10 Best Tiger Safari Destinations in India
For people living in cities and urban towns, a tryst with nature and wildlife always evokes wonder and delight. Hence a huge population of people going on vacation, look forward to destinations which offer them something different from the regular urban razzmatazz and let them experience the wonders of nature.
A Wildlife safari is one such activity which, can be indulged in by the whole family and helps city dwellers recognize the importance of maintaining the balance in our environment and living a harmonious life, co-existent with other living organisms. Amongst the multitude of wildlife species, the Tiger, which is our National Animal, has always evoked curiosity, awe and pride. Alarmed at the dwindling numbers of this fascinating animal, our Government has stepped up measures to create a safe and thriving environment for the famous tiger along with other wildlife species and therefore a number of Tiger Reserves, Sanctuaries and National Parks have been established over the years.
We have listed just a few of them here for your information. So toss your safari hats onto your heads and get packing !
Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
The Ranthambore National Park in Sawai Madhopur is a safe haven for tigers and considered a great prospect to sight these ferocious cats, as very often they can be seen lying around basking in the sun or just lazily ambling around this huge reserve. Recent reports in the last couple of years have indicated that the tiger population is almost at a nice figure of 65 and slowly increasing, which is a positive occurrence. The reserve is divided into several zones like the Kachida Valley, Bakaula, Rajbaugh ruins, Padam Talao, the majestic Ranthambore Fort and several others. Besides tigers, tourists are treated to the sight of many other animals like Leopards, Striped Hyenas, Nilgai, Jackals, Indian Flying Foxes and many, many more along with several bird species too.
Best time to visit : While the months of February and March have a pleasant climate for wildlife sight-seeing, the months of April and May are the best months to spot the tiger.
How to reach :
By air – The airport at Jaipur is the closest to Ranthambore National Park. One can hire taxis or take any of the buses available to the reserve.
By train – The railway station at Sawai Madhopur is nearest to the National Park and well connected to several major cities across the county. Tourists can hire taxis or take any of the Public or Private buses available.
By bus – Regular bus services, both public as well as private are available from Sawai Madhopur to Ranthambore National park.
Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand
The Jim Corbett National Park, tucked away at the foothills of the Himalayas in Ramnagar, Uttarakhand, was the first park in India to initiate Project Tiger. Though the population of tigers in this park is quite good, it may be slightly difficult to spot these wild cats due to the vast nature of the landscape. A good driver and informed guide are essential in order to enjoy the safari. One of the oldest and largest tiger reserves in the country, the forests of this park are rich in flora and varied fauna with plenty of plants, trees, resident and migratory birds and several species of wild animals besides tigers. The varied topography of this huge national park consists of grasslands, marshes and sal forests.
Best time to visit : November to June
How to reach :
By air – The nearest domestic airport which is well connected to various major cities of the country is at Pantnagar and the nearest international airport is at New Delhi, about 260 km away. From here one can hire cars, taxis, tempo travelers or take any of the buses that are available for travel to Jim Corbett.
By train – The railway station nearest to the park is at Ramnagar, about 12 km away. Regular trains operate from here to Delhi and vice versa.
By bus – There are several bus options from Delhi to Ramnagar. The Uttarakhand State Transportation has several buses plying from various cities in the state to Ramnagar too.
Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Known for the Royal Bengal Tigers residing here, The Bandhavgarh National Park is considered as one of the best tiger reserves in the country, for the simple fact that it has the highest population of tigers. Located in the Umaria district of Madhya Pradesh, Bandhavgarh was earlier known as the ‘Land of the white Tiger’ until the last white tiger was captured by the then ruling king in 1951. The best zone for spotting the tiger or a tiger safari is the Tala zone in the National Park, which is one of the four major zones that the park is divided into. This zone has a higher density of tigers and is also rich in biodiversity. This national park housed some very famous tigers and is home to various other animals including several species of birds, insects and reptiles.
Best time to visit : While one can visit the park right from October till June, the best time to spot tigers would be from April to June.
How to reach :
By air – The nearest airports to the National Park are at Jabalpur and Khajuraho which have regular flights to several major cities of the country.
By train – The nearest railway stations are at Umaria and Katni which have good rail connectivity with several cities across the country.
By bus – Regular buses are available from several nearby towns and cities like Khajuraho, Umaria, Jabalpur and Satna.
Sunderban National Park, West Bengal
Sprawled across a massive expanse of 2, 585 sq.km, the Sunderban Tiger Reserve, which is located in the southern most tip of West Bengal where the marshland links with the splendid sea, is home to about 400 tigers. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it also bears the distinction of being the largest tiger reserve and National Park in the Indian Subcontinent. Regarded as the biggest mangrove forests in the world, the Sunderban Tiger Reserve is a complete tourists delight, with the presence of so many ‘Royal Bengal Tigers’, several endangered species of aquatic mammals and reptiles, an exciting range of migratory birds, roaring rivers, enticing creeks and that exciting, wildlife experience. The experience is heightened further to a hair-raising level, as unlike other National Parks, where sight-seeing is done by roads in Jeeps and other safari vehicles, the Sunderbans uses boats for transportation and sight-seeing, galvanizing the tourists to be on guard and prepared for anything.
Best time to visit : One can visit this Tiger Reserve anytime between September to March, but the best spotting of tigers takes place between November to February.
How to reach :
By air – The nearest airport which is well connected with other cities in the country through regular flights is at Kolkata, about 112 km away. From here one can hire taxis to travel to the National park.
By train – The nearest major railway station is the Sealdah Railway Station which has good rail connectivity with several cities and the local railway station is at Canning. From here one can take the taxi or any public transport to the National Park.
By bus – There is no direct bus from Kolkata to Canning. People can hire taxis or cabs.
Pench National Park, Madhya Pradesh
The Pench Tiger Reserve and National Park is considered one of the premier Tiger Reserves of the country and is the only one to stretch across two states, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The National Park gets its name from the river Pench, which flows inside the park from North to South before going on to join the Kanhan river. Once considered very rich and diverse in wildlife, flora and fauna, large tracts of land were cleared for cultivation and housing reducing the forest cover and therefore density of wildlife. The tiger population here is a bit difficult to spot around the reserve but one may get lucky around the Pench river as they are normally found around that place.
Best time to visit : April to June. The park is closed from July to September.
How to reach :
By air – The nearest airport to Pench at a distance of about 132 km is the Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport in Nagpur which is well connected with several cities across the country.
By train – The nearest Railway Station is at Seoni, at a distance of about 30 km from the national park. One can hire taxis or take the bus available to reach your destination.
By bus – Private as well as Government run buses are available from several cities to Seoni.
Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Regarded as one of the more spectacular tiger reserves, the Kanha National Park has huge meadows where the animals roam freely and tourists can get a really good view of the wildlife there. Extended across the Mekal Range, the Kanha National Park is a forest covered with Sal and many other trees and dotted with sprawling meadows which is an ideal location to spot the tigers when they come out to bask in the sun or drink from the streams. Besides the tigers and various other animal species, this park is famous for sheltering the famous Barasingha deer, which is an endangered species and found only here.
Best time to visit : April to June.
How to reach :
By air – The airport nearest to Kanha National Park is at Jabalpur, about 160 km away.
By train – The nearest railway station is at Gondia and Jabalpur.
By bus – Bus services are available upto Jabalpur, Bilaspur and Nagpur. From there, one can hire cabs or the local bus.
Tadoba National Park, Maharashtra
A comparatively new Tiger Reserve amongst others in India, the Tadoba National Park in Chandrapur district of Maharshtra, is the oldest and largest in the state. Spread over a large area of about 625 sq.kms, Tadoba is a great location for sighting the booming population of about 75-80 tigers as there are no restrictions about visiting any area within the park and hence one has a higher chance of spotting wildlife in their hide-outs. The Tadoba Lake within the dry deciduous forest along with other waterholes Panchadhara and Pandharpauni are also great places to spot this wildcat and many other interesting species of animals and birds. The Jungle Safaris with open topped jeeps, a trained guide and viewing the tiger up close at hardly any distance, make these outings at Tadoba even more adventurous and exciting.
Best time to visit : The National Park is lovely to visit from October onwards as everything is green and beautiful but the summer months of April and May are the best months to spot the tiger.
How to reach :
By air – The airport closest to the National Park is at Nagpur, from where one can take a cab to Chandrapur.
By train – Chandrapur has a railway station but there is better rail connectivity from Nagpur.
By bus – Chimur and Chandrapur are the two nearest bus stands to the National Park and buses are available from Nagpur and many other major cities to these places.
Bandipur National Park
An integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, The Bandipur National Park in Karnataka with its rich, dense, western ghat forests, is another great place to spot the tiger. With its amazing landscape and a wonderful count of more than 75 tigers, Bandipur is a great weekend getaway from both Bengaluru and Mysore. The National Park is a delightful attraction with its rich variety of flora, splendid array of birds, herds of wild elephants and other wildlife like leopards, gaur, sloth bear, striped hyena, mongoose, spotted deer and plenty more.
Best time to visit : While the winters are beautiful here, the best chance to spot tigers is in the months of April and May.
How to reach :
By air – The nearest airport is at Mysore and from here one can take the bus or taxi to the National Park.
By train – There is no railway station at Bandipur. The closest rail head which is connected with several cities is in Mysore. One can take the bus or taxi from here to Bandipur.
By bus – Both Private as well as state-run buses operate from several cities around Bandipur and neighbouring states to Bandipur.
Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary
The Nagzira wildlife sanctuary, situated between Bhandara district and Gondia district of Maharashtra, near Nagpur is a picturesque wildlife canvas with lush green vetetation, an amazing variety of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. One of the lesser known Tiger Reserves, the Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary has a rough terrain and dense teak forests which provide an excellent cover for the variety of carnivores like tigers, leopards, jackals and many more.
Best time to visit : The best time to sight the tigers is in the months of March to May, however the sanctuary is open from October to June.
How to reach :
By air – The nearest airport is at Nagpur which has regular flights between several major cities of India.
By train – The nearest railway stations are at Gondia, Bhandara Road, Soundad and Tirora. However, the railway station at Nagpur has the best rail network with several major cities. One can take a taxi or buses plying to Nagzira Sanctuary which are available from some of these locations.
By bus – Sakoli is the nearest bus stand to the Sanctuary, just 22 km away on the Nagpur-Kolkata National Highway.
Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary
Established as recently as in the year 2013, the Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary (UKWLS) located at a distance of just 58 km from Nagpur, is slowly gaining popularity as the number of fauna in this sanctuary is steadily increasing with each passing year. The tiger population, which is a much sought after species as an attraction, has been on the rise here due to availability of good prey and an ideal habitat. Other wildlife existing here are the herds of Gaur, flying squirrels, Pangolins, wild dogs, honey badger, beautiful variety of birds and lots more.
Best time to visit : Summer months of March to May.
How to reach :
By air – The airport at Nagpur is closest to UKWLS.
By train – The nearest and well-connected railway station is also at Nagpur.
By bus – Umred is the nearest Bus Station.
Picture Credits : Ranthambore National Park – Baldwins Travel, Jim Corbett National Park – jagran.com, Bandhavgarh National Park – Wild Earth Safari, Sunderban National Park – india.com, Pench National Park – Andbeyond, Kanha National Park – Wikipedia, Tadoba National Park – Dna India, Bandipur National Park – Wildtrails, Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary – Tour Travel World, Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary – Wandertrails