Netflix docuseries Tiger King burst onto our screens like a meth lab explosion. Watching this show about human greed and violence among a bunch of hillbilly meth addicts (with a supposed love for big cats) only left me feeling sorry for the animals. On the plus side, Tiger King has raised awareness of all the tigers living in captivity in the USA. Call me naive but I thought the tiger in The Hangover was just a movie stunt. So where do you go to see wild tigers? India is the best place to see tigers in the wild. India claims to have about 3000 wild tigers (about 70%) of the approximately 4000 worldwide wild tiger population. A tiger safari in India is a major undertaking so we’ve asked our travel blogger friends for advice on the best places to see tigers in India. Here’s our list of the 10 best tiger safaris in India as well as the best national park in Nepal for tiger safaris.
Tigers in Zoos
Generally I am not a fan of zoos. I find them depressing because no matter how much space the animals have, they are still not free. Having been in a Coronavirus lockdown for weeks, I feel even more strongly that animals shouldn’t be in enclosures.
On the other hand, zoos do serve the purpose of education and research. We had a family pass to the London Zoo when my kids were younger because my children love animals. We’d go every week and check out what the animals were up to and then go to the playground in the zoo. I know my brother and his family have yearly passes to the Philadelphia Zoo. Lots of families visit the zoo. I’m not judging.
How cool is this albino tiger we saw at the animal zoo of Lora Parque in Tenerife?
For my children, the love of (and respect for) animals started with our family dog. Then visiting zoos and rescue centres only cemented how cool wild animals are. So, although not my preference, I understand why families visit zoos.
Nowadays, we visit animal rescue centres more than zoos. And, my daughter has yet to pass a cat cafe she hasn’t wanted to visit. None of these experiences though were equal to being on safari in South Africa.
Captive Tigers in the USA
There are more captive tigers in the USA alone than there are tigers in the wild in the entire world.
Where do wild animals really NOT belong? Roadside animal attractions, private zoos, psuedo-sanctuaries, malls, small New York City apartments, Las Vegas hotel rooms etc.
I kid you not.
The Tiger King series showed how they would smuggle baby tigers into Vegas hotel rooms in carry-on luggage. Apparently it is a real babe magnet.
There’s also Ming the Tiger who lived in a Harlem apartment with Al the Alligator and their human companion. The neighbours never told the authorities because snitches get stitches. That worked until the human caretaker got bit and had to get stitches himself.
If you don’t have the resources to watch wild animals in the wild, please go to a conventional zoo instead of local animal menageries or roadside zoos.
Why Take Tiger Safaris?
The thrill of spotting a tiger in the wild after painstakingly looking for them is much cooler than having them paraded in front of you at a zoo. Unless you are three years old, you should appreciate that anticipation is half the thrill of wildlife encounters.
Tigers are majestic and endangered. You may not actually see a tiger but you will have a wonderful time on tiger safaris trying.
On the point of endangered species, some Mr. Know-Nothing Conservation on the Tiger King show said that raising tigers was helping their endangered status by repopulating them.
No. Tigers born in captivity can only be kept in zoos.
Tigers with too much human interaction can’t be reintroduced into the wild. Think about it – Tony the Tiger from Oklahoma is used to expired Walmart meat. What’s he going to do in an Indonesian jungle?
And, Mr. Know-Nothing Conservation doesn’t mention that tigers in captivity often get killed when they are no longer useful props for their humans.
Where To See Tigers in the Wild
Tigers are found mostly in Asia. With the biggest population of wild tigers, India is the best place to see tigers in the wild.
We were lucky enough to see tigers at Ranthambore National Park in the state of Rajasthan in India. Our guide took us for three days on daily tiger safaris. On the third day we struck lucky and saw a pair of relatively young tigers. They were playing and not doing a good job of staying hidden. The guide suggested that the mother tiger was off hunting for the family meal.
We stayed at the absolutely amazing Oberoi Vanyvilas Wildlife Resort which is a luxury tented camp with amazing facilities. A few miles away from Ranthambore, we have friends who stayed at the Aman-I-Khas Luxury Resort as well (and yes, they too saw tigers on their wildlife safaris in India).
Like the Ellie Cleary below, we also went to Periyar National Park in the state of Kerala for another round of wildlife safaris in India. We saw no tigers but we did see plenty of other wildlife, took the obligatory boat trip and experienced an Ayurveda massage. We stayed at Spice Village near Periyar which is a beautiful eco-friendly hotel set amidst the tea plantations of the area.
Here are several other travel bloggers with their suggestion on where you can see tigers in the wild.
Where To See Tigers in India
With around 3000 tigers spread amongst them, the best places to see tigers in India tend to be the national parks of India. On a tiger safari India offers a choice of transportation options – the usual jeep, or a canoe or even walking.
Tiger Safari in India: Bandhavgarh National Park
Like many people, seeing a tiger in the wild was something I wanted to experience for a long time. I finally got my chance when I went on a tour of the tiger reserves of Madhya Pradesh.
On my very first wildlife safari, which was in Bandhavgarh National Park, I was having tea with the naturalist, Naresh “Gudda” Singh, when he heard a growl. We slammed down our cups, leapt into the Gypsy, and drove along the road until we came to an abrupt halt.
I will never know how Gudda knew exactly where to stop … but seconds later, a young male tiger walked nonchalantly out of the forest and right towards us. It was an amazing sighting and of course I will never forget it.
I’ve been back to Bandhavgarh several times since then, and I have always managed to see tigers, every time. Bandhavgarh, one of India’s premier tiger reserves, always included in the list of places where you have a better chance of seeing a tiger in the wild. All ages can book jeep safaris, or a canter, and children under five are free.
– Mariellen Ward of Breathe Dream Go
Tiger Safari in India: Bandipur Tiger Reserve
Bandipur Tiger Reserve is located around 213kms from Bangalore in Chamrajanagar district of Karnataka. The reserve comes under the Project Tiger and was established in 1974. It is also a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere reserve.
The reserve has regular van and jeep safaries which can be taken by both adults and kids. We stayed at the Bandipur Safari Lodge which is closer to the Bandipur safari pickup point. We couldn’t see any tigers but could spot some elephants, deer and peacocks. The overall experience of taking wildlife safaris in India was amazing.
– Athul of Our Backpack Tales
Tiger Safari in India: Kanha National Park
When we talk about national parks of India where we can see tigers, Kanha National park in Madhya Pradesh is the first that comes to my mind. Popularly known as a Tiger reserve, this national park is declared as one of the finest wildlife zones in the world and also inspired author Rudyard Kipling to write his famous book “Jungle Book“.
We were lucky to get a tiger sighting in our first tiger safari itself, but sometimes it takes a few more before you can spot them. We would suggest to stay calm, maintain silence and follow the rules of the jungle.
We stayed at Kanha Earth Lodge which is a luxury hotel in the jungle with a swimming pool and other amenities. We could see families coming there to spend a few days of summer. The nearest airport to Kanha is Jabalpur which is an easy flight from Mumbai or New Delhi.
– Nisha and Vasu from Lemonicks
Tiger Safari in India: Manas National Park
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary enjoys the rare distinction of being a national park, a Project Tiger reserve, UNESCO Natural World Heritage site, an elephant reserve and a biosphere reserve in Assam. What makes it unique is the fact that the park stretches all the way to Bhutan where it is called the Royal Manas National Park.
Home to among the last remaining natural tropical evergreen forests in India, this place is a must-visit for wildlife enthusiasts. I went on a jeep safari and an elephant safari to spot tigers and rhinoceros. While I was lucky to spot the latter, tigers remained elusive. It was, however, good fun to spot tiger paws and remain still when our guide thought he could hear a tiger approach.
I stayed at the Smiling Tusker Elephant Camp in a beautiful cottage, which is a great place for families. The camp guides can arrange for a safari on request and they ensure that you have a great experience with them.
– Khushboo Motihar from Munni of All Trades
Tiger Safari in India: Nagarhole National Park
Nagarhole National Park lies in the Karnataka state of India. The park is located in the Coorg and Mysore district. Nagarhole is named after Naga, which means the snake and Hole, which means the streams in the park.
Nagarhole is one of the tiger reserves in India and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is famous for its predator Bengal tiger. The best time to visit the national park is between April and May (inclusive).
I have visited the national park many times and I have stayed at different resorts, but the best one is the Jungle Lodges Kabini. The lodges are owned by the Government of Karnataka. The property is along the Kabini River and is absolutely beautiful.
The jungle safaris are arranged by the Karnataka forest department that can be booked at the Jungle Lodges. The animal safaris are run every day, in the morning at 6 AM and in the evening at 3 PM.
– Raksha Nagaraj from SoloPassport
Tiger Safari in India: Periyar National Park
Periyar National Park is one of the more popular reserves and parks in India. It is well worth a visit if not only in the hopes of seeing a tiger, but for the fact that it offers two types of unique safari.
Periyar is not only one of the last national parks that you can walk into in India (we fortunately only came across some brawling bison during that foray as opposed to any big cats), but it’s also one of the few parks you can explore from the water.
Boating trips on Periyar Lake are one of the most popular activitiess in the park, but can get noisy and crowded – and you’re not likely to see a tiger. For a quieter experience we recommend trying rafting expeditions instead.
There are over 40 tigers in Periyar according to the 2019 tiger census, but they are well hidden in the dense forest, and unfortunately we didn’t spot one during our visit.
For your best chances of seeing them, try and stay in one of the government owned lodges such as Periyar House which is located within Periyar national park. Or, for a high end and highly sustainable experience, we recommend Spice Village by CHG Earth, consistently awarded as one of India’s most sustainable hotels and modelled on a spice plantation village.
– Ellie Cleary from Soul Travel India
Tiger Safari in India: Ranthambore National Park
To see tigers in the wild, the Ranthambore National Park is a perfect place to visit. About 3 ½ hours southeast from Jaipur in Rajasthan, this National Park is one of the biggest parks in Northern India. About 70 tigers live here, as well as leopards and lots of other wild animals which makes it one of the best wildlife safaris in India.
To go on a safari you have to book the game drive in advance and be sure to have your passport or ID with you. Kids are allowed at the park as well to enjoy the wildlife, and there is no age restriction.
The Jungle Vilas Ranthambore is a good option to stay close to the National Park. Besides rooms in the main building they also offer villas and a spacious pool to relax at in between the game drives.
– by Christina Leutner of City Sea Country
Tiger Safari in India: Sariska National Park
The Sariska National Park / Tiger Reserve, spread over 866 square kilometers, lies 200 kilometers from Delhi in Rajasthan. The park is a dry deciduous forest along with rocky landscapes and is rich in lakes and water bodies.
The low lying forest is lined by Salai, Ber, Khair trees whereas the upper hills have a canopy of Dhok trees. It is a home to various wildlife species like quail, peacock, blur bull, spotted deer, rufous treepie, langurs, wild boars, rhesus monkeys, and tigers.
There are multiple accommodation options in Sariska Tiger Reserve ranging from guest houses, tents, government guest houses to luxurious hotels. We stayed at Hotel Tiger Den, the government property managed by RTDC (Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation) which lies just 500 meters from the Sariska Tiger Reserve entry gate.
The Sariska Tiger Reserve is a perfect weekend getaway from New Delhi for wildlife & bird lovers and nature enthusiast. Safari are only allowed with a guide so is safe for both adults & kids.
– Suruchi Mittal of All Gud Things
Tiger Safari in India: Satpura Tiger Reserve
Tiger Safari in India: Tadoba Andhari
Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in the state of Maharashtra is a fantastic tiger reserve and is considered one of the easiest parks to spot a tiger, however it really is entirely your luck. You fly to Nagpur from any major city in India. Mumbai, the closest major airport to the tiger park, is approximately a 2 hour drive to the forest.
The jungle is beautiful and home to deer, bison, leopards and several other birds and animals. The tiger is of course what it’s more famous for. Children are allowed in a safari jeep but preferably over 5 years of age.
I stayed at Irai Resort which is a lovely property that has tents that are fully furnished with plumbing and air conditioning as well as comfortable cottages.
– Roxanne Bamboat from The Tiny Taster
Where To See Tigers in Nepal
Although Nepal only had 121 tigers in 2009, conservation efforts may drive that number to over 200 by 2022. So if you are looking for a tiger safari Nepal may be a good choice for you. Chitwan, a national park in Nepal is a UNESCO world heritage site where you take a tiger safari in Nepal.
Like everywhere else, as shown below by the experience of two different travellers, going on tiger safaris involves a fair bit of luck. One person only saw tiger tracks at Chitwan on their tiger safari, while the second person got very close to a tiger by the riverside.
Tiger Safari in Nepal: Chitwan National Park
If you are looking for tigers in the wild you might be surprised to learn that Nepal actually has a national park in the country that keeps wild tigers in their park. Located in the southern border of the country and next to India, the large natural preserve of Chitwan National Park contains the largest wild populations of rhinos, tigers, sloth bears, buffalo, jaguars and even barking deers located throughout the park.
The bio diverse landscape of lush jungle forests, beautiful rivers, streams and lakes and dry savannah make this a perfect natural environment for wildlife to be maintained and thrive in the park. Along with a dedicated national administration and crew that takes care of the park and watches for poaching, Chitwan is well protected and maintained.
The only way to see the park is through guides and safaris that you need to arrange in advanced through your hotel or a travel agency that can set up the visit for you to the area.
I stayed at an eco retreat called Machan Wildlife Resort that arranged all the tours, meals and a total fantastic experience to the park.
– Noel Morata from Travel Photo Discovery
The mist was just starting to clear as the sun rose over Chitwan National Park’s meandering river. I fought not to lose my footing as I climbed into the small wooden canoe that would take us deep into Nepal’s most famous jungle, where we hoped to see rhinos, bears and elephants. Suddenly, seemingly out of no where, there was a flash of colour against the green of the jungle. A large, male tiger stood watching us intently from the bank of the river giving us a once in a lifetime experience that I shall never forget.
We stayed in Chitwan Village Resort, basic but pleasant, in the heart of Chitwan village.The guides we booked through the accommodation were experienced and knowledgeable – a must when trekking through dense jungle with wildlife around every corner. This was a true adventure, and one that shouldn’t be missed!
– Emily from Two Get Lost
Where To See Wild Tigers in India and Nepal
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