At the onset let me caution you that whatever kind of Tiger sighting that you may have in our national parks, you can never have it enough. I personally think that every Tiger sighting is good, and it will always leave a permanent mark on your memory. Let me elucidate the types of sightings which will leave varying degree of adrenaline rush in you. This is totally my opinion and is arrived after seeing Tigers for more than 30 years in Indian Jungles.
Tiger sightings in India can vary from a glimpse behind the bush to a long sighting of over an hour or two as well. Duration of sighting is just one factor in assessing the quality of Tiger sighting, other factors being the distance of the Tiger from the vehicle, the light condition, whether yours was the only vehicle that was present on the spot during sighting etc.
Another important aspect to remember is that no one can guarantee any of the below types of sightings. We can only give you indications and most likely chances of the same.
The idea behind the below order is the frequency of these sightings. So No 5 is more frequent and No 1 is least frequently seen.
5. A general Tiger sighting
This is a sighting in which you may sight a Tiger in a bush, or in some clearance, maybe in a waterhole, or even on the path ahead of you walking towards you head on, or walking away from you. In these listed sightings it is the Tiger head-on (a Tiger coming towards you) is generally considered as an excellent sighting by most of the photographers. A Tiger head-on sighting can happen in any park but there are some parks where they happen more than others. For e.g. in Kanha you can get more Tiger head-on shots compared to tiger sightings in Bandhavgarh, Panna, or Jim Corbett. There are reasons for the same, (perhaps another blog is required for that) so one must know what one wants and choose the national park accordingly. For general Tiger sightings, most of the parks in central India and north India are good. Parks, like Bandhavgarh, Tadoba, Kanha, Pench, Ranthambhore and Corbett are good with general Tiger sightings.
4. Tigress with cubs
This is one of the most satiating Tiger sightings, as you tend to see more than one Tiger in one frame together. The cuteness and innocence of Tiger cubs leaves one completely spellbound. The smaller the cubs the higher the adrenaline rush. There are many photographers and guests who come to see the Tigress with cubs, so it is important again to choose the right time of the year to visit and to know which park to visit. For small cubs Ranthambhore is a good park, and so is Bandhavgarh. For cubs over 6 months parks like Kanha, Pench, and Tadoba are good. One must note that a Tigress normally does not get her cubs out before they are at least 3 months old. She has to save them from other predators, so she continues to move them from one safe place to another. Good time to see cubs is normally the summer months. Once the cubs become confident that is more than 7-8 months then they tend to spend more time playing with each other either in water, in bush or even on tracks where the tourist vehicles ply. Tigress cub sightings also depend on the nature of the mother. If she is a bold Tigress like the legendary ‘Collarwali’ in Pench, then be rest assured that you are in for some good sightings.
For that matter, even Dhawajhandi or Naina Tigress in Kanha are bold mothers. Spotty, Dotty, and Solo of Bandhavgarh are perhaps leaders in this. But it is Maya of Tadoba which stands on a high pedestal along with Collarwali of Pench when it comes to bold Tigresses with cubs.
3. Tigers mating
This is not commonly seen as this happens either in the winter months (December/January) or in the month of May usually. There are some parks where one has more chances of seeing Tigers mating. It is Ranthambhore and Bandhavgarh where one has best possible chances, but Tigers mate in all parks. When I say Ranthambhore and Bandhavgarh it is due to the thin undergrowth that you have distant vision of Tigers.
2. Tiger chase and kill
This is happening in every park, as Tigers need to kill to survive. We know for a fact that a Tiger needs close to 50 medium size deers to survive through the year. Also we know that a Tigers success rate is less than 10% when it comes to kill. So for one Tiger to survive through the year he has to do more than 500 chases per year. And this figure is only for one Tiger. For a park like Kanha which has over 100 Tigers, you can calculate that there are close to 50000 chases every year in the park. With such high number of chases in one park, one might think that your chances of seeing them are high, on the contrary they are low. Reasons being that Tigers normally ambush, hunt early morning before tourist vehicles enter, or after dusk. For drivers, and guides going in daily twice would consider themselves lucky if they see even one in the year. So, if you happen to see one during your visit to the national park, consider yourself blessed. There are several regular visitors to these parks over the years who are yet to see a Tiger chase and kill. The parks where one has more chances of seeing this are Ranthambhore, Tadoba and Bandhavgarh also for the reason that these parks are less dense.
Another reason that can determine this sighting is the number of Tigresses with cubs. For e.g., if a given park has more females with cubs, then she needs to hunt often, practically daily, so more chances of seeing such chase and kill.
1. Tiger territorial fight
This is by far the most thrilling sighting that one can ever dream of seeing. This happens when a Tiger in order to defend his/her own territory wards off the other Tiger. This fight just like Tiger mating can continue for hours. The Tigers will walk alongside, then occasionally stand on hind legs to slap or punch each other. There are lethal and at times fatal blows which can deeply injure the other Tiger or even kill the Tiger. Normally the killing is rare as the lesser Tiger normally leaves the area when he realises that he is no match for the dominating Tiger. But two similar aged Tigers fight can be fatal. It has happened in the past in some parks. But one park which has shot into prominence for the Tiger fights is Kanha, and that too Mukki zone. Other zones in Kanha have seen these fights, but moreso in Mukki zone. About 6 big fights in last 5 years. Some tourists, and naturalists have been fortunate to see these deadly duels, perhaps another blog is required to describe the same.
To sum it I would like to add that do not go in the park with a sole objective to see Tigers, go and enjoy the wilderness, the chirping of the birds, the calling of the animals, and the song of nature. Tiger is a part of the eco-system, and he will make an appearance at an opportune time. Yes, you will be delighted when he shows up, but do not be disappointed if he does not, for not only has he definitely seen you, but that also becomes a reason for you to visit the national park again and again.