The best places to see tigers are in the parks of India and Nepal, which are home to the Bengal
sub-species. The largest parks, though, while preserving extensive and beautiful habitats, often
offer a somewhat degraded observation experience. This is because these parks attract loads of
visitors. In some parks, such as Kanha National Park in the Madhya Pradesh state of India, tigers
are tracked down and directions radioed to Park headquarters. You then take a jeep to the site and
board an elephant for the last few hundred meters. What you often find is a cowed and dejected
animal surrounded by elephants overloaded with camera-toting tourists.
There is an alternative. Many of the smaller sanctuaries attract only a few visitors. If you visit
one of them, the chances are you will be the only foreigner present. There will also be a subtle
change in atmosphere. The tigers in these sanctuaries react differently. You are not a distraction
or a bother. Instead, you are a curiosity, possibly even prey. (Good luck!) This Discovery
describes one of the best of these smaller sanctuaries, Royal Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve, in
the far southwest corner of Nepal.
If you fly to Nepal, you can get a visa for one month (extendible) on arrival at the airport. It's a
long and hard trip to the far west, though. A better option, a real Walkabout for which you should
plan at least three or four weeks, is to start in India. You will need to have an Indian visa
beforehand to fly to New Delhi. You then overland to the border, where similarly, you will have
to have a Nepalese visa stamped in your passport to cross.
It's about forty Indian rupees to the USD, and sixty Nepalese rupees. You can change any excess
Indian rupees across the border in Nepal, no problem. If, or when, you get to Kathmandu, the
carpet sellers there run a black market where you can get 5% to 10% more for your dollars. For current official exchange rates, click here.
There's lots of risks, but they're manageable. Get the usual jabs: Hepatitis A, Meningitis, Polio
booster, Rabies, Tetanus and Typhoid. Consider taking malaria pills, especially if you will be
there during or just after the monsoon. Use mosquito repellant. Filter your water. Be selective of
the food offered at small restaurants and stalls. Be wary of dodgy transport. Try not to get eaten.
Very few people take this route, and English is not widely spoken. A Hindi or Nepali phrasebook
can be useful.
Part 1 - You can catch a night bus to the Kumaon Hills, which border Nepal, from the bus
terminal in old Delhi. Whatever agent you buy your ticket from, make sure (1) that you get a seat
assignment, and (2) that they send someone with you to the terminal to help you find the right
bus. (You pay for the rickshaw.)
The first stage is from Delhi north to Naini Tal, a small town surrounding a beautiful lake. From
there, you take more buses, or public carrier trucks, into the hill towns of the Kumaon.
Recommended Walkabout Gear:
Get my book, Been Where? Done What? which is a guide for world travelers. It also has a section on
tiger observation. Also useful: a water filter, mosquito net and spray, mometasone furoate cream for itching from
insect bites, and binoculars.
Maps of the Kumaon are available from the government map store in Delhi near Connaught Place. Get
directions to it, and additional information on the Kumaon, from the Indian tourism authority office also
at CP. Get a good map for Nepal, perhaps Nelles, and Lonely Planet's guidebooks to India, Nepal, and
Indian Himalayan trekking.
Next stop in The Year of the Tiger
Walkabout Travel Gear Homepage