Bandhavgarh National Park
Best for: Tigers, leopards, nilgai, hog deer, wild boar
Logistics: Set amid the plains of Madhya Pradesh in central India (122 miles from the city of Jabalpur), this is a relatively small preserve—with the country’s highest concentration of tigers. It’s also the site of a novel partnership between the Taj Hotel Group and the high-end Conservation Corporation Africa (CC Africa), which aims to wow guests with an unprecedented level of service and amenities (on safari and back at the resort) that few of its current competitors are able to match. Choose between Jeep and elephant rides, and a CC Africa-trained naturalist will point out wildlife and birds in the tropical woodlands. The park is open October to June; April, May, and June are ideal for tiger sightings. Bandhavgarh is a six-hour drive from Kanha National Park—an excellent twofer if you have time.
Accommodations: Make yourself at home within the Taj Group’s new Mahua Kothi—with 12 relatively luxurious suites or kutiyas (comfy huts) that feature wooden shutters, private baths, yoga classes, and bicycles (doubles from $450, meals and safaris included; www.tajsafaris.com).
Tip: Hire a car for a trip to Bandhavgarh Fort—at 2,500 years old, it’s rumored to be India’s oldest. The ramparts (and a huge statue of Vishnu) sit atop a 2,000-foot cliff overlooking the Vidhyan Mountains and provide awesome views. Just prepare for the challenging half-hour hike to the top.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.