10 Tiger Safari Parks in India
1. Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh
Bandhavgarh National Park was once the game reserve of the Maharajahs of Rewa. Known to have the highest number of tigers compared to any other tiger reserve in India, hence spotting is not that difficult here. The Tiger show held here is also a not to miss event. The tiger being the center of attraction we cannot ignore the other inhabitants here deers, wild boars, birds, stags, elephants, cheetah, sloth bear, hyena, sambar, leopard etc. The Bandhavgarh fort is located in the centre of the reserve and the kings shot tigers to prove their might and valour. In 1968 the Govt took over and since then the tiger population has increased over the years. Declared Project tiger the adjoining Panpatha sanctuary was also merged to the reserve.
2. Ranthambore in Rajasthan
Once the hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur, the park also known as Sawai Madhopur Wildlife Sanctuary was declared Project Tiger in 1973. Many dignitaries including Queen Elizabeth II, Duke of Edinburg, Rajiv Gandhi, Bill Clinton etc have said to have visitied the sanctuary. Currently there are 30 tigers and spotting one could be almost assured as the tigers have become fearless of humans. Poaching and cattle grazing of the nearby villages are posing a threat to the sanctuary. Animals like leopard, sloth bear, hyena, cheetal, jackal, boar, various birds and reptiles are seen here. The Ranthambore fort lies withing the park and bird watchers can have a view of birds near the lake. Tourist traffic is quiet high and a tiger safari can be had three and a half hours. Private vehicles do not have an entry. The Ranthambore fort was occupied by Raja Hamir who was defeated by Allaudin Khilji and his troops and the women commited sati to escape the hands of the Muslim invaders.
3. Kanha in Madhya Pradesh
Its a small park with grasslands and the Satpura mountains. The park has the rare swamp deer or Barasingha as it is popularly known. Over 100 tigers are here and these are better chances of tiger spotting. Apart from tigers, jungle cats, gaur, leopards, flying squirrel, jackal etc are seen here.
4. Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand
Located in the foothills of Hilmalayas the tiger reserve was formerly called Hailey's National park. Jim Corbett who later actively worked on for the preservation of wildlife of the park had his name conferred. There are many reptiles seen here along with over 500 species of birds and 50 species of mammals. Spotting a tiger is by chance or rather luck. Tiger spotting can be had by a jeep safari with a guide. The guide must be well versed in listening to the warning cries and know the habitat of the tigers. Elephant rides can be taken for the fun of it rather that to spot a tiger. Walking is not allowed, inside but outside the reserve one can take small treks. Horse safaris can also be organised.
5. Pench in Madhya Pradesh
Declared a tiger reserve in 1992, Pench has been recently opened to tourists although there are many accounts of the reserve in the books of 17th century. Located in the Seoni district it was named after the Pench river. There are over 35 tigers here. A quiet park with not much tourists, Indira Priyadarshini Pench Tiger Reserve falls on the border of Karnataka and Maharashtra. There is no entry from Maharashtra, and the park covers 2,500sq kms. You can drive your own 4 wheeler in but must take the services of a guide. The park also has cheetal, sambhar, nilgai, leopard, jungle cat, wolf, sloth bear etc.
6. Nagarhole in Karnataka
The oldest National park in India Nagarhole was the hunting preserve of the Mysore royal family. Formed in 1955 the park is a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and is very close to both Bandipur Tiger reserve and Mudumalai National Park. Nagarhole is located on the confluence of the three rivers Kabini, Lakshman Theertha and Nagarhole. The Masal Betta peak is the highest peak 3,116 ft. You can take a jeep safari of a private resort as safari and elephant rides are temporarily suspended. Activities like Coracle rides, bird watching tours, tribal village visits etc can be done here. The best of it is a boat ride in the river Kabini in the early morning. You can spot wildlife along the ride. Soptting a tiger could be luck, but around 290 tigers are said to inhabit the area. Leopard, elephant, gaur, sambar, antelope, etc can be seen in plenty here.
7. Tadoba-Andhari in Maharashtra
Less heard and located in the centre of India this park is better protected and guarded and animal sightings are at closer quarters and more frequent with good accommodation. Tadoba is named after a lake and there are nearly 6 villages settled in the reserve amongst the wild animals waiting to be rehabilitated. The dry decidous forests of the Deccan plateau is well marked and guided by roads. Cheetals, Black bucks, barking deer, wild boars, bisons, monkeys and around 43 tigers inhabit the premises. Gypsy's are available for rides as two as three wheelers are not permitted inside. Only 50 cars are allowed at a time so bookings must be done early. Visitors must hire a guide and stay within the restricted areas. The Tadoba lake has nearly 20 marsh crocodiles which can be spotted sunning on the banks. Permission is required to visit the Taru templeas it is on the shore of the lake.
8. Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala
Also known as Thekkady it is one of the oldest parks, the famed Mulla Periyar dam provides irrigation to the areas. Decidous trees, bamboos, and waterlogged areas make up this unique park. The periyar river gives us a good boatride, even through tiger spotting is very rare, leopards can be spotted and also the deer family . Around 40 tigers are home to thses jungles and spotting of herds of elephants are quite common on boat rides. You can also take a nature walk of 4-5 kms lasting 3 hours and spot the amaller fauna and flora found here. Jungle night patrol team can be accompanied by paying a fee which could be a different discovery. Bullock cart rides to nearby villages are seen here and also for the adventerous bamboo rafting for 3 hours along with a guide, there are various other entertainers in store for you.
9. Bandipur Mudumalai in the Karnataka Tamil Nadu border
Along the Ooty-Mysore highway on the foothills of the Nilgiris is Bandipur which was once the hunting preserve of the Wodeyar royals. Later it became the hunting preserve of The Maharaja of Mysore. Poaching of elephants for ivory was a major problem here, remember the famed Veerappan. The Mudumalai was set in 1940 and was the first sanctuary in South India then. Mini bus safaris are organised in both the parks along with private jeep safaris. You can take an elephant ride also, the 'Mysore ditch' , or the Moyar gorge can be reached by a jeep safari and also the Sigur plateau. There are around 290 tigers here and spotting one could be sheer luck.
10. Kaziranga National Park in Assam
Kaziranga has a unique meaning, where the mountain goat has water. It is a swampy wetland and was declared a national park in 1974. Tall elephant grass covers the area along with a tall trees and cane thickets. Kaziranga is submerged in the backflow of the Bhramaputra river, the flood rejuvenates the wetlands and gives bith to a fresh begining. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site it is one of the last undisturbed habitats of the Indian one horned Rhinocerous. The wild buffalo population is alos high here and the rare swamp deer is found in plenty. Over a 1000 elephants, wetland animals, birds, hog deer, leopards etc along with 85 tigers home the jungles. Tiger sightings are uncommon here, jeep and elephant safaris are a must do. The Kohora is the longest tourist route of 3-4 hours and its gives you a view of the entire Kaziranga forests.