India is globally renowned as the habitat of the world's largest population of tigers. The 2023 Tiger Census, unveiled in April 2023, disclosed an astounding tally of 3,167 tigers residing in India. For many wildlife enthusiasts, the ultimate quest while visiting different national parks or sanctuaries is to catch a glimpse of this majestic big cat. People from all corners of the globe flock to these reserves with hopes of witnessing the tiger in its natural habitat. While some attribute tiger sightings to luck or the frequency of safaris or visits to specific locations, certain strategies can enhance the likelihood of an encounter. Before embarking on a tiger trek within an Indian National Park, it is imperative to acquaint oneself with various methods and essential tips. Begin by identifying the prime locations in India renowned for observing these majestic creatures.

Initial Preparations for Tiger Tracking in India

Choosing the Best Place for Tiger Sightings: Choosing the appropriate national park or wildlife sanctuary is essential for a fulfilling tiger tracking experience in India. Renowned tiger habitats such as Ranthambhore National Park, Tadoba National Park, Pench National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park, Sundarbans National Park, and others are known for their distinctive features and diverse opportunities for tiger sightings. 

Research on Social Media: Social media platforms serve as valuable resources for wildlife enthusiasts. Numerous tiger lovers and travellers share their experiences of tiger spotting in India through captivating photos, engaging videos, and insightful blog posts. By following relevant hashtags, wildlife photography accounts, and travel blogs, individuals can gain valuable insights into various tiger habitats, photography techniques, and recommended trip itineraries.

Gathering Information from Wildlife Lovers: Connect with individuals who have frequented the national parks multiple times. They offer firsthand experiences, practical advice, and valuable recommendations for planning your trip. 

Interacting with Wildlife Photographers or Tiger Photographers: Wildlife photographers and tiger specialists hold extensive expertise in tiger behaviour, tracking methods, and optimal photography locations. They provide valuable insights into the habits of these majestic creatures and the most opportune times for sightings.

Finding the Right Local Expert: Residents who have extensively explored the national parks and their surroundings can offer invaluable insights. They possess intimate knowledge of the park's landscape, animal behavior, and prime locations for spotting tigers. 

Tiger Tracking Tips from Experts’ Point-of-View

1. Tracks and Signs

Tigers are known for their territorial nature, employing various methods to ward off potential rivals from their domain. They mark their territories by marking trees with urine or scratching them with their claws. Additionally, they deposit faeces strategically, often in the middle or along pathways, and then scrape the ground to ensure visibility to other tigers. These markings serve as vital indicators for tracking tigers. Naturalists and park guides frequently search for signs such as scat or spray markings on trees. Fresh markings, characterized by their wetness, suggest recent tiger activity. 

2. Pugmarks

Tigers possess soft padded paws, enabling them to tread silently through the jungle. They prefer traversing open trails to avoid injury from thorns on the forest floor, leaving distinctive paw prints known as pugmarks in their wake. Therefore, it is advised to join the first-morning tiger safari, as it facilitates naturalists and guides in tracking and following the fresh pugmarks along the jungle roads, increasing the likelihood of encountering a tiger. 

3. Alarm Calls

In the dense jungle, while tigers move stealthily, other prey animals remain vigilant, often detected by their sounds. Naturalists and guides stay alert to the jungle's auditory clues. When a tiger is sighted, langurs, monkeys and deer emit alarm calls, serving as sentinels from their vantage points atop trees. Observing these animals is crucial, as they possess a keen ability to spot predators. Ground-dwelling birds like peacocks and red jungle fowl also contribute to the early warning system with their alarm calls. These warnings help track the predator's movements, aiding in determining its direction. Patience is key as one waits at strategic locations guided by these alarm calls. 

4. Luck 

Undoubtedly, park guides and naturalists exert considerable effort in tracking tigers, aiming to fulfill guests' dreams of spotting the elusive cat. However, despite their diligence, patience, and extended waiting periods, there are occasions when the tiger remains unseen. Yet, amidst the anticipation, visitors often encounter other captivating sights within the jungle. Conversely, just when all hope seems lost, unexpected moments occur.

5. Local Information

Utilizing the expertise of local guides is another effective method for tracking tigers. While they may not possess formal education, their practical knowledge of wildlife is invaluable. Prior to embarking on the tiger safari, naturalists and guides convene to review sightings from previous excursions. Together, they formulate a plan to investigate specific areas first. Furthermore, within the park, safari groups communicate with each other, sharing recent sightings and updates.