The jungle never sleeps…dawn, morning, noon, afternoon, night or dusk – whatever be the time of the day, you will hear the echoes of the jungle. Be it resonating roars, monkey calls, sambar calls, cricket chirps, night jar calls, fluttering fireflies or the crunch of dry leaves when a predator is on the prowl. The jungle is awake even when you aren’t!
Safaris in Indian jungles, and more specifically, Tiger safaris in India provide an unparalleled experience to a multitude of individuals who wish to see the big cat in all its glory. You can choose to see it during misty morning drives, afternoon safaris or even eerie night safaris!
In this blog, my intention is to clarify the difference between regular morning/afternoon tiger safaris and night tiger safaris in India, based on certain credentials, like timings, jungles it is allowed in, basic rules to follow, what purpose each of these safaris serve and so on.
Also Read: Indian Wildlife vs African Wildlife
Night Tiger Safaris in India
While there is much speculation regarding the whole idea of night safaris in India, we would recommend you experience it at least once. During regular morning and afternoon safaris, you get to witness the jungle in broad daylight. Its activities are regulated by generic observance of species like tigers, various types of deer, birds and so on. One could witness a tiger lazing by the waterhole in peak summer afternoons, or then marking its territory along the dewy track on a chilly winter morning. But, have you ever wondered what mischief this big cat is up to when we’re not around? What happens when we exit the part at 6:30 PM and reset our alarm cycle to prepare for another morning safari the next day? What instigates in the jungle when nocturnal species come to life? Do they wander around the same tracks? Do they hunt? Do they procreate in the magic-like darkness of the jungle? What is it that they do? To get answers, one has to seek upon themselves the thrill of a night safari adventure. It is going to be only you, your naturalist/driver and a guide. Tying this experience and adventure together is the moonlit sky (if only you’re lucky, otherwise a torch shall be your best friend!).
Mentioned below are some things to keep in mind when you’re planning on a night safari in India
Parks that allow night tiger safari
Night safaris are unlike your regular morning and afternoon safaris. While the latter is allowed in all of the national parks in India, the former requires special permission to enter the jungle premises late in the evening. It also requires a skilled set of naturalists and guides who are well educated on the jungle and its movement. As of now, night safaris are permitted only in the buffer zone of a few national parks in India, namely: Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench, Panna, Satpura, and Tadoba.
Safari timings at night
Morning and afternoon safaris can vary depending on the park you’re visiting and the time of the year you’re visiting it. However, to give you an idea, the timings oscillate between 5:30 AM – 11:00 AM for morning safaris and 14:30 PM – 19:00 PM for afternoon safaris. Therefore, the duration of an average morning safari is 5-6 hours, whereas for an afternoon safari it is between 4-4.5 hours.
However, in each of the above-mentioned parks where night safaris are allowed, they start between 18:30 PM – 19:00 PM, depending on the time of the year you’re traveling, and they end between 21:00 PM – 2130 PM. The duration of night safaris is therefore comparatively shorter.
Photography during night tiger safari
Winter mornings are bliss for wildlife photographers. They tend to capture the dark orange coat of the tiger against the blue and green hues of the dense jungle. Imagine the contrasting images this beautiful combination creates! Such natural yet excellent use of dynamic colors… could leave you spellbound. During summers, however, there isn’t much contrast between the tiger and its backdrop. The jungle is painted with a faded brunette shade and so are the tigers. However, even though wildlife might not stand out as much due to the dusty and dry foliage, the number of tigers one gets to see is unbelievable. So the sheer number during summer afternoon safaris is phenomenal.
For night safaris, however, it is no surprise that photography can be quite challenging. In India, flash photography is strictly prohibited during night safaris since it poses a visual obstruction for wildlife. It messes with their natural night vision skills and could hinder their hunt or patrolling activities.
Therefore, if you are a serious wildlife photographer, I would not recommend night safaris for you, unless of course, you’re willing to let go of your camera and take in the adrenaline of the jungle at night!
Safety during night tiger safari
All forms of safaris – morning, afternoon, and night, are safe if you follow certain basic rules within the jungle. Mutual respect and understanding of its being, are of utmost importance when it comes to such excursions within the laps of nature.
- Do not step out of the vehicle, whether day or night. It is strictly prohibited and any offender will be punished as per the law of the land.
- Do not create ruckus by being noisy and loud within the jeep. Yes, it is very exciting to see wildlife, especially tigers, but be mellow. Take a breather and soak in the beauty of the tiger and let the tiger be comfortable with your presence too.
- Do not be abusive to the jungle men. Whether a guide/driver or naturalist, please be humble in conversing with the locals. They are putting in their best to ensure that guests not only witness but also appreciate the wildlife they were promised to be shown on tour.
- Do not flash the torch directly in the eyes of wildlife. It could be very agitating and disturbing for any animal.
Animal behavior during night tiger safari
Perhaps the most interesting section of this entire blog. Animals, just like us, are either morning beings or then nocturnal. A tiger safari in the wee hours of the night, when the unnerving silence is louder than a whisper of breath, is an adrenaline seeker’s dream come true. You can hush and mute your thoughts as much as you want to, but you cannot and will not exceed the greatness of this discreet cat. Tigers’ sense of smell, sight, and audible range is unmatched and far superior to humans. He might have seen you, sensed your presence, or even used his olfactory senses to get a hint of that musky deodorant, but we, have not done any of the above. Our menial senses fail us and cannot stand a chance against the tiger’s sheer intelligence.
There is a reason why they hunt at night and clean up to look their best for our photography shots! This is because they prey mostly on nocturnal animals. Large ungulates — hoofed mammals, such as wild boar, deer, elk, water buffalo and wild cattle — make up a major portion of their diet. Sometimes they prey on domestic livestock, raiding villages and farms for cattle, goats, horses and pigs. By hunting at night, they increase their chances of avoiding people when they’re near human habitation.
Another reason why they hunt at night is that as they move near their intended food in the dark, their stripes help them hide in the underbrush, trees, and grass. When the prey is within 30 to 35 feet, they emerge from cover, sprint toward it, and launch an assault. Tigers clamp down on the back of the neck to kill prey that is smaller than half their size; they bite the throat to kill prey that is larger than their size. They only successfully catch prey once every 10 to 20 hunts, so they have to spend a lot of time looking for food.
Patrolling their territory is another action tigers engage in at night. While a male’s territory might be up to 15 times larger, a female’s ranges from 75 to 385 square miles. Territories occasionally cross across. Tigers are loners as adults, with the exception of some mother cats with their young, however, they periodically cluster and communicate with one another via scent and scratch marks. As they explore the edges of their native ranges, they can cover 6 to 12 kilometers in a single night.
All in all, if you have the heart to bear a growl resonating from an unknown direction in the pitch dark, have it in you to be discreetly observed and smelt by the big cat, or are an adrenaline junkie who wishes to explore the unknown territories of the noir jungle scape, we are here to provide you the perfect pumping tiger safari experience.