Did you know that 2/3 of the world’s wild tigers live in India, If you have not seen one it is time to plan one with your loved ones.
India is also know as a rich biodiversity hotspot & Indian forests with diverse flora & fauna provide wildlife viewing opportunities which are second to none. Of all the species the most sought after is Tiger, our national animal & rightly so as we are home 2236 tigers which is almost 2/3 of world’s tiger population existing in wild. With focused conservation effort we have been witnessing an increase in population over the years, as per last estimate published the numbers had increased by 30%. Also some of our prominent parks are considered one of the best places in world to see a wild tiger.
Where to Go?
There are 48 tiger reserves in India across the country but few reserves like Ranthambore, Jim Corbett, Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Pench, Tadoba, Panna, Bandipur & Kabini are most visited and prominent parks of India which are visited by tourists to see a wild tiger. Each landscape is completely different than other & offers ample wildlife viewing opportunities some of which is unique to that park only. Listing some of my favorite tiger reserves her.
Ranthambore- Located in the desert state of Rajasthan, it was one of first few reserves under project tiger. A typical dry deciduous forest surrounded by Aravalis its unique terrain along with dry vegetation increases sighting opportunities. Home of Legendary tigress Machli, one of the longest surviving & world’s most photographed tigress Machli, Ranthambore currently has 60+ tigers and safari is conducted on 10 designated zones twice a day. Best time to visit is between November to March, park remains open for tourism from 1st October to 30th June each year. It is well connected by road & rail from major towns in North India & nearest airport is Jaipur.
Bandhavgarh- Bandhavgarh National Park is one of the most popular national parks located in the Umaria district of Madhya Pradesh. It boasts of having highest density of wild tigers in the entire world- not many people return disappointed from a trip to the park. The park derives its name from the most prominent hillock in the area, which is said to have been given by Lord Rama to his brother Laxman to keep a watch on Lanka; hence the name Bandhavgarh (Sanskrit: Brother’s fort). This park has been home to some legendary tigers of India namely- charger, sita, B2 and Bamera whose lives and stories have been extensively documented in documentaries made on wild tigers in India. Best time is visit between November to March. nearest Railway station is Jabalpur/ Katni and nearest airport is Jabalpur.
Jim Corbett- Also know as the land of Roar, trumpet & song, Jim Corbett is one of the oldest parks in India and is named after the legendary hunter turned conservationist Jim Corbett. Located in Nainital district of Uttarakhand this place is home to more than 600 species of avifauna & almost equal amount of flora species are found here. Flagship species are Tiger & elephants. Corbett offers an unique opportunity to stay inside the forest at designated forest rest houses across tourism zone. The most famous one is Dhikala, accommodation and food is basic but hygienic. Nearest town & railway station is Ramnagar & nearest airport is Delhi. Park is open for tourism from 15th October till 15th June, Dhikala zone opens around 15th November. Best time is to visit is February & March in case one wants to avoid extreme weathers.
Kanha- Home of another legendary cat & most sought after tiger Munna- Kanha is tucked away in the Eastern part of the Central-Indian Satpura Range. Legendary for its wilderness, tiger sightings and great birding- Kanha promises to be a special experience. Immensely rich in game,Kanha Tiger Reserve abounds in meadows or maidans which are basically open grasslands that have sprung up in fields of abundant villages, evacuated to make way for the animals. Aquatic plants in numerous “Tal” (lakes) are life line for migratory and wetland species of birds. The big mammals of Kanha are the charismatic Tiger, the smarter cat leopard and Baloo the sloth bear of “Jungle Book” fame. The Sal paradise of Kanha doesn’t disappoint the avid birdwatcher either. Nearest railway station & airport is Jabalpur and best time is to visit between November to April.
Pench- Also known as Kipling country, as Rudyard Kipling’s famous book Jungle book has been set in this backdrop. Located at few hours drive from Tiger capital of India, this park has been in news recently as a dominant tigress of park has recently given birth to four cubs in her sixth litter, highest number of litters given by a tigress in wild probably.With the distinction of a reserve with highest density herbivore population, Pench will definitely not disappoint in terms of game viewing. The tiger and the leopard are the predators who claim fiefdom in Pench. Apart from sloth bear, Spotted deer, sambar, barking deer, nilgai and wild boars may also be encountered.
Some handy tips for planning a visit:
* Limited number of vehicles are allowed in all these parks for safari, it would be a good idea to plan your visit 100-120 days in advance to avoid inconvenience.
* Check out the sighting dynamics of season of park you intend to visit in order to ensure better sighting chances.
* A good camera with zoom, a decent binocular, sufficient water and good guide book are a must.
* Avoid long weekends/ public holidays to ensure better wildlife viewing experience.
* A good guide/ naturalist can make lot of difference to your overall safari experience, always hire a good naturalist even if it is little expensive.
* Remember you are in the forest & not a zoo, try to explore more info about other species as well.
* Ideally trip should be minimum for 2-3 days & one should do minimum 2-3 safaris to enhance sighting possibility.
Essentials/ must carry:
* Avoid bright clothing while on safari, idea is to blend in.
* Some of the must carry items while going on safari- sun screen lotion spf 50 & above, hand sanitizer, facial wipes, sun/ transparent glasses.
* Camera bag covers/ rain coats/ umbrellas do come in hand in case of rains.
* Safaris can be dusty at times- a good face mask/ cover always comes in hand.
* Protect your camera equipment by keeping them in camera bag/ cleaning them with brush/ dust blower.
* Always carry additional batteries during safari as at times you might not get chance to charge existing one.
* Extra SD & CF cards and carrying cases always come in handy.
* A small torch / headlamp would always come in hand especially for macro photography.
* In case accompanied by young children it would be good to carry diaper disposal bag/ light snack/milk.
Feature Image Source: Anurag Sharma