Photo: Soumyajit Nandy
Conservation efforts help to raise awareness of India’s most iconic beast.
Founded in 1972, Project Tiger was launched to protect India’s most endangered great cat, the Royal Bengal Tiger via a series of geographically diverse “Tiger Reserves”. Project Tiger is one of the most successful ongoing conservation initiatives in the world today. Project Tiger only sanctions habitat “repair” without further developments of any kind, blocking out all ecological disturbances by eliminating all human activity within the reserves. This at the same time fulfills the programme’s goal of having the ability to observe, document and better understand what is essentially one of the 100 per cent interference-free ecosystems on the planet.
The programme includes 28 reserves with a total area of 37,000 sq km under its management.
Photo: Shashankk Rai
The national park is approximately 260 km away from Delhi and is open to tourists from the months of November to June, and temperatures range from 4°C in winter to 42°C during summer. You will be able to rent yourselves a jeep safari to drive in the park, but walking is permitted only in some areas with the company of a guide. Corbett tiger reserve park has been divided into six ecotourism zones (Bijrani, Dhikala, Jhirna, Durgadevi, Dhela and Sonanadi), each having a separate gate for entry. You’ll have to obtain the different entry permits from the relevant authorities to gain entry to the reserve park. With each area’s unique flora and fauna, you will be able to have a different experience as you move across the zones.
Fun Fact: You can have a better chance of spotting a tiger during the dry season (April to mid-June).
Photo: Lonav Bharali
Manas National Park
Situated at the foot of the Bhutan-Himalayas in the state of Assam, Manas National Park is home to a variety of unique biodiversity and breathtaking landscapes. It is also one of the first reserves to be included in the network of tiger reserves under Project tiger in 1973. Subsequently, the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary was also inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. With the northern regions of the park receiving more than 500 cm of rain annually, large numbers of small mammals and large herbivores such as water buffalos thrive — providing a source of food for the tigers all year round, which resulted in the tigers making this area their permanent home.
Manas is very rich in the population of Royal Bengal Tigers (approximately 60), and the park has dedicated 2,480 sq km of reserve to Project Tiger. Tigers have been thriving in Manas since the mid-1970s, concentrated in the 100 sq km of grasslands and dense evergreen forest just inside the park’s northern border with Bhutan. The park is also well known for its rare and endangered endemic wildlife such as the Assam Roofed Turtle, Hispid Hare, Golden Langur, Pygmy Hog and the Himalayan Sloth Bear.
There are three protected areas in Manas: the Manas Sanctuary (391 sq km), Manas National Park (520 sq km) and Manas Tiger Reserve (2,600 sq km). Foreign tourists require a permit to visit the park and the can be obtained on the spot at the field office at Barpeta Road where the basic entrance fee to the park is Rs250 (SGD 4.70) per person per day, an extra Rs300 (SGD 5.65) per jeep entry, and a further Rs500 (SGD 9.40) for cameras. Guwahati is the nearest airport and it’ll be a 176 km (4 to 5 hour) ride to the park. As the park is closed during the monsoon season from mid-May to September, the ideal time to visit is from November to April. If you’re planning to stay overnight within the park, do remember that you must first obtain written permission. Alternatively, you can also opt for hotels in Barpeta Road (44 km away).
Photo: Abhishek Vats
Ranthambore National Park
Ranthambore National Park is one of the biggest and most renowned national parks in Northern India. It is located in the Sawai Madhopur district of southeastern Rajasthan, approximately 130 km from Jaipur. The national park was a former royal hunting ground and officially joined Project Tiger in 1974 before being declared a national park in 1981. Today, the Ranthambore National Park terrain is a major wildlife tourist attraction that has drawn the attention of scores of wildlife photographers and nature lovers. The park covers approximately 392 sq km and when combined with the neighbouring Sawai Man Singh Sanctuary Area, the two parks create a reserve for the area’s large population of tiger, elephant, rhino and other endangered species. The park has three major lakes which are great for wildlife sighting — Padam Talao, Rajbagh Talao, and Malik Talao. Unique to Ranthambore, tigers can regularly be seen hunting and stalking during daylight hours. It has been proven that there are no measurable effects on the tigers’ behaviour even with human presence in very close proximity (10 to 15m). This makes Ranthambore the premier park in the world for catching a glimpse of tigers in their natural state.
While winter temperatures can drop to below 0°C at night, it is 12 to 15°C during the day, making it the ideal season to visit the park. In the summer (April to June), temperatures soar to between 37°C and 47°C in the daytime. The park is opened to visitors from 1st October to 30th June and remains closed to visitors the rest of the year. There are also fixed timings for safaris – one in the morning (7.30am to 10.30am) and one in the evening (3pm to 5.30pm), with earlier timings in the summer season. You can choose to get around the park either through a private-hire six-person jeep or in the 20-person “canters” (open-top tour buses). If you’re travelling by air, the nearest airport is 40 minutes away in Jaipur (145 km). It’s also linked to Delhi via rail along the Delhi-Mumbai line (a 7-hour, 362 km ride). Trains in both directions serve Ranthambore via the Sawai Madhopur Station (11km from the park entrance).