Where to spot the tiger in India

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

It has been a good few years for the tiger in India. Once at the brink of extinction, the tiger population has been growing steadily. Between 2014 and 2019, the population has seen a sharp spike of 33 per cent with the numbers now hitting nearly 3,000 (the estimated range of the number of tigers in India is between 2,603 and 3,346). More than half of the tigers can be found in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. With 218 new tigers being counted, Madhya Pradesh has seen the highest spike with the population reaching 526. Karnataka follows a close second with 524 tigers. So it’s pretty obvious that if you’re looking to spot tigers, you should probably start with MP.

Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh 

With the highest density of tigers in the area, Bandhavgarh is perhaps India’s most famous tiger reserve. The Tata Zone 1 is the best place to spot the tiger in Bandhavgarh and you’ll need to book tickets well in advance to access it. Bandhavgarh has the highest density of tigers per square kilometre and is among the best places to spot a tiger in India.
Photograph: NH53 / Flickr

Pench National Park, Madhya Pradesh

Pench isn’t as popular as Bandhavgarh so you’re likely to find fewer tourists here. The odds of spotting tigers in Pench are also slightly lesser since the number of tigers here is relatively lesser than that in Bandhavgarh; though patience will usually bear fruit. If nothing, you can always rest easy knowing the fact that you were in the forest that inspired Kipling to write The Jungle Book.
Photograph: Fitindia / Creative Commons

Panna National Park, Madhya Pradesh

Alongside Bandhavgarh and Pench, Panna forms the trio of the most important tiger reserves in India. It also has the unique distinction of starting over after having lost all its tigers to poaching in 2009. At the moment there are over 50 tigers in Panna. 
Photograph: Mehaknoni / Creative Commons

Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh

Once home to the legendary conservationist George Schaller, who practically lived here to study tigers in the ’60s, Kanha is also part of MP’s string of pearls. The odds of spotting a tiger here also don’t compare to Bandhavgarh, but the vast biodiversity of Kanha is enough to keep the curious busy.
Photograph: Rahul R / Flickr

Sundarbans National Park, West Bengal

Home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, the Sundarbans make for a unique experience. You won’t be driven around in jeeps, but rather have to go tiger spotting in canoes. Remember, the Sunderbans are essentially swamps, which means even though the tiger population here is close to 100, chances of you spotting one may be relatively low. The experience of tracking one, though, remains unparalleled.
Photograph: Soumyajit Nandy / Creative Commons

Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan

If the allure of the forest eludes you and, really, you just want to tick ‘See a tiger’ off your bucket list, Ranthambore is the place to go. This national park is the easiest place to spot the tiger, not just because of its population but also because the tigers here have got used to the presence of tourists. All you need, really, is a half decent camera and you’ll have that tiger photo for your Instagram.
Photograph: bjoern / Flickr

Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra

With more than 80 tigers, the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve is another great place to spot tigers. Since the destination is only just coming up, the number of tourists is relatively fewer. Unlike most reserves, Tadoba doesn’t restrict the safaris to certain sections within the forest, but simply restricts the number of trips itself. So make sure you book well in advance.
Photograph: Aniruddha Goswami / Creative Commons

Jim Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand

Probably the most popular national park in the country—let’s face it who hasn’t heard of Corbett—the Jim Corbett National Park doesn’t have a very dense tiger population. The key lies in finding a good guide who can guarantee you a spotting. But don’t be disappointed if you don’t spot a tiger. Corbett has a very high population of elephants as well as a variety of mammals including sambhar, langur, and chittal among others.
Photograph: Rohit Varma / Flickr