Filming Tigers in the Wild

by pateluday

Tiger filmmaking is one of the major recreation and a profession. Wildlife documentaries, amateur videos with a focus on tigers are saturating social media today.

A fearsome and charismatic predator, the tiger is one of the most beautiful animals in the wild. No wonder filmmakers and photographers flock to India's tiger reserves to capture images, make spectacular documentaries and videos for a lifetime.

The predator is surrounded by a mystical aura generated by folklore, shikar tales, and adventure stories. Fear throbs in every heart at the sight of the big cat, but surprisingly it is the most gentle creature on Earth. It kills only for food and keeps to its food chain in which man is not included. Occasional mean eating is an aberrant behavior with man-animal conflict the major culprit. Accidental man killing is often due to proximity and that is a defensive act.

Filmmakers, amateur videographers interested in wildlife are propagating awareness among the masses, and they enhance our knowledge of nature in the wild. Filmmaking with a focus on the tiger is an arduous task with skills and experience involved. Professional filming in the case of the big cats involves a team besides the requisite permissions. This page is about how to film them in the wild.

Bengal Tiger

Tiger
Tiger
Uday Patel

Filming Tigers

Professional & Amateur

Filming tigers is easy for amateurs and holidaymakers on a wild tiger safari in the preserves. With the easy availability of video and digital cameras that can create quality videos, wildlife photography and making clips and footage have become widespread. 

In the case of the tigers, amateurs can make videos on a tiger safari in the large parks spread all over the country. You need to book permits that allow entry in the tourism area of the core for a specific time and the date requested. The availability of the permit is difficult during weekends and holidays hence needs to be booked in advance.  

All parks offer a guide service for a charge which is mandatory and they help in locating the big cat so you can film. You can also employ a trained naturalist, but if you stay at a luxury resort they offer services as a compliment. The naturalist can be of greater assistance with their experience and knowledge of the local wilderness. They are keen trackers and photographers hence they will be of immense help. Nearly all of them communicate in English. 

For professional filming in case of leverage in time and place, movements, organizing shoots at chosen places and remote filming, permission is required from ministry MOEF and PCCF the principal warden of the State the chosen tiger reserve is situated in. Fees have to be paid to the government which can be substantial. This requires following norms and procedures hence a liaisoning agent should be contacted. Most of the tour operators into destination management can assist you in this task because of familiarity with the task and the domains.  

Making documentaries or commercial films on tigers is time-consuming and expensive.  It takes time and effort to come across the right moments to make a sequence and complete the film as per intent. A well-made documentary could take as much as four years after making frequent visits. 

Professional companies making wildlife films need to be resourceful and should take the help of local destination management companies. Preparation, research, and getting familiar with the destination are important. While most of the films are made at one tiger reserve in India it is normal to target a couple more in the vicinity for the purpose.

Only educational filming is allowed in the reserves and no commercial venture is supported.  The purpose should be research, awareness, and discovery. 

Video Tiger Drinking Water

Amateur Video

Tiger Walking

Kanha Tiger Reserve

Approach to Filming Big Cats

Planning & Execution

For making a professional tiger film besides permissions, other factors have to be considered.  The destination characteristics, climate, expected weather, travel itinerary, period, and the visibility of the big cats so on.

Local help is much advised for planning and execution. The service providers will help in information gathering, itinerary suggestions, and tracking the tigers. The success of the expedition will depend upon local help. The locals DMCs come into the picture for organizing the tour and the necessary bookings like accommodations, transportation, etc.

Most of the activities are based on seasons since breeding is more in winters, dry summers mean greater visibility due to strong sun and congregations at water holes but with a thin dry canopy. It is impossible to film in the monsoon since the parks are closed generally from 1 July to the end of September. The slush prevents movement and the equipment could get soiled or dampen. 

Those who do not wish to make several trips should choose a period between February to March whence the sightings are good and so is the beautiful forest that is still green. 

All booking regarding travel and accommodations and park entries, mid-route diversions if any should be well booked in advance with help of the destination management company. Arrangements should be such that after reaching the destination, the team is able to solely focus on filming without any distractions.   

If required an interpreter who has a good command over Hindi or the local regional language in many states should be hired. This will be good for team members who do not speak or understand English which is widespread in India as a second language. 

Tiger Cub Drinking

Kanha Tiger Reserve

Tiger Drinking

Kanha Tiger Reserve

Timings for Filming

Tiger Safari

Excursions

The most common timings available on daily basis are from dawn to 10 am. At some reserves, it could be up to 11.30 am while it could be shorter as well. In the evening safari begins at 3. pm and ends before sunset. In summers safari begins from 4 pm to a little before sunset.

A lensman can book the daily safari, hire a jeep for self or share with others to cut costs. Another option is to book a seat on the canter usually 12 seaters sometimes 20 seaters.  But the best for the lensmen is to hire the full jeep for greater movement and privacy.  

Remember the jeep is restricted to the zone mentioned in the permit hence take advice from the hotel manager or naturalists if you come to know one, this helps in choosing the best zones.  

Full-Day Safari

You can hire a jeep for yourself without some restrictions in the tourism area. You can have lunch at a designated place, and cross over into other zones in the tourism area. The tourism area comprises twenty percent of the core. 

You enter half an hour early and exit half an hour late from the stipulated timings of the daily jeep safari. 

This is ideal for filmmakers and photographers but remember it is very expensive.  The full-day safari is booked at the field director's office who is also the Chief Conservator of the reserve. The contact is available on the Internet at the park's official site.

Some reserves organize night safari in the buffer zone or the outer ring. Details can be had at the gate of entry of each park. 

In Central India or Madhya Pradesh, booking for daily safari is available on MPOnline Portal

All entries in the park for excursions are subject to rules and regulations, the guide accompanying is responsible to oversee adherence.    

You can carry an amateur digital camera or video camera free of charge but for professional equipment please inquire if there is any charge for entry.  

A separate Fee has to be paid at the gate each time you enter as a guide fee. You cannot enter the park without a guide.  

Filming with Special Permissions

With permission from the ministry MOEF or PCCF, the entry timings could be as specified. 

 

Live Tiger Safari

Male Tiger in Pursuit

Female Tiger & Cubs

Family at Waterbody

Choosing A Tiger Reserve

Protected Areas

The PAs are dense jungles comprising of Sal, mixed species, tea, and bamboo with equally dense undergrowth at places. These are biodiversity heavens with panoramic landscapes. There are more than fifty protected areas to choose from. But the best ones I have listed below:

  • Kanha Tiger Reserve
  • Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve
  • Pench Tiger Reserve
  • Tadoba Tiger Reserve
  • Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve
  • Corbett Tiger Reserve
  • Panna Tiger Reserve 

Kanha National Park like the other parks has excellent sightings of the big cats. The destination has a sound infrastructure, and easy access from Jabalpur Airport in Madhya Pradesh. Being a large park the number of accommodations and amenities are the best. Please carry all the essentials including funds since the reserves are situated in remote interiors.   

Filming and Photography rules and regulations are quite similar in the reserves but it is wise to familiarize before hand. 

Tiger Swimming

Kanha Tiger Reserve
Updated: 10/05/2021, pateluday
 
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pateluday 15 days ago

Tigers are extremely possessive about their cubs, one should stay away from the big cats. They should feel safe. Drones are not allowed in critical tiger habitats. Large animals in the food chain are scared of the tigers. In some videos you can hear the alarm cries.

blackspanielgallery 16 days ago

Are tigers protective of cubs, as are bears, so being too close would be dangerous?
Also, are drones allowed for aerial photographs and getting over inaccessible areas? The noise could disturb the tigers and any other animals, so perhaps they should be banned. I realize the tigers must eat, so other animals in the food chain cannot be scared from the region by noise.
Great insights into India, thanks for posting the article.

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