Heading out on a tiger safari is one of the essential Indian experiences. Here, from the pages of Great Escapes, we present five of the best. Share your safari memories below.
Corbett Tiger Reserve
The first wildlife reserve in India, Corbett was responsible for launching the tiger conservation scheme Project Tiger, and is well-known for its varied wildlife – keeping the striped cats company are elephants, wild boars and flying foxes. The five Raj-era rest-houses within its borders make multi-day treks through the park an attractive possibility in a country where accommodation is usually on the parks’ edges. Base yourself at Camp Forktail Creek (http://www.campforktailcreek.com), with nine spacious safari tents and two mud huts lit by candles and paraffin lamps. From there you can head on guided walks into the forest, and if you want the full wilderness experience, stay overnight in one of the rest-houses. Back at the camp, you can head down to the river and try your luck at catching the biggest game fish in the world, the mahseer.
Corbett is located in the foothills of the Himalayas near Ramnagar, in the state of Uttaranchal, an overnight train journey from Delhi.
Khana National Park
Probably the most beautiful of all India’s parks, Kanha – a mix of deciduous forest and savannah grassland – is reputed to have provided some of the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s novel, The Jungle Book. It’s particularly rich in wildlife – tigers and gaurs are regularly spotted here – and its remoteness keeps it quieter than some other parks. You couldn’t get better guides to this majestic landscape than Nanda and Latika, the owners of the elegant Singinawa Jungle Lodge. Latika was the first woman to gain a doctorate in tiger conservation, while Nanda has made films for the BBC and National Geographic on the tiger.
Located in the centre of India in southern Madhya Pradesh, the park can be reached by rail from all over India via Jabalpur. For directions, rates and reservations see http://www.singinawa.in.
Panna National Park
Covered in a mix of acacia and forest, Panna is a beautiful park with an amazing variety of birds, and plentiful wildlife from crocodiles to sloth bears. Unfortunately many of its tigers haven’t fared so well in recent years, with poaching a persistent threat despite improved measures protecting tigers’ welfare. Stay at Ken River Lodge, however, and you’ve a tiger-spotting opportunity unique in all of India – night safaris, which offer the best chance of seeing these nocturnal predators hunting. Futhermore, a stay in the park could easily be combined with a visit to the famous temples of Khajuraho – only 27km away – complete with erotic stonework.
For information on Panna National Park visit http://www.pannanationalpark.net.
Bandhavgarh National Park
You’ve got to be really unlucky not to spot a tiger here. One of India’s most prominent national parks, Bandhavgarh is also home to over 150 species of birds, among them purple sunbirds and golden orioles. Ancient ruins – statues, forts and man-made caves – scatter the park, making this a magnet for history-lovers and photographers. As a nature photographer himself, Satyendra Kumar Tiwari makes the ideal guide. Along with his wife Kay, he runs an intimate guesthouse in their family home – Skay’s Camp, situated in a small village on the park boundary, with just five rooms for guests. He’ll take you on two trips a day, looking for everything from big cats to butterflies.
The park is in Madhya Pradesh and can be accessed by taxi from Umaria (1hr), itself accessible by train from Delhi. Bandhavgarh National Park: http://www.bandhavgarh.net. For information on Skay’s Camp visit skayscamp.in
Pench Tiger Reserve
Another inspirational setting for Kipling’s The Jungle Book, Pench Tiger Reserve – now better known for its leopards than its tigers (although sightings are becoming more common as stocks improve) – is home to over 250 species of bird. Animals gather at the reservoir in the centre of the park to drink, and as the seasons get hotter and drier, this becomes an excellent spot to observe wildlife as the other water sources dry up. It’s also a relaxing place to go boating. The twelve villas at Baghvan lodge each have their own private viewing decks, giving you the chance for that elusive sighting all on your own.
Pench is open Nov–July. The nearest train station is Badnera, 110km from the reserve. For further info on the park see http://www.pench.naturesafariindia.com.