Tiger watching vacation in India

“One of our lower priced 9 day tiger safari vacations, traveling with small Indian based wildlife experts in Central India. ”

Highlights

Delhi | Kanha National Park | Bandhavgarh National Park | Sleeper train journey from Delhi | Jabalpur | Trained naturalist guides from local community | 10 game drives

Departure information

This trip can be tailormade throughout the year and can be adapted to suit your requirements for 2 to 12 people. The best time to travel is October to June
Our top tip:
Tigers are very rare, so enjoy the rest of the superb variety of wildlife too. There is so much on offer.
Trip type:
Tailor made. No minimum age.
Activity level:
Leisurely but early AM starts.
Accomm:
B&B in Delhi, sleeper train and safari lodges.
Included:
Accommodation, all meals (except Delhi B&B), 10 game drives, naturalist guide, sleeper train, transfers, wildlife lecture.
Solos:
Minimum 2 people.
Vouchers
Accepted
Vacation type

Traveling with a local operator

This vacation is operated by a company based in the vacation destination and they will be able to provide expert local knowledge. They will be able to tailor make your vacation to suit your requirements not only concerning the dates of travel but also typically the standard of accommodation, and thus price. It is rare for local operators to be able to help with the booking of your flights.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Tiger watching vacation in India

This trip aims to help and support a more responsible and sustainable approach to wildlife tourism in Central India by catering to small groups of not more than 10-12 people, thus leaving behind the least impact on a particular destination. Our connection with the central Indian National parks & jungles date backs to 1932 when one of our family members Late Lakhpat Rai was the first chief conservator of Forest of Central India during British rule. The trained naturalists who will accompany you for game drives are from the local community who have developed the skills of communicating with clients over the years with our regular in house training.

Recently we installed the first ground water recharge unit in one of the lodges in Kanha which we will use. A part of the income (£5 per person) generated from this tour goes straight to the local tribal village school in Kanha. We will be visiting one such school during your trip.

The lodge in Bhandavgarh NP: 80% of the staff come from the local area and the lodge is committed to purchasing from local suppliers as far as possible. The lodge has a water soak pit, uses recycled water to water their plants (we discourage gardens that have high water demands), and there is a sign in all bathrooms explaining how to save water. The lodge only uses CFL lamps and solar lanterns to save electricity.

The lodge in Kanha NP: The lodge you will stay in was constructed using locally available material and each cottage was built in the local style without chemical paints. They use waste wood boilers for heating and try to minimise electricity use by using energy saving lamps and solar, hurricane and earthen lamps in the night. There is no air-conditioning. In addition the lodge use recycled stationary, harvests rain water, uses soak pits to collect water and reuses waste water in the garden. All cleaning is done manually (no machines), organic waste is composted, food is cooked on LPG stoves and they do not allow music or televisions to keep noise pollution to a minimum.

The lodge is dedicated to the local upliftment of the area. They were the first in the history of Kanha National Park to train the locals in catering, house keeping, steward ship, guiding etc., all of whom had very basic schooling if any at all. The staff is trained at the parent hotel in Jabalpur, and the majority (all drivers) come from the local community. They have financed one vehicle for a member of our staff who is from the community and use this for game drives. In addition, they do not have washing machines so they can provide work for the local community and have taught the local people cane weaving and pottery, the results of which are all used in the lodge. Raw materials are purchased locally where possible.

Reviews of Tiger watching vacation in India

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.

I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 26 Apr 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Seeing a tiger in the wild was simply amazing, but another heartstopping experience happened a few days later. While having an outdoor supper at the hotel (in a remote area surrounded by small farms), a tiger nearby started calling. It sounded so close and the area was so dark. Simply amazing to be that close to wild tigers.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


I would recommend bringing good binoculars. I had a pair, but a stronger pair would have been a bit asset. Also, don't plan on having time to do much exercise. The days are long, and when you're in the jeep in the park you can't get out, so you are sitting for much of each day. When jeeps are booked for you, you will have a driver, a guide from your hotel/resort, and also a guide from the park. I would have found this useful to know in advance in terms of planning tips. Finally, many websites warn about mosquitos, however during my stay (8 to 14 April) there were almost no bugs of any kind (thankfully).

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


My vacation was definitely of benefit to local people. All of the people I interacted with were local, from the area, and safari/tourism is their main source of income. With that being said, they were not pushy at all, just very friendly and open. The area that I was in seemed very supportive to tiger conservation. The jeeps must stay on the paths, there are no radios between jeeps (so sightings are not generally overrun with jeeps), only 20% of the park is open for tourism, and the number of jeeps allowed in the park each day is limited. All of these things made for an exclusive experience, and helped me to feel good about how the animals were being treated in their forest home.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


My vacation was amazing. Neelesh was incredibly responsive during all stages of my trip planning. On arrival everything was taken care of, from airport pick-up to drop off, and everything in between. He even arranged a trip to Agra with a guide for me. The hotel was beautiful, with incredible food and a gorgeous pool to relax in during the afternoons. The safari was the highlight, and every part of my stay was incredible.

Reviewed on 04 Feb 2016 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Seeing tigers!! Heart-stopping!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Tiger are much more likely to be seen in the summer i.e. March and April, when the waterholes have shrunk or disappeared and the tigers are obliged to show themselves more often because of thirst. We have been to 3 different tiger reserves, in November and January, and each time we did 6 safaris before we saw a tiger. So many people who only plan one or two safaris at these times are terribly disappointed, whereas in the summer you are much more likely to have success, so I'm told.
After that my main advice would be to discuss your needs with Neelesh, who runs this company with great care and devotion. He operates in several tiger reserves and owns Courtyard House at Kanha, which is heaven on earth, and he took real care to fix us a truly brilliant experience.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Absolutely. Courtyard House is run with kindness as its focus, for guests and
staff. Responsible tiger tourism will help safeguard these magnificent creatures
and save them from poachers. Also the resident naturalist Uday taught us so much about the natural world.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Just fantastic. However, next time we will programme in one or two days with only one safari instead of two, which will give us time to relax by the lovely pool at Courtyard House and recover from the full-on tiger-watching. It's a wonderful, beautiful experience, even if you don't see tiger, but it's also exhausting!

Reviewed on 04 Jun 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Seeing tigers! Other wildlife was also amazing..

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


We would advise that travelers ensure that they book a jeep safari at Ranthambhor and not the 20 seater canters. We were advised that we would be able to change our booking for at least one of our 12 safaris for a jeep when we got there but we were informed by the hotel/reserve that the jeeps are booked out many months in advance. The jeeps are more expensive but if you want to see a tiger they give you the best chance. Although we saw a tiger at Ranthambhor from a canter we were extremely fortunate since the canters are too noisy full of very excited local people!

Budget for tips. However, if you are on a canter don't feel that tipping is a necessity unless the guide has earned it. We tipped on every trip because we had been advised to in guide books but this is more appropriate if in private jeeps rather than canters. We often tipped the guide when he didn't even speak in english!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Local people - yes due to booking through a local company and through tipping guides/drivers. We felt that we had supported conservation of the tiger by bringing funds into the park although we were not made aware of what actual conservation action is being carried out on the reserve.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


It was a trip of a lifetime and to experience tigers at such close hand was an experience we will never forget. India is exhausting but the wildlife of the parks was amazing. Although we are pleased to have booked through a local company the general lack of english language by the drivers was an issue especially when problems occurred (incorrect class of train tickets booked). Our travel representative was rather loof which didn't help! However, the trip went according to schedule over-all and it was amazing!

Reviewed on 25 Apr 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Seeing tigers in the wild - just a glimpse in Pench national park but several great sightings in Kanha park.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be prepared to get up early - 5am most days, but it's worth it. You need a warm jacket as it's quite cold early mornings, but gets very hot on afternoon drives, you need to be covered up as you are in open jeeps. The Courtyard Hotel at Kanha was very good, just 5 lovely rooms, great food and an excellent guide.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Guides and other staff seemed very aware of conservation and environmental issues. Seemed to have good relations with local community.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent, well organised, all arrangements went smoothly and we had a great time.

Reviewed on 24 Nov 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


The two most exciting aspects of my Tiger Tour package at Kanha National Park were; viewing a large male tiger for over half an hour in the wilderness, and the tremendously lucky spotting of a pack of wild dogs (my guide mentioned that the dogs had not been seen at all last year). Additionally I added about a gazillion birds to my life list and spotted almost every mammal for which the park is famous. My guide Uday Patel is a fabulous naturalist and tracker, he just really made the trip! He shared not only animal lore but discussed many, many aspects of Indian cultures, traditions and society.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Both the tour company and the wonderful boutique hotel are owned by the same person. Though I had booked my six day tour in mid June and had been assured that my lodging would be at a certain boutique hotel, and was notified after my deposit was received that I was fully booked and confirmed, just several weeks before I was scheduled to fly to India to begin a month-long journey, I was notified by Neelesh, owner of both the tour company and lodge, that there was a problem with my second night scheduled at the hotel due to another group who “extended their stay in Kanha” and I was advised that I would have to “shift” for that night to a different lodge. At that point I was thinking ‘so what am I, chopped liver?!’ and thinking that this was a bit of bait and switch. Had I received this notice earlier I would have cancelled the entire tour and re-booked elsewhere, but it was so close to the time of my departure for India that I did not think anything else would still available, didn’t have a lot of time left to check around and also suspected that I would not get my trip deposit back. So swallowing hard, I figured ‘well it’s only one of my four planned weeks in India, so if it turns out badly at least it will not wreck my entire trip’. In the end, although I was “shifted” to another hotel, a cheaper , 3-star establishment as opposed to the more expensive 5-star original, for the second night of my stay with no reduction in my overall tour cost, after that inconvenience my stay at the boutique hotel was delightful.

Other than the booking problem at the first hotel, I did feel quite well taken care of. Pre-trip, all of my emails were answered promptly. Neelesh gave me very good advice in suggesting that I limit my safari to just Kanha to maximize my chances of seeing tigers rather than trying to safari in two parks, that advise was spot on! He also made the arrangements for my overnight train ride from Varanasi to Jabalpur where I was picked up by my guide and driven to Kanha, that reservation in itself was a godsend since it seemed almost impossible to figure out how to book a train by myself (even my travel agent did not want to touch that one!) I was also very relieved when my guide met me at the door of my train carriage upon arrival in Jabalpur and very thankful that he led me back to my booked berth for my return trip to Delhi (train stations are really big and confusing.) Staying at Courtyard House was living in the lap of luxury. The staff were incredibly attentive, the rooms are attractive and very spacious, and the hotel itself seemingly based upon Vaastu Shstra principles is beautifully designed and struck me as a modified Manduva Logili type of courtyard house built to be suitable for extended family. Indeed in staying at Courtyard House I felt as if I were the guest of an aristocratic family. I loved having meals in various locales on the property; lunch poolside overlooking the beautiful infinity pool that merged into the wilderness, a breakfast on the second floor balcony overlooking the buffer zone, and dinners on the terrace or in the beautiful formal dining room among the other lodge guests. The meals by the way were simply outstanding!

The biggest tip for scheduling a trip to Kanha National Park is that according to my guide, the best time for tiger spotting is late January and early February since at that time the foliage is less thick, the water holes are drying up and prey animals are congregating in greater numbers around the remaining water making easier to locate the tigers.

It was also very helpful to be given a variety of methods for paying the trip balance other than wiring money directly to an account of a person and business that I did not really know. After asking, Neelesh gave me the options of paying the balance in U.S. cash upon arrival, or with travelers checks, or by PayPal if I was willing to add the amount PayPal would charge him to process it (about $87 additional.)


3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


This vacation benefited local people in that the jeep (gypsy) driver was a local, as were the hotel staff and the mandatory park guides assigned to your gypsy each time you enter the park. As far as environmental impacts, I assume that all of the food served in the hotel is locally sourced and the hotel itself is quite small and blends beautifully into the environment. One thing I would urge Courtyard House to do is to install a water filtration system somewhere in the house instead of continuously handing out plastic bottles of water, especially since I doubt that the area has any way to recycle those plastic bottles. And last but not least, bringing tourist dollars into a National Park where tigers and other animals are protected is always a good thing.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


It’s a bit hard for me to rate this vacation; on one hand this experience was way more than I had expected, and my ultimate desire of spending as much time as possible exploring Kanha National Park was fully met and tremendously augmented by Uday Patel, the hotel’s wonderful naturalist guide, but on the other hand it was quite disconcerting to be bumped for a night after receiving a confirmed reservation and abandoned in another establishment for my second night. Honoring a confirmed reservation is just such a basic expectation for both the hotel and tour businesses, that I remain a bit surprised. I have travelled on six continents and never had this type of problem before. For this reason and this reason alone, I would actually hesitate to recommend this trip to a friend and probably will go with a different company myself when I return for another adventure in India.

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Christine

First of all thanks for the wonderful honest review about your stay. Secondly please accept our gratitude for being generous, we know the shifting caused you anguish but believe us, you continued to be our honored guest all the time while you stayed at Kanha. You gratefully accommodated us during extraordinaire circumstance for which we are extremely grateful. Please except our apologies for any inconvenience caused.

The house has a limited accommodation and we wish to keep it that way for positive guest experience. Our guests are never chopped liver but sometimes we are bound by circumstances and look forward to guest for support for which we are extremely grateful to you and thank you wholeheartedly.

We do not go against guest wishes especially in case of confirmed bookings - you can be assured of that.
I hope you continue to enjoy our hospitality. The whole staff and our naturalist guide Uday await you. We welcome you back wholeheartedly for more tiger safaris and birding at Kanha National Park.

We once again regret for the inconvenience caused.

Thanking you sincerely
Neelesh Agrawal

Reviewed on 26 Jul 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Seeing a tiger resting and grooming in Kanha National Park. The monsoon rains in Sikkim. The Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Allow enough days in a national park to have a good chance to see a tiger. Pelling and Martham in Sikkim weren't good choices for the monsoon season (our choice to go there) but it was a good experience nevertheless. Take it easy for the first couple of days in Ladakh due to the altitude. Take a washbasin plug, none of the hotels have them.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Lots of employment for local people, local guides and drivers; we paid a lot of tips to everyone who helped us. We stayed in non-chain hotels and homestays so hopefully our payments helped local people rather than going to big companies.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent organisation by the operator, very good timekeeping by all who met us at various places. Knowledgeable guides, good, safe drivers.

Reviewed on 03 Nov 2013 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Actually seeing Tigers in the wild

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be aware it's a very long train ride....take food on board with you, just in case you miss the 'food service' The company looked after us very well and the food was amazing

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Reductions in permits has helped in some ways but also means less tourists can get in to see the National parks and the tigers...a fine balance needs to be struck. Not sure if this is the right one at present

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Fantastic, but certainly not a relaxing one...long distances, very bad roads in places, but worth it once there.

Reviewed on 11 Dec 2009 by

Just a short note to report back on our tour in India. Firstly we would like to complement the tour operator on their efficiency in organising our trip and in the prompt way in which they dealt with our queries.

Neelesh will be aware that there was a slight mix up with the collection in
Delhi, we had checked out and told reception that we would wait in the reception area for your driver. As it was, it did not matter as we were collected on time. The train was fine other than running 2 hours late. This could have caused confusion as it is difficult to see station names at night. Fortunately we had a train timetable so could work out how late the train was running.

The visit to Bandhavgarh was excellent having seen a tigress and her two cubs shortly before the end of our last visit to the reserve. We felt that we were being given special treatment by the staff at the reserve. We realised that it was going to be difficult seeing tigers because of the rain but the last ride made up for everything. Friends of ours were at another reserve a week earlier and it appeared that whilst they saw more tigers their experience was much more laid on for tourists. Well done.

Khajuraho was again excellent with an exceptional representative, Krishna, who not only took us to the usual tourist sites but showed us his village and gave us a chance to see village life in India. The guide who took us around the temples was very good. Varanasi we found disappointing. The morning and evening celebrations were interesting, as was the weaving of silk. Unfortunately there did not appear to be much else to do there. At breakfast on the first day someone asked us whether we had found somewhere else to eat, we soon realised why, as the food served at the hotel was not particularly interesting and we did not see anywhere else in Varanasi that we would consider eating in. We did not think that Varanasi warranted two days but, considering that we had to fly there and back, one day would have appeared to be too short. As we had about a day to ourselves we would have appreciated guidance on what we might find of interest.

To summarise the first two places were first class and we would go back there again with excellent food and accommodation as well as plenty to see. Varanasi was somewhere that should be seen because of its religious significance but only once.

Many thanks for organising the second part of our India visit it fitted in very well with the first half organised by Rotary.

Reviewed on 14 Apr 2009 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Without a doubt seeing tigers in Bandhavgarh and Kanha national parks. We saw tigers in 4 tiger shows when you go on the elephants to where the mahouts have found tigers and three times clearly walking and/or sitting from the jeep.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be very clear about the exact details of what is and is not included.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Not much to those not directly working in the national parks or resorts. Environmental impacts at the resorts I am sure could have been improved such as recycling/re-use, use of other energy such as solar.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Had an excellent time in the resorts and national parks but a few niggles with the operator's information and arrangements.

Read the operator's response here:

We try to minimise the environmental impacts at the resorts but some times due to cloudy weather it becomes difficult to get the hotel water through solar system. But yes the heating system is either using gas which is eco friendly or using waste to run the water boilers. No electricity is used to use the hot water. But we totally agree with the client views and will work further harder on the issues raised by the clients.

Reviewed on 28 Jan 2008 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Seeing (and hearing!) the tigers and a leopard.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Spotting tigers is not guaranteed. Remember to enjoy all the other aspects of the wildlife and don't leave disappointed if the tigers chooses to remain hidden. Part of the adventure is seeking and listening - and if you are lucky to see it, it is even more rewarding after all the effort.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


I trust it was beneficial for locals, but I don't actually know well enough the environmental impact.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Very nice experience, the tour operator took care of everything so we could concentrate on making the most out of our vacation.

Read the operator's response here:

When we cater to small groups or just the two of you then we are actually putting a very less impact on the local destination thus taking full care of the enviromment by not leaving behind too many footprints. Our policy of promoting all our tours especially when taking a wildlife tour is that we use only those lodges which are environmentally friendly and have the minimum impact on the local area. In our endeavor for eco friendly tourism we seek lodges which subscribe to a policy of eco friendly and sustainable conduct and encourage the visitors to follow the same. Lodge should use all the locally available material so that the structure should blend with the local culture thus giving employment to the local people & does not create unnecessary confrontation between the local & outside labours.

Some of the features which we look for when selecting any lodge is as below:

1) Lodge that use locally available resource able material so that the structures blend with the surrounding. Such practice has minimum impact on the ecosystem. We do not promote lodges which have been established on splendid landscapes at the cost of the forests or the local ecosystem.

2) Lodges that encourage promotion of recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation methods. Lodges that use solar energy for heating water and lightening etc.

3) Lodges that cater to only small manageable groups so as to minimize detrimental effect of tourism by reducing utilization of non renewable resources such as energy usage for traveling.

4) Lodges that employ proper waste disposable methods so as to prevent contaminating the local environment and people.

5) Lodges which employ locals: Such lodges generate viable economic opportunity for local communities employing them at various levels to alleviate poverty and unemployment. This gives an impetus to conserve local ecosystems and prevent antipathy towards tourism since in this the benefit percolate to endemic communities as well as the investors.

6) Lodges that discourage purchase of animal products or items of archaeological/historical values. This prevents illegal harvesting of animal products or smuggling of heritage and encourages purchase of local goods and handicrafts instead.

7) Lodges that employ experienced tour guides who create awareness among tourists about bio diversity and the way to conduct themselves so as not to harm the ecosystem and animals. Lodges which through this medium sensitize tourists to environmental/conservation issues and thus encourage them to actively participate in conserving the bio-diversity or cultural heritage.

8) Lodges that promote cultural integrity, guide tourists to learn and respect local customs and contribute to intercultural understanding.

9) Lodges that actively participate in social service like funding local schools, hospitals and orphanages etc. Lodges that organize educational tours and lectures for the less privileged.


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