Photo by jatin81 (Flickr)
I recommend the best tiger reserves. I have made a selection based on sensible criteria. The first requirement is to go to a reserve where you have the greatest possibility of seeing a tiger and which is well managed. The third requirement should be travelling convenience. How difficult is it to get to the tiger reserve? Minimising travel time must be a major attraction in selecting a suitable tiger reserve.
High tiger density?
My research indicates that the reserves of the state of Karnataka in the south west of India have the highest tiger density meaning number of tigers per 100 square kilometers. That must be important. The problem is that counting tigers has been imprecise. Data is not that reliable. Having said that I will proceed on the basis that there is a better chance of seeing a tiger in the reserves of Karnataka than elsewhere. The tiger reserves in that state are: Dandeli-Anashi Tiger Reserve, Bhadra Tiger Reserve, Bandipur National Park, Karnataka, Mudumalai National Park, Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka. Of these Bandipur National Park and Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka stand out as good tiger density (reported – remember unreliable figures but it is all we have to make an assessment). Of these two Bengal tiger reserves, the former, Bandipur National Park, has better management, declared as very good.
Travelling to the Bandipur National Park
Fortunately, the Bengaluru International Airport in Bangalore is the fourth busiest airport in India. Bangalore is about 224 km (140 miles) by road from Bandipur NP. The route is: State Highway 17 and NH 212 taking an estimated: 4 hours 13 mins by private car (see detailed Google route map). There is car rental at the airport: Bangalore Airport Cat Rental. What about accommodation near the Bandipur reserve? My research indicates a decent choice. I would not foresee problems there. It would seem possible and fairly convenient to make personal arrangements to visit Bandipur National Park (i.e. not utilise a package tour company). You could be seeing a tiger in the wild in a couple days! However….
Note: In researching this I bumped into the Karnataka government website for the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. The website does not work! If it did work it would not tell you much. That does not surprise me. Don’t expect German efficiency in India. But expect charm and interesting experiences. I have been to India and I like the country a lot.
Alternative tiger reserve
A suitable alternative would probably come from one of these: Bandhavgarh National Park, Corbett Tiger Reserve, Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kanha National Park, Ranthambore National Park. These are recommended by another author. He or she appears to have done a thorough job. Of these five Periyar seems attractive to me as it gets a very good management assessment report and tiger density is not reported as low. It is south of Bandipur NP so further away from Bangalore. Corbett and Ranthambore are in the north and relatively close to New Delhi. It is a toss-up between these two well known tiger reserves. Ranthambore is 380 kms and almost 6 hours away from New Delhi by road (SH 25). The Corbett reserve is nearer to New Delhi: 236 kms and 4 hours by car away on route NH 24. I’d pick the Corbett Tiger Reserve. It has good management but not reported as “very good”. I understand the Times newspaper recommended it too.
The Corbett Tiger Reserve is famous and I am sure there are many package tours to the park. One last point: it is said to have the highest tiger density of all the reserves at 20 per 100 square kilometers. But read this article that I have just written: Corbett Tiger Reserve Becoming a Zoo.