Kanha today holds about 130 tigers, as well as around 80 leopard and more than 100 sloth bear.
Until recently, India's wildlife reserves could not boast lodges or camps that approached the sophistication of those found in Africa. Things began to change when Amanresorts and Oberoi Hotels both opened luxury camps adjacent to Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan. Now, Taj Hotels has entered into partnership with &Beyond, a Johannesburg-based safari company, to create four stylish and comfortable new lodges in the central state of Madhya Pradesh. Traditionally, Indian wildlife reserves have suffered by comparison with the great safari areas of Africa.
True, the subcontinent's parks tend to be smaller and are often hemmed in by human habitation. And generally, their ecosystems contain fewer large mammal species than you will find in the Serengeti. Nonetheless, the best Indian reserves remain stirringly beautiful. Of course, they have one priceless asset: the planet's top predator, the magnificent Royal Bengal tiger, which can weigh in at more than 500 pounds and measure 11 feet from nose to tail. India's first national park, Corbett, opened in 1936 in the foothills of the Himalayas. The region has gripped the imaginations of generations of children, thanks to Jim Corbett's classic book, "Man-Eaters of Kumaon."
Today, however, the greatest (and the best-run) of the country's reserves is Kanha National Park, a remote 750-square-mile tract of forest in Madhya Pradesh, crisscrossed by undulating rocky ridges and dotted with grassy meadows and small lakes, where large herds of herbivores and more than 300 bird species congregate to drink and to feed. Kanha was declared a park in 1955, and it, too, enjoys a distinguished literary history, having been the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book." Here, 116 years after Mowgli's debut, the real-life Shere Khan continues to stalk his prey along the reedy margins of the lagoons. In fact, Kanha today holds about 130 tigers, as well as around 80 leopard and more than 100 sloth bear. Its most abundant prey species include over 20,000 spotted deer (chital), 2,000 gaur (the world's largest bovine, bigger even than the African buffalo) and 1,200 swamp deer (barasingha), narrowly saved from extinction and now found nowhere else.