Seeing the majestic big cats in the wild is like a long-coveted dream coming true for most of us. And, there is no better place to spot the Royal Bengal tigers than India. With 50 tiger reserves spread across 18 states, India is famous for conserving the big cats in the wild. It is home to over 70% tiger population in the world. The count of tigers in India has grown from 1,411 in 2006 to 2,967 in 2018, according to the All India Tiger Estimation Report-2018.
Madhya Pradesh with 526 tigers boasts of the highest tiger population followed by Karnataka with 524 tigers. We have picked up 12 best reserves with a sizable tiger population, which are famous for sighting tigers in India.
A Quick Glance Through
- Kanha Tiger Reserve
- Corbett Tiger Reserve
- Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve
- Bandhavgarh National Park
- Ranthambore National Park
- Bandipur National Park
- Kaziranga National Park
- Sundarbans National Park
- Nagarhole National Park
- Mudumalai Tiger Reserve
- Dudhwa National Park
- Periyar Tiger Reserve
1. Kanha Tiger Reserve
In the Satpura mountain range of Madhya Pradesh, some 170 km from Jabalpur, lies the iconic Kanha Tiger Reserve. It is the same forest that served as a source of inspiration for the famous novel ‘Jungle Book’ by Rudyard Kipling.
Established as a national park in 1955, it was brought under Project Tiger in 1973. It is spread over a core area of 940 sq km and together with the buffer area, it covers a whopping 2,117 sq km.
Kanha is a veritable treasure trove of natural landscapes, exquisite wildlife and endemic flora. It is known for its bountiful population of tigers in India.
This reserve also takes pride in driving a successful wildlife conservation program to save an almost extinct swamp deer species (Barasingha).
Mukki, Kisli, Kanha and Sarhi are the four core zones of this tiger reserve. Though tigers are free to roam anywhere in the forest, Kanha and Mukki offers the best opportunities to sight the big cats.
Check this post to find out more about wildlife experiences in the Kanha forest: Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve – Treasures of Wildlife.
2. Corbett Tiger Reserve
Established as Hailey National Park in 1936, Corbett National Park is the first national park in India. It was renamed Corbett National Park in 1957 after the famous hunter turned naturalist Jim Corbett.
The reserve is located in the hill state of Uttarakhand across Nainital and Pauri Garhwal districts. It is spread over a vast area of 1318 sq km, out of which 520 sq km is the core area. This was amongst the first few national parks to be brought under the Project Tiger in 1973.
Corbett is one of the noted reserves to spot tigers in India. According to a tiger population estimate at Corbett, there could be around 250 tigers in the forest. Explore the reserve to spot leopard, barking deer, sambar deer, langur and many other mammals.
With more than 500 resident and migratory bird species, Corbett has been a favourite haunt of birdwatchers. Paradise flycatcher, crested serpent eagle and parakeets are the commonly seen birds here.
Bijrani, Dhikala, Jhirna, Dhela, Durga Devi and Sonanadi are designated as core zones. The most popular ones are Bijrani and Dhikala.
Also Read: Corbett National Park – A Complete Travel Guide.
3. Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve
It lies in Chandrapur district in the Vidarbha region, roughly 145 km away from Nagpur. The Tadoba lake and Andhari river, meandering through the Tadoba forests serve as an important source of water for wildlife in the reserve.
The big cats of Tadoba are a major draw for tourists. According to the National Estimation of Tigers Report (2015), the tiger population in Tadoba has grown from 17 in 2010 to 88 in 2015, including core and buffer areas.
The densely wooded forests of the reserve provide a perfect habitat for tigers to hide and sneak up on the prey. It is counted amongst the best reserves to spot tigers in India.
Besides tigers, Tadoba offers plenty of opportunities to see other forms of wildlife, such as sloth bear, nilgai, jungle cat and striped hyena.
The core zones of the reserve are accessible through 6 entry gates (Moharli, Khutvanda, Kolara, Navegaon, Pangdi and Zari). Moharli is the most popular zone, where the majority of safaris are allowed.
4. Bandhavgarh National Park
The history of Bandhavgarh dates back to the glorious Ramayan era. The name Bandhavgarh is derived from the ancient Bandhavgarh fort which is believed to be a gift to Lakshmana from brother Rama.
It was set up as a national park in 1968 with an area of 105 sq km and upgraded to tiger reserve in 1993. The park is located in Umaria district of Madhya Pradesh.
Owing to a high tiger density in the region, Bandhavgarh is an immensely popular national park to see tigers in India. Tala is the most visited tourist zone. Magadhi and Khitauli zones are also known for excellent wildlife sightings.
Other animals in the park include barking deer, sambar deer, wild boar, leopard, wild dog and gaur (Indian bison).
5. Ranthambore National Park
Tucked between the Aravali hills and Vindhya hills, Ranthambore National Park is situated atop a plateau in southeastern Rajasthan. It derives its name from the notable Ranthambore fort located inside the park.
It was once maintained as the hunting reserve for the royals of Jaipur. In 1980, the Ranthambore forest was established as National Park covering 274.5 sq km.
Much later in 1992, the adjoining Keladevi Sanctuary and Sawai Mansingh sanctuary were included to form Ranthambore Tiger Reserve (1,334 sq km).
Ranthambore is renowned for being home to the most famous tigress in the world “Machli”. She featured in many wildlife documentaries and grabbed a lot of media attention when she was alive.
There could be around 61 tigers in the park, according to a report by Ranthambore Wildlife Division. You can’t miss visiting Ranthambore if you wish to see the majestic tigers in India.
Apart from tigers, you can also spot sloth bear, leopard, jackal, blackbuck and common langurs in the reserve. Birds are also found here in abundance.
6. Bandipur National Park
Home to a variety of wildlife, Bandipur National Park is a treat for wildlife explorers. This is the largest national park in Karnataka, spread over 874 sq km. It is located in Chamarajanagar district, roughly 80 km away from Mysore.
Also Read: 5 Best National Parks in Karnataka.
It once served as a hunting ground for the rulers of the Kingdom of Mysore. In 1973, it was set up as Bandipur Tiger Reserve under the Project Tiger. Bandipur is a fabled wildlife destination to spot Royal Bengal tigers in India.
In the last tiger census report (2018), Karnataka with tiger population of 524 is second only to Madhya Pradesh with 526 tigers.
Gray langur, Spotted deer, Malabar giant squirrel and four-horned antelopes are few other commonly seen animals in the reserve.
Bandipur is also known for its salubrious population of elephants. Check this post if you want to know where you can see wild elephants in India: 15 Best Wildlife Destinations for Sighting Elephants in India.
7. Kaziranga National Park
Famous for its plentiful wildlife, Kaziranga National Park is a favourite haunt of wildlife explorers from all over the world.
The most conspicuous animal of Kaziranga is one-horned rhinoceros but it is equally known for a sizable tiger population. The park is spread over Golaghat and Nagaon districts of Assam covering 430 sq km.
According to estimates, the tiger population in Kaziranga is pegged at 104. The park offers opportunities to spot a fairly eclectic mix of wildlife including mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
Apart from its flagship species, one-horned rhinos, Kaziranga is a popular wildlife destination for sighting tigers in India.
8. Sundarbans National Park
The land of the largest mangrove forest on earth, Sundarbans presents a unique landscape filled with small islands, tidal waterways and mudflats.
It lies in the delta of the two most important rivers of India, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra.
Measuring 10,000 sq km-expanse, the mangrove forests are spread across India and Bangladesh. Nearly 40% of that is in India.
Also Read: 8 Most Beautiful Mangrove Forests in India.
Sundarbans National Park was established in 1984, spanning an area of 1,330 sq km.
UNESCO has recognised it as a World Heritage Site. Royal Bengal tigers are the major attraction of Sundarbans.
Tiger sightings are not uncommon but you need to be at the right place at the right time. The last tiger census (2018) at Sundarbans pegs the tiger population in this forest at 88.
Other animals, such as leopard cat, wild boar, fishing cat and crocodiles can also be spotted here.
Its waters are rich in fish and attract a lot of birds feeding on fishes. Sundarbans is a sheer delight for wildlife lovers and undoubtedly, one of the best wildlife destinations to spot tigers in India.
You can explore the bountiful wildlife of Sundarbans on a boat safari. There are fenced watchtowers inside the forest which also give opportunities to spot wild animals.
9. Nagarhole National Park
Abutting the north-western boundary of Bandipur National park in Karnataka, situated is the Nagarhole National Park. The Kabini reservoir separates Nagarhole from Bandipur.
In the Western Ghats, it is a major wildlife destination to spot tigers in India. The park is stretched across 643 sq km across Kodagu and Mysore districts.
Established as a wildlife sanctuary in 1955, it was in the year 1999 when Nagarhole National Park was declared a tiger reserve.
The combined protected area (1500 sq km) of Bandipur and Nagarhole is estimated to be home to almost 250 tigers. No wildlife sighting is guaranteed but Nagarhole is known for its incredible wildlife encounters.
The park offers opportunities to explore several other forms of wildlife, like leopard, golden jackal, jungle cat, porcupine and barking deer.
10. Mudumalai Tiger Reserve
Nestled in the Nilgiri hills along the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve is contiguous to Bandipur National Park. On the west, the reserve shares its boundary with Kerala and on the northern side with Karnataka.
It was declared a tiger reserve in 2007 to protect the endangered Royal Bengal tigers. As a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, the Mudumalai reserve offers exciting opportunities to see tigers in India.
The protected area supports a sizable population of mammals, reptiles and birds. Gaur (Indian bison), wild boar, sambar deer and barking deer are some of the commonly spotted animals in the reserve.
The presence of a wide variety of birds in this forest attracts a lot of birders. You may spot birds like Malabar trogon and Malabar grey hornbill, which are found in the Western Ghats region.
11. Dudhwa National Park
In the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh, some 230 km from Lucknow lies the magical Dudhwa National Park. Spanning 490 sq km, the park is home to a large number of endangered wildlife.
In 1958, it was set up as a wildlife sanctuary for the conservation of swamp deer. Later, the sanctuary was expanded to include the adjacent Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary and Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary to form Dudhwa Tiger Reserve.
The reserve is famous for its spectacular wildlife experiences. It is considered one of the finest forests to sight tigers in India. There could be more than 70 adult tigers in this reserve, according to the tiger census at Dudhwa Tiger Reserve.
Besides tigers, you may spot swamp deer, elephant, sloth bear and leopard. Home to nearly 400 bird species, the reserve offers excellent bird watching experience. Migratory birds like painted stork, lesser whistling duck and Eurasian Griffon can be seen during the winter season.
12. Periyar Tiger Reserve
Kerala’s first tiger reserve, Periyar is not only known for scenic boat rides in Periyar lake but also for plentiful wildlife. Though established as a wildlife sanctuary in 1950, it was declared a tiger reserve in 1978.
It is nestled in the southern region of the Western Ghats covering 777 sq km forest area. This reserve hosts 35 Royal Bengal tigers, according to a tiger census (2017) in Periyar.
The boat ride and bamboo rafting on the Periyar lake provide unique opportunities to watch the wildlife in the forest. In the Southern region, Periyar is one of the prominent reserves to see tigers in India.
It is also a renowned elephant reserve. Besides tigers and elephants, you can also spot Nilgiri tahr, lion-tailed macaque, Nilgiri langur and gaur (Indian bison).
Over To You Now…
Have you visited any of these forests to spot the magnificent Royal Bengal tigers in India? Tell us about your wildlife experiences in the comments section below.
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