For anyone coming to India for Tiger Safaris, the most important question on top of their mind is, “Which is the best national park for Tiger Safaris in India ? I have answered this question several times on emails to all our prospective guests. But i thought of penning down my thoughts for general information for all wanting to do Tiger Safaris in India. People want to know is it Ranthambhore, Bandhavgarh, Tadoba, Pench, Corbett, or Kanha? Afterall which is the best national park for Tiger Safaris in India?

The difference in African and Indian National Parks

Indian national parks are much smaller compared to their African cousins in size, landscape, flora and fauna. African parks have meadows, savannahs, or scarce flora. Indian parks on the contrary are fairly dense barring a couple like Ranthambhore, Sariska etc, infact these parks are also dense in pockets. The visibility in Indian National Parks is limited due to fewer and smaller meadows.

Most of the Tiger reserves are predominantly Sal forests. Sal (Shorea Robusta) Forest are dense, with low visibility. Teak forests like Pench are good once the summer sets in, but in winter they are more dense than Sal Forests. For e.g in Kanha a Tiger could be just 5 meters in the bush from you, and you might cross it without seeing it.  See the image below to get an idea of how dense Indian National Parks can get. This is Kanha National Park for you.

Which is the best national park for Tiger Safaris in India

Sal Forest (Kanha National Park)

Let me start start by shortlisting the best or top 6 national parks for Tiger Safaris in India.

If Tiger is what you want to see then one of the below, preferably two, or three if you really want to give yourself a close to 100% chance of a Tiger sighting.

The Top 6 National Parks for Tiger Safaris in India are:

  1. Bandhavgarh
  2. Tadoba
  3. Ranthambhore
  4. Kanha
  5. Corbett
  6. Pench

Tiger Safari in Bandhavgarh National Park

Bandhavgarh National Park is the land of the famous white tiger. White tigers do not exist here anymore. But your chances of seeing the golden ones are high here because this national park houses more than 5- majestic tigers. The closest airport is Jabalpore, and the park is fairly easy to access. We can safely promise you that you will have a memorable first-time tiger safari in Bandhavgarh.

Best Known For:Adrenaline pumping expedition. Rich mythological significance. 
Chances to spot tigerHigh
No of Tigers in the Reserve
Tiger Safari Zones
Ideal Time to Visit: Between April & May & between December and January.
Tourism Hotspots:Village Tala

Mahaman Pond

Kethika

Climber’s Point

Bari Gufa

Three Cave Point

Raj Behera

Lodging Near the Park: Tree House Hideaway Resort

Syna Tiger Resort

Bandhavgarh Jungle Lodge

Tiger Lagoon

Mogli Jungle Resorts

 

Tiger Safari in Tadoba National Park

Tadoba’s tiger population was dwindling till conservation efforts took over and began the mission to reverse the downturn. Today, the numbers are back to healthy levels and it is slowly transforming back into a safe haven for tigers. A close cousin of the tiger, the leopard, also roams about in healthy numbers. This sanctuary is big cat supreme! The best time to visit Tadoba National Park is between October and June.

Best Known For:Common wildlife sightings.
Chances to spot tigerHigh
No of Tigers in the Reserve
Tiger Safari Zones
Ideal Time to Visit: Between October & June
Tourism Hotspots:Erai Dam

Sevagram

Navegaon National Park

Raigarh Fort

Lodging Near the Park: Tiger Trails Jungle Lodge 

Irai Safari Retreat

Tadoba Tiger King Resort

 

Tiger Safari in Ranthambore National Park

Wildlife photographers love this tiger zone because of its luxuriant and picturesque vistas. This tiger reserve became famous when Queen Elizabeth II visited this beautiful park. In 1973, tigers here were protected by Project Tiger. Today Ranthambore tiger safari is one of the best for a wildlife experience.

Best Known For:Photographer’s paradise.
Chances to spot tigerHigh
No of Tigers in the Reserve
Tiger Safari Zones
Ideal Time to Visit: Between April and June 
Tourism Hotspots:Sawai Madhopur

Keoladeo National Park

Jaipur

Agra

Lodging Near the Park: WH Mount Valley Resort

Tree House By The Pugmark

Sher Bagh

Tree Leaf Kipling Lodge

Sultan Bagh by 1589 Hotels

 

Tiger Safari in Kanha National Park

Kanha is most famous for having inspired Rudyard Kipling for his amazing work ‘The Jungle Book’. Imagine a more exciting wildlife safari than the one Mowgli used to enjoy?  It is also popular for being home to one of the endangered species of deer called ‘ Barasingha’. Today Kanha National Park is one of the top visited parks known for its legendary tigers. The tigers here Munna,  Kingfisher are favourite of tiger photographers worldwide and are celebrities in their own right.

Best Known For:Birthplace of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book”.
Chances to spot tiger
No of Tigers in the Reserve
Tiger Safari Zones
Ideal Time to Visit: Between April and May & between November and March 
Tourism Hotspots:Kanha Museum

Mandla

Kawardha Palace

Pachmarhi

Lodging Near the Park: Banjaar Tola

Singinawa Jungle Lodge

Courtyard House Kanha

Chitvan

 

Tiger Safari in Corbett National Park

This park has spectacular watchtowers in which you can spend hours after hours observing the delightful wildlife all around the park. The tiger safari at Corbett National Park can give you your first glimpse of the Indian tiger, the leopard, the sloth bear or the Himalayan Tahr. Moreover, this park also has the largest number of elephants! It is also known as the ‘elephant park’.

Best Known For:The serene location at the Himalayan foothills. Bird watcher’s paradise. Oldest national park in India. 
Chances to spot tiger
No of Tigers in the Reserve
Tiger Safari ZonesDhikala, Jhirna, Bhijrani and Durga Devi
Ideal Time to Visit: Between November and June
Tourism Hotspots:Gurney House, Nainital

Kosi River

Dhangarhi Museum

Kaladhungi Museum

Garjiya Temple 

Mohan Maneater Tiger Trek

Lodging Near the Park: The Corbett Park Experience

Taj Corbett Resort & Spa

Jim’s Jungle Retreat

Paatlidun Safari Lodge

Ranger Reserve Resort

 

Tiger Safari in Pench National Park

In 2011, Pench National Park won the ‘Best Managed Park Award’ due to its excellent conservation efforts. It provides one of the most pleasant, well-organized and enjoyable tiger trips in India. It has the spookily-named ghost tree and is nearest to the Nagpur airport.

Tiger sightings are good and birds are also in good numbers. So other than the golden with brown stripes, you can also look forward to the crimson-breasted barbet, red-vented bulbul, and the blue kingfisher. Quite a party here!

Best Known For:Incredibly beautiful vistas. Kid-friendly infrastructure. 
Chances to spot tiger
No of Tigers in the Reserve
Tiger Safari ZonesTouria, Karmajhiri and Jhamtara
Ideal Time to Visit: Between October and February
Tourism Hotspots:Bhedaghat

Sanchi

Khekranala

Ramtek

Chikhaldara

Lodging Near the Park: Mahua Vann Resort

Pench Jungle Camp

Tiger N Wood Resort

Tuli Tiger Corridor

Do not go by the order mentioned above. Sightings fluctuate every season, and there are reasons for the same. There could be a Tigress whose cubs have grown and find their own territories . While in the previous season they gave great sightings to everyone in the national park, but it might not be the same next season.

There is also a possibility of territorial fights between male Tigers. A dominant male Tiger could lose fight to a new or a more powerful Tiger which changes the sighting algorithms. For e.g in winters of 2016 in Kanha National Park, two big dominating Tigers lost their lives to a bigger male Tiger.

Bheema was a very popular Tiger in Kanha with tourists, but lost his life in a territorial battle. Similarly Kingfisher another male Tiger lost to Umarpani male Tiger in Mukki zone. These two Tigers were very bold and pleased lot many tourists with their sightings. When they died there was a lull or a temporary dip in the sightings. But nature knows how to balance. Within a couple of months Mahaveer female was sighted with 4 young cubs. And she was sighted continuously till the park closed in June for monsoon.

Such are the dynamics involved in a Tiger sighting. Yes, you may read a lot about these national parks, it helps to have information on the past years. But it is more important to know how these national parks have fared in the last two years.

How many parks you must cover to see a Tiger during your trip?

Going back to the list of the national parks, if you have at least two included in your trip to India chances are that you will see a Tiger. If you have more than two then chances of Tiger sightings improve dramatically. Also please try and keep at least three nights in one park if you are serious to see the Tigers. If the time on hand is less then 4 nights in one of the parks, Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Tadoba, or Pench is also good.

Tiger Safari India provides various tour packages in which they cover 2 to 3 national parks. For example, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench tour is a 12 days tour package where it covers tiger safari in Kanha, Bandhavgarh, and Pench national parks.

Which months are best for Tiger sightings in India?

Another important point to note is time of the year when the Tiger sightings are good. Well, these national parks are their home, they (Tigers) live here, so the sightings are happening more often than not. It is a bit of luck for sure. For general tourists Tiger sightings are good from November till June. For photographers i recommend October till June. Confused? Good, ask me how, and i shall tell you why.

My advise is never to go for a Tiger Safari in India with a single minded focus of only seeing a Tiger. Enjoy the national park in it’s entirety, Tigers are fewer in number, but with experienced guides and drivers the safaris become very meaningful and your chances of Tiger sightings improve considerably.

I have been doing Tiger Safaris in the various parks in India for over 28 years. None of the above parks has disappointed me. Infact i recall vividly many Tiger sightings in these parks. But my best Tiger sighting till date did not happen in these parks, it happened elsewhere. In December 2014 in Dudhwa National Park i was witness to a Tiger taking on two Elephants. For good 30 minutes, i saw the mental combat, and glad it did not get physical. The animals are far more intelligent than what we think they are. The Tiger and the Elephant respected the strength of the other, but at a close distance of about 10 meters they voiced voraciously their displeasure of the other. Hopefully the below image will give you an idea of the same.

Which is the best national park for doing Tiger Safaris in India

Once in a lifetime sighting in Dudhwa National Park

If i was you then i will question the Tour Operator whom i am choosing on many grounds about Tiger sightings before finalizing the safaris.

Best Wishes
Sharad Kumar Vats

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Sharad Vats

Born and brought up in New Delhi, it was Sharad’s childhood passion to play cricket for India. While on a holiday in 1990, he saw his first tiger. Little did he know that this one sighting would immerse him into a realm where forests and tigers were all that mattered. Sharad’s experiences as a wildlife photographer have inspired him to observe the tiger’s behavior for over 30 years and motivated him on his own journey as an entrepreneur. He started Nature Safari India Pvt Ltd, with a focus on “Conservation through Tourism.” to align himself to the mission of saving the regal species and repopulating them in India’s forests. In 2006, he set up one of India’s premier jungle lodges in Kanha National Park. Sharad believes that there are many lessons to be learned from a tiger that can be applied successfully to leadership—both in business and in life. Here's a new book by Sharad Vats on management and leadership skills to learn from a Tiger. Buy now on Amazon

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