Tiger Spotting 101 – The Unlucky Adventurer’s Guide

The amount of times I have heard tourists saying “Iss Jungle mein Sher nahin hai, bewakoof bana rahe hain.” (This forest does not have any tigers, its a scam), is uncountable.

Thankfully, I knew better.

Expectations Vs Reality.

Royal bengal tiger marking his territory

Royal bengal tiger marking his territory

The dense jungles of India, are unlike the Savannahs of Africa, where game spotting is a breeze. So, if you have ever been on an African safari or watched umpteen animal videos on National Geographic, you need to understand that even though its real, its far from reality.

For example, you never know how many months or years it took for that Nat Geo video to be shot and how many hours in the bush they had to spend for that single awesome shot. Likewise, the open vast savannahs of Africa make sighting easier as game can be spotted literally for several meter’s in every direction.

So with those unrealistic hopes, you might head to a dense forest in India like Corbettย National Park for your first sighting of the majestic Royal Bengal Tiger. You might book two safaris and be very confident of spotting those yellow and black stripes. With your DSLR in one hand you will head off for your new Indian adventures.

Alas, when there are no sightings. You will lose all hope from the jungle gods.

A typical tourist will think they spent a good 3-5 hours scouring every part of the jungle and didn’t spot anything. A wildlife enthusiast would know these national parks are spread across several acres and the chances of a Tiger just popping in your way, is bleak, to say the least.

tiger crossing road kanha

How often does a Tiger cross the road? Its RARE to say the least

So, how exactly, unless you are extremely lucky, do you spot a Tiger in the wild in India?

Here are my Tips for Unlucky Adventurers like Yours Truly

Maximize your Time in the Jungle

This is my what has been my number one trick to most big cat sightings – persistence. You know you are unlucky, but fret not – all you need to do is beat the odds.

So an average wildlife tourist stays in a national park for 2 nights, 3 daysย  – Step one, spend a week in the jungles, at least. If you are like me, and hate to go home disappointed, increase your chances by maximizing your time in the bush. From my experience, anything less than a week is not worth my time.

As an unlucky enthusiast, I also have to go for both morning and evening safaris, every single day. So be prepared to shell out some real cash unless you are blessed with lucky Tiger genes and can spot a bit cat on your very first jungle safari.

tiger spotting india

And pictures like these are for the extremely lucky souls

Since you are reading this article, I am sure you are not one of those lucky chaps. So, let’s carry on..

Book with a Reputed Company

A good wildlife lodge with seasoned naturalists increases your chances of spotting the elusive cat by heaps and bounds. I found out that spending my time in the jungle with Pugdundee Safaris turned out to be extremely fruitful.

Coming from one of the unluckiest souls in the forests, I spotted 3 Tigers in a single safari with them. Of course I followed all the other steps too ; )

kanha national park

All shots in this article are from that ONE awesome safari – worth it eh?

Their naturalists were friendly and knowledgeable which added to the fun and adrenaline!

Ensure you are Armed with a Good driver & Naturalist

With the new forest rules it is impossible to choose your guide in most national parks but if you are armed with a seasoned naturalist and a good driver from your lodge, you are pretty much sorted.

The forest guide is mostly just for “show” as a government rule but if you luck out in that department too, well, good for you. But, remember, this is the unlucky adventurer’s guide so for us, there is no luck involved – just hard work and persistence. So, don’t count on that happening and ensure you have the best of the best peeps at your side, well in advance.

tiger kanha

You get to track the Tiger well if your naturalist is experienced.

Visit Kanha National Park

Kanha is one park in India which is beautiful , green, scenic AND has abundance of flora and fauna and ofcourse good density of our favorite cat ๐Ÿ˜‰

kanha national park beauty

The beauty of Kanha

Prior to visiting Kanha, I was a big fan of Corbett. The jungles are denser which is why I love it but that also makes sighting almost impossible. After visiting the rather tree-less Ranthambore and a little less barren Bandhavgarh, I feel Kanha is perhaps the very best park in India for Tiger sighting.

Plus, there are plenty of other animals to keep you entertained.

jackal kanha

Cute jackals everywhere ๐Ÿ™‚

langur kanha

Playful langur’s swinging on tree branches

Sambar deer kanha

Alert Sambar deer

As a guest of Kanha earth lodge, I was astounded by the amount of effort their inhouse naturalists showed while taking us for a game drive. In this particular ‘3 sighting safari incidence’, we were with two of the best naturalists of the Kanha earth lodge – KD and Ashu.

They were both brilliant and that being our very last safari, they were determined to show us a glimpse of the mighty cat.

Looks like we lucked out – we not only got to see a glimpse but we watched one of the most popular Tigers in the world – Munnaย , at leisure! How many times do you get to click away to your heart’s content? That’s exactly what I got to do and these pictures prove it.

This particular Tiger is literally the king of Kanha. At 16ย  years old he is still going strong and surviving like a boss. With a big “C.A.T” marking on his forehead (you can clearly spot it in the picture below), you can easily tell he is THE ultimate wild cat. Not just that, it says “P.M” just below that – so hey, that’s the Prime minister of cats we saw that day.

Now that’s what you call luck. Right?

Wrong!

We did spend 8 days in the jungles of Satpura and Kanha for that single “lucky” safari. So anyone who saw these pictures went “Wow, lucky you!” but little did they know how unlucky we are but increasing our odds is what helped us in the end. I also honestly believe it was the drive of Pugdundee naturalists who are unbeatabley the best.

The lodge in itself was eco-friendly and a delight to stay at.

kanha earth lodge

Cozy, comfy, private cottages at Kanha earth lodge

lanterns at lodge

Lanterns to find your way after dusk in the lodge ๐Ÿ™‚ How quaint?

kanha earth lodge pugdundee

Welcome area of the lodge

Finally, Enjoy the Jungles ๐Ÿ™‚

Finally, something I tell everyone – Cat or no cat, enjoy the lush green forests and your time breathing fresh air and gawking at greenery. Appreciate the birds and the bees, smell the flowers and photograph butterflies – there is so much to do in the forests and I feel more at home there, then actually at home.

butterfly of satpura

Find beauty in all things

Once you visit a beautiful park of India, you will be in love forever. Spotting the elusive cat is a feeling that cannot be explained or re-created by anything else, however, if that doesn’t happen – your love for the forests should be enough to wade you through the unlucky drought.

Booking Information for that perfect Indian jungle adventure

Tiger munna kanha

Perfect wildlife adventure with sighting of this big cat – Munna ๐Ÿ™‚

Well for us unlucky adventurers, I would highly recommend booking a stay at Kanha earth lodge. They have a 80% sighting record (unofficial stats, of course) so most who visit them dishearted, having never seen a Tiger in the wild… their prayer’s do get answered here.

Remember, book enough days and safaris to increase your odds and “Be persistence“.

WebsiteKanhaEarthLodge.com
Address –ย  Kanha Earth Lodge, P.O. Sarekha Village -Narna Kanha National Park, Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh 481111
Phone – 0124 297 0497

Disclaimer – I was a guest of Pugdundee Safaris on my wonderful wild adventures in Kanha. Big thanks to their manager, staff and naturalists for a lovely stay and our incredible wild encounters.ย 

6 Comments

  1. Those are some beautiful photos which are taken exactly at the right time! I’ve never seen a tiger in wild life, but I also have never been to a destination where it’s possible to see one, haha. Would love to spot them though when I’m at a certain destination. I think one of the most important things indeed is to have a great guide who knows how to drive right and who has much experience. Thank you for the tips!

  2. I usually have good luck on spotting wild animals. It is sad if you don’t, but that is how nature is. They are not there for you but for themselves. I still have yet to see tigers in the wild ๐Ÿ˜€ Hopefully one day ๐Ÿ™‚

    • 100% agree – we are in their homes – its their call if they want to come out of their rooms ๐Ÿ˜‰ hehe
      Tigers are surely harder to sight esp if forests are dense (like in India). sigh!

  3. I must admit I would be devastated to go all that way and not catch a glimpse of a tiger – but it is nature after all, and you can’t control it. Part of it is luck, and persistence definitely helps – and to spend a week in the jungle there is hardly hardship! There is no feeling like seeing such an incredible creature in the wild, I was lucky to see a jaguar purely by chance in Venezuela, big cats are such beautiful animals.

  4. Spotting a tiger sounds much like chasing the Northern Lights. Needs to be the right time, right place and a bit of luck thrown in. Using reputable companies is always the best practice in anything travel. Our girls would love to go tiger spotting.

  5. I have always wanted to go on Safari and honestly never thought of India. I really like the recommendation of going to Kanha as it has a denser population of the Tigers and also to spot some of the other animals there as well. Also I totally agree that choosing the right company with good guides truly makes a difference. Plus what you said about being patient and spending more time there totally makes sense. Great article.

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