RANGE: An estimated 3,890 wild tigers live in Asia (from India to the Russian Far East).
THE EXPERIENCE: Every hair on your body stands on end. Every twig crackle sends you into a minor frenzy as the jeep driver quizzes rangers and studies pugmarks to get the inside track. Then you’re tearing through an Indian forest to a clearing where a Royal Bengal tiger looms in the undergrowth. Only then do you remember to breathe.
NEED TO KNOW: Seeing tigers up close isn’t easy. In 2016, global figures rose for the first time in a century, according to the WWF and Global Tiger Forum; prior to that, tiger numbers across Asia and Russia had fallen by around 95% during the same period. A number of national parks in India and Nepal offer the chance to see these fantastic beasts in the wild, though weekend visits can be crowded. Typically, there are two set safari times per day (dawn and mid-afternoon), and be sure to choose a smaller six-seater vehicle – it’s just more intimate.
BEST PLACE TO SEE… In India, little-visited Satpura Reserve in Madhya Pradesh is a rarity in that it offers walking safaris, though tiger sightings are rarer there. Bandhavgarh (Madhya Pradesh) has the highest density, while attractive Ranthambhore (Rajasthan) is easily accessible from Jaipur (so is busy) and has seen rising tiger numbers in recent years. Pench and Kanha (Madhya Pradesh), Corbett (Uttarakhand) and Periyar (Kerala) are all good options, especially in dry season (Oct–jun) when water is scarce.
Nepal’s parks offer a more remote setting, though, with Chitwan and the lesser-visited Bardia both offering walking and 4WD options (visit Oct–may).