The best place for seeing tigers is still India, with almost half the world's wild tigers, but there are 39 tiger sanctuaries here. To help you decide where to get your big-cat kicks, here's my pick of India's safari parks:
Bandavgarh, Madhya Pradesh
This is your best chance in all of India of seeing a wild tiger. You're almost guaranteed a sighting if you spend one or two days here. An added attraction is that the village of Tala, right by the park's main gate, has a great choice of accommodation to suit all budgets, meaning that unlike some other tiger parks this one's not only for the rich, all-inclusive package tourist. One- or two-hour safaris on elephant-back are also an option here.
The central Indian state ofis the king of tiger territory in India. Five tiger parks here all give tourists a chance of seeing a tiger, but this one is the most famous of them all. The forests here are vast, and whilst your chances of seeing a tiger are probably slightly slimmer than at nearby Bandavgarh, they are still very good. Add to that the fact that you can really go deep into the forest here thanks to the park's huge core area surrounded by a large buffer zone, and you have yourself a complete safari experience, rather than the rush-and-grab outings some complain of at Bandavgarh.
This famous park has a huge number of Bengal tigers - more than two hundred by some counts! The swampy terrain, though, means seeing one of them is extremely rare, but you'll have great fun trying. Just getting here is an adventure (from Kolkatta: bus, boat, cycle rickshaw and boat again) and once you arrive, you'll be signing up for safaris not in jeeps, but in canoes!
Pench, Madhya Pradesh
The third of Madhya Pradesh's trio of best-known tiger parks, Pench is made up mostly of teak-tree forest rather than sal so has a different flavour than nearby Kanha or Bandavgarh. It also sees fewer tourists so, as you're driving around the park you'll often feel like you have the whole forest to yourself. Tigers are fewer too, though, but are generally spotted every few days. When I was here, most people who were out in jeeps that morning had seen a tiger during their stay. As with Kanha, mahouts ride their elephants into the forest in the mornings and radio jeeps in if they spot a tiger. Tourists are then transferred from jeep to elephant-back to get a close-up view of the tiger.
Originally called Hailey National Park, Corbett opened in 1936 and is India's oldest tiger park. Chances of seeing tigers here are actually quite slim, but if you do you can feel smug in the fact that you've seen one that wasn't baited or tracked. In other parks, tiger sightings can sometimes feel stage-managed. Not here. And if you don't see a tiger, there may well be a great big consolation prize: Corbett is also one of the few parks in northern India with wild elephants, and chances of seeing them here are very good indeed.
Chances of seeing a tiger here are zero. There are none. This is home instead to the last remaining wild Asian lions on Earth. Yes, wild lions in India! Panthera leo persica is a different subspecies to its African cousin, panthera leo leo, and at one time these lions roamed from south Asia all the way to the edge of Europe. In fact, it's probable that these Asiatic lions were the ones that gladiators used to do battle against in stadiums in ancient Rome. If the thrill of tiger safaris gets your pulse racing, you'll love a visit to this park just as much as any of the ones mentioned above. And most tourists who spend a few days here see at least one lion.