International Tiger Day: Best places to spot a tiger in India

Tiger cubs playing in Bandhavgarh National Park
Image courtesy: ©Abhishek Singh & illuminati visuals/Getty Images

With almost half the world’s wild tigers, India becomes the best place for seeing tigers.  In all, there are 39 tiger sanctuaries or national parks which aim at preserving the population of our national animal. On this International Tiger Day, July 29, here is a list of tiger reserves with good chances of spotting the big cat.

Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh is the king of tiger territory in India. Five tiger parks here all give tourists a chance of seeing a tiger, but this one is the most famous of them all. You’re almost guaranteed a sighting if you spend one or two days here. An added attraction is that the village of Tala, right by the park’s main gate, has a great choice of accommodation to suit all budgets, thus this park is not just for the rich.

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Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh

 

Image courtesy: ©Jason Fernandes/Lonely Planet

The forests here are vast, and whilst your chances of seeing a tiger are probably slightly slimmer than at nearby Bandhavgarh, they are still very good. Add to that the fact that you can really go deep into the forest here, thanks to the park’s huge core area surrounded by a large buffer zone, and you have yourself a complete safari experience, rather than the rush-and-grab outings.

Sundarbans National Park, West Bengal

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This famous park has a huge number of Bengal tigers – more than two hundred by some counts. The swampy terrain, though, means seeing one of them is extremely rare, but you’ll have great fun trying. Just getting here is an adventure and once you arrive, you’ll be signing up for safaris not in jeeps, but in canoes!

Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra

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The seldom-visited Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, 150km south of Nagpur, is one of the best places to see tigers in India. Seeing fewer visitors than most other forest reserves, this is a place where you can get up close to wildlife without having to jostle past truckloads of shutter-happy tourists. Rather than restrict access to certain zones of the park like other tiger parks, Tadoba-Andhari opted to limit the number of gypsy safaris per day instead, but give them free reign throughout the park. The results are excellent for wildlife sighting opportunities. The park also remains open throughout the year, unlike many others.

Pench National Park, Madhya Pradesh

The third of Madhya Pradesh’s trio of best-known tiger parks, Pench is made up mostly of teak-tree forest rather than sal, so has a different flavour than nearby Kanha or Bandavgarh. It also sees fewer tourists so, as you’re driving around the park you’ll often feel like you have the whole forest to yourself. Tigers are fewer too, though, but are generally spotted every few days.

Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan

Portrait of Royal Bengal Tiger looking towards camera in Ranthambhore National Park
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Comprising 1334 sq km of wild jungle scrub hemmed in by rocky ridges, this park is the best place to spot wild tigers in Rajasthan. However, getting an accurate figure on the number of tigers comes down to who you believe – the park probably has around 32 tigers. Spotting one is a matter of luck; you should plan on two or three safaris to improve your chances. The only way to travel into the core of the national park is by going on the safari.

Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand

Originally called Hailey National Park, Corbett opened in 1936 and is India’s oldest tiger park. Chances of seeing tigers here are actually quite slim, but if you do you can feel smug in the fact that you’ve seen one that wasn’t baited or tracked. In other parks, tiger sightings can sometimes feel stage-managed. Not here. And if you don’t see a tiger, there may well be a great big consolation prize: Corbett is also one of the few parks in northern India with wild elephants, and chances of seeing them here are very good indeed.

Bandipur National Park, Karnataka

A thoroughly enchanting forest, Bandipur offers you a chance to surrender yourself in the lap of nature, all the while allowing you to catch up with some signature wildlife. Bandipur National Park is one of South India’s most famous wilderness areas. Covering 880sq km, it was once the Mysore Maharaja’s private game reserve and was notified as a national park and tiger reserve in 1974. A thriving forest, Bandipur is now a protected zone for tigers and over 100 species of animals.