Tiger safari holidays guide

The first time I saw a tiger in the wilds of India, I cried.
The tiger is both revered and feared. Elusive and exalted. It is the national symbol of India and yet it is, ironically, royalty, be it Mughals, Maharajas or British, who were responsible for wiping out vast numbers of its tiger population. Hunting tigers became the favourite pastime of the rich and regal as far back as the late 1800s. Back then, there were 10,000 wild tigers on the Indian subcontinent. Today, there are fewer than 4,000 worldwide, a population still shrunk by hunting and diminishing habitats caused by deforestation and development.

There are now six subspecies remaining in the world: the Bengal tiger, Siberian tiger, South China tiger, Indochinese tiger, Malayan tiger and Sumatran tiger. You can see most of them on a tiger safari in India but also in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Siberia. The impact of seeing a tiger is a highly emotional one, touching the psyche in multi-dimensional ways - discovering something precious you feared was lost, being transported back to your childhood dreams, witnessing poetry in motion or, for some, simply a deeply spiritual moment.

Read more about watching the most captivating big cat of all in our tiger safaris travel guide.

Is a tiger safari for you?

Do go and see tigers in the wild if…

… you are passionate about tiger conservation. Being highly endangered, the time is now to not only glimpse them in the wild, but also support tourism as a vital means of conservation. … you want to combine natural and cultural heritage in one trip, because India is going to awaken every sense and satisfy all wanderlust. Taj at sunrise, tigers at sunset. Roll camera… … you also want to see leopards, sloth bears, elephants, Asiatic lions, thousands of birds, deer, the list goes on. … you are organised. You need to book safaris well in advance, as national parks tickets are the hottest ones in town these days. As are beds at local lodges and safari camps.

Don’t go and watch tigers in the wild if…

… you are impatient. They are the most loved animals in the jungle. And you know what they say. You can’t hurry love. You just have to wait. … you just want to get your eye on the tiger. It can never be guaranteed. So, if you are a ‘tick box’ wildlife watcher this probably isn’t for you. ... you just want the tropics. Depending on the season, it can be very cold on morning safaris, with hats and gloves a must. ... you have a heart condition. It will skip more than a few beats when you see one, for sure.

Our top Tiger safari Holiday

Wildlife holiday in Central India

Wildlife holiday in Central India

Best of Indian wildlife with tiger, leopard and sloth bear

From Rupee249000 to Rupee272000 12 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2023: 12 Nov, 26 Nov, 10 Dec, 22 Dec, 31 Dec
2024: 7 Jan, 4 Feb, 15 Feb, 7 Mar, 7 Apr
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Tiger safari or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

what does a tiger safari entail?

The majority of tiger safaris take place in India in their national parks and tiger reserves, all now protected since 1971 when the new prime minister, Indira Gandhi went on a mission to stop the devastating demise of tigers by setting up Project Tiger, which still exists today, but is more commonly known as the National Tiger Conservation Authority. Tiger safaris have, therefore, become fairly bureaucratic, which is why you need to book well in advance and use an experienced operator to ensure you get the best possible experience out of what will be, for most people, a long awaited dream come true.
And when that dream becomes reality, you will need to spend at least four or five days in tiger watching landscapes to allow for a sighting. Ideally you will be staying in a lodge, in the immediate environs of the tiger reserve so that you can start your game drive early.
In India, tiger safaris generally take place in an open jeep, a minibus known as a canter or, less common nowadays, on the back of an elephant. Known as tiger shows, these are controversial, as discussed on our Responsible Tourism page. These treks do bring in tourists and income for the parks and arguably helps tiger conservation. At however Responsible Travel we do not support any elephant trekking. Read our guide on elephant trekking here.
In any case, you get much better interpretation and wildlife knowledge from a guide on a jeep tour, as elephant guides are ‘mahouts’ or elephant trainers, where the focus is on controlling the elephant rather than promoting the environment. An ideal number of people in your jeep is four, keeping the noise impact to a minimum and also ensuring you comfort on the game drive. In more remote tiger habitats, such as in Nepal, Bhutan and Siberia, exploring by foot is more common.
Written by Catherine Mack
Photo credits: [Page banner: Annie Spratt] [Bengal tiger: Bernie Catterall] [Tigress and cubs: Brian Gatwicke] [Tigres in bandhavgarh: Archith] [Tiger in Ranthambore: Bjoern] [Open top jeep: Brian Gatwicke] [Tiger at bhadra sanctuary: Dineshkannambadi]