It has been observed that as the number of tigers in India has dwindled, there’s a growing interest among people to witness these magnificent wild cats in their natural habitat. According to the latest tiger census report, India is home to 3,682 tigers, accounting for 75% of the global population. With the increasing popularity of wildlife jungle adventures, the term “Tiger Safari” has gained significant traction, leading to a rise in the number of visitors to national parks. India, boasting a significant portion of the world’s tiger population, has attracted wildlife enthusiasts from all over the globe. Their deep interest in tiger sightings has also drawn attention to India’s rich biodiversity, making it not only a premier location for tiger spotting but also for observing a vast array of unique flora and fauna. Thus, a tiger safari in India isn’t just about spotting a tiger. It encompasses various aspects of wildlife, including bird watching, butterfly sighting, understanding wildlife conservation, and increasing awareness of our natural environment.
If you’re planning a tiger safari holiday in India, there are specific wildlife reserves that offer better opportunities for such safaris. Here’s our top 10 list to guide you:
- Bandhavgarh National Park
- Ranthambore National Park
- Kanha National Park
- Corbett National Park
- Tadoba National Park
- Satpura National Park
- Pench National Park
- Bandipur National Park
- Nagarhole National Park
- Periyar Tiger Reserve
Top Recommended Wildlife Tour Packages
Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh
There’s arguably no better destination for tiger sightings in India than Bandhavgarh National Park. Nestled amidst the Vindhayan Hills of Madhya Pradesh, this national park claims the highest tiger population in the country. The park is divided into four major zones: Tala, Magdhi, Khitauli, and Panpatta, which together form a core area spanning about 694 sq km. An additional buffer zone extends over the forest divisions of Umaria and Katni, covering an area of 437 sq km. The Tala Zone is often touted as the best for tiger safaris in Bandhavgarh due to its high tiger density and rich biodiversity.
The national park has been home to several celebrated tigers, such as Sita (who once graced the cover of National Geographic magazine), Charger, Mohini, B2, and Bamera. Though these legendary tigers are no longer with us, their legacy lives on through their descendants who now rule the forest. Visitors to the park might be fortunate enough to spot tigers like Blue Eyes, Mukunda, Rajbehra, Mirchaini, Banbehi, Mahaman, Sukhi Pattiya, and Damdama.
Beyond its famous tigers, Bandhavgarh National Park shelters over 250 bird species, including the Plum-headed parakeet, Orange-headed thrush, Brown-headed barbet, Coppersmith barbet, Common myna, Alexandrine parakeet, Indian grey hornbill, and Rock pigeon. Additionally, the park boasts around 80 butterfly species, a diverse range of reptiles, and migratory birds like the Sarus Crane, which can be seen during the monsoon season.
For me, Bandhavgarh National Park tops the list of the 10 best tiger safari destinations in India.
Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
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. According to the latest tiger census report, the tiger population in Ranthambore National Park has reached 72, let us touchwood and hope and pray that the population multiplies in the future.
Beyond tigers, Ranthambore shelters a diverse array of wildlife, including leopards, striped hyenas, sambar deer, chital, nilgai, common langurs, macaques, jackals, sloth bears, black bucks, and many more. Additionally, the park boasts about 272 bird species, from graylag geese to woodpeckers and kingfishers. Reptiles, particularly crocodiles, are another major attraction for visitors.
Ranthambore holds the 2nd position on my list of top 10 tiger safari destinations in India.
Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
In the pristine forest of Kanha National Park lies a safe haven for a significant population of tigers. This is why Kanha is considered one of the best places to spot tigers in India. Sprawling across the central highland of the Maikal Range, Kanha National Park covers an area of 940 sq km. This forest, filled with Sal and other trees and punctuated by meadows, is renowned for its tigers. Their roars are often heard, and their pugmarks frequently traced. If you’re fortunate, you might spot tigers coming out to drink from the crystal-clear streams or basking in the winter sun. Currently, the dominant male in the park is named Munna, who uniquely has a marking resembling the word “CAT” on his forehead.
Beyond tigers, Kanha National Park takes pride in its population of Swamp Deer, or Hard Ground Barasingha. The Indian Gaur, spotted deer, sambar, barking deer, and four-horned deer are other commonly observed animals in the park. The reserve also houses reptiles such as pythons, cobras, kraits, rat snakes, vipers, keelbacks, and grass snakes. Every so often, amphibians like turtles can be sighted. Kanha boasts a vast array of exotic plants and trees, and a plethora of bird species can also be observed in this forest reserve.
Kanha ranks third on my list of the top ten places to see tigers in India.
Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand
The oldest national park in India, Corbett spans two districts of Uttarakhand: Pauri and Nainital. Covering an area of approximately 1,288 sq km (including the buffer area), Corbett is one of the premier destinations for tiger safaris in India. The national park is divided into five major zones: Dhikala, Jhirna, Bijrani, Durgadevi, and Dhela. Given its vast expanse, spotting tigers here can be challenging. However, a recent incident in which five tigers were sighted has bolstered the hopes of wildlife enthusiasts for more frequent tiger sightings in Corbett. It’s noteworthy that Corbett was the first national park to initiate the Project Tiger initiative in India. Hence, if you’re fortunate, your visit to Corbett might be rewarding as you could witness this magnificent creature in its natural habitat.
Boasting rich biodiversity, Corbett is home to approximately 488 plant species, 500 resident and migratory bird species, and over 50 species of wild animals. The park is also a strong advocate for ecotourism. Notably, Corbett is among the few places that offer accommodations within the forest area.
Jim Corbett National Park holds the 4th position on my list of the top ten places to see tigers in India.
Tadoba National Park, Maharashtra
Here’s why you should opt for a tiger safari in Tadoba National Park: In 2014, 65 tigers were spotted in the Tadoba region (29 in Tadoba, 24 in Pench National Park, and 5 in Navegaon Nagzira Tiger Reserve). This is not only good news but also an open invitation! Situated in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, this national park spans an area of about 625 sq km. The best time to spot tigers in Tadoba is during the summer when they frequent Tadoba Lake and waterholes like Pandharpauni and Panchadhara. Another advantage of Tadoba is that there’s no core area off-limits to visitors, enhancing your chances of wildlife sightings.
Tadoba is reputed to be the largest national park in Maharashtra. It is home to mammals like the tiger, leopard, sloth bear, gaur, striped hyena, nilgai, dhole, small Indian civet, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, jungle cat, chital, and four-horned antelope. Furthermore, one can spot 74 species of butterflies and 195 species of birds.
Tadoba ranks 5th on my list of the top 10 recommended tiger safari destinations in India.
Satpura National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Satpura National Park in Madhya Pradesh is part of a unique central highland ecosystem. Although this national park remains largely unexplored by tourists, Satpura is one of the favorite haunts of Bengal tigers. The national park covers an area of about 524 sq km and is home to numerous wildlife species, including the tiger and leopard. The dense forest provides an ideal shelter for the tigers, which establish vast territories for themselves. Since the park remains largely uncharted, wild animals roam freely and without fear. Summer is the best time for tiger sightings as these majestic cats can often be seen near water holes and the River Sonbhadra, where they come to swim.
Satpura National Park is a relatively new establishment and is among the few wildlife reserves where visitors are allowed to explore on foot, accompanied by a guide. Apart from tigers, the park is home to hyenas, leopards, gaurs, sambars, chitals, barking deer, chinkaras, mouse deer, wild boars, wild dogs, bears, blackbucks, foxes, porcupines, and flying squirrels.
Satpura ranks 6th on my list of the top 10 places to see tigers in India.
Pench National Park, Madhya Pradesh
A few years ago, the tiger population in Pench National Park was small. However, due to various tiger conservation efforts, it is now considered to be among the wildlife reserves that offer decent chances of sighting a tiger. Many times, visitors had to be content with merely a trace of a pugmark, but there have also been thrilling incidents where multiple tigers were spotted together in Pench. The Collarwali Tiger (T-15) was the dominant female in the reserve. She was renowned for giving birth to five cubs in the winter of 2013. Unfortunately, she passed away in January 2022.
The national park spans an area of 257 sq km south of the Satpura hill ranges and along the northern border of the Nagpur district. Pench is rich in biodiversity and is also considered one of the most scenic national parks in the country.
While tiger sightings remain the primary interest for wildlife enthusiasts in Pench National Park, other commonly spotted animals, such as the Chausingha, Flying Squirrel, Sloth Bear, and Spotted Deer, also captivate visitors. The reserve is home to about 33 species of mammals, 50 species of birds, and 30 species of reptiles. Additionally, it is an excellent location for bird watching, as the park provides a safe haven for approximately 150 bird species.
Pench National Park ranks 7th on my list of the top 10 tiger sighting destinations in India.
Bandipur National Park, Karnataka
Bandipur is yet another excellent location for tiger safaris in India and is among the most visited tiger reserves in Southern India. This national park, covering an area of 874 sq km, is renowned for its rich biodiversity and impressive tiger count. According to a 2022 census, approximately 150 tigers inhabit this park, living in undisturbed territories. Thus, visitors have a reasonably good chance of sighting a tiger in Bandipur National Park. During your safari, apart from tigers, elephants are another primary attraction. Elephants, wild boars, and gaurs are frequently spotted near waterholes. In 2014, a significant portion of the national park suffered damage due to an unfortunate fire. Since then, these areas have been undergoing a natural recovery, with only one zone accessible to tourists.
The national park is a mere 80 km from Mysore and is home to animals such as leopards, elephants, gaurs, sloth bears, Asiatic wild dogs, striped hyenas, barking deer, sambars, spotted deer, mouse deer, mongooses, and slender lorises. This wildlife reserve also shelters approximately 230 bird species, including herons, storks, egrets, eagles, sandpipers, falcons, peafowls, kites, lapwings, and woodpeckers. Bandipur is an ideal weekend retreat for those in cities like Bangalore and Mysore.
Bandipur National Park ranks 8th on my list of the top 10 tiger safari destinations in India.
Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka
A lesser-known national park, Nagarhole is considered one of the safest habitats for Indian tigers. In this undisturbed environment, tigers can claim vast, uninterrupted territories. Although tiger sightings are unpredictable, they have seen a relative increase since the early 2000s. Most tiger encounters here are reported along the banks of the Kabini River, which flows through the park. Besides tigers, Nagarhole is also renowned for its sizable elephant population. This picturesque wildlife reserve is located in the Kodagu district of Karnataka, covering an area of about 643 sq km. Together, Nagarhole, Bandipur National Park, Mudumalai National Park, and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary form the largest protected region in South India, encompassing a total of 2183 sq km.
Adorned with teak and rosewood trees, Nagarhole National Park shelters predators such as tigers, leopards, wild dogs, hyenas, and sloth bears. Among the herbivores, animals like the spotted deer, barking deer, four-horned antelope, and elephants are commonly observed. Additionally, the park is a paradise for birdwatchers, as around 270 bird species call it home.
Nagarhole National Park ranks 9th on my list of the top 10 places to see tigers in India.
Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kerala
Periyar National Park stands as a distinguished tiger reserve in South India. Located in the Idukki and Pathanamthitta districts of Kerala, Periyar is celebrated for its rich biodiversity and breathtakingly scenic location. While the exact count of tigers is not disclosed by the government of India but the official data reveals that the total number of tigers in Kerala’s national parks exceeds 180, with Periyar hosting a significant number of these majestic big cats.
The “Tiger Trail” is a sought-after tour within the national park, uniquely led by poachers-turned-protectors. Each tour accommodates 5 visitors, accompanied by 5 guides and armed guards. This distinctive journey allows visitors to not only appreciate the park’s splendor but also to hear captivating stories from the former poachers.
Spanning 305 sq km, Periyar is one of Kerala’s most renowned national parks. Beyond tigers, the park’s significant elephant population serves as a major draw. Periyar is also a botanical treasure, housing 140 species of orchids and 171 species of grass. Additionally, the park is home to around 35 mammal species, 45 reptile species, and over 260 bird species. Besides tigers and elephants, other prominent inhabitants include gaurs, sambars, wild pigs, Travancore flying squirrels, jungle cats, Indian giant squirrels, sloth bears, Nilgiri tahrs, lion-tailed macaques, Nilgiri langurs, Salim Ali’s fruit bats, stripe-necked mongooses, and Nilgiri martens. Visitors to Periyar National Park can indulge in a plethora of activities ranging from boat rides and nature walks to jungle patrols and bullock cart explorations.
As per the 5th cycle of MEE of TR in 2022 conducted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Periyar Tiger Reserve clinched the top spot for the best-managed tiger reserves in India, boasting a Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) score of 94.38%.
Periyar National Park holds the 10th position on my list of the top 10 destinations for tiger safaris in India.
If you’re contemplating a tiger safari holiday in India, these 10 tiger reserves offer some of the most exceptional wildlife experiences in the country.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What are the top 10 tiger states in India?
According to the 2022 tiger census data, the following are the top states in India with the highest tiger populations:
- Madhya Pradesh - 785 Tigers
- Karnataka - 563 Tigers
- Uttarakhand - 560 Tigers
- Maharashtra - 444 Tigers
- Tamil Nadu - 306 Tigers
- Assam - 190 Tigers
- Kerala - 190 Tigers
- Uttar Pradesh - 173 Tigers
- West Bengal - 88 Tigers
- Rajasthan - 88 Tigers
How many tigers are in all the National Parks & tiger reserves of India?
According to the Tiger Census in 2022, India is home to approximately 3,682 tigers.
What is the best time of year to spot tigers in India?
The summer months, typically from April to June, are considered the best time as tigers often come out to waterholes.
What other wildlife can I expect to see during a tiger safari in India?
Besides tigers, you can often spot leopards, deer, wild boars, birds, and sometimes even elephants, depending on the park.