Spotting The Stripes: Tips to Increase Your Chances of Seeing A Tiger In the Wild

Tigers are rare, elusive animals, which is why the thrill of spotting one in its natural habitat is unmatched. Nature lovers from all over the world throng India’s many reserves each year to spot this majestic cat that can intimidate even the strongest with its piercing gaze. Although the biggest feline on planet, Tigers were classified as critically endangered not so long ago.

While Tigers are considered endangered, authorities have made sincere efforts to ensure India continues to remain a haven for this solitary hunter. Thanks to a focused action plan and coordinated efforts, India pulled the king of the jungle from the brink of extinction. The country more than doubled its Tiger population to 2,967 in 2018 from 1,411 in 2006. Jungles of India today are home to nearly two-thirds or 70% of world’s Tigers

To raise awareness about tiger conservation and promote the protection of their natural habitat, July 29 is observed as International Tiger Day. So, mark this day by picking up some expert tips on how to increase your chances of sighting a tiger the next time you plan to head into the wild.

Pick The Right Place

Seeing a tiger, freely prowling its natural habitat, is a marvellous spectacle; a sighting that not everyone may be lucky enough to witness. The best place to get a glimpse of this gorgeous animal is a tiger reserve, and India has several of those. For instance, Madhya Pradesh’s Bandhavgarh National Park is said to have the highest density of tiger population. This could mean better chances of a sighting; so spend some time researching the right places to visit.

Additionally, some national parks offer the option of staying within the actual forest, at lodges. It gives travellers the chance to hear jungle sounds at night, see animals and birds they would otherwise miss; in all, it’s a more authentic experience of being in the wild.

Most tiger reserves are set away from cities, so driving there in your Ford car always makes for an excellent idea. With its Electric Stability Control and Hill Launch Assist features, the Ford EcoSport is particularly ideal for heading to reserves set in hilly regions, like Jim Corbett National Park. It can make navigating uphill climbs and sharp bends easy and safe. On the other hand, the Cruise Control feature can make the long, tranquil drive to reserves like Ranthambore and Nagarhole pleasant and comfortable.

Wait for the Right Season

The right time to spot tigers is usually the hot and dry season. This could vary depending on the area in which you are. This is because the forests are dry and clear, and most animals, including tigers, tend to come out more frequently – especially near river beds and other watering holes – to quench their thirst. When planning a trip to a reserve, make sure to do your research on the best time to head there and book well in advance. Most reserves are closed during the monsoon season.

Here are a few popular tiger reserves in India and the best time to visit them:

  • Jim Corbett (Uttarakhand) – March to June
  • Kanha (Madhya Pradesh) – April to June
  • Ranthambore (Rajasthan) – October to April
  • Nagarahole (Karnataka) – April to June
  • Periyar National Park (Kerala) – April to June
  • Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (Maharashtra) – September to March

Your Ford Figo’s automatic climate control feature will make the journey extremely pleasant if you are planning a visit during the hot summer months. Capable of bringing down your car’s cabin temperature to 25-degrees from scorching 50-degrees in just 15- minutes, you can be sure of staying cool and sweat-free during the drive to your destination.

Be Strategic About the Time

To increase the success of spotting a tiger on a safari, you must head into the forests either early in the morning or late in the evening. This is because tigers are nocturnal, which means they are more active during the night or early morning when it is not too bright. It is during this time that they usually come out in search of food. Most reserves have specific safari timings so that you can leave the planning up to them. All you need to do is show up on time and follow the rules set out.

Another benefit of safaris being held either in the morning or evening is that you can use the rest of the day to explore other places around a tiger reserve. For instance, a short drive from Ranthambore Tiger Reserve will take you to Ranthambore Fort, Padam Talab and Hammir Court. Your Ford Freestyle will make the short trip even more fun thanks to its infotainment system with embedded navigation.

Choose a Suitable Safari

Since most tiger reserves and wildlife parks are maintained by government bodies to protect animals, you cannot drive a private car inside the forest area. These reserves often provide their own vehicles – either a jeep or a canter – depending on the terrain or personal preference, along with a guide.

Some tiger reserves like Kanha, Corbett and Bandhavgarh also offer the unique option of spotting tigers from an elephant’s back. Wildlife photographers often choose this type of safari as it lets them access remote corners of the park that may not be accessible to vehicles. Besides, elephants tend to make less noise compared to cars, so tigers are less likely to get disturbed.

Stay Quiet

These reserves often have some public roads wading through them. While its extremely rare, at times Tigers have been spotted on such public roads, waylaid by a try that’s desperate to escape. When driving through such reserves, there are certain things you should avoid. Chatting away loudly or playing music is absolutely discouraged. If not a Tiger, the opportunity to spot elephants and deer are very real and any loud noises you make will scare the animals away. You should also drive at moderate speeds on such roads to ensure you have enough time to brake should an animal suddenly hop on the road from the bushes.

You won’t have to worry about loud noises if you are traveling to the jungle reserve in your Ford Aspire. Not only comfortable for the entire family, this compact sedan is extremely quiet and will let you soak in the sounds of nature.

During the jungle safari, it becomes even more vital to maintain the tranquility and peaceful atmosphere as you enter the reserve area where concentration of animals is much higher. Besides, the trees, wild shrubbery and the variety of life in these reserves contribute to an exciting atmosphere, of which you wouldn’t want to miss even a single second. Since you have entered their territory, you must be mindful of their sensitivities. This means turning your phone off or on silent, no screaming, and definitely no carrying treats or anything that could pollute the area.

Be as Low-Key as Possible

In addition to staying silent, you also need to do away with all other sensory distraction that can drive away not only tigers but other wild animals as well. This means avoiding bright coloured clothes that might scare away animals. The best colours are khaki, olive green, tans, browns or any neutral colours as they help you blend in with the surroundings rather than draw attention to yourself. Additionally, you should avoid wearing perfume or body mists as animals are sensitive to smell, and strong-smelling substances can arouse their curiosity which could be dangerous.

Listen for Jungle Sounds

Another reason to keep distractions to a minimum is so that you can listen for certain jungle sounds. Spotting a tiger often depends on how focused all your senses are – not just your eyes. Many prey animals make short, intense and high pitched alarm calls to alert their herd about the movements of their predators. So keep an ear out for monkey chatterings or bird calls; these are often used when tigers or other predators are on the move or nearby.

It is especially important to be extra cautious and attentive when driving through a reserve at night, as you might not find streetlights. Nonetheless, the automatic headlamps in your Ford Endeavour will automatically turn as your surroundings start to get dark and illuminate the road ahead of you so that you don’t endanger any animals.

A trip into the wild is all about patience and going with the flow. Having high expectations on the number of tigers you will see or the photographs you will capture may not be the wisest thing to do. Even if you do not see these beautiful animals, you might spot other animals like deer, monkeys and langurs, wild boars, peacocks, a variety of birds you have never seen before. Remember, tigers are in their element in these places; so even if you don’t see them, they could be watching you. So be cautious of your actions and enjoy the thrill of hearing tigers chuff, roar, groan or even seeing pugmarks. All in all, it’s an excellent way to #DiscoverMore about India’s national animal.