Kerala, Periyar boasts of rich biodiversity and absolutely scenic location. There are conflicting reports regarding the actual number of tigers in this wildlife reserve; a report in 2011 states that Periyar has six male and 12 female tigers, however later the officials declared that tiger reserve has 35 tigers in total. In 2013, four tigers were spotted together and this brought a ray of hope that the number of tigers in the park are on the rise. The Tiger Trail is a popular tour that is offered in the national park; this tour is conducted by poachers-turned-protectors. Each tour consists of 5 visitors and 5 guides with armed guards. It is an interesting tour in which you not only get the opportunity to explore the beauty of the park but also get to hear the stories from former poachers.
Covering 305 sq kms of area, Periyar is one of the most famous national parks in Kerala. Apart from tigers, the main attraction of this national park is the sizable population of elephants. Periyar houses 140 species of orchids and 171 species of grass. There are about 35 species of mammals, 45 species of reptiles and more than 260 species of birds in the park. Apart from tiger and elephants, gaur, sambar, wild pig, Travancore flying squirrel, jungle cat, Indian giant squirrel, sloth bear, Nilgiri tahr, lion-tailed macaque, Nilgiri langur, Salim Ali’s fruit bat, stripe-necked mongoose, and Nilgiri marten are the main inhabitants of the wildlife reserve. In Periyar National Park, the visitors have the option of taking a boat ride, going on a nature walk, patrolling the jungle and exploring the area on a bullock cart. Click here for best accommodation options near Periyar Sanctuary.