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Ultimate Tigers—Bandhavgarh National Park, India
2024 Trip Report

There is no doubt I love to photograph in India’s Bandhavgarh National Park. And this year nature offered up a warm and welcoming forest panorama for this year’s Ultimate Tigers photo safari. Our arrival matched the peak of the forest bloom with nearly all the sal trees weighed down with cascades of blossoms while the annual bloom of the sprawling mahua trees was in full swing. Each morning deer and monkeys were out early, taking advantage of the delicious falling mahua flowers while birds actively hunted insects drawn to the fresh sal blooms.

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One of the rarest of charismatic big cat species—and difficult-to-photograph animals in general—tigers have always captured the imagination of nature photographers. As always, our tour was planned and executed to put us in the best position to bring back iconic images of these rare and elusive denizens of the Bandhavgarh forest.

Most of the forest’s animal activity centered around the timing of the forest in bloom. For our photo travelers, the activity of Bandhavgarh’s tigers was on the main stage. The dry weather and increasing seasonal heat of this year’s photo tour were met with some daytime temperatures reaching into the low hundred degrees, perfect, as this means eventually the daytime heat would benefit our sightings. During the day, tigers are much like house cats resting someplace off in the forest under the shade of thick jungle brush or trees. If you are a meat eater, like a tiger, eventually this heat will drive your thirst for a drink of water and a need to cool off in the nearest convenient waterhole. This is when our strategy would take us to locations near these water sources and wait for the tigers to come to us. It was a game plan that would pay off nearly every day during our time on safari.

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In total, our group was fortunate to observe fourteen different tigers—including some mothers with cubs—on multiple occasions when on the safari trail. While tiger sightings across two of the park’s management zones were a little more difficult to acquire, we did manage a few incredible encounters within these scenic areas. One of the zones paid off with most of our tiger sightings. This zone happens to contain the thickest bamboo forest vegetation with the most limited visibility of the three tourism zones. Thanks to local knowledge from our Indian guides, this is where our waterhole stakeout strategy paid off with the most tiger sightings and excellent photographic opportunities of the tour.

There is nothing more rewarding than thinking through the daily routine of a tiger and planning out a strategy that puts you in the best possible place to enjoy a photo session with a wild tiger enjoying a late afternoon soak in a pool of cool water—and then having all of that planning beautifully come together.

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Our time on stakeouts would present numerous other photographic opportunities. I have yet to find someone who doesn’t enjoy a little monkey time. Often while searching for tigers or waiting for tigers to appear out of the forest, we found this an excellent occasion to photograph the nearly ever-present troops of monkeys. Be it the common langurs or the less common Rhesus macaques, these subjects were present and made for countless compositions whether they were lounging, playing, or feeding among the forest’s trees. Mothers with infants were even more engaging with their constant care and attention of their tiny inquisitive young. We found it difficult not to be anthropomorphic when observing and capturing all these behaviors with our cameras.

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As with most of our photo safaris, when not engaged with our tiger photography or the antics of the monkeys, the rich diversity of Indian bird life provided more subjects to train our cameras on. Several varieties of eagles, owls and forest songbirds were all around this time of the year.

With the tigers, monkeys, birds, and magnificent blooms of the forest behind us, we finished our successful photo tour with our trip back to the bustling city of Delhi. Here we celebrated with a day of photography around this historic Indian city. Delhi is a fascinating metropolis where one can spend a lifetime exploring the urban surroundings. Time flew by as we photographed scenes of daily life, and extraordinary architecture, along with spending time photographing colorful bustling markets. All this helped to put the finishing touch on our time in the land of the tiger.

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When I first pursued becoming a naturalist and photo tour leader, I never dreamed tiger photography could be this successful. In the past, you might be lucky to have one good tiger sighting in a week’s visit to any of India’s tiger parks. Thanks to the hard work of the Indian Government and dedicated conservation groups this has undoubtedly changed for the better.

Within India, tiger numbers have nearly doubled in the last twenty years. Today you may have multiple tiger sightings and photography opportunities each day. For photographers, the improvements in the quality of the photography gear have upped the game several more notches, increasing the quality of tiger images our photo travelers return home with. Yet as much as in the past, much of the success of a tiger photo tour comes down to attention to detail. Working with the best local guides, best locations, and our thorough attention to tour planning, our itinerary continues to ensure we have plenty more great tiger photography experiences on our future Ultimate Tigers trip participants.

Upcoming Related Tours

Ultimate Tigers

Photograph the world’s largest living cats and other Indian wildlife for six shooting days in one of the world’s most impressive tiger reserves. Special government photography permits in Bandhavgarh National Park allow unrestricted daytime entry for three full days. Only two photographers per safari vehicle.

March 31 - April 11, 2025
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