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This April is the 50th anniversary of Project Tiger in India. A 2006 survey by the National Tiger Conservation Authority reported 1,411 tigers in India; by 2014 this number had risen to 2,226 and in 2018, to 2,967. Figures from the 2022 census, yet to be announced, are expected to exceed 3,000. India’s tiger population accounts for around three quarters of all wild tigers.

Tigers are listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List and the wild global population is still declining – there are actually more tigers in captivity than in the wild.

Tigers have disappeared from much of their historical range. They need space and lots of it. Habitat loss, fragmentation of habitat and degradation of habitat remain the primary long-term threat to tigers,  while loss of prey species, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade,  and conflict with humans are also key issues.

Kanha

Where to find tigers in India?

Madhya Pradesh, with six tiger reserves,  comes top of the table for tiger population per state.  Kanha and Bandhavgarh are widely regarded as offering the best chances of seeing a tiger.

Kanha is picturesque with wide open meadows, and is rumoured to have been the inspiration for Shere Khan and Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’. Bandhavgarh is home to real-life Tigress Raj Bhera, featured and followed by the BBC Dynasties film-makers. The park was a Shikargah, or game preserve for the Maharajas of Rewa, before becoming a national park.

Jim Corbett – look closely…

The state of Karnataka follows in second place with the tiger reserve of Bandipur leading the way,  and third is Uttarakhand, home to the vast Jim Corbett National Park.

Jim Corbett NP is India’s oldest tiger reserve in the foothills of the Himalayas,  and is reported to have the highest number of tigers of any single park, with over 200 tigers living within its boundaries. It is also known for its population of elephants.

To maximise chances of seeing tigers we recommend giving yourself plenty of time and combining several different reserves in one trip if at all possible.  Madhya Pradesh with six reserves is perfect for this. Please see a sample trip here.

Tiger sightings are unpredictable at the best of times . If you are only able to pick one destination, see our top four below (based on likelihood of tiger sighting in season) – it will be no surprise to see 2 of them are in Madhya Pradesh. Beautiful Ranthambore, dotted with ancient ruins,  has to make the list for being so picturesque and perfect in combination with other sights in Rajasthan but it is also the busiest tiger reserve because of its proximity to Delhi and the sights of Rajasthan so you’ll have to weigh up the pros and cons on that one!

  • Bandhavgarh (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Kanha (Madhya Pradesh)
  • Jim Corbett (Uttarakhand)
  • Ranthambore (Rajasthan)

Ruins of Ranthambore

When to see tigers

The peak season to visit tiger reserves is from October to March however if you can bear the heat, tiger sightings are actually said to be at their best March to June when the vegetation is more sparse. There are some regional differences. Jim Corbett for instance is best November to February. Tiger reserves close during the monsoon months of July, August and September, re-opening in early to mid October.

Off the beaten track 

If tigers are not the only thing on your agenda and you are happy to enjoy the landscape and other wildlife then you may like to consider some of the lesser-known tiger reserves. You may still see tiger…and you won’t be sharing your sighting with quite so many other people! Reserves to considerinclude Pench, Tadoba, Satpura and beautiful Panna.

Panna is a real gem and the last tiger habitat remaining in northern Madhya Pradesh. The lifeblood of the reserve is the spectacular Ken River, which flows south to north. Look out for an array of birdlife as well as gharials and muggars (marsh crocs).

Grassland habitat and open woodlands provide an ideal home for tiger, leopard, nilgai, chinkara, chousinga, chital, rusty spotted cat, porcupine, and sambhar. The national park was formed in 1981 and it became India’s 22nd tiger reserve in 1994. In 2011 Panna was declared a Biosphere Reserve, offering the largest remaining intact forest habitat in North Madhya Pradesh.

Seasons:

Summer: March-June
Monsoon: June – September.
Winter: November- February

How may tigers are there in Panna?

Reports differ – we know that tigers had disappeared completely by 2009 due to poaching.  An ambitious reintroduction began in March 2009. As many as 80 are reported to be in the park today.  T1, a famous female who was the first tiger to be translocated to Panna, from Bandhavgarh,  raised as many as 13 cubs from 5 litters.

Sadly, T1 passed away on 1 February 2023 from natural causes (old age) at the age of 17 years old. Life expectancy of a tiger is 14 years old. What a increadible cat and an amazing legacy.

The Sarai at Toria

Where to stay in Panna

We love the Sarai at Toria, located on the glorious Ken River.

A safari in Panna combines brilliantly with tiger reserves further south at Kanha and Bandhavgarh giving you parks with contrasting topography and atmosphere, and three chances to see tigers.

 

 

 

 

 

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