A simple question with a not so simple answer. Below is strictly my opinion based on my over 30 years of doing safaris in India. I have tried to answer the question which is the top 3 national parks for Tiger safari in India based on certain important aspects. To name a few:

  1. Existing and past tiger population in the given national park.
  2. History of conservation and forest management in the respective national park.
  3. Availability of prey base for tigers
  4. Distribution of water in the park
  5. The ratio of male to female Tigers in the park
  6. Is the habitat of the park conducive for Tigers to ambush and kill.
  7. Tourism management in the park
  8. Tiger density per sq km
  9. Frequency and consistency of Tiger sightings over the last two decades.

Consistency of tiger sightings is the resulting factor of all the above-listed factors. Hence my conclusion below is not simply based on how the sightings are in the last year or two.


Bandhavgarh National Park, one of the top 3 National Parks for Tiger Safari in India

Is definitely the numero uno park when one has to answer the question on which is the Top 3 National Parks for Tiger Safari in India?

What brought Bandhavgarh to fame?

Bandhavgarh National Park has been the most consistent park for Tiger sightings for the last 25 years. There has not been a single year when this park did not have good Tiger sightings of tigresses with cubs and male tigers. This park shot into prominence in the 90s. The famous Tigers of Bandhavgarh, namely, Banda, Sita, Charger, and then B2 became the pioneers that started the tiger tourism industry in India. I realized the potential of this park very early and conducted the first-ever ‘Tiger Photographic Safari’ in the year 2001. By then many people had not heard of Bandhavgarh. But after this first photographic safari, Bandhavgarh became a household name among wildlife photographers. Many renowned international photographers turned to this park as it offered great consistent Tiger sightings.

Tiger Shows of the past

What also worked in favor of Bandhavgarh was the Tiger shows on elephant back. This did not get the nod of many conservationists but proved to be a turning point for the park as far as Tiger sightings were concerned. Let me elaborate a bit about the Tiger shows to those who are pretty late entrants into wildlife tourism. The forest department used to send the domesticated elephants to track the Tigers in the national park before sunrise. Once the Tigers were tracked either relaxing or eating a kill in the bush, a message was sent across. Then the tourists would get atop the elephant to go into the bush to see the Tiger. The elephants would ferry the tourists a few times And the tourists got some time to see the Tigers from a distance of about 30-40 feet. Tiger shows practically guaranteed Tiger sighting for an average tourist who came to Bandhavgarh.

Game Viewing

In a 3 nights stay in Bandhavgarh the tourist would get at least one opportunity, to do the Tiger show. This was quite satisfying to the tourists as it increased their happiness index, thus resulting in popularizing Bandhavgarh. Many tourists returned from various national parks not seeing Tigers, but a visit to Bandhavgarh ensured seeing few Tigers definitely. Some of my most memorable Tiger sightings in Bandhavgarh have been on an elephant back.

However, for the last 5 years, we have also been discouraging Elephant safaris. My below image became very popular in the early 2000s and was a front-page image of almost all wildlife magazines worldwide.

 

vanvai tigress and cubs

B2 –  The game changer for Bandhavgarh National Park

But it was a male tiger popularly known as B2 which took the onus of making Bandhavgarh popular on his own shoulders. I rate him as a Saint among Tigers. Never in my over 100 sightings of his, I found him irritated or hassled with anything around. He carried a peaceful demeanor with tourists but was a fierce tiger otherwise. He never allowed any other male tiger to settle down in his territory thus ruling the main Tala zone for over a decade. B2 was in a way responsible for making Tala a premium zone in Bandhavgarh where the forest department doubled the entry tickets as everyone wanted to go to Tala zone to see B2.

Initiating Responsible Tourism in Bandhavgarh National Park

Tiger shows were stopped in the year 2012 after the apex court brought in a ruling to curb tourism, which I think was the step in the right direction. But this did not deter Tigers of Bandhavgarh who had by now become quite used to tourism and would come out unfazed in front of tourists frequently. Subsequently, some new areas were brought under tourism, and some parts of the old areas were restricted. When the cattle grazing was stopped in the Khitauli zone, it increased the comfort levels of Tigers in Magadhi.  Something similar was seen in Corbett. Tiger sightings improved in the Jhirna zone of Corbett when the Dhela zone was also made into a tourism zone. Once tourism comes in, patrolling starts to happen on all roads for good 8-10 hours.

Some important information on Bandhavgarh National Park:

What is the area of Bandhavgarh national park?

1536 sq kms

Tourism permitted in?

310 sq km.

Which are the key mammals of Bandhavgarh?

Tiger, Leopard, Sloth Bear, Sambar Deer, Spotted Dear, Indian Gaur, Jackals, Indian Grey Wolves, Barking Deer, Blue Bull, Wild Boar amongst a few.

Which are the key bird species of Bandhavgarh?

Peregrine Falcons, Short Toed Snake Eagle, Malabar Pied Eagle, Red-Headed Vulture, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Common Kestrel, Indian Pitta, Scarlet Minivet,

Which is the best time to visit Bandhavgarh?

October to June. But you may like to see my video on the best time to see tigers. I shot this in Bandhavgarh National Park during a safari.

 

When is Bandhavgarh closed?

The park is closed for monsoon from 1st July ill 30 Sept. It is also closed for tourism every Wednesday afternoon. The park is also closed on the days of the India festival, Holi and Diwali. But the buffer zones remain open round the year for safaris. The chances of tiger sightings in the buffer zone are usually low.

 

Hotels to stay in Bandhavgarh:

There are several lodges of a different budget, location, and level of comfort in Bandhavgarh. So depending on your resources, and on the advice of your Tour Operator book the right lodge, with the right location, food, and ambiance. Some of our recommended lodges in Bandhavgarh are:

  1. Taj Mahua Kothi (luxury segment)
  2. Samode Safari lodge (luxury segment)
  3. Tree House Hideaway (4-5 star segment)
  4. Kings Lodge (4 star segment)
  5. Bandhav Vilas (3-4 star segment)
  6. Tiger’s Den Resort (3-4 star segment)

Read more and explore hotel/lodge images here at https://www.bandhavgarh.net/hotels-in-bandhavgarh/

Please note the Jungle Lodges have no official star category, we have ranked them keeping in mind their facilities and several factors. Perhaps another blog is required to explain the same.

Recommended stay in Bandhavgarh.

We recommend a minimum of 3 nights stay in Bandhavgarh and do as many safaris as possible. If you can do four nights stay that is even better.

How to reach Bandhavgarh?

Closest Airport: Jabalpur 180kms, 3-4 hour drive, Khajuraho, 275kms, 5-6 hour drive

Closest Rail Head: Umaria 32kms, 45-minute drive, Katni, 100kms, 2-hour drive

How to book safaris in Bandhavgarh?

Safari permits are limited and booked online 120 days prior. The moment permits open for bookings at 11 am they get booked out within minutes. Hence it is recommended to finalize your program at least 5 months in advance to get the safari permits and book the hotels.

Which are the key tourism zones in Bandhavgarh?

There are three main zones for Safaris in Bandhavgarh , namely Tala, Magdhi, and Khitauli There are three buffer zones as well where tourism is permitted, namely, Panpatha, Johila, and Damokhar.

What are the safaris timings in Bandhavgarh?

The morning safari starts at sunrise for a period of 4-5 hour, and afternoon safaris begin around 3 pm till sunset. As the sunrise and sunset time varies every month, so the timings keep changing. So you can do two safaris in a day in Bandhavgarh. There is also a possibility of doing a full day safari in Bandhavgarh. It is quite costly, but it is a good experience. The safari begins 15 minutes early for you and ends 15 minutes later than usual. You get to stay inside the national park for a full day. Breakfast and lunch are carried in the safari vehicle itself.

 


Kanha National Park, top 3 national parks for tiger safari in India

The only park in the world to get the Noble prize, shocked? Don’t be, after all, it was Kanha that inspired Rudyard Kipling to author ‘The Jungle Book’. This was the first piece of literature that was given the Nobel Prize. It was the social, and leadership message given in this book that moved people of every class, culture, and age. Mowgli, Sher Khan, Balloo, and Kaa became household names. Kanha still gives the same message to the world on the importance of conservation of our environment. Kanha is not only among the Top 3 national parks for tiger safaris in India, but it is also one of the top national parks in India from many aspects.

Legends of Kanha

What makes Kanha very unique is the diversity of landscapes, the enormity of the park, the tribal living around the park, and the Tigers. Like in Bandhavgarh, Kanha has also had its share of celebrity Tigers, Konda, Banda, Laxmi, and then the living legend Munna (who has CAT inscribed on his forehead, see the image below). The latest in the list and going strong is Umarpani male.

 

Munna tiger

Conservation in Kanha National Park

Interestingly, Kanha attracts hardcore wildlife lovers for it initiated several pioneering conservation measures. For example,  A. A. Dunbar Brander, who was a doyen among the Indian Hunter Naturalists of the 20th century. He wrote in his book Wild Animals in Central India (1923), “the tract contained as much game as any track I ever saw in the best parts of Africa in 1908. I have seen 1500 heads consisting of 11 species in an evening’s stroll”.

George Schaller too, spent a long time here in the 1960s studying tigers. He has authored one of the best books on Indian wildlife, i.e. The Deer and the Tiger.

In the 60s, the Hard Ground Barasingha (Swamp Deer) numbers were down to just 55. Several measures were taken including the grass that they like and it saw the rebounding of the species to close to 800 in the wild in 2018. (M K Ranjitsinh…A life with WIldlife). Now this species has been reintroduced in Satpura national park in the same state which was also its former home. About 10 years back, a herd of about 50 Indian Gaur were reintroduced in Bandhavgarh.

Village relocation

Kanha was the first park where the first village was relocated outside the park, namely Sonph. After few years Raunda village was also relocated outside the park. The relocated families were given double the area they had inside the park. The area of their choice was given, water, and electricity connections. They were allowed to take bamboo to build their homes. It should be noted that the Baiga tribe like to make their own homes. Apart from all this, money was also given to the families.

What stands out about Kanha national park is it’s rawness when compared to other national parks in India. Being so popular and on the world tourism map, Kanha has managed to retain sanity which has reduced in some other parks.

The biggest Tigers in India

Experts have called Kanha as the last bastion for Tigers, i.e. if and when their numbers dwindle to below sustainable levels. The size of male tigers of Kanha is to be seen to be believed. Normally one thought of the Terai tigers to be big. Yes, they are big, the mane around their face makes them look even bigger. But Kanha tigers head is much bigger than the biggest tigers of any region in India and that too without any mane. To support such huge heads the tigers obviously require a heavy neck and powerful shoulders to hold the boulder-like heads. The height and length of Kanha male tigers are in a class of its own. Within Kanha, the tigers of Mukki zone are relatively larger compared to the other zones.

Quality Sightings

If you are wanting to see Tigers in abundance then maybe Bandhavgarh. But if you are wanting a quality sighting then it has to be Kanha. I wish to also add a disclaimer here that not every sighting in Kanha is a bumper sighting. But one out of 5 sightings in Kanha will be really unique. It is here that the number of male tigers is higher than in most of the park. This also results in a lot of territorial fights. Please see my blog on the 5 types of Tiger sighting, to read about territorial flights. If you are lucky to see a big male tiger head-on, i.e. a tiger walking on the track towards your vehicle, then be rest assured that you are not forgetting this sighting ever.

Some important information on Kanha:

What is the area of Kanha national park:

2051 sq km

Tourism permitted in:

400 sq km.

Which are the Key mammals of Kanha:

Tiger, Leopard, hard Ground Barasingha, Sloth Bear, Sambar Deer, Spotted Dear, Indian Gaur, Jackals, Indian Grey Wolves, Barking Deer, Blue Bull, Wild Boar amongst a few.

The key bird species of Kanha:

Crested Serpent Eagle, Lesser whistling teal, Black stork, Racquet tailed Drongo, Golden Oriole, Flameback Woodpecker, Emerald Dove, Black-Capped Kingfisher, Asian Paradise Flycatcher

Which is the best time to visit Kanha:

November to mid-May.

When is Kanha closed?

The park is closed for monsoon from 1st July ill 30 Sept. Monsoon in Kanha is generally heavier than many parks, hence we do not recommend a visit here in October.

It is also closed for tourism every Wednesday afternoon. The park is also closed on the days of the India festival, Holi and Diwali. But the buffer zones remain open right through the year.

Hotels to stay in Kanha

There are several lodges of a different budget, location, and level of comfort in Kanha. So depending on your resources, and on the advise of your Tour Operator book the right lodge, with the right location, food, and ambiance. Some of our recommended lodges in Bandhavgarh are:

  1. Taj Banjaar Tala (luxury segment)
  2. Singinawa Jungle lodge (4-5 star)
  3. Kanha Jungle Camp (4-5 star segment)
  4. Kipling Jungle Camp (3-4 star segment)
  5. Chitvan Jungle Lodge (3-4 star segment)
  6. Courtyard House (3-4 star segment)

Please note the Jungle Lodges have no official star category, we have ranked them keeping in mind their facilities and several factors. Perhaps another blog is required to explain the same.

How to reach Kanha?

Closest Airport: Jabalpur, 200kms, 4-hour drive, Nagpur, 275kms, 5-6 hour drive, Raipur, 200kms, 4-hour drive.

Closest Rail Head: Gondia, 135kms3 hour drive, Jabalpur, 200kms, 4-hour drive, Nagpur, 275kms, 5-6 hour drive.

How to book safaris in Kanha?

Safari permits are limited and booked online 120 days prior. The moment permits open for bookings at 11 am they get booked out within minutes. Hence it is recommended to finalize your program at least 5 months in advance to get the safari permits and book the hotels.

Which are the tourism zones in Kanha? 

There are 4 main tourism zones, namely, Mukki, Kisli, Kanha, Sarhi. There are 4 more buffer zones that are part of Kanha national park, namely, Khapa, Sijora, Khatia, and Phen sanctuary.

Enjoy tiger safari at Bandhavgarh and Kanha by making your bookings today!


Ranthambhore National Park, Rajasthan; Top 3 National Parks for Tiger Safari in India

The biggest advantage of Ranthambhore is its location. Placed right in the heart of the most popular tourism circuit of the Golden Triangle (New Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra), this park provides the easiest reach if you wish to include Tigers in your program.

This also makes it a slightly more touristy park compared to other parks which are not so easy to get to. Due to increased tourism in this park, the safaris are conducted in the 6 seater open Jeeps, and also the 20 seater open safari buses. You will be surprised to know that the Tigers do not differentiate between vehicles when they show up. But, we recommend safaris in the 6 seater vehicles, as you will always have a guide close to you to ask questions.

Ranthambhore’s Comeback

Ranthambore has faced several challenges from poaching and has come out stronger every time due to strict measures taken by the forest management. This park has a 1000-year-old fort along the boundary of the park stands as a barrier to civilization and a protector of Ranthambore. The background of the fort makes Ranthambore a real beautiful canvas for the artists. Many tourists who have seen tigers hunting in the famous Padam Talao (the largest water body in Ranthambore), or Tigers resting in this water body with Jogi Mahal and the fort in the background, have perhaps seen the best that Ranthambore offers.

It was in Ranthambore that I saw my first tiger in the wild in January 1990, a bit over 30 years now. That sighting gave a lot of meaning to my life, and I have followed my heart ever since.

I wish to mention something really important here, this is one park where at times you may go without seeing tigers for 3-4 safaris in a row, but please do not be disappointed as usually what is awaiting you in the next safari could be really special.

Wildlife tour in india

Birding in Ranthmabhore National Park

The reason why Ranthambhore makes it to the coveted list of prestigious national parks is the duration of tiger sightings here due to less foliage. You can see tigers from a distance and for a long time. The three massive lakes of Padam Talao, Rajbagh, and Malik Taloa make the park extremely picturesque.

Ranthambhore is also a great park for birding due to the lakes that attract a lot of migratory birds. These lakes are also home to a couple of hundred Crocodiles. Some interesting sightings have been documented here of duels between the tigers and the crocodiles.

Ghengis Khan, Noor, Bamboo Ram, Jhumroo, T17, and T24 have been some legendary tigers of Ranthambore. But the Tigress that tops this list is Machli who lived close to 19 years in the wild, an exceptional age for a tiger in the wild. She was rated as the biggest revenue earner from tourism. She passed away on 18th August 2016 at a ripe age of 19 years.

Some important information on Ranthambore:

What is the area of Ranthambore national park:

1350 sq km

Tourism permitted in:

400 sq km.

Which are the Key mammals of Ranthambore?

Tiger, Leopard, Sloth Bear, Sambar Deer, Spotted Dear, Four Horned Antelope, Blackbuck, Jackals, Barking Deer, Blue Bull, Wild Boar, and many more

Which are the key bird species of Ranthambore?

Rufous treepie, Honey Buzzards, Painted Storks, Indian Peafowl, Darter, Golden Oriole, Fantail Flycatcher, Shikra, Bar Headed Goose, Comb Duck, Northern Shoveller, Tufted duck, European Roller, Stork Billed Kingfisher, Sirkeer Malkoha

Best time to visit Ranthambore:

October to June.

When is Ranthambore closed?

The park is closed for monsoon from 1st July till 30 Sept. But it is only 5 zones which are closed, there are 5 zones which are open during monsoon time. But we do not recommend visiting during the monsoon.

Hotels to stay in Ranthambhore

There are several lodges of a different budget, location, and level of comfort in Ranthambhore. So depending on your resources, and on the advice of your Tour Operator book the right lodge, with the right location, food, and ambiance. Some of our recommended lodges in Ranthambhore are:

  1. The Oberoi Vanya Vilas (luxury segment)
  2. Shergarh (Luxury Segment)
  3. Khem Vilas (4-5 star segment)
  4. Sawai Vilas (4-5 star segment)
  5. Ranthambhore Kothi (3-4 star segment)
  6. Tiger Den Resort (3-star segment)

Please note that Jungle Lodges have no official star category, we have ranked them keeping in mind their facilities and several factors. Perhaps another blog is required to explain the same.

How to reach Ranthambore:

Closest Airport: Jaipur, 200kms, 4-hour drive

Closest Rail Head: Sawai Madhopur, 10kms, 10-minute drive

Agra is 240kms, 5-hour drive, and New Delhi is 400kms, 8-hour drive.

Safari bookings: Safari permits are limited and booked online one year in advance. Hence it is recommended to finalize your program much in advance to get the safari permits and book the hotels.

If you require any further information, then please write to us on [email protected]

Best Wishes

Sharad 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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