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India’s Top Five Tiger Safari Reserves

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Encountering Tigers in the Wild: Exploring India’s Top Tiger Reserves

Most travellers visiting India dream about seeing two things: The one and only Taj Mahal and a Royal Bengal Tiger. Both are precious and majestic. This blog discusses the essential factors you should know about Tigers and India’s best Tiger sighting locations. We considered accessibility, tiger density, infrastructure, and other attractions as the criteria for selecting the top five safari destinations.

The True King for the Wild:  Though the folklore and bedtime stories depict Lion as the king of the forest, but  if you enumerate the virtues ” A Kings Ought To Have”, we are confident that the title will easily go to Tiger. They are more robust, agile and bigger than any other cats on the planet. Tiger has six subspecies still remaining in Asian jungles, and India is home to the most majestic of all, The Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris). Tigers are found forests across the country. Tiger is the national animal of India.

Tiger Population in India: A Conservation Triumph

Before the colonial invasions and the advent of guns, Indian forests were rich with Tigers. Colonial hunters and Indian elites were mad and obsessed with hunting tigers. Hunting continued even after independence. It is estimated that the tiger population dwindled to less than 100 in 1972, and Tigers reached the brink of extinction. Understanding the gravity of the situation, The Indian government got involved, and “Project Tiger,” a mega conservation effort, was initiated in 1973. Animal protection laws were enacted and implemented without any mercy. Killing a tiger became a non-bailable offence in India. Corporates, NGOs, and celebrities all joined hands to protect and bring back the beautiful mega cat from the brink of extinction. It worked. “Project Tiger” became the nation’s pride. Now India has more than 3000 tigers, and the number is increasing every year.

How can you identify one Tiger from another?

It’s not a problematic issue at all for a trained eye. Like human fingerprints, tiger stripes are unique to each animal, which means no two tigers will have the same pattern of stripes. A tiger has about 100 stripes of different shapes and sizes on its body.

Exploring India’s Best Tiger Reserves

India has 53 tiger reserves. The latest addition to this impressive list is Ranipur Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh. Although all these reserves are integral parts of India’s tiger conservation efforts, not all are ideal for observing or photographing Tigers. Some of the Reserves are situated in very remote areas. We have carefully chosen the top five of India’s best Tiger reserves for you to explore based on factors like tiger sighting probability, ease of access, infrastructure, tiger density, and other attractions nearby.

1. Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan:   

Rajasthan is a royal abode. This grand national Park is located at Sawai Madhopur. Similar to many wildlife reserves in India, Ranthambore was once a hunting retreat for royalty. The safari infrastructure is excellent, and spotting a tiger in one out of three safari trips is almost guaranteed. The Park is also ideal for leopards and marsh crocodiles. Another attraction here is the 10th-century fort, offering a unique heritage grandeur within a national park setting.

While the summer months are prime for tiger sightings in India, it is advisable not to visit during this season. Rajasthan’s summers can be harsh and unbearable, with temperatures soaring to 45°C. We recommend the period between November to February for visiting Ranthambore. You can combine your Ranthambore visit with a trip to the Taj Mahal. The distance between Agra and Ranthambore is only 300 kilometres, which can be covered in approximately 5 hours. After exploring Ranthambore, you can head to Jaipur and explore the pink city for a day or two.

We suggest booking at least three safaris (two mornings and one afternoon). Most reputable accommodations can arrange this for you.

  • Estimated Tiger Population (2023): 89
  • Nearest Airport: Jaipur (JAI)
  • Nearest Railway Station: Sawai Madhopor
  • Our recommended Zones: 2 & 3
  • Direct Safari Booking: 

2. Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand: 

Jim Corbett is the most well-known tiger reserve in India. Once home to merciless man-eating tigers (Read “Man-Eaters of Kumaon” by Jim Corbett), it became the pivotal tiger conservation centre. Mr Jim Corbett was a British Indian officer and a hunter who led many man-eating tigers and leopards in the Kumaon Hills. He later gave up hunting and became an apostle of wildlife conservation and protection in Kumaon. In respect of the conservation works done, the Park was later named after him. 

Jim Corbett is a large national park in Uttarakhand, about 250 km from Delhi. The best way to reach the National Park is by taking a train from Delhi to Ramnagar Railway Station. It is about 10 km away from the Park. Another option is a road trip or flying to Pantnagar Airport (PGH), which is about 75 km away from the Park. We always drive from Delhi, enjoying the scenery and coffee breaks.

The Park has many zones and trails. We recommend booking the Dhikala zone whenever possible, as chances of seeing a Tiger are statistically higher here. 

  • Estimated Tiger Population: 225
  • Best time to Visit: November to May 
  • Direct Safari Bookings: 
  • Our recommended Zones: DhikkalaOuit

3. Kaziranga National Park, Assam: 

Kaziranga is our favourite tiger safari destination in Northeast India. Although the tiger density is much lower than Ranthambore and Jim Corbett, the Tiger sighting experience can be unique here, thanks to the grassland-based forest system. Spotting a tiger here can be more challenging and entails much driving around. The flagship mammal here is the Indian Rhinoceros, which is easy to find. 

The ideal time to visit Kaziranga for tigers is between November and April. Guwahati Airport, the nearest airport, is located about 200 kilometres (5 hours) away from the National Park. 

Kaziranga has no railway station; the nearest is Furkating Junction railway station, about 2 hours from the National Park.

We have added a video below on the birds and wildlife of Assam for your reference : 

  • Estimated Tiger Population in 2023: 118
  • Our recommended zones: Central Zone 
  • Direct Safari Booking: 

4. Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh: 

Madhya Pradesh’s Bandhavgarh National Park is steeped in myth and legend, making it an enchanting destination for tiger seekers. With one of the highest tiger densities, your chances of spotting these magnificent creatures are elevated. As you traverse the captivating landscapes, explore Bandhavgarh Fort, an ancient site with a lot of history. 

The Park offers a blend of history and wilderness that’s hard to resist. Ideal months for exploration are October to June:

  • Nearest Aiport: Jabalpur (200 km)
  • Nearest Railway Station: Umaria (34 km) 
  • Best Time to Visit: October to March
  • Our recommended Zone: Tala Zone
  • Safari Booking: 

5. Nagarhole National Park (Kabani), Karnataka: 

Kabini, officially known as Nagarhole National Park, is the only recommended option if you are heading to South India. The National Park is an extension of the Western Ghats biodiversity. Kabini is also considered the best place to see leopards and black panthers in India. It is easily reachable from Bangalore or Mysore by road.

Kabini is an expensive destination. But if you visit only South India on your trip, you will only have a few other options.

The ideal time to visit Kabini is after the monsoons (October) when the forest is still green and thick. But seeing the Tiger in the dense foliage during this period will be slightly more challenging. As the rain recedes, the forest becomes drier, and the sighting chances increase.

  • Best time: October to April
  • Nearest Airports: Bangalore or Mysore
  • Our recommended Zone: Zone B 
  • Safari Booking ( Suggest Jeep Safari by JLR ) 

A Video on the Birds & Wildlife of Assam