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Best India wildlife tours. Tiger heaven in Central India

Posted in: India, Posted in: India Tiger Safari


Best India wildlife tours – Tiger heaven in Central India

It’s a winters morning in central India and we are entering the Mukki gate of Kanha national park on a tiger safari in India. The sheer cold of a 05:00am start for an open jeep safari in India always catches you by a surprise; in a country famous for its heat! There is a heavy dew on the ground and it is as close to a frost as possible, without actually icing up. The extra blankets your wildlife lodge provided are well appreciated and you pray the morning mist will lift to give you a glimpse of the Bengal Tiger. You needn’t have worried; as this is Kanha national park -  with one of the largest wild tiger populations in India. It is also spectacularly beautiful and a must visit for any traveller, visiting the national parks of central India.

Kanha and Bandhavgarh – two tiger parks you just have to combine together!

When we are designing India wildlife holidays for our clients you might be surprised to hear that the conversation is not always dominated about how many tigers we will see in each park; or when is the best time to see tigers in Bandhavgarh or Kanha. We like to talk about contrasts and animal species which can be seen in one sanctuary, but not the other. We enjoy describing and contrasting the different road journeys that we can take between Indian wildlife sanctuaries and how that glimpse of rural life in India – often unchanged for centuries – is very much part of the magic of an India wildlife tour. We also have clients who have visited India many times on tiger safaris and understand that a particular park like Ranthambhore, Bandhavgarh or Tadoba; might currently be the best place to see tigers in India. However, they want to include another tiger sanctuary - hopefully which attracts a few less tourists - which is less ‘tiger centric’ and a little more of an ‘all round’ option for the passionate wildlife observer. Kanha national park ticks all the boxes on that front and although a little busier than when we first visited in 1999; there is no doubt that an early morning safari in the cold winters months, is an experience to be treasured for a lifetime. A classic example of an India wildlife safari which includes a ‘quieter’ national park is our 12 day Kanha and Bandhavgarh wildlife holiday.

Bandhavgarh tiger safari – home to Tiger Royalty; such as Charger and Sita!

It is only fair to point out that Bandhavgarh national park has its up and downs over the years and a mixture of poor managements, human/tiger conflict and rampant poaching around 5-6 years ago, threatened the very future of tigers in this small, but perfectly formed oasis of Indian wildlife. In it pomp (which it is now returning to!) it attracted the very best wildlife photographers from around the world and National Geographic turned several of the tigers into movie stars. People came from all around the world to see the three massive male offspring of Charger and watched B2 eventually dominate his fathers former territory. It was not just about the number of tigers you saw, but the sheer charisma of these big cats; who would chase leopards up trees with huge vigour and power, or indeed take out this competitor entirely. In the main, they were relaxed around park vehicles and provided some of the best tiger photos you will see in India in the first decade on the new century.

Kanha tiger safari – less tigers but happier clients!

When I mention a title which states ‘less tigers’; I should clarify that this does not mean less tigers overall in the park, but the simple fact that the tigers in Kanha are not as accessible to visitors (less than 20% of the park is open to tourists) and maybe we can even say a little ‘shier’, than those camera hogging tigers of Bandhavgarh and Ranthambhore. However, in a larger tiger sanctuary like Kanha, the tigers are much more ‘spread out’ and that often means that when you get lucky with an amazing tiger encounter during your India wildlife holiday; it lasts longer and there are fewer jeeps around to observe it. It is very much a classic case on quality verses quantity and in many ways that is what Kanha is famous for. It also definitely gives the visitor much more Indian wildlfie diversity

Another aspect of a tiger safari in Kanha national park, is to consider how the park is divided up into different zones and some of these zones are easier to access from one entrance gate, than another. From our own frequent India wildlife holidays at Kanha, we have come to the conclusion, that it is best to split you stay at Kanha into equal length stays at both the Mukki and Kisli side of the parks. You also benefit from the very beautiful car journey between the two gates; which passed through traditional villages with their beautifully painted houses and steep slopped tiled roofs. Check out our ‘two sides of Kanha’ tiger safari which is a firm favourite of our clients.

Best time of visit Kanha or Bandhavgarh national park for tigers?

The tiger sanctuaries of central India are no different to any of the tiger parks in northern India; in that the arrival of summer (late March/early April) sees the parks water resources start to dry up and the chances of spotting tigers in a less random way increases. This is especially true of female tigers with cubs who will need to stay close to an all year round water source to avoid dehydration to themselves and their cubs. Naturally the ‘golden light’ window is much shorter during the hot summer, so some photographers still prefer to visit the tiger parks in winter to have more opportunity to photograph tigers in perfect morning and evening light.

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