Many tourists have no idea about the concept of premium zones. So this is the most frequently asked questions by all of them visiting Bandhavgarh and Kanha. I thought of penning down and explaining this myth of safaris in premium zones.
Tala zone in Bandhavgarh and Kanha zone in Kanha were made premium zones by the forest department about 4 years back. They were made premium zones by just doubling the entry fees to these zones. Obvious question is why was this done? The forest department realized that the tourism was increasing to these zones more because good Tiger sightings were happening here. Everybody used to buy tickets for these zones and converge to the areas where the Tiger were being sighted.
Hence the Forest department took a decision to regulate tourism and ensure that there is no unnecessary pressure of tourists in certain areas of the park. This decision compulsorily forced the tourists to visit other zones as well. So, not only the forest department succeeded in diverting tourism but also by increasing the entry fees they increased their own revenues. A master stroke indeed.
This decision showed very positive results in just two years time. The tourists were forced to visit the other zones as well. This resulted in more tracking of Tigers in the entire tourism areas. Results showed up. Tiger sightings improved in practically all the zones. Tigers are present everywhere in the park, and they fortunately do not understand the premium and non premium zones. The benefits of this decision was improved Tiger sightings in Magdhi and Khitauli in Bandhavgarh and Kisli, Mukki and Sarhi zones in Kanha.
In 2014 things started to change a bit. Tiger sightings reduced considerably in the premium zones. Reasons for shifting of Tiger sightings cannot be predicted or controlled. Nature has it’s own script which is tough for us to decipher. Subsequently the sightings improved in the non premium zones, so the tourists started to visit them. This was also more economical for them afterall. Mission was accomplished for the forest department. They wanted the tourism to get distributed and their initiative got approval from mother nature. The craving for safaris in premium zones reduced.
Hence from 2015 season the non premium zones became the preferred zones by the tourists. But no one knows what nature has in store in future. The Tiger sightings can switch again, and most likely they will. They change with factors like changing male female ratio, plus new cubs, or any new dominant male etc. So let this not be the final verdict. But i will update you in some time on how the sightings are happening in various zones.
If you wish to make the most of your safaris, then visit all the zones of a national park. it will give you a complete idea about the national park. Besides, they all have Tigers, and they will show up at some point in time. Do not be fixed on a particular zone until and unless your focus is a particular Tiger. Having said this, i do understand that when you spend your precious resources you definitely wish to see Tigers. Hence based on our past experiences if you let us decide for you, then there are healthy chances that you will sight a Tiger.
Update on 22nd August 2016: The premium zone concept has been scrapped by the forest department. Now, all the zones have same entry charges. This is a great news in today’s circumstances.