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Indian Tiger Reserve: A Wildlife Enthusiast’s Guide

A Naturalist and Wildlife Photographers guide to Tiger Sighting

Ranthambore, Rajasthan

Indian Tiger Reserves host close to 70% of the world tiger population. There are about 2226 tigers across India with the highest population density measured in Bandipur and Corbett National Park. Tiger safari and sighting is an adventure activity that has caught up among young people during the last decade.

The below list is based on my experience as Naturalist and Wildlife Photography Mentor of the best Tiger reserves in terms of sightings and habitat.

1. Jim Corbett National Park (Uttarakhand)

Jim Corbett, Uttarakhand
Jim Corbett, Uttarakhand

Jim Corbett National Park is the oldest national park in India and established in 1936 to protect the endangered Bengal Tiger. It covers an area of 520.8 sq kms and located in the Nainital district, Uttarakhand. It is named after Jim Corbett who played a key role in its establishment.

The park spreads over the hills, river belts, marshy lands, grasslands and a large lake. It usually rains during July to September. The park is host to over 110 speces of trees, 50 species of mammals, 580 bird species and 25 reptile species.

Safari Permits Booking: 45 days in advance
Booking Method: Direct or Agents
Closest Airport: Delhi
Closest Train Station: Ramnagar

2. Kaziranga National Park (Assam)

Kaziranga, Assam
Kaziranga, Assam

Kaziranga National Park was established in 1908 and located in Golaghat and Nagaon districts of Assam. It covers an area of 430 sq kms and was established on the recommendation of Mary Curzon. It has one of the highest density of tigers and home to two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceroses.

Kaziranga is a vast expanse of tall elephant grass, marshland, and dense tropical moist broadleaf forests, crisscrossed by four major rivers, including the Brahmaputra, and the park includes numerous small bodies of water.

Safari Permits Booking: 30 Days in advance
Booking Method: Direct
Closest Airport: Guwahati
Closest Train Station: Guwahati

3. Ranthambore National Park (Rajasthan)

Ranthambore, Rajasthan
Ranthambore, Rajasthan

Ranthambore National Park was established in 1980 covering over 392 sq kms in the Sawai Madhopur region of Rajasthan. It was the former hunting ground for the Royals. It houses the imposing 10th-century Ranthambore Fort, on a hilltop, and Padam Talao Lake which is known for its abundant water lilies.

Ranthambore is known for its Bengal Tiger population which can be best spotted during May and November. The sanctuary hosts the Indian leopard, nilgai, wild boar, sambar, striped hyena, sloth bear, southern plains gray langur, rhesus macaque, mugger crocodile, chital and also one of the largest banyan trees in India.

Safari Permits Booking: 90 days in advance
Booking Method: Direct or Agents
Closest Airport: Jaipur
Closest Train Station: Sawai Madhopur

4. Bandhavgargh National Park (Rajasthan)

Bandhavgargh, Madhya Pradesh
Bandhavgargh, Madhya Pradesh

Bandhavgarh National Park was established in 1968 and situated in the Umaria district of Madhya Pradesh. It covers an area of 1536 sq kms and the name is derived from the most prominent hillock of the area, which is said to be given to Lakshmana by Lord Rama to keep a watch on Lanka.

Bandhavgarh has one of the highest population of tiger and a large breeding population of leopards and deers. Maharaja Martand Singh of Rewa captured a white tiger here in 1951 and is now stuffed and displayed in the palace of Rewa.

Safari Permits Booking: 120 Days in advance
Booking Method: Direct or Agents
Closest Airport: Jabalpur
Closest Train Station: Katni, Umaria

5. Kanha Tiger Reserve (Madhya Pradesh)

Kanha, Madhya Pradesh
Kanha, Madhya Pradesh

Kanha Tiger Reserve was established in 1933 and covers over 940 sq kms in the Mandla and Balaghat districts of Madhya Pradesh. It has a significant population of Royal Bengal Tigers, Indian Leopards, Sloth Bears, Barasingha and Indian wild dog.

Rudyard Kipling’s famous novel, The Jungle Book depicts the forests of Kanha National Park. Kanha Tiger Reserve has an official mascot “Bhoorsingh the Barasingha”.

Safari Permits Booking: Every day – No Restrictions
Booking Method: Direct or Agents
Closest Airport: Nagpur, Jabalpur, Raipur
Closest Train Station: Jabalpur, Gondia, Raipur, Bilaspur, Balaghat

6. Pench Tiger Reserve (Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra)

Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra
Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra

Pench Tiger Reserve is a premier reverse spread across two states – Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. It was established in 1977 and covers an area of 292.85 sq kms of reserve forests. River Pench flows from North to South splitting the Park in two, before joining river Kanhan. It has a population of about 51 tigers.

Safari Permits Booking: Every day – No Restrictions
Booking Method: Direct or Agents
Closest Airport: Nagpur, Jabalpur, Raipur
Closest Train Station: Seoni

7. Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (Maharashtra)

Tadoba, Maharashtra
Tadoba, Maharashtra

Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve was established in 1995 and located in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra covering over 625.40 sq kms of forest area. “Tadoba” is taken from the name of the god “Tadoba” or “Taru”, worshipped by the tribes who live in the dense forests, while “Andhari” refers to the Andhari river that flows through the forest.

Safari Permits Booking: 30 days to 1 year in advance
Booking Method: Direct or Agents
Closest Airport: Nagpur
Closest Train Station: Chandrapur

8. Nagarhole National Park (Karnataka)

Nagarhole, Karnataka
Nagarhole, Karnataka

Nagarhole National Park was established in 1988, covering 642.39 sq kms of forest in the Kodagu and Mysore district of Karnataka. The park has rich forest cover, small streams, hills, valleys, and waterfalls. The park has a healthy predator-prey ratio, with many tigers, Gaur, elephants, Indian leopards, and deer.

The park derives its name from naga, meaning snake and hole, referring to streams. The park was an exclusive hunting reserve of the kings of the Wodeyar dynasty, the former rulers of the Kingdom of Mysore.

Safari Permits Booking: Every day – No Restrictions
Booking Method: Direct or Jungle Lodge Resorts
Closest Airport: Mysore, Bangalore
Closest Train Station: Mysore

9. Sundarbans Tiger Reserve (West Bengal)

Sundarbans, West Bengal
Sundarbans, West Bengal

Sundarbans National Park is a large coastal mangrove forest, shared by India and Bangladesh covering a total area of 2585 sq kms. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and considered as a World Network of Biosphere Reserve (Man and Biosphere Reserve). It is home to the Royal Bengal Tigers, estuarine crocodiles and Ganges River Dolphins.

Safari Permits Booking: Every day – No Restrictions
Booking Method: Direct
Closest Airport: Kolkatta
Closest Train Station: Canning

10. Periyar National Park (Kerala)

Periyar, Kerala
Periyar, Kerala

Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary were established in 1982 and covered 925 sq kms of forest area in the districts of Idukki, Kottayam, and Pathanamthitta of Kerala. It is an elephant and tiger reserve. It has a population of about 35 Bengal Tigers and known have white tigers.

Safari Permits Booking: Every day – No Restrictions
Booking Method: Direct
Closest Airport: Kochi
Closest Train Station: Kottayam

11. Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary (Maharashtra)

Nagzira, Maharashtra
Nagzira, Maharashtra

Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1970 and located in Bhandara and Gondia districts of Maharashtra covering about 152.81 sq kms of forest area. It is known for its picturesque landscape and luxuriant vegetation. The sanctuary hosts a number of species of fishes, 34 species of mammals, 166 species of birds, 36 species of reptiles and four species of amphibians.

Safari Permits Booking: 30 days to 1 year in advance
Booking Method: Direct
Closest Airport: Nagpur
Closest Train Station: Nagpur, Gondia, Bhandara

12. Bandipur National Park (Karnataka)

Bandipur National Park
Bandipur National Park (Photo Credit: Sunil Sachi)

Bandipur National Park was established in 1974, covering 874 sq kms of forest in the Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka. It is about 80 kms from the city of Mysore on the route to a major tourist destination of Ooty. As a result, Bandipur sees a lot of tourist traffic and there are many wildlife fatalities caused by speeding vehicles that are reported each year. There is a ban on traffic from 9 pm to 6 am of dusk to dawn to help bring down the death rate of wildlife.

Together with the adjoining Nagarhole National Park, Mudumalai National Park, and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, it is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve totaling 2,183 kms making it the largest protected area in southern India and largest habitat of wild elephants in South Asia.

Safari Permits Booking: Every day – No Restrictions
Booking Method: Direct or Jungle Lodge Resorts
Closest Airport: Mysore, Bangalore
Closest Train Station: Mysore

Project Tiger

Project Tiger was launched by the Government of India in the year 1973 to save the endangered species of tiger in the country. Along with declaring these reserves, forest department issues permits for the general public to visit the forests to get an experience of sighting a tiger in the wild. This not only generates revenue but as well reduces poaching activity.

Kesava is a naturalist, wildlife photographer and photography mentor at BirdWing. They organize Photo Tours to various National Parks around the world.

Check out the complete list of tiger reserves in India.

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Written by Kesava Murthy

Kesavamurthy is a naturalist, wildlife photographer and photography mentor. He is the founder/CEO of Birdwing Travel & Photography. He has traveled extensively in India and Kenya and mentored over 1000 photography enthusiasts. He posts as @nkesavamurthy on Instagram where you can follow his work.

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