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In the jungles of India, we sit quietly waiting and hoping a tiger will appear.  We have tracked it to this location finding footprints on the road and hearing warning calls from other wildlife in the forest.  This is both the fun and frustration of tracking tigers in India.  You can do this all day and never see one of these elusive creatures.

Kati and I have been lucky.  We have seen 19 tigers in four and half days.  We have also tracked and seen nothing for hours.  How indescribable seeing a tiger for the first time.

We have traveled to India during the hottest time of the year, May.  Temperatures approached 115 degrees.  We have flown from Miami to Lisbon, Portugal then onto Paris, France.  From Paris we flew over the Himalayas into Delhi, India.  From Delhi we flew to Jabalpur and then drove 4 hours.  After 3 days we drove another 4 hours to a different tiger area.  We have had 9 safaris (5 evening and 4 morning) and we have met with people in the same lodge that have seen nothing or just a glimpse of a tiger.  We have known people that come for a longer time and see only 1 or 2.  As I have said, Kati and I have been lucky.

 

Best Tiger Safari's in India

Seeing your first tiger is an amazing feeling.

Like Africa, India has many iconic animals.  Tigers.  Elephants.  Sloth Bears.  Lions.  Rhinos.  Leopards.  Unlike Africa, where you can drive and see many of the iconic animals fairly easy, nothing is easy in India.  The elephants are dangerous and need to be avoided mostly.  The Sloth Bears and Leopards are seen very rarely though we saw tracks for both.  Tracking wildlife in Africa is harder than in India but seeing the iconic wildlife in Africa is easier.

Here is our guide for the best chances to see Tigers in the wild in India:

When to go to India to track Tigers

Choosing when to go was probably the easiest for us.  We decided to go in May.  We knew the temperatures would be high.  Up to 115 degrees but with little humidity.  Coming from Florida we can handle that.  In fact, we found it easier to handle 110 degrees with little humidity than 90 degrees with a lot.  Also, May saw less tourists, and more locals traveling as well as because of the heat, the tigers would be moving towards the water holes or be in them.  We knew that almost all websites tell you to go to track tigers February to April.  A piece of advice, when all the websites tell you to go to a place during a certain period of time, that is the reason not to go.  We were right and loved being there in May.

Just remember, just because it will get to 110 degrees by about 11AM doesn’t mean that it won’t be cool in the mornings.  A sweater or longer sleeved shirt is a necessity as well as sunblock for mid-mornings.  The mosquitoes were not bad, but there are a lot of flying bugs around that can be a bother.  So, some bug protection should be taken.

 

Traveling to and within India

Keep in mind when that you are traveling to a location that is a long way, problems happen.  Kati and I missed our connection in Paris and had to wait for the next flight which was an 8-hour delay.  Also, while in Jabalpur, our flight was delayed for 4 hours getting us back to Delhi late.  Luckily, we had planned and had a buffer in our schedule.  There was an extra day built into when we got there and before we left.  This allowed us to not miss anything that we wanted to do.  We were ablet to adjust and our tiger safaris were safe.  When traveling internationally, always keep in mind that delays and cancellations sometimes happen.  For weather.  For mechanical problems.  Because you have made a mistake or just because a change in flight schedules.  Don’t let these things ruin your trip.

 

What company to use in India

Now that we have decided to go to India and when, we had to decide where to go, where to stay and how to get there.  Having done a lot of research we finally decided to use Pugdundee Safaris. It was difficult as there are many choices, but keep in mind.  In the jungle areas that we chose to go, there are huge differences between 4-star and 5-star accommodations.  And there are even bigger differences between 3-star and 5-star accommodations.

We chose Pugdundee for a number of reasons:

  1. They had great lodges in the tiger areas that we chose.
  2. They were highly rated by a large number of visitors.
  3. They had a large number of options and areas you can travel to.
  4. They would pick us up from the airport and return us and drive us between areas (about 5 hours).  Everything was included.
  5. All the tigers’ safaris were private – meaning only Kati and I would be on them.
  6. They were reasonable as far as cost.
  7. They are eco-friendly.

They had many options to choose from and we chose Bandhavgarh and Kanha Tiger areas to visit with safaris both morning and evening. Asked why not Ranthambore since it is driving distance from Delhi, because it is driving distance from Delhi is the exact reason that we did not choose Ranthambore.  It has become over touristy with little regard to speed limits and limits on the amount of people going in to see Tigers.

Both lodges put on documentaries every evening showing the work in the areas and the work with tigers.  It is amazing the behind the scenes work that the tiger area rangers do that you would never know about.

Bandhavgarh has the highest tiger density in India and Kanha is a huge area but absolutely beautiful and on the Kipling Trail.

Were we right?  Absolutely.  The accommodations were top notch and very comfortable.  The food was excellent.  And the management and staff were incredible.  In Bandhavgarh we stayed at the King’s Lodge and in Kanha we were at the Kanha Earth Lodge.  Both are jungle lodges but would rate 5 stars anywhere.  They are very accommodating to your food preferences and if there are any issues, they immediately addressed them.  We cannot say enough good things about Pugdundee, its’ management and staff.

Best Tiger Safari's in India

A Tiger sleeping in the Jungle

It all comes down to People

When you are traveling so far and especially in Africa and India where you depend on others (mainly for safaris), people are everything.  Will they work with you to see what you want to see?  Are they organized and experienced?  Do they make sure you have everything you need and if  you don’t can they accommodate you? Do they have the experience you want and need?  The answer to all of these questions with Pugdundee was yes, and we got the most out of our time.

The General Managers at both the lodges were outstanding and the safari drivers/naturalists were the best.  The drivers/naturalists got us in the position to take the best photos and see the most tigers.  They stopped and gave us time to see other wildlife like birds (think of owls, eagles and dancing peacocks) and just the beautiful landscape.  If we wanted to stop but there was a potential tiger sighting, they would tell us, and we would go back after tracking the tiger.  They were top notch and with only Kati and I on the safari they were very accommodating as far as when we wanted to stop for breakfast and pointing out birds and other wildlife.  They had the knowledge we needed and were not shy on sharing.  Overall, they were great.

We saw other safari vehicles with up to 6 people on up to larger vehicles with more than 20.  We wanted to make sure that we had the most autonomy as possible.

By the way, the safaris and guides were always on time to the minute.  And when they have to leave the area, even if you just came across a tiger, you have to go.  You cannot be 5 minutes late or the guide will be penalized.  Be considerate of your guides and naturalists.  They are doing everything they can for you.

 

 

Remember you are in a Foreign Country

Remember when traveling to India that you are no longer in the United States or western Europe.  India is different.  Yes, there are cattle walking all over the place.  On roads, in houses, near breakfast stops.  Remember that the cow is a revered animal in Hinduism.  Also, there is a level of poverty that you see and experience in India.  With almost 1.5 billion people, India struggles.  And not everyone speaks English.  But none of these should ruin your trip or adventure.  India we found to be very environmentally friendly as far as the lodges and hotels that we stayed in.  Also, the people were warm and welcoming in every place we went.  The airport seems so chaotic but somehow it works.  We never had a problem in any Indian airport.  Just remember to have your boarding card ready to show like 6 times before you get on your plane and we had to unpack our carry on luggage over and over again so give yourself time.  Always be to an airport at least 3 hours in advance of  your flight.  Frankly, we found the airport in Delhi, which seems so chaotic, actually was easier to navigate and faster to get through check in and security than Miami and Paris.

 

Our Final Word

As with all trips, when traveling to India you need to have an open-mind and it will come down to your attitude.  We had an 8-hour delay in Paris.  We had a 4-hour delay in Jabalpur.  We didn’t care for all of the food (but most was outstanding).  We even had a mouse in one of our rooms.  But we were on an adventure.  Our own jungle book.  We were there to track and see tigers.  We were there to visit the Taj Mahal and explore Agra.  And we did all of that with very little disruption.  Would we go back?  Absolutely.  And it would have our highest recommendation to visit and explore.  There are many tiger reserves and Project Tiger, started 50 years ago has been a tremendous success.  It has doubled the number of tigers in India.

India is an incredible place to visit, and tigers are an animal that few get to see.  We hope that more and more people travel to India and see these magnificent creatures.  And who knows, you might just see us there.

 

 

 

 

 

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