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A land of both natural beauty and great cultural significance, India instills a sense of wondrous excitement into the minds of even the most experienced travelers. What’s more, the country’s endless diversity and sprawling size make it home to more than 500 wildlife sanctuaries and 103 national parks, a perfect setting for spotting wild cats — including the Royal Bengal tiger.
What Is a Tiger Safari?There are only around 3,000 wild tigers left on the planet, and India is home to more than half. Visitors can participate in tiger safaris at one of the country’s tiger reserves, where they will have the opportunity to glimpse one of the world’s most marvelous and rare animals in its natural environment. The experience is similar to safaris in other parts of the world, with many lodges offering packages that are fully inclusive of meals, in addition to two daily game drives that typically take place between 6 and 10 a.m. and from 2:30 to 6 p.m.
Where to Spot the CatsAccording to India-based destination management company Sacred Dot Tours, 10 parks stand out among India’s many tiger reserves: Ranthambore, Panna, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench, Satpura, Tadoba, Periyar, Nagarhole and Kaziranga. These reserves open in late September or early October and remain open through May. Although there are no accommodations inside the parks, plenty of options exist along the borders, with the most desirable properties located just outside park gates. There are no commercial airstrips, so guests must transfer in from farther away.
When it comes to park entry, accessibility varies widely. Ranthambore is the most visited park for tiger safaris, according to Sacred Dot, partly because it’s located only 85 miles from Jaipur International Airport. And Panna National Park is conveniently located, too; it’s a one-hour drive from the great cultural city of Khajuraho. Bandhavgarh National Park, meanwhile, has the highest density of tigers in India but isn’t the easiest to get to — it takes about seven hours from Khajuraho by car.
Safaris in India vs. AfricaUnlike Africa’s savannahs, taking a safari in India is more typically experienced within dense jungles or high grasslands, and guests shouldn’t expect to see large groups of one animal type, but rather smaller numbers of several different species.
Even in India, seeing tigers in the wild is rare, but there are countless other consolation prizes during each game drive. Snow leopards, Asiatic lions, Indian vultures, Siberian cranes, Asian elephants, spotted deer, one-horned rhinoceroses, Indian bison, peacocks, striped hyenas, crocodiles, wild dogs, wolves, sloth bears and malabar giant squirrels all call India home, in addition to countless monkeys and more than 1,200 species of birds.
Book the ExperienceSacred Dot Tours can arrange all aspects of a tiger safari, as well as entire programs throughout India. For guests interested in staying in more luxurious accommodations, consider Oberoi Hotels & Resorts’ Oberoi Vanyavilas (near Ranthambore National Park); Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris’ Pashan Garh (by Panna National Park); or Taj Hotels’ Mahua Kothi (near Bandhavgarh National Park).
Sacred Dot Tourswww.sacreddot.com
Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safariswww.taj.tajhotels.com