Posted by on 11th September, 2017.
For anyone coming to India for Tiger Safaris, the most important question on top of their mind is, “Which is the best national park for Tiger Safaris in India ? I have answered this question several times on emails to all our prospective guests. But i thought of penning down my thoughts for general information for all wanting to do Tiger Safaris in India. People want to know is it Ranthambhore, Bandhavgarh, Tadoba, Pench, Corbett, or Kanha? Afterall which is the best national park for Tiger Safaris in India?
The difference in African and Indian National Parks
Indian national parks are much smaller compared to their African cousins in size, landscape, flora and fauna. African parks have meadows, savannahs, or scarce flora. Indian parks on the contrary are fairly dense barring a couple like Ranthambhore, Sariska etc, infact these parks are also dense in pockets. The visibility in Indian National Parks is limited due to fewer and smaller meadows.
Most of the Tiger reserves are predominantly Sal forests. Sal (Shorea Robusta) Forest are dense, with low visibility. Teak forests like Pench are good once the summer sets in, but in winter they are more dense than Sal Forests. For e.g in Kanha a Tiger could be just 5 meters in the bush from you, and you might cross it without seeing it. See the image below to get an idea of how dense Indian National Parks can get. This is Kanha National Park for you.
Let me start start by shortlisting the best or top 6 national parks for Tiger Safaris in India.
If Tiger is what you want to see then one of the below, preferably two, or three if you really want to give yourself a close to 100% chance of a Tiger sighting.
The Top 6 National Parks for Tiger Safaris in India are:
Do not go by the order mentioned above. Sightings fluctuate every season, and there are reasons for the same. There could be a Tigress whose cubs have grown and find their own territories . While in the previous season they gave great sightings to everyone in the national park, but it might not be the same next season.
There is also a possibility of territorial fights between male Tigers. A dominant male Tiger could lose fight to a new or a more powerful Tiger which changes the sighting algorithms. For e.g in winters of 2016 in Kanha National Park, two big dominating Tigers lost their lives to a bigger male Tiger.
Bheema was a very popular Tiger in Kanha with tourists, but lost his life in a territorial battle. Similarly Kingfisher another male Tiger lost to Umarpani male Tiger in Mukki zone. These two Tigers were very bold and pleased lot many tourists with their sightings. When they died there was a lull or a temporary dip in the sightings. But nature knows how to balance. Within a couple of months Mahaveer female was sighted with 4 young cubs. And she was sighted continuously till the park closed in June for monsoon.
Such are the dynamics involved in a Tiger sighting. Yes, you may read a lot about these national parks, it helps to have information on the past years. But it is more important to know how these national parks have fared in the last two years.
How many parks you must cover to see a Tiger during your trip?
Going back to the list of the national parks, if you have atleast two included in your trip to India chances are that you will see a Tiger. If you have more than two then chances of Tiger sightings improve dramatically. Also please try and keep atleast three nights in one park if you are serious to see the Tigers. If time on hand is less then 4 nights in one of the parks, Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Tadoba, or Pench is also good.
Which months are best for Tiger sightings in India?
Another important point to note is time of the year when the Tiger sightings are good. Well, these national parks are their home, they (Tigers) live here, so the sightings are happening more often than not. It is a bit of luck for sure. For general tourists Tiger sightings are good from November till June. For photographers i recommend October till June. Confused? Good, ask me how, and i shall tell you why.
My advise is never to go for a Tiger Safari in India with a single minded focus of only seeing a Tiger. Enjoy the national park in it’s entirety, Tigers are fewer in number, but with experienced guides and drivers the safaris become very meaningful and your chances of Tiger sightings improve considerably.
I have been doing Tiger Safaris in the various parks in India for over 28 years. None of the above parks has disappointed me. Infact i recall vividly many Tiger sightings in these parks. But my best Tiger sighting till date did not happen in these parks, it happened elsewhere. In December 2014 in Dudhwa National Park i was witness to a Tiger taking on two Elephants. For good 30 minutes, i saw the mental combat, and glad it did not get physical. The animals are far more intelligent than what we think they are. The Tiger and the Elephant respected the strength of the other, but at a close distance of about 10 meters they voiced voraciously their displeasure of the other. Hopefully the below image will give you an idea of the same.
If i was you then i will question the Tour Operator whom i am choosing on many grounds about Tiger sightings before finalizing the safaris.
Sharad Kumar Vats