How to increase odds of sighting Tigers in India in the wild?
Everyone wants to sight tigers when they go on a jungle safari in India. Going on safari to India to photograph tigers in the wild is an unrivaled experience.But sighting one in its natural habitat is never a sure thing and a lot depends on the luck. Which we all agree but if you properly plan you can make the luck favor you, you can tilt & increase the odds of sightings tigers in your favor!! In this article I will discuss some of the things you probably should do to increase odds of sighting Tigers.
Top Tips to Increase odds of Sighting tigers in India
A. Pick the Right Sanctuary
There are around 50 tiger reserves in India but not all are visitors friendly and not all are ideal for a safari and in many there are single digit tigers. You need to pick one of the top tiger reserves which are very safari friendly, visitors friendly and are well designed with a good safari system in place, Some of them we can quote are:
South: Kabini & Bandipur [Approx. 230 kms from Bangalore]
Central: Tadoba, Bandhavgarh, Kanha & Pench [Approx. 100 to 230 kms from Nagpur]
North: Ranthambore, Jim Corbett & Kaziranga [Approx. 200+ kms from Delhi]
These parks have a good healthy population of Tigers and prey-base is extremely good and there were great sightings in the last 12 months [2016 & 2017]
You can tilt the odds in your favor by arriving when the escalating heat of late spring drives tigers from the thick jungle scrub to more visible waterholes. Some national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are especially rewarding for visitors during the hot months of April to mid-June, Sinclair said.
B. Pick the Right Season
Most of the reserves mentioned above are closed during monsoon (rainy season) which is during July, August & September (which the exception of Kabini and Bandipur in the south which are open round the year). Then there is the cooler season of October to February, very hot season of March to June.
Weather is cooler in Oct to feb season and there are many sightings have happened during this time but slightly tougher to see the tigers as the landscape is lush and easy to get water wherever they want to and hence they coming out in the often is slightly less say compared to the hot summer season.
Weather in the summer months of March to June is very hot and humid but also the best season to sight tigers in plenty. This time of the year forest are dry and when much of the grass and undergrowth has died back so the areas of view are generally better and gives clear sighting. Also the water sources are limited to a few tanks and pools and they have to come there to quench their thirst and also that’s the place where even the prey comes and hence lot of action happen over there during summer months.
Yes summer months are the best but there’s a trade-off, though. In India, wildlife photographers generally travel in open safari vehicles. That makes it easier to spot birds and animals. But it also exposes you to the punishing sun, making dehydration a possibility with temperatures reaching 40C to 48+C [104 to 120 degrees F]. Dehydration can shut you down, causing vomiting, diarrhea, fainting and muscle cramps. You can reduce the risk by eating right and frequently hydrating but that’s weather like.
If you are worried about the hot weather during summers, the weather is relatively cooler (or warmer) say mid to late Feb and also water sources are very low enough to have good tiger movements.
C. View from an Elephant
Four of the top India’s Tiger Reserves (Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Kaziranga, and Corbett) offer visitors a unique option: searching for tigers from the back of an elephant. It’s a popular way for photographers to access remote park corners where safari jeeps cannot go and without any sound of these safari jeeps.
Elephants are the ultimate four-wheel-drive safari vehicles with no sound. Getting on these elephants is critical in getting close to tigers. You can go right up to the caves where the tigers are sheltering from the heat rather than waiting for them to show up at the waterholes. Many amazing pictures are actually taken from the elephant back.
D. Checkout TSI – Tiger Sighting Index tm
Download WildTrails India App which displays sighting across all these reserves everyday and every season and they calculate a metric called TSI (Tiger Sighting Index) which you can calculate for any given time period which gives you an idea how often you can sight a tiger from these sanctuaries for a given time period and helps you plan better.
Also another thing which most people won’t tell you is that all these parks have multiple safari gates and zones [Tadoba has 12 gates and Ranthambore has 12 zones] and not all gates/zones have same sightings and hence just choosing the right sanctuary is not enough but you need to choose the right gate and the sightings in the App and the TSI for the gates help you pick the right sanctuary/gate combo.
E. Picking an Expert Tiger Tracker
The last but definitely not the least but in fact the most critical part of tiger safari in India. I can’t stress enough the importance of it. In India there is a roster (round robin) system where the guides are allocated in turns and when you do multiple safaris, you will always get a new guide in every safari and there is no connect nor connectivity.
You need to work with expert package makers (say like WildTrails India) who will allocate their expert tiger trackers & naturalists. They understand alarm calls in the jungle, they understand pug marks, the freshness of it and the direction of it, and they can even smell these cats where we fail. As they say, they won’t take you where tigers are but take you where tigers will be coming – they can predict the locations very well.
The author is an experienced wildlifer who is traveling around various sanctuaries across india for last 2 decades and also the cofounder of WildTrails India which organizes custom made safari packages for their customers. WildTrails India also has a mobile app by the same name available on both Android and iOS and acts like a platform and brings all parts of the Wildlife tourism in one place.
WildTrails (Tm) India App – “Discover Indian Wildlife Like Never Before“
PS: Please be a responsible wildlife tourist; No littering, No sounds, No feeding, no getting down from the safari jeep (when on safari), No phone calls. Remember that we are visiting their home and when we are there, let’s follow their rules.
[The WildTrails India App is the best way to get all the details about Indian wildlife sanctuaries (best travel times, safari details, animal sightings, forest accommodations pairing, wildlife related activities, prices, etc). Learn more about WildTrails of India here. ios App is here. Android is here, and Web is on the way. Please do like us on our facebook page here.]