Bandhavgarh National Park was once the hunting reserve of the royal family of Rewa and is today one of the most famous tiger safari reserves in the world, due to its high density of tigers. Covering 168 square miles (437 square km) of bamboo, grassland and deciduous forests in the Vindhya Hills of Madhya Pradesh, this reserve is where the white tigers were discovered. There are also at least 150 bird species here as well as sloth bears, langur monkeys, wild boars, wild dogs, jungle cats, mongoose and three types of deer - chital, sambar and barking.
Kanha National Park is one of the largest and most scenic national parks in India, with wide open game viewing earning it the nickname "the Ngorongoro of India". Hundreds of chital deer graze on carpets of green grass against a backdrop of majestic sal tree forests. These mixed forests and vast meadows are ideal for tiger safaris, as perennial streams run through the park, providing a permanent source of water for wildlife.
Pench National Park is a beautiful reserve situated in the lower reaches of the Satpura Hills and inspired Rudyard Kipling to write his famous children’s story - The Jungle Book. This story featured Mowgli the man cub, Shere Kahn the tiger, Baloo the sloth bear, Kaa the snake and King Louis the amusing ape, although tiger sightings are rare here.
Other options for tiger safaris include Satpura Reserve, that offers walking safaris, and Tadoba Andhari, Maharashtra’s oldest and largest national park.
Tiger safaris in central India can easily be combined with a visit to Khajuraho to see its astonishing 10th century erotic Kama Sutra temples. These ancient hand-carved temples were built between 950 and 1050 AD, with murals that depict the life and times of the Chandela Rajputs. The western group of temples contain the largest and loveliest temples, with the Kandariya Mahadev temple dedicated to Shiva, with its elaborate spire and bands of beautiful carvings, being the most perfect. It shares a high terrace with the older and simpler Devi Jagadamba temple.
No visit to central India is complete without a visit to the sacred city of Varanasi on the River Ganges. Varanasi is the spiritual heart of India and each evening at sunset offerings are made to the Hindu gods, during the much-watched Pooja ceremony. Seeing hundreds of candles floating down the river is spellbinding. An early morning boat ride on the river is another must-do, with incredible photo opportunities as the faithful come down to the ghats to bathe. Also don’t miss the remains of the monastery at Sarnath, which is an important pilgrimage site for another great faith, as this is where the Buddha gave his first sermon.