Here at Original Travel, we love to stay ahead of the curve and keep up with what's going on in our favourite destinations. Myself and Milly, representing Team Asia, recently attended the TOFT (Travel Operators for Tigers) Wildlife product update talk given by chairman Julian Matthews, which focused on the situation in India. As the safari season in India is drawing to a close, we wanted to give you a little snapshot of what has been going on in some of our favourite parks. While the situation remains precarious, with the presence of poachers ever-felt, there is plenty of reason for optimism.
Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve
It has been an up and down year of sightings at Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. In years gone by, what's known as the Tala zone was considered the most prolific for tiger sightings. However, its ageing dominant male has retreated away and we are hearing reports that the lesser known Khituali and Magdhi zones are now full of carnivores and tigresses with their small cubs, wild dogs and herds of gaur. Watch this space...
Kanha Tiger Reserve
Kanha Tiger Reserve has improved its viewing experiences dramatically with the Barasingha area reporting particularly strong populations, not to mention that the Uma Pani tigress has had four cubs. Shergarh, one of our favourite camps in Kanha is offering fantastic experiences outside the park, visiting the Gond and Baiga villages. Guests can also explore their surroundings on camping trips and cycling treks into the forest and the tribal belts of central India, from half day jaunts to three night trips which also include family-friendly treks.
Pench Tiger Reserve
Pench Tiger Reserve still has an excellent reputation with a growing tiger population. This inevitably draws the crowds so to tone down the people viewing and ramp up the tiger sightings, avoid visiting at the weekend. One of the reserve's tigresses, Collarwali, has had no less than 20 cubs in 4 years! Pench has also had some great sightings of wild dog in large packs. We are very excitedly keeping an eye on a new camp here, Jamtara, which opened in February this year. They are offering something a bit different (we're already standing to attention)... Star beds. Camp out under the stars on a stilted bed that maximises star gazing opportunities, as well as comfort.
Panna Tiger Reserve
Panna is back on the map and definitely worth a visit! It has recently reintroduced a tiger population with great success, now boasting 30 tigers, 12 of which are cubs from the original 4 reintroduced in 2009. This spot still remains under the radar so for some incredible wildlife viewing (think leopard, sloth bear, crocodile and tigers of course) this is the place to be. Night safaris are a great way to see the nocturnal wildlife such as the striped hyena and it's a veritable haven for twitchers as well.
Ranthambore Tiger Reserve
This season Ranthambore has had a new litter of four cubs in the lake area, continuing the Machali dynasty. There are 10 zones at Ranthambore which the tigers move between; and visitors are randomly allocated to a zone on their trip. Game drives are largely done in canters: twenty-seater open vehicles so we would always advise booking your game drives in advance to get into the few jeeps. There is so much to see at this park other than the tigers so when you have a successful game drive you completely forget about the less exciting ones!
Kaziringa National Park
We're going to give you an insider tip here: Kaziringa National Park is on the up. Tiger sightings are progressing with the exciting birth of cubs to four tigresses in the core area of the park, which is not open to tourism yet. The rhino population is so healthy that they have relocated some to Manas National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in an attempt to distribute the population across the forests of Assam. As tiger movement increases though, leopard sightings have been declining while sightings of hog deer and herds of elephants have been great this season. Kaziranga is the perfect place to do an authentic elephant-riding safari with so much wildlife on offer.
So there you have it, all the comings and goings on wildlife safaris in India.
The Travel Operator for Tigers (TOFT) campaign for the protection of tigers, wildlife and forests of India.