Tigers, Tigers Everywhere – But Where to Go on Your Indian Tiger Safari?

We are undoubtedly in a golden period for wild tigers in India. We can say that with more than 20 years of experience visiting India’s tiger parks and having seen our first wild tiger in Ranthambhore national park way back in February 1997. Every wildlife photographers Facebook page seems to be adorned with yet more photographs of tigers with their cubs and tiger sanctuaries like Ranthambhore, Tadoba and Bandhavgarh have ‘too many tigers’ to sustain within the core and buffer areas of the main national park – so what does this mean for you, if you are currently planning your tiger safari in India?

Where is the best place to see tigers in India – the devil is in the detail

This is one of the most common questions we receive here at Wildlife Trails and there is no definitive answer. In addition, it is often followed by more questions such as, ‘I would prefer not to visit a tiger park that is too busy’, or ‘when is the best time of year to see tigers in India’. Let’s first make one thing very clear, you cannot visit the best place to see tigers in India and expect to have the park to yourself; those days are long gone. Please appreciate that many of these tigers in Ranthambhore, Tadoba and Kanha, are ‘internet stars’ – some with their own Facebook pages – and to come and photograph them in the wild is on the wish lists of hundreds of thousands of photographers and tiger lovers around the world. So, be realistic with your expectations and work with an individual or specialist wildlife travel company who has a real understanding of the complicated tiger park booking system and access to the best wildlife guides. Also, do not leave booking such a trip to the last minute, or you will be massively disappointed.

I want the chance to see a tiger, but would prefer to avoid the busiest tiger sanctuaries

The key here is the phrase ‘the chance’ to see one. This comes from a client who really understands that wildlife is wildlife and there are no guarantees that you will see a tiger when you visit India; or any of the other apex predators. We are lucky to have many such clients contact Wildlife Trails with these type of requests and we really enjoy putting together a bespoke tiger safari for them. One approach is to design an itinerary with visits to two Indian wildlife sanctuaries; but one of them would be a location like Satpura National Park, where the chance to see tigers is less and the amount of jeeps allowed inside the park is much lower than in the more famous tiger sanctuaries – thus ensuring a calmer, less ‘tiger centric’ experience. However, Satpura would be ‘paired’ with a sanctuary that is known as one of the best places to see tigers in India; such as Bandhavgarh or Kanha National Parks. An example of such an approach is shown here, with this combination of Satpura and Pench.

Where can I see tigers in India – best place, best time, just tigers please?

So, of course we also have clients who are crazy about tigers and just want to spend quality time in the best Indian national parks to see tigers. Again, we need to look at the small details of their request and make sure we match them with the best choice. Firstly, we explain that serious wildlife photographers and tiger ‘fanatics’ wait until the Indian summer to visit the tiger sanctuaries, as the months of April, May and June (rains can arrive in late June!) are the best months to see tigers. Not just to see tigers, but potentially to follow the ‘story of a tiger’ from day to day – especially with a tigress and her cubs. The simple reason for this is that the tigress must stay close to a water source inside the park – only a few remain by April – to ensure the health and vitality of her cubs. In addition, other wildlife, including prey species such as Spotted Deer, Sambar Deer and Grey Langurs have to use the same waterholes and it is not that uncommon to witness a kill in the vicinity of these life giving water bodies.

With this type of enquiry, we would encourage longer stays at the tiger sanctuaries; well, we pretty much do that with all our clients, as longer stays are more ethical and allow clients to relax more and not panic when they don’t see tigers on their very first game drive inside the park – you would be surprised! Then, depending on how long they have available for their India wildlife holiday, we would suggest a week long stay in a national park like Ranthambhore, or a two park combination like Bandhavgarh and Kanha.

Summary of how to plan your perfect tiger safari in India

Book early – many of the online jeep reservation systems for the various tiger sanctuaries now open 4 months before the date of safari, so booking last minute will only lead to stress and disappointment

Is it all about tigers – if so, choose your park and dedicate quality time with a top local wildlife guide to ensure you get the dream tiger encounters and photos you hoped for

Avoid the crowds – we are not going to lie to you, it is not easy to do these days in India when taking a tiger safari in world famous wildlife sanctuaries like Ranthambhore national park. However, if you contact the experts like Wildlife Trails, they will micro-manage your India tiger holiday to ensure your aspirations and dreams are met