India’s Ministry of Forests and the National Tiger Conservation Authority allowed tiger reserves in the country to open from June 2020. As tourism is the bedrock on which protected areas can support their infrastructure, growth, and local communities, travellers can now enjoy exciting safaris once again.
Of course, while following some COVID-safety rules.
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New safari rules for all open tiger reserves
- All tourists, drivers and guides will have their temperature tested during entry. Those with temperatures above normal will immediately be isolated and then evacuated to the closest health facility.
- The use of face masks and face shields is mandatory. All vehicles must have sanitiser provisions, to be used during boarding and deboarding.
- Vehicle ‘tyre baths’ with disinfectants to be installed at entry points.
- Those below the age of 10 and above 65 cannot enter a reserve. The authorities will check your documents, which need to be kept ready.
- Seating capacity in jeeps has been reduced by 50% to ensure social distancing.
- Lavatories to be present at entry and exit points, as no tourist can disembark from their vehicle inside the reserve.
India’s safari season is from October to March every year. Now that you know the rules, here are the 6 tiger reserves that are open to tourists as of November 2020:
Ranthambore National Park
Where: Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan. Closest major cities are Jaipur, Udaipur, Kota, Agra, Kanpur and New Delhi.
Top sights: Tigers at this park are known to not shy away from human visitors, even hunting in full view of safaris. Leopards are abundant, and you can also spot panthers at Kachida Valley, sloths and hyenas at Lakarda, crocodiles at Padam Talao and the ruins of Rajbagh are other popular attractions at Ranthambore.
For a full list of wildlife (and photo ops!) at the reserve, see ranthamborenationalpark.com.
Rajaji National Park
Where: Covering the districts of Dehradun, Pauri Garhwal and Haridwar. Closest major cities are Roorkee, Nainital, New Delhi, Ghaziabad, Chandigarh, Muzaffarnagar and Meerut.
Top sights: At least 18 tigers are known to inhabit the buffer zone at Rajaji. When driving in from Rishikesh, you’ll notice the smooth white pebbles on the banks of the Ganga, whose waters are fresh from glacial melt.
Inside the reserve, you can spot Asian Elephants, leopards, the one-horned rhino, the Himalayan Black bear, nilgai, jungle cats, several deer, civets, martens, jackals and hyenas, and the goral—a mountain goat native to the region.
Some 300 species of birds can also be seen fluttering about, out of which 90 are migratory, like mallards, gulls, and shelducks. Birders can hit the jackpot with a view of the Great Pied Hornbill. For more details, see rajajitigerreserve.co.in.
Dudhwa National Park
Where: Palia Kalan, Uttar Pradesh. Closest major cities are Bareilly, Lucknow, Kanpur, Aligarh, Prayagraj, Gorakhpur, Agra and New Delhi.
Top sights: Dudhwa is in the Terai region of the Himalaya, an ecologically sensitive zone with great biodiversity. Apart from the royal Bengal tiger, you can spot the one-horned rhinoceros, swamp deer, otters, gharial, pythons and over 400 bird species, which includes endangered vultures. For more info, visit dudhwa.co.in.
Kanha National Park
Where: Mandala and Kalaghat districts, Madhya Pradesh. Closest major cities are Nagpur, Jabalpur, Rourkela, Raipur, Bilaspur, Bhilai, Bhopal and Kolkata.
Top sights: Panthers, barasingha, blackbucks, gaur, jackals and sloths are some of the most well-known mammals in the reserve.
For birds, you can sight around 300 species that include stunning varieties of eagles, storks, egrets, hornbills, ibis, kingfishers, parakeets and more. Keep an eye out for a star reptile, the fan-throated lizard!
For detailed safari information, see kanha-national-park.com.
Nagarhole-Bandipur Tiger Reserves
Where: Nagarhole is in Hunsur, Karnataka, while Bandipur is in the Gundlupet taluk of Bandipur in the same state. Closest major cities are Mysuru, Kozhikode, Thrissur, Kannur, Coimbatore, Erode, Salem and Bengaluru.
Top sights: The two protected areas are about 3 hours apart, making for an easy combined visit. While staying alert to spot tigers, you can also come across golden jackals, four-horned antelopes, Indian elephants, panthers, changeable hawk-eagles, red-headed vultures, dhole, several butterfly species and the bonnet macaque.
A special mention must be made of two famous, endangered, and elusive inhabitants of Bandipur—the Malabar Giant Squirrel, and the Indian pangolin.
Bandipur also highlights ecotourism as a main feature of your visit, with activities for all ages available throughout the year. For details, visit bandipurtigerreserve.in and nagarhole.com.
When on these safaris, make sure to be respectful of park rules, state-wise pandemic protocols, and the safety of all animals, guides and staff. We hope you have a thrilling dive into the wild!