Having seen a tiger in the wild is an incredible privilege not many people in the world can boast about. And for many of us, the first tiger sighting is probably the most remarkable one.
My first tiger sighting has changed my life. This beautiful animal has literally become one of my raisons de vie. Such is the unpredictability of human life.
In this article I’ve asked a few fellow bloggers to describe their first or most memorable tiger sighting and why it will stay in their minds forever.
If seeing a tiger in the enchanted Indian forests is on your bucket list, check out this article about the best places to see tigers in the wild.
Anindita. Kanha Tiger Reserve, India
There are some experiences in our lives that we never forget. First day in college, first kiss, first time we see the vastness of Himalaya or the ocean. Thankfully I have been blessed with many such unforgettable memories. When I first saw a tiger, I hardly knew anything about them. I didn’t even know her name, but I still remember that her beauty and grace left me spellbound.
This wasn’t my first time seeing a tiger, not even my tenth. It was almost the end of a full day looking for Naina and her 4 tiny cubs. We looked at all her favourite hangout places, multiple times. There was no sign of any tiger movement anywhere. We saw spotted deer, wild boars, peacocks so peaceful as it there isn’t a threat in the world. While all the safari vehicles decided to spend the last half hour of the day at Naina’s favourite lake, we decided to move a little ahead and try our luck.
At first we saw nothing other than a few langurs. When we were about to give up, we heard a few Chital calls coming from the left side of the jungle. It was close, but we didn’t see anything. After a few minutes the calls started coming from the opposite side of the jungle where there was no road.
We saw a few Chitals alert, but again, no sign of a tiger. The day was coming to an end and every vehicle except two went back. Eventually we also had to give up and start our journey back to the gate. After the roller coaster ride of disappointment and anticipation, we sadly put our cameras aside for the day.
All of a sudden our driver said in a hushed excited voice, ‘Tiger’! The word we were waiting to hear. It was Nilam! She was on a mound, doing her business peacefully. All our disappointment was swept away with sheer ecstasy.
The golden light of setting sun melted on her golden coat. She was on patrol, remarking her territory.
She walked right towards us, all the way ignoring us as if we weren’t even there. Then she walked away into the meadows. Then she put up a mesmerizing show exclusively for us, just for a few brief minutes. But those few minutes will be etched in my memory forever.
Immediately after I came back from Kanha, I went into self isolation and then, subsequently, lockdown. I don’t know when this will end, when, if ever, the life as we knew it would come back. But I can’t be thankful enough for this blissful encounter. Whenever I feel blue to see the array of never ending highrises out of my balcony, I remember those moments and it brings smile to my face.
It makes me realize that we have two options at a time like this, be depressed thinking about what we could have or be grateful remembering what we did have.
You can follow Anindita Chakrabarty’s work on her IG account Beyond Bystander.
Emily. Chitwan National Park, Nepal
The low lying mist that clung to the river banks dampened the sound of the paddle slicing through the still waters, as we made our way slowly into Chitwan’s jungle. No one spoke as we sat one behind the other in the narrow wooden canoe. All eyes were fixed to the dense greenery on either side of us, as we waited anxiously to reach Nepal’s infamous jungle.
Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, there was a flash of colour against the green of the jungle. A large, male Bengal tiger stood watching us intently from the bank of the river. Its size and strength were something I’ll never forget, and we all sat in awe as we followed it along the edge of the river. Its coat shone in the sunlight, and you could see its muscles ripple as it walked – I got the sense it was stalking us more than we were stalking it.
It ducked in and out of the jungle, disappearing and reappearing, giving us a once in a lifetime experience that I shall never forget.
The guides were worried to see it on the ‘wrong’ side of the jungle, where local villagers who had once made their home now lived.
They predicted it was an old male that had gone searching for an easier source of food and thought it could perhaps be the tiger that had recently killed a villager.
Entering the jungle on foot after seeing what lay within was a terrifying experience. Our guides were experienced and knowledgeable, giving clear instructions about what to do if we encountered any of the dangerous jungle animals.
Though we didn’t see another tiger we did come face to face with a bear, and it took every ounce of my courage to stand big rather than run.
Trekking in Chitwan National Park in Nepal is one of the only places I have felt like a true adventurer. We saw no other tourists for the entire day. We tracked tiger footprints, spotted rhinos, elephants, crocodiles and bears, ate from fruit trees and hacked our way through dense bamboo forests. It was an experience I will never forget.
Emily is a keen traveller who quit her job as a primary school teacher to move aboard a sailboat in pursuit of a life of travel and adventure. She writes and vlogs about her travels and sailing experiences at Two Get Lost.
Jyotsna. Kanha Tiger Reserve India
Sighting a Royal Bengal Tiger in the wild is always a memorable experience that is guaranteed to give you goosebumps and get your adrenaline pumping. However, one such tiger sighting pops straight to my mind whenever I think about my favorites.
Kanha national park is simply breathtaking. Mixed with grasslands and tall Sal trees, it has a unique landscape which is a favorable natural habitat for this wild cat.
On one such visit to Kanha in 2017, I was lucky enough to spot the real king of the jungle. An aging and skilled, huge adult male tiger who has been the favorite of photographers from across the world and famed as one of the most popular tigers ever – Munna.
Also known as PM of Tigers due to his special markings on the forehead which spells C.A.T followed by P.M – There you go!
This skilled fighter was then surviving every season without his own territory and using his experience to his advantage, whilst fighting young male tigers over territorial wars. Having lived 15 years as the celebrity of Kanha, this legend was recently moved to the enclosed Van Vihar park.
Jyotsna is an avid naturalist and wildlife enthusiast. She has been visiting the jungles of India for over three decades now. Her love for wildlife was nourished in her early years by umpteen visits to Corbett national park. You can follow her work on her blog Wander with Jo.
Lora. Panna Tiger Reserve India
The first (and only) tiger I’ve ever spotted in the wild was in Panna National Park in India in October 2018.
I was with a small group of friends that I met on my G Adventures tour, along with our safari guide and driver.
Our guide was told by the park rangers that they had seen a tiger in a section of the park earlier that day and expected it to come back.
We waited and waited there until we got notice that the tiger had just been seen in a completely different section.
I was feeling disappointed and thought I might be out of luck on this safari when out of nowhere a majestic Royal Bengal Tiger appeared.
It was an incredible feeling to see a tiger in the wild for the first time. We were all so excited, standing up in the jeep to get the best view. It only lasted for a couple of minutes, as she quickly disappeared back into the forest. It was such an amazing feeling; I wish it could have lasted hours. Overall, I had an amazing experience exploring Panna National Park and would recommend it to anyone visiting that area of India.
Lora Pope is a travel blogger who writes on https://explorewithlora.com/
Sophie. Kanha Tiger Reserve, India
Seeing a tiger is always special; the mix of pussycat-beauty, and tooth-, muscle-, and claw-ferocious is deliciously unnerving; and the combination of their power and their vulnerability is heart wrenching. It’s up to us to save them, and yet we human beings are the ones who have devastated their environment and hunted them to near extinction.
The existence of Tiger Reserves is crucial, and without much doubt tourism is their greatest hope, but obviously seeing a tiger with a dozen other jeeps crowding around, or with people being noisy and pushy, is a less than lovely thing. So the most precious of my tiger memories have as much to do with who I was with and how the sightings happened as with a particular tiger.
The bulk of my tiger sightings have been at Kanha with Raj Gurung or Son Singh from Shergarh Tented Camp, and many of the sightings that have touched me most have been with my daughter Lily. She first saw a tiger when she was about 15, and she trembled and burst into tears; her response has been pretty much the same with every subsequent sighting: quiet teary awe. We’ve been lucky enough to see one particular tiger, MB3, a beautiful female, on several occasions.
The first time was a last minute safari (when such things were allowed) when we were add ons to Katie Bhujwala’s Mum and Dad’s safari. It was such a happy morning, an extra, unexpected safari, without huge expectations but with warm and friendly chat with Lynn and Rob, all of us just feeling lucky to be there and enjoying one another’s easy company. And then Raj did his wizardry, and having glimpsed a vanishing flash of orange he turned a corner and first three, and then a fourth sub-adult cub emerged onto the road and pottered around in front of us looking hopelessly like teenagers trying to be streetwise but not really having a clue what they should be doing.
One of these was MB3 (number three of Mahavir’s litter of four). We saw her once again a couple of years later, and then again, a year or two after that, over the course of a few days on three enchanted occasions. We were a group of four; Lily, myself, my brother, and Lily’s friend Emma. Neither my brother nor Emma had seen a tiger before, and although Lily & I did our (genuine) chat about how being in the park itself was perfectly glorious and there was so much to see apart from tigers, we did of course want them to see their first tiger.
We had a wonderful afternoon park drive, all of us just lapping up the beauty of the forest, and then heard a spotted deer alarm call and reached a junction, at which point it was quite hard to know where the sound was coming from, and whether we should turn left or right. Emma, desperately sadly, had lost her Mum the previous year, and she told us afterwards that at that junction she whispered in her head ‘which way Mum, left or right?’ and in her head, her Mum said ‘left’. At that moment Son Singh had turned right but suddenly reversed and went left … and there she was, MB3, following, not quite stalking, a deer.
We had her all to ourselves as she considered whether or not to chase the deer, and as the light faded we watched her decide not to bother with deer and vanish back into the forest, and we squeezed one another and had a bit of a weep. When we got back to camp Em shared the fact that she had asked her Mum which way to turn, and we shivered a little and then suddenly realised that M and B were Emma’s Mum’s initials, and that she was a mother of three – MB3.
We’re all rational, atheist adults, but … well you can’t help but find magic in that. And then gloriously on the next two drives out she came for us, every time, for long and quiet sightings. Raj actually apologised for showing us ‘the same tiger’, and it was the only time we nearly shouted: ‘She’s the only one we want Raj, she’s Emma’s tiger!’.
Sophie Hartman runs Holidays in a Rural India, a small travel company focussed on slow, immersive holidays in rural India.
You can follow her on her IG account as well.
Thea. Bardia National Park, Nepal
I travelled to Bardia National Park in May 2019 with the aim of seeing my first tiger in the wild. Travelling with my partner, we reached the park by way of a very long bus ride from Pokhara. The park is in Nepal’s eastern Terai region where the Himalayan peaks are a distant memory.
Once we finally made it, we connected with a local guide and spent our first day floating in a raft down the beautiful Karnali river and while we saw a whole bunch of amazing birds, monkeys, as well as some gharial crocodiles, a tiger sighting eluded us on our first day in the park.
Fortunately, our second day was much better. We saw a female Royal Bengal Tiger swim across the river at her favourite crossing spot while on a walking safari. The sighting was brief but it was so amazing to see a tiger moving freely in their true habitat.
Over the following two days, we would see 4 more tigers, some Asian one-horned rhinos, rare birds, and beautiful elephants before our time in the park was finished.
Bardia National Park in Nepal is a wonderful place to experience the best the Terai region has to offer and experience a lesser known part of Nepal. The Park staff’s dedication to protecting and preserving wild Royal Bengal Tiger’s habitat is almost as inspiring as seeing one of these amazing creatures in person!
Ishita. Jim Corbett Tiger Reserve, India
I was traveling to Jim Corbett National Park for my first anniversary celebrations last year. My husband and I were staying in the centre of the jungle in Dhikala and were taking a Safari every morning and evening. Having never been on a Safari, I was curious and even a little scared. And never in my wildest dreams I would have imagined seeing a tiger on our very first Safari experience!! Yes that’s what happened!
It was around 7:30 am and the Tigress’ sound was picked by our tour guide immediately. He signaled the Safari driver to take us to the other side where he expected the Tigress to arrive. We waited for 5 minutes when the gorgeous cat came in front of our Safari jeep. We were barely 100 mts away!! I felt the world stand still. I can vividly recall feeling small, almost frozen and in awe of the jungle cat right in front of my eyes! We highly recommend staying in the Dhikala jungle area of Corbett National Park. By the end of our 3 day trip we spotted 2 female Tigresses thrice!
Ishita Sood is an Indian Blogger in love with all things Italian. She writes on the blog Italophilia – www.ishitasood.com She lives in Gurgaon, India.
William. Kanha Tiger Reserve, India.
This is William James’ experiences of sighting his first tigers in the wild. He is 12 years old and he visited Khana national park in December 2019.
We had come to the last day of our two week holiday in Madhya Pradesh. We had not spotted a tiger and we were rather convinced we never would! So we rung the good luck bell at our camp before we left for our final evening safari. Thankfully we were in luck!
The first time I ever saw a Tiger was one of the most special moments of my life.
We had been searching for a while and suddenly saw the vehicle ahead of us frantically reversing towards us and flashing lights!
They knew we hadn’t had any luck seeing one and they were coming to tell us there was a mother and her cub walking up ahead.
And then there she was. A beautiful graceful creature walking proudly and confidently past us but with one eye always on her cub.
They disappeared but then emerged up ahead swimming together. It was quite far from us but an amazing sight! I felt so excited! We had the amazingly experienced Jehan as are guide. I realise now that finding tigers is as much about driving skill as tracking skill!! Seeing this amazing animal outside of a zoo is something totally different. I will never forget it!
Sarah. Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve, India
I found my first tiger in Ranthambhore National Park in India.
This park is not only renowned for the wild tigers that live here but also because Ranthambhore Fort is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site under the title of “Hill Forts of Rajasthan”.
The tiger safaris here are taken in either a large “canter”, which seats 20 people or a smaller “gypsy” jeep that seats 6 people.
We were in a small vehicle with 4 other people, our driver and a guide. The area of the park that each vehicle gets to visit is drawn randomly for each morning and afternoon safari. The afternoon that we spotted our first tiger, we’d driven in the opposite direction to all the other vehicles and so, when we spotted Ladali just sitting under a tree, we were by ourselves. We stopped, and just watched for around 15 minutes, in absolute silence. No other vehicles came by, no other animals and it was glorious. Finally, she left us and wandered off into the bush.
There’s lots of other wildlife in the park – peacocks, deer and wild pigs, plus lots and lots of monkeys- plus the fort itself has an interesting history and is well worth a visit.
Sarah Carter & Nigel Dockerty write about Gen X Travel with a Y Attitude at ASocialNomad. They like to travel slow, eat and drink local. You’ll find them in museums, on wine tours, hiking trails and exploring temples.
MARIELLEN. BANDHAVGARH TIGER RESERVE, INDIA
It was my first wildlife safari in Bandhavgarh, my first wildlife safari in Madhya Pradesh, and my first wildlife safari in a long series ahead of me. I had just started a one-month tour of Madhya Pradesh to visit four different tiger reserves, but I was on my first one — Bandhavgarh.
My guide, renowned naturalist Naresh “Gudda” Singh and I had stopped for a tea break while on afternoon safari. Suddenly, Gudda heard a tiger growl and said, “Let’s go!” We slammed our tea cups down, ran for the jeep, jumped in, and took off down the road towards the sound. A few minutes later, we came to a screeching halt — and I will never know how Gudda knew exactly where to stop. But know he did, because almost immediately we saw a sub-adult male tiger walking nonchalantly towards us from the jungle.
As the handsome young tiger walked towards us, I felt an almost surreal sense of euphoria. I can’t even explain the excitement, it was off the charts. Somehow, I managed to take a video using my iPhone. It’s not perfect, the lighting is off as I didn’t have the wherewithal to touch the screen, but I got a video of him walking towards us and circling in front of the vehicle. He looked briefly over his shoulder at us, but with very little interest as if we were just slightly below his notice, and continued on across the road and into an open meadow.
I put the phone down so I could just watch him as is he circled the outer perimeter of the meadow. A small herd of spotted deer in the centre were watching him intently, but as the tiger didn’t seem to be hunting, the deer didn’t immediately run away. It was fascinating!
Since then, I have been to Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve many times — and uncanny as it sounds, I have seen at least one tiger every time, and sometimes several. Bandhavgarh is considered one of the best places to spot a tiger in India, but it’s still remarkable that I always see at least one. I mentioned this to a different naturalist one day. He replied, “Maybe the tigers want to see you.”
Mariellen Ward is a professional travel writer and blogger who publishes the award-winning travel site Breathedreamgo.com, based on her extensive travels in India. Though Canadian by birth, Mariellen considers India to be her “soul culture” and lives up in the clouds in Rishikesh.
Do you remember your first tiger sighting ? Have you had a memorable encounter with the striped cat ? Tell us in the comment section below.