Close up of a tiger (Shutterstock: see below)
List Words : Paul Goldstein | 29 July

6 tips for tiger watching in India

Longing to see a tiger in the wild? Wildlife photographer and tiger expert Paul Goldstein reveals how to maximise your chances on an trip to India

1. Pick the right park

It's impossible for any safari operator to guarantee tiger sightings, but if you choose the right location you'll certainly up your chances. India is the best place to see tigers, but you'll also find them in other Asian countries such as Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and Nepal, as well as Siberia in Russia. 

India's best national parks for seeing tigers are (in order): Bandhavgarh, Ranthambore, Kanha, Pench, Satpura and Corbett.  There are good populations of tigers in the Sunderbans but they’re difficult to see.

For more information, see our guide to India's 10 Top Spots to see Tigers, and recommendations for a wild encounter.

2. Get the timing right

Early in the season (Nov-Jan) is cooler and the tigers will be more active; however, remaining monsoon water means they have less reason to be out in the open.

February-March is peak time – the vegetation is in retreat and temperatures are still manageable. The tiger doyens go later to try to catch them by watering holes, but even the most ardent fans will wilt in 40°C-plus heat.

3. Accept that you'll pay more

Foreigners often pay ten times more than locals to enter India’s tiger parks. Get over it. Tip your driver and ranger appropriately; if they do a good job, perhaps Rs200 a day.

Try to ensure that your money is spent wisely: sustainability is a major concern in many areas. Choose your safari operator or guide carefully, and read these 4 Tips for Sustainable Tiger Trips.

4. Consider your transport

Most trips in tiger parks are by gypsy jeep or larger canter trucks. Book a vehicle to yourself if you want control of your days. Elephant-back safaris are possible in Pench, Kanha and Bandhavgarh, and also in Badia and Chitwan in Nepal. It is possible, and encouraged, to try to see tigers on foot in Satpura, but realistically it’s very rare.

5. Put your camera down

Tigers are all about seeing: it’s hard to get really memorable photos. During your first sighting, just enjoy the moment.

Determined to get that incredible tiger shot? Read our Top Tips for Photographing Wildlife, and the 5 essential tips every wildlife snapper needs to know.

6. Think beyond tigers

There’s plenty more to see in India's beautiful parks, including leopards, sloth bears, wolves, jackals and wild cats. The birdlife, especially in the warmer months, is superb.

Did you know? There are more frozen tigers in one Chinese ‘holding facility’ than there are alive in the whole of India...

Paul Goldstein is a big tiger fan; earlier this year, he ran over 120 miles in a week - from Brighton to London - in a tiger costume, to raise money and awareness of tiger protection as part of the Worth More Alive campaign.

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Main image: Close up of a tiger (Shutterstock)