The best place to see a tiger OR how wild is too wild.
The best tiger sighting ( or for the matter any animal sighting) you can ever get, is in a Zoo. And unsurprisingly more “zoo-like’, a National park is, the better animal sighting you will get. The animals get used to human beings, the cars, the pollution and consequently “allow’ you to watch them.
The wilder the park , the less used to human civilization the animals are, the more difficult it is to spot wildlife. For instance the Sunderbans (Its actually dangerous spotting a tiger there). ( link)
Technical stuff like tiger density don’t really matter as much. The area accessible to tourists are very limited, ( 7-10% of total park) and you ultimately end up watching the same animal/s ( in most parks, it’s between 5 to 15 animals). If you have seen a tiger in Bandhavgarh and your cousin saw one 3 months back and your ex-wife saw one 6 months back, decent probability that all of you saw the same ‘wild’ animal. (Tigers here actually have names and people go back saying i say Sita, i saw Mohini. Sita btw is supposed to be the most photographed tiger in the world. )
The technical point which does matter is vegetation. The lusher the forests, the worse the sightings will be. (Parks in the South of India, Kaziranga). The sparser the vegetation, the better. ( the.. umm lions of Gir).
The final factor is whether the parks use elephants to track tigers down and present them to tourists (This is not the same as seeing wildlife from a elephant’s back). This is a controversial practice and has been stopped in many parks. But probability of sighting go up dramatically in parks where such “tiger shows “ are used. They of course take away from the wild experience.
But I want it wild and I want to spot a tiger!!! Its tough but doable.
As a guide I present a very opinionated tiger poll to choose the “best tiger park”. From a base shortlist you will do best to choose parks where mass tourism is 7-10 years old, where vegetation is not super dense. Do give yourself at least 3 days. Also you should avoid the most popular sections of the known parks and not experiment with the areas which have been recently opened up.
1st Column – Likelihood of seeing a tiger ( 10 is certain you will see, 1 is almost certainly you will not see, 0 of course there being NO tigers)
2nd Column – Likelihood of the experience being a ‘Wild’ experience
3rd Column – The Forest Experience. Or how pretty is my forest
|Seeing a tiger||‘Wild’ experience||The Forest Experience||Total|
And if your primary motive is seeing a tiger, scale up weight for tiger spotting by 1.5 times.
|Out of 10||Seeing a tiger||‘Wild’ experience||The Forest Experience||Total|
The top 3.