Spotting the elusive tiger in India has to be an activity on many travellers’ bucket list. Of course, in the wild, there can be no guarantee of a sighting, and the majestic creatures are critically endangered (though in recent years numbers have been on the rise thanks to the efforts of conservationists). However, we’d like to help you work out the best places to see tigers in India for you based on your interests and likes and dislikes.
It must be said that even if you don’t catch a glimpse of the big cat, a safari holiday in India can still be an excellent experience. Some experts say India is on a par with Africa as a safari destination due to the excellent accommodation and wealth of flora and fauna. India even has its own “Big Five” (the Bengal tiger, the Asiatic lion, the Asiatic leopard, the Indian elephant and the one-horned rhino)!
Where can you see Tigers in India?
India has over 50 designated Tiger Reserves and around 2950 tigers, roughly 80% of the worlds tiger population. While there are other fantastic options to spot tigers across India (Pench, Satpura, Dudhwa, Corbett and Kaziranga to name a few), these are our India specialists’ personal favourites. Speak to one of us personally to discuss which experience is right for you.
Whilst there are lots of parks to choose from, we’d highly recommend focussing more time on fewer parks rather than less time in more parks. If you allow for a minimum of three nights in each park, but ideally four or five (or more!), we think this provides enough time to get great sightings of different animals and appreciate the beauty of your destination.
Distances are long between most national parks (often 4-6 hours drive) and as safaris are early in the morning, you can easily get exhausted. Wildlife parks are also amazing places to relax, go hiking in the local countryside and get an insight into life in rural India. We commonly add on a couple of extra nights in and around national parks just for relaxation. We firmly believe that less is more when it comes to wildlife experiences in India.
1 – Kanha, Madhya Pradesh
This is ETG’s favourite wildlife park. Kanha offers good tiger sightings as well as a variety of other wildlife including bison, leopards, hyenas and pythons, and over 1000 types of flora. The park itself is beautiful, with rolling grasslands, bamboo forests and streams. You can take part in village experiences and hikes to plateaus with excellent views. It’s a 2-hour flight followed by a 4-hour drive from Delhi.
2 – Bandhavgarh, Madhya Pradesh
Bandhavgarh is a small but beautiful park with a high density of tigers, which means you have a good chance of viewing one up close. Topographically, the park is made up of rocky hillocks and beautiful forests. It can be reached by a two-hour flight from Delhi plus a 4-hour drive, or a long full day’s drive from Varanasi on a new road as of 2020.
Caveat: As Bandhavgarh is one of the best places to see tigers in India, a visit here can feel a little bit like a tiger hunt: naturalists are hellbent on getting you to see one, which works if that is your priority, but is less of an all-around wildlife experience (like you get in Kanha and Satpura further south in Madhya Pradesh).
3 – Tadoba, Maharashtra
Tadoba is a large but very quiet park that has a growing tiger population of over 100 as of April 2019 with sightings increasing all the time. Landscapes here are densely forested and the mythical Tadoba lake attracts a variety of water birds. It’s a 1.5-hour flight from Mumbai or a 2-hour flight from Delhi followed by a 3-4 hour drive. Combining Tadoba with Satpura is a great way to have tiger spotting opportunities with a more well-rounded wildlife experience in Satpura.
Caveat: Accommodation is not particularly high end here and options are limited.
4 – Ranthambore, Rajasthan
Diurnal tiger sightings in Ranthambore are frequent, though there is much other wildlife to pique your curiosity too: jungle cats, flying foxes, mongoose, crocodiles and turtles to name just a few. The park is found on the eastern edges of the Rajasthan wilderness, and the scenery here is just magnificent. At its centre is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ranthambore Fort, one of Rajasthan’s UNESCO hill forts. It is well-located for a Golden Triangle holiday in India and there are a great variety of accommodation options available too.
Caveat: Can get very busy, especially on weekends and national holidays. Like Bandhavgarh, as Ranthambore is one of the best places to see tigers in India, naturalists are very preoccupied with tiger sightings and so offers a less immersive wildlife experience, unless you opt for an exclusive jeep safari with access to the key zones.
5 – Nagarhole, Karnataka
Nagarhole is south India’s primary wildlife park and another ETG favourite. It offers excellent elephant sightings and increasing numbers of tiger sightings – Nagarhole is also one of the few parks in India where you can see Leopards, Elephants and tigers. There are great birding opportunities from the water bodies of Kabini…not to mention a black panter discovered in the park in late 2019. It’s a 3-hour drive from Mysore and links well into or out of Northern Kerala.
Caveat: There is the option of either shared boat or jeep safaris (a slight drawback if you prefer your own jeep safari which is possible in the parks of Madhya Pradesh, Corbett, Kaziranga & Ranthambore).
When is the best time of year to see Tigers in India?
The best time of year to spot tigers is between October to mid-December and mid-February to June. April, May and June are the best months to see tigers in India because it is very hot so wildlife often congregates near watering holes which provide great viewing points. These months might be a bit too oppressive for a holiday so our favourite time is March to mid-April when it isn’t quite as hot.
Unless you are in South India and around Nagarhole or Bandipur National Park we’d suggest thinking twice about organising visits to wildlife parks from mid-December to early February. A lot of central and North India can be cold in the mornings and late afternoons which is when the tiger safaris take place. It can also be misty which affects the quality of sightings, although photos and video footage can be rather dramatic!! As Nagarhole and Bandipur are so far south, these parks aren’t affected by the cold and only mist affects sightings on some mornings. If you have flexibility though we’d recommend still aiming for February onwards in the south.
When should I book a Tiger Safari in India?
It is really important to ensure you book early for wildlife holidays to India, not just to get the right accommodation for you, but mainly so you get access to the best zones in each national park, depending on your priorities. For example, some zones are better for tiger sightings than others, whilst for those birders amongst you, visiting different zones will be beneficial. We’ll chat you through your options when you give us a call to discuss the best places to see tigers in India.