A simple question with a not-so-simple answer. What you find below is my choice based on 27 years of doing tiger safaris in India. The factors I considered are; the habitat, the prey base, water bodies in the park, forest management, tourism management, Tiger density, and frequency of sightings. The most important is consistency over a span of 20 years. As Tiger sightings can change radically like an ECG, hence time frame was given more importance over other parameters.
Ranthambhore National Park: Top 3 Tiger National Parks of India
A historical and a bit touristy park, as it is located in the heart of the Golden Triangle of India circuit. The fort in the background, and jungle in the fore, must be making the Tiger also happy to be a part of this beautiful canvas. How the Tigers have accepted the natural and human creation in this forest is to be seen to be believed. To handle the tourism pressures the safaris here are done in Jeeps and 20-seater open safari buses. But don’t be discouraged if you get to do a safari in the 20-seater open safari bus, as the Tigers are impartial to both types of vehicles.
A word of caution for those who visit Ranthambhore for the first time. There could be occasions when you will not sight a Tiger for 2 or 3 consecutive safaris. But trust me, once you do, you will forget the previous blank safaris.
The factors that go in favor of Ranthambhore to be considered among the Top 3 Tiger National Parks in India are; negligible undergrowth, a lot of water holes, big lakes, and a surplus presence of Sambar deer. Thus enough preferred prey and water make Tiger sightings easier here. Summers are excellent times for Tiger sightings in this park, as a lot of action is seen closer to the water holes and the lakes. Hence Ranthambhore finds a place amongst the Top 3 Tiger National Parks of India. Ghengis Khan, Noor, Bamboo Ram, Jhumroo, T17, T24, and T23 were big names. But it has been Machli the longest living Tiger in the wild, which made people fall in love with Tigers and Wildlife. She passed away on 18th August 2016 at an age of 19 years.
Bandhavgarh National Park: Top 3 Tiger National Parks of India
Bandhavgarh is one park very close to the heart of most Tiger photographers worldwide. It shot into prominence in the mid-nineties when Sita the beautiful Tigress and #Charger a dominant male created a storm worldwide with their bold sightings. The nineties belonged to this bold and beautiful couple. But the next decade belonged to the Legendary B2. He took Tiger tourism to Himalayan heights and a completely different level of the economy. In a study done, he was rated amongst the most photographed male Tiger ever in the history of wildlife photography until he lived. It was later that this title went to Machli in Ranthambhore.
As tourism bridgework increased, Bhamera, Jhurjhura, and Vanvai took the load off handling tourists from B2 in the Tala zone of Bandhavgarh National Park. Currently, it is the Sukhi Patia, and Rajbhera females with their cubs and the Mahamen male which are the hot favorites of everyone.
Grasslands with small rivulets flowing through them attract a lot of prey, thereby predators. Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve is one park where you can see a Tiger in the water, in the bamboo, in the grassland, on the rocks, and on the trails. You can expect a Tiger to appear from anywhere and anytime in Bandhavgarh. Sighting Tigers here is not tough, and hence it is among the Top Tiger National Parks in India. The good time for Tiger sightings here is around the year. In all parks, they say that “you are lucky if you see one Tiger”. But for Bandhavgarh they coined an adage; “you are unlucky if you only see one Tiger here”.
Kanha National Park: Top 3 Tiger National Parks of India
A park that needs no publicity. Kanha’s raw and ever-green beauty makes it one of the most humbling forests I visit regularly. Kanha is one park where it is easy to get lost in the beauty so much that you might forget to click.
When the Tigers of Kanha decide to come on the track, they then just own it. They will walk a few kilometers before changing course. So if you happen to be ahead of them or on their tail, give them distance, if you wish to take loads of great images. A Tiger head sighting here is unmatched in India.
The habitat in Kanha Tiger Reserve is ideal for Tigers to survive here. A study by a researcher concluded that Kanha along with Corbett and Nandhaur will be the last bastions of the Tiger in India. The dense undergrowth, two rivers going through it, prey in tens of thousands, plus friendly local community are all pluses in Tiger’s favor. Kanha provides big prey to the Tigers, the Swamp Deers, the Indian Gaur, and Sambar deers are in surplus here, apart from the regular deers. Perhaps it is the size of the prey here which determines the big size of Kanha Tigers.
Now does this image give you a feel of the size of Kanha Male Tigers?