The Ultimate Guide to Tiger Safaris in India: Discover the Top 5 Places to Spot Tigers!

Published on: May 18, 2024

India is home to 75% of the remaining wild tigers on this planet, so this is the place to come for a tiger safari holiday. For those with a passion for wildlife photography, mammal watching, or simply the thrill of seeing these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, a tiger safari in India is an experience of a lifetime. This expert guide explores the best 5 places to see tigers in India, complete with pro travel tips and personal experiences to help you plan your ultimate tiger safari adventure to India.

Ranthambhore National Park Safari: The Iconic Jungle Book Experience

Overview

Ranthambhore National Park, located in Rajasthan, is one of the most famous and picturesque tiger reserves in India and is easily accessible from the historic cities of Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. The park has grown is size in recent years as buffer areas have become core zones and it now covers an area of approximately 1,334 square kilometres, and its landscape is very varied and beautiful for landscape photographers. In recent years the number of zones has increased from 5 to 10. Each of these areas has a unique identity and is home to tiger families and male and female tigers.

Two tigers fighting on a tiger safari in Ranthambhore national park

Key Features

Stunning Landscapes: Ancient forts, palaces, temples, huge Banyan trees and glistening lakes provide a stunning backdrop for spotting tigers.

Best for photography: Ranthambhore has a magical mixture of ancient ruins and stunning forests, where wild tigers feel equally at home.

The Lakes: The three main lakes of Ranthambhore attract beautiful bird life as well as dramatic fights between tiger and huge Marsh Mugger crocodiles

Pro Tips

• Plan Your Visit: Ranthambhore attracts many visitors, especially on weekends and during festivals. Plan your safari outside these periods to avoid crowds.

• Stay Longer: Leave those rushed budget tours well alone and travel with a company who insists on a minimum 3 days on tiger safari with 6 game drives inside the park.

Personal Experience

I was watching a wildlife documentary at home with my parents in February 1997, and saw a tigress emerge from the winter mists in the shadow of a crumbling medieval fort. That moment sealed my destiny to see wild tigers in India. Despite its popularity and sometimes noisy crowds, Ranthambhore offers a truly unique experience like no other tiger sanctuary, with its stunning backdrop and the chance to see tigers walking through ancient palaces and temples. It’s truly the Jungle Book brought back to life and after 30 visits there in 27 years, I still come back for more!

Best place to stay in Ranthambhore

For those where money is no object, we would recommend the Sujan property, Sherbagh Tented Camp, more for the amazing location next to the park and away from the other resorts than the stunning tents and superb food and service. Check out the stunning video below which we shot in 2017.

We always want our clients to stay longer on tiger safari and logic dictates that can only be done staying at a great value mid-range Ranthambhore resort which punches well above its weight. So, check out the Ranthambhore Regency owned and managed by our dear friends, Arvind and Ravindra.

Allan Blanchard’s on safari video review of the stunning Sherbagh Tented Camp, Ranthambhore national park

Check out our most popular tiger safari to Ranthambhore national park, with the added bonus of a stunning extension to Ramthra Fort.

Overview

Bandhavgarh National Park Safari: A Tiger Dynasty

Located in Madhya Pradesh, Bandhavgarh National Park is famous for its high density of tigers and the place where professional photographers have taken amazing images of tiger royalty like Charger and B2. Spanning an area of 1,536 square kilometres, this park has three main core zones called Tala, Magadhi, and Khitauli and 3 buffer zones, called Dhamokhar, Johila, and Panpatha. As tigers continue to disperse into these buffer zones it makes sense to include a couple of visits here as well as to the core zones.

Running tiger. Photo taken on a tiger safari in Bandhavgarh national park by Dieter Gutmann
Tiger running through the meadows of Bandhavgarh national park. Photo Credit: Dieter Gutmann

Key Features

  • Loved by Pro Photographers: Even back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, pro photographers were coming to this park famous for charismatic large male tigers.
  • Tiger Dynasties: Bandhavgarh is known for its famous tiger families, including the legendary Charger and Sita.
  • Buffer zone action: As tiger numbers increase, they must disperse into the surrounding buffer forests, and these are now great places to see tigers.

Pro Tips

  • Explore Buffer Zones: Several tiger families are active in the buffer zones, so don’t limit your safaris to the core zones.
  • Plan Around Closures: The park is closed on Wednesday afternoons and during the Holi festival, so plan accordingly.
  • Wild Elephants are more likely to arrive in the park during the hotter months from March onwards.

Personal Experience

The Tiger Dynasty of Bandhavgarh is a compelling story. While Charger and Sita are no longer around, their descendants continue to captivate visitors. During my visits, I’ve had incredible sightings of their offspring, including the famous B2. It’s fascinating to see the power and beauty of this tiger dynasty that remains to this day through their descendants.

Best places to stay in Bandhavgarh

For a super cool ‘treehouse’ experience and an intimate connection with nature we would recommend the Treehouse Hideaway. Lots of separation between the elevated treehouses, excellent local food and run by a company that knows how to manage keen wildlife enthusiasts.

For a cheaper more mid-range option, why not try their sister property called Kings Lodge which also has the advantage of a small pool if you are visiting in the heat of summer.

You might be suprised at our choice of national park to go with the legendary private tiger safari to Bandhavgarh national park.

Kanha National Park Safari: Mukki or Kisli Gate?

Overview

Kanha National Park, located in the heart of Madhya Pradesh, is one of India’s largest and most scenic tiger reserves. Most visitors stay at either the Kisli or Mukki gates and often combine a visit here with the more tiger centric Bandhavgarh national park.

Photo of Jackals running in Kanha national park
A pack of Jackals running in Kanha national park. Photo credit Allan Blanchard

Key Features

Kanha is known for its dense Sal and bamboo forests, grassy meadows, and clear streams. It’s one of the best-maintained parks in India, offering a pristine habitat for tigers and other wildlife.

Pro Tips

  • Avoid the crowds: While Kanha may not have the same tiger sighting reliability as Ranthambhore, Bandhavgarh, and Tadoba, the quality of sightings here can be extraordinary, with fewer crowds enhancing the experience.
  • See Indian Bison: Kanha is one of the best places to see this huge Bovine and some of the larger tigers will specialise in hunting them as they provide a week’s worth of meat. They are also beautiful to photograph with a backdrop of meadows and sense Sal forests.

Personal Experience

Kanha offers a more intimate and serene experience compared to the busier parks. Although tiger sightings may be less frequent, the encounters are often more rewarding. The different elevations of this large tiger sanctuary and the huge grass meadows make it one of the most beautiful in central India. Generally, we prefer to take our guests to the less busy Mukki gate, rather than Kisli.

Best places to stay in Kanha

This is one of the easiest recommendations to make for all the national parks in India as Taron and Dimple run Kanha Jungle Lodge like no other wildlife resort in India. We have been privileged to know them since the late 90’s and now their son has been bitten by the wildlife bug and could well be your guide.

If you are looking for something a little higher end and with a stunning riverside location, then we would suggest you consider ‘Flame of the Forest’ for your tiger safari in India you will not be disappointed.

So why don’t you see what all the fuss is about at Kanha Jungle Lodge with our bespoke Kanha national park safari

Kaziranga National Park Safari: Where Giants Roam

Overview

Kaziranga National Park, located in Assam, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of India’s jewels in the crown. Spread across 430 square kilometres, Kaziranga is famous for the incredible recovery of its Indian one horned rhino population, from the brink of extinction to the now thriving population of close to 3000.

Photo of and Indian one-horned rhino

Photo of and Indian one-horned rhino at Kaziranga national park. Photo Credit: David Kennedy

Key Features

  • Diverse Wildlife: In addition to tigers, Kaziranga is home to elephants, rhinos, and a variety of bird species. Also, one of the few parks in India with a chance to photograph and film wild otters.
  • Best for birding: The lakes in this park are huge and attract large numbers of migratory birds. It’s also one of the best places to see raptors in India.
  • Less Crowded: Kaziranga is not as popular for tiger safaris as other parks, offering a more peaceful experience.

Pro Tips

  • Visit while it remains unknown: When you consider you can see tigers, leopard, elephants, and rhino in just one park, it’s surprising how few people visit from abroad, but that’s OK for us.
  • Visit Gibbon Sanctuary: Just a one-hour drive from the eastern section of Kaziranga is the small but productive Hollongapar gibbon sanctuary which is home to India’s only great ape.

Personal Experience

During the last visit to Kaziranga we saw a tiger on our last drive and a brief glimpse of a Fishing Cat from close to the observation tower. Although the highlight for me was 3 separate sightings, two very close, of Otter families moving through their territory.

Best places to stay in Kaziranga

The most luxurious and well located wildlife lodge in Kaziranga is Diphlu river lodge, although most of the bunglows do not have a view of the river as we found out when we stayed here. It is important to note that there are not as many options in Kaziranga for good quality mid-range to luxury accommodation so properties like this sell out well in advance.

Although the Infinity Resort is quite old now it still has that combination of being well located between the 4 different gates, as well as access to good wildlife guides and flexible with meals times for those full on safari lovers. A solid choice if you are on a lower budget or just want to stay longer at Kaziranga.

If only more people went on a tiger safari to Kaziranga national park, they would see why Assam is such a special place for Indian wildlife.

Tadoba National Park: Maya, the queen of tigers!

Overview

Tadoba National Park, also known as Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, is in Maharashtra and is just. a short 2-hour drive from Nagpur international airport. Covering an area of 1,727 square kilometres. The Tadoba Tiger Reserve is divided into three core zones: Moharli Range, Tadoba Range and Kolsa Range with 6 entrance gates. It is amazing to see that this park also now has 16 gates into buffer zones that have become part of the critical tiger habitat in India – what an incredible success story.

The vegetation in Tadoba National Park mainly consists of dry deciduous forest with teak trees being dominant. Other tree species found include bamboo, which is particularly noticeable inside the park when you drive to the key water bodies. The park also has large extensive meadows which are home to large herds of herbivores like spotted deer.

Photo of the huge male tiger Matkasur taken on tiger safari at Tadoba

Photo of the huge dominant male of Tadoba national park, Matkasur – at that time. Credit: Allan Blanchard

Key Features

  • High Tiger Density: Tadoba has experienced a significant increase in tiger numbers, making it one of the best places for tiger sightings.
  • Charismatic tigers: It is no exaggeration to say that Maya is truly a ‘superstar’ tiger and people flock from all over the world in the hope of seeing her with a new litter of cubs.
  • Rich Biodiversity: In addition to tigers, Tadoba is home to leopards, sloth bears, and a variety of bird species.

Pro Tips

  • Explore Different Gates: Tadoba has seen a significant increase in tiger numbers due to village relocations over the past two decades. To maximize your chances of sightings, enter through different gates and include safaris in both core and buffer zones.
  • Village Relocations: Tadoba has been at the forefront of village relocations, resulting in an explosion in tiger numbers within the core and buffer zones.

Personal Experience

Sometimes the one-way system inside the park can frustrate photographers and tiger enthusiasts because you cannot react as quickly to information on a tiger movement. However, having visited during the school holiday period in early May, I felt that this helped the management of visitor numbers and people were generally well behaved at the key water holes where we had some stunning encounters with Maya and the huge Matkasur

Best places to stay in Tadoba

Back in 2008 when we first visited Tadoba national park there were very few places to stay, but that has changed in the last 10 years due to it being one of the best places in India to see tigers. We like to first look at the entry gates, as only a certain number of vehicles are allowed entry at each gate so some lodges at the most popular gates can struggle to obtain jeeps for your tiger safaris.

For the Kolara Gate we would recommend the excellent Bamboo Forest safari lodge, with its high-end villas, seasonal lake for bird watching and excellent night drives for the chance of Jackal and Jungle Cat.

We are also big fans of lodges close to the entry gate for the Kolsa core zone and for this option we would recommend Waghoba Eco Lodge.

We have used all our local knowledge to pick a Tadoba wildlife resort of the ‘quiet’ side of Tadoba and give you a bespoke Tadoba tiger safari to remember for a lifetime!

Essential Tips for an Unforgettable Tiger Safari Adventure

Booking Safaris

Yes, it’s a complicated business and one left to the experts. In a nutshell all the park have different policies and these change from year to year. One year you find bookings for tiger safaris open 12 months before your date and then it reverts to 3 months. The tiger sanctuaries in India are so famous now that all the zones can sell out in a few days. We would strongly advise that you plan your tiger safari in India at least 9 months before travel.

What to Pack

Clothing: This very much depends on the time of year you are travelling as the temperature fluctuations between winter and summer in central India are huge and many visitors get caught out by how cold it is on the morning drives.

Gear: Bring binoculars, a camera with a good zoom lens, and a hat or cap for sun protection. Don’t forget sunscreen and insect repellent.

Avoid plastic: The best tiger safari companies provide a sanitised water bottle (or ask you to bring your own) and book wildlife lodges in India which provide filtered water thus eliminating the need for plastic bottles. This is important.

Your health is important to us.

Vaccinations: Always check with your doctor or local travel health clinic several months before your travel about what is required for the area you are visiting.

Respect wildlife: Always follow the guidelines of your safari guide. Stay in the vehicle, maintain silence, and respect the wildlife. Do not encourage your driver to get closer to the animal you are photographing, as that is what a zoom lens is for, and maintaining distance leads to a more relaxed encounter. One of the common mistakes is to try and photograph or reach for equipment while the vehicle is still moving with the high risk of injuring yourself.

Conclusion: Follow your dream to see wild tigers in India, choose an ethical partner to make it happen, and stay a minimum of 3 nights at any tiger sanctuary

There is no comparable wildlife experience to a tiger safari in India and this is something many of our clients have commented on after their first wildlife holiday in India. Seeing a wild tiger up close and personal sends shivers down the spine and can also release emotions that you may not have expected. Every bespoke tiger safari we create here at Wildlife Trails is designed to give you the best possible chance of seeing them, with our focus on longer stays, employing the best local wildlife guides and giving something back to the local communities.

Ready to embark on your tiger safari to India? Give us a call or drop us an email and let us tantalise your safari tastebuds, with a selection of our finest tiger safari holidays hand crafted by people who have been visiting India for more than 25 years – yes, experience really does count!

About the Author

Allan Blanchard

Allan Blanchard is the founder of Wildlife Trails, a biologist, and conservationist. He studied animal behaviour and has a passion for using real time data to pick the ideal time to see endangered flagship species. Whether that be Snow Leopards in India, Gorillas in Uganda, or Jaguars in Brazil. 27 years of continuous recces to the best safari destinations in the world, is both a privilege and a huge advantage when curating award winning wildlife holidays for Wildlife Trails.