The global population of tigers increased from around 3,890 in 2016 to 5,575 in 2023, and much of this is thanks to the dedicated conservation efforts in India, where the tiger population has doubled in that time. The country is now home to around three-quarters of the world’s population, making it the best place in the world to spot the big cats in their natural habitat.
With 370 wildlife sanctuaries and 54 national parks in India, picking the very best can be quite a daunting task, so we’ve done it for you. 50 years after India’s Project Tiger began, we’ve rounded up the five best parks and reserves in India to spot a flash of those distinctive orange and black stripes.
Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Spread out across the Vindhya Hills, Bandhavgarh National Park is home to a healthy population of around 80 tigers, making it one of the best reserves to visit to see one of the magnificent mammals.
An early morning or early evening Jeep Safari across the dense forest, open meadows and undulating ridges of the reserve may also offer you a peak at one of more than 22 other species of mammals, including leopards, sloth bears and Indian antelopes, that roam alongside the tigers.
Explore the park from one of the eco-luxury cottages at Kings Lodge, which lies just 10 minutes from the thriving tiger terrain.
Kaziranga National Park, Assam
Surrounded by the Karbi Anglong mountains, Kaziranga National Park sits in the swampy floodplains of the Brahmaputra River and is home to an impressive tiger population of 118.
The park’s contributions to conservation are made more impressive by the fact that they are home to two-thirds of the world’s population of Indian one-horned rhinoceros, which were on the brink of extinction at the end of the 20th Century.
Stay in the nearby family-owned Diphlu River Lodge, where stilted bungalows overlook the flowing river.
Kanha National Park, Kanha
Home to 500 tigers, or around 8% of the world’s population, Kanha National Park sits in the heart of Madhya Pradesh, the Indian region thought to be the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’.
Crystal clear streams run through dense jungles where tigers roam alongside panthers, leopards and chitals. The park is also applauded for its successful breeding program that brought the barasingha, also known as the swamp deer, back from the edge of extinction.
An added highlight is Bamni Dadar, the highest point of the sanctuary, which offers unforgettable views of the sun setting across the dense forest.
Shergarh, a camp that ensures a minimal impact on the environment, lies nearby as the perfect place to stay throughout your time at Kanha.
Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand
Corbett National Park, which is named after Jim Corbett, a British author who was dedicated to conservation efforts, is the oldest and most well-known reserve in India, as well as the location for the launch of Project Tiger. Today, it is home to 252 tigers and 1,100 wild elephants, as well as Asiatic black bears, sambars, mugger crocodiles and gharials.
Sat at the foothills of the Himalayas, the park boasts some truly spectacular scenery with mighty rivers rushing through the park and shaping the biodiversity.
Corbett National Park is particularly unique as it is one of few where you can stay the night within the park. The cottages of Jim’s Jungle Retreat dot the dense jungle and offer an immersive jungle experience.
Nagarahole National Park, Karnataka
Founded in 1955, Nagarahole National Park is a major hub of conservation under Project Tiger and Project Elephant and is now home to 125 tigers. It also boasts the largest population of Asiatic elephants in the world, with around 1,500 to 1,700 of the enormous animals wandering the grounds.
With around 12 tigers per 100 square kilometers, Nagarahole is one of the best places in South India to spot one of the cats.
Image credit: Tiger in Kanha National Park via Vincent Van Zalinge via Unsplash; Tiger at Bandhavgarh National Park by Sam Power via Unsplash; Tiger at Corbett National Park by Upasana Saigal via Unsplash;