Getting the intel from Kiera
A Tigers Itinerary Low-down
Having just done the trip herself, our content and marketing assistant, Kiera, has returned from India with all the Tigers Itinerary intel that you could possibly need. If these big cats are on your bucket-list, this one’s worth a read.
WHEN TO GO
Our Spring: some like it hot (and we're talking 40+ degrees celsius hot)
In March, April and early May, central India is in heat wave mode. As far as the jungle is concerned, this means dry conditions with minimal foliage on the trees and less watering holes. In other words, your chances of seeing a tiger increase tenfold. The naturalists are all attuned to the tigers general movements and therefore are able to make an educated guess as to when they may be looking to take a drink – or a dip – to cool down. Plus, less leaves on the trees means that even if they’re feeling a bit shy that day, you'll have a better chance of spotting them taking shelter in the forest too. The only downside? Summer tends to sell out fast. So if your jungle experience is solely based on catching one of these incredible creatures at large, these months are your best hope, but you’ll have to be quick about it. Our 2020 dates are now on sale, so what are you waiting for?
Our winter: going for the green
November and December see the national parks in full swing. If you’re after the real jungle experience with the chance of seeing a tiger or two thrown in too, then these are the months for you. Fully revived after the monsoon season, the vegetation is at its best at this time of year. Dense jungle scenery will make it harder to spot a tiger, but for bird watchers and general nature lovers, this really is a wonderful time to visit.
WHAT TO WEAR
This completely depends on the time of year. Summers are HOT and winters can get surprisingly cold so you really do have to come prepared. I.e. don't last minute pack like I did and forget your hat – a rookie error if there ever was one. Also don't wear all white (again, like I did), unless you want said white clothes to have a long-lasting orange tinge from all of the dry jungle dust.
Bearing in mind I travelled in April, if I could do it all over again, I would go for long loose clothing in neutral colours like browns and khakis, topped off with a typical safari-style hat – something that I was able to purchase when there and am very thankful that I did. Basically you want to keep yourself covered up from the sun whilst staying as cool as is possible when sat in an open-top jeep as temperatures creep towards the high thirties.
On the flip side, I was told that safariing pre sunrise in winter can get pretty chilly and temperatures will only reach low the twenties – obviously that’s pretty balmy for us Brits, but in the jungle things can feel different. I think that layers are the way to go for the colder months, but your jeep will also provide blankets, so as long as you’re prepared you shouldn’t be affected by any temperature drops.
WHAT CAMERA TO TAKE
Before the safari, I thought that the office camera (a standard Nikon point and shoot) was the bees knees, but next to all the other safari goers – I’m talking real wildlife enthusiasts here – I was pretty obviously an amateur. We still got great pictures, they would have just been better with a more suitable lens. On a safari it's all about the zoom. No matter how close the tiger looks in person, it will be hard to convince your mates back home that the moment was spine chilling if in your pics the King of the Jungle resembles a striped smudge. Although we’re all in agreement here at Meraki that phones are usually more than sufficient for getting holiday snaps, we're afraid that however snazzy your model is, it's unlikely to cut it on this one. At the end of the day memories mean more than pictures, but if you'd like some cold hard proof of your trip, we’d say that it’s time to invest in a proper camera or borrow one from a friend/family member/work colleague.
WHAT TO EXPECT
It would be easy to pin all of your hopes on a tiger sighting, but in the wild, nothing can ever be guaranteed. We’re sure that the years that it takes to film any Attenborough documentary has taught his crew that much! Even with the best of naturalists on your side, tiger sightings are largely down to pure luck and as frustrating as that may seem, you shouldn’t let it hinder your experience. If the big cats are top priority, increase your chances of seeing them by going in the dry season (March, April and early May) and opt for relaxed pace to get eight game drives during your trip rather than the standard four.
In saying that, there is so much more to Bandhavgarh and Kanha than the tigers that call these areas their home. There is a certain magic about these jungled landscapes that have you gripped from the off. From listening out for alarm calls, to stopping for wild boar to cross your path, a visit here really does transport you to the world of Rudyard Kipling’s imagination – spotting a Shere Khan would just be the cherry on top of an already very sweet cake.
It’s also worth preparing for things to get wild. Wifi is practically non-existent across most lodges and if you were expecting phone service then think again. As much as wifi is practically like oxygen in this day and age, it’s actually the perfect opportunity to relish some time offline and enjoy the back to basics setting. It really was refreshing. Honestly!
HOW MUCH MONEY TO CARRY
From tips (we recommend tipping your guide/driver 400-500 rupees), to toilet fees (using the jungle toilet in Bandhavgarh could set you back 5 rupees, but don’t expect to see any evidence of where your money is going!), it’s always good to carry some cash on you. There’s also a strong possibility that there will be a stall to buy souvenirs at some point during your safari experience, so you may want to leave room in your budget for a tiger themed t shirt or hat. Caps were being sold in Bandhavgarh for 200 rupees, whilst my safari hat set me back 400 rupees.
TAILORING YOUR HOLIDAY
If you have the time (and the money), we would go for a relaxed pace tour. That takes your trip from eight to ten nights giving you two extra nights in the jungle, which is what you’re here for, right?
In fact, a relaxed pace tour isn’t just about the extra time, it’s about the extra experiences too. With an added night in each of the national parks, you’ll get a total of four more safaris, doubling your chances of sighting a tiger. Having been there, done that, I, for one, really do think that it’s worth it.
When it comes to hotels, our standard lodges will all do the job, but for a bit more comfort during your jungle experience, why not upgrade? Opting for our luxury accommodation is obviously the ultimate way to pair pampering with top-notch wildlife expertise, whilst upgrading to character or premium will also come with their added perks.
Fancy seeing it for yourself? Put your own itinerary together now.