Leaves don’t rustle, water doesn’t trickle and even the wind pauses to hold its breath and watch the drama unfold. Then all of a sudden everything springs to life…langurs groan, and swing on their branches, sambhars and deers give out the alarm call…
Let it be known- The king is here. The lesser creatures flee and king sweeps a gaze over his territory… Utter silence…….
This is Bandhavgarh National park- one of the remaining heavens for the Royal Bengal Tiger.
In continuation to our wildlife trips to national parks around India, we decided to visit bandhavgarh in April. This was our second trip this season ,the first being the Ranthambore national park in November’06. We reached Jabalpur on 31st March’07 and left for Bandhavgarh at 0640hrs on 1st April’07 by road. The road to bandhavgrah goes through Katni , umaria to tala. Jabalpur to Katni is around 90Kms and the road-NH07 is surprisingly very smooth. Coming from Gujarat I never expected these roads in MP to be that good quality but it was a smooth tarmac. From Katni we took the road to Umaria and it was also in a very good shape barring the last 10kms in the village tala. We reached Bandhavgarh at 1040hrs and headed for our resort, the MP tourisms- White tiger forest resort.
The resort is nicely maintained and has all the facilities with a modest tariff. After having lunch and a little rest we went for our first safari into the park with our driver for the next two days, Narendra Patel alias ‘Dhoni’.
The Bandhavgarh National Park is located within the district of Sahdol in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
A chain of smaller hills, 32 in all, surrounds this hill, forming a number of valleys and spurs interspersed with low lying areas, such as Chakradhara, Rajbahera, Sehra-Dadra, Bhitri bah, Kolua bah etc. Since the main formation is of sandstone, water percolates through it forming a number of perennial streams and springs. The hills are mainly flat topped. The meadows in certain areas are marshy.
The Sal & bamboo covers plain tract and degenerates in growth and quality as it ascends the hill slopes, further giving place to mixed forest on upper slopes.
It was a hot afternoon inside the park with temperature soaring to around 40Deg C. After making the necessary formalities at the gate we moved inside the park hoping for an early encounter with the ‘His majesty’. We moved on stopping here and there for some wildlife sightings and in the process saw this peacock near Gopalpura Lake dancing in its full glory trying to impress the female near by.
We moved further ahead and our guide pointed to a fish scaled owl resting on a branch far up moving its throat in a typical fashion to keep himself cool in the hot summer day.
Our safari was almost coming to a close and we haven’t had a glimpse of the big cat. I thought perhaps the claim that you see a tiger in your very first safari in bandhavgarh is a bit exaggerated. But then at a turn we saw many gypsies parked and binoculars all trained to find something in the bushes. Perhaps we might just be lucky. After waiting for some 20 minutes there was some movement in the bushes and very soon we saw black stripes on a buterrly gold surface emerging from the dense bushes.Though the sight was not very clear as there were many other gypsies parked around us yet we saw our very first tigress in our very first safari in Badhavgarh.-The claim was perhaps justified.
Imagine yourself in an open gypsy slowly and silently cruising along the dense forest trail , listening to the alarm call of deers or sambhar, listening to the sweet chirpings of birds. You move on as the early rays of sun make anarray of magical shapes through tress across the forest floor and your lungs revel in the fresh morning air.
Such is the experience of Bandhavgrah national park ,one of the few remaining heavens of our national pride-Royal bengal tiger.
We were the second jeep to enter the forest on the morning of 02nd April’07. Dhoni our jeep driver straight away moved the jeep towards chakradhara meadows. We had just got adjusted to the surroundings when our guide said ‘Sir’ there’s a tiger cub on the road. As soon as I trained my lens to focus on him,
some other jeep drivers also came rushing in scaring the tiger cub and he moved into the meadows. I took a couple of pictures of this young male cub of the Chakradhara tigress before he moved on into the dense forest inside. If those eager gypsy drives wouldn’t have scared the young cub perhaps we all could have had a better look at the cub or who knows even the tigress might be around. We moved on ahead ,searched some other areas where there was some possibility of tiger sighting but there was none to be seen. As required by the forest officials we went to register ourselves at centre point and also registered for the tiger show on elephant back.
The mahouts on their elephant track the tiger in the morning and then as the sun goes up and it gets hot, the tiger settles down. Then mahout ferries the visitors to a close distance which is not disturbing to the animal to have a look at the big cat. I was eager to take some good pictures and thought tiger show might just give me that chance. We went on our gajraj to have a look at the Gopalpura tigress who was sitting in the dense forest inside. After 10minutes of negotiating the thick bushes, gajraj (elephant) finally brought us to the point where she was resting in the shade. This was a very close encounter but because of the dense bamboo bushes I was not able to get a clear shot of the tigress. Nevertheless it was my second sighting of the day and third overall. Bandhavgarh was keeping up to its name of ‘The Land of Tigers’.
We finished our elephant safari at 0850hrs and since the sun was at its full I thought perhaps there wont be any other sighting for the day. We were ambling around the jungle routes when Dhoni brought us to a place called Sidhi baba temple. There were quite a few gypsies lined up as a tigress (Sidhi baba tigress) and her two cubs (1 male/1female) were nearby in the bushes. We were at the end of the line and everyone ahead of us was standing on their jeeps to have a glimpse of the family. Their patience was rewarded as in about 10mintues the mother crossed the road. Since everyone in front of us were standing once again I couldn’t get a clear shot of the tigress but managed just this shot.
We waited for the cubs to cross the road but they didn’t. We positioned our jeep right near to the bushes where they were supposedly hiding as there was some activity in those bushes. The cub moved from the bushes and I thought this time I would get a shot but he soon settled down in the other bushes around. We waited for almost an hour and soon it was time to leave the forest and let the family of these big cats have some rest.
Tiger sighting- 05 ( 3 tigress, 2 cubs of around 10-12 months)
After having rest in the comfortable resort of MP tourist we started for our afternoon safari with our driver Dhoni. The sun was at its full but could not deter the tourist for their chance of seeing the big cat as there were enough gypsies at the gate of the park. We were moving ahead into the dusty lanes of the park when I saw this Indian roller sitting on one of the branches
. After having some snaps of this beautiful bird we moved ahead into Charkradhara meadows hoping for some good shot of ‘The His Majesty’. We saw an elephant deep into the meadows indicating that there was the big cat relaxing in the tall wild marshy grass. We waited patiently having parked our gypsy onto one side thinking of a close encounter. Our wait was not rewarded for almost an hour and as we were about to loose hope of seeing the big cat Dhoni got a call from his other driver friends of some tiger movement in the sidhi baba area. He drove like Michael Schumacher and had we, not clutched tightly the handle we would have literally flown off the jeep. We reached the spot in a flash and there were enough gypsies already waiting. There were those two cubs of the sidhi baba tigress (1male/1female) in the bushes. Dhoni maneuvered the vehicle deftly and parked at an strategic location so as to have a good view as soon as the cub came out of the wild grass. Our wait was well rewarded this time as the male cub came out and sat down near the tree. We had a good look at this male of about 12-14 months or so. Though the view and angle was not so good for the photograph the sighting was very much clear
. After sometime the other female cub joined the male and both moved to the other area. They were in a playful mood and both moved and sat down inside the tall wild grass of the park.
All I could now see were their faces as their body was well camouflaged with the wild grass. It was almost 1800hrs and it was time for us to leave the park. Reluctantly we had to leave the two beautiful cubs in their habitat and to return to our habitat for the moment- White tiger forest resort.
Tiger sighting -06 ( 3 tigress, 3 cubs)03.04.07 F/N
This was going to be our last safari for this season at Bandhavgarh as we were leaving at 1000hrs. In anticipation of some good photographic moments with the big cat I got up at 0500hrs and got ready for the final safari. I had to drag my wife out as she was too tired but reluctantly joined me. By the time we left for safari we were quite late and almost the last gypsy to enter the park. We moved along with the other gypsies and went on the sidhi baba route only to find lot of gypsies stuck up in the midway with rocks on one side and jungle stream on the other. They had spotted the male cub of sidhi baba tigress sitting very close on the rock on the left. We could not see anything as we were behind all of them. As if the cub was in the mood to satisfy everyone he moved from his position and came close to where we were in our gypsy.
He was sitting very close to us on the rock and after a while my wife was almost scared as to whether he might not jump on to us. This was the Kodak moment I was waiting for in the whole trip and I clicked to my hearts content. He was not just ready to leave us and go into the dense forest inside as if he was more curious to have a look at all of us rather than vice versa. This was the first time we had to leave a tiger sighting so that we could move ahead and see something more.
After registering for tiger show at centre point we moved for the place where tiger was tracked by mahouts for the tiger show. In between we saw this long beaked vulture, a rare sight to see so many of these together.
When we reached the tiger show spot we were very excited to hear that today B-2 , the big male of Bandhavgarh, cub of Mohini the tigress from the second litter of the legendary Sita & Charger had been sighted. It was like a rare moment to see B-2 whom before we had seen so many times on Television at National Geographic wildlife shows.
It was a very satisfying elephant safari and I should thank my wife for this who encouraged us for this safari coz we all were satisfied with the earlier sighting of the morning.
After the safari I had packed my camera and lens thinking that perhaps we had seen it all and there cant be more sightings today. But this is jungle and there are no rules here.
We were coming back the same route we went back and suddenly we stopped in our tracks. There were some gypsies at the same spot where we sighted sidhi baba male cub on the rock. Though this time, he was sitting on the other side in the jungle stream. I immediately put o my camera and changed the lens and started shooting some more pictures. Soon he was joined by his sister. And what a sight it was to see these two playing. It was a scene from a NatGeo show. When I started to click I found out that my CF card was full and before I could remove and put on a new one I lost some very rare playful moments of brother sister duo. Nevertheless the male/ female duo then crossed the stream onto the road and again went on to climb the rock to sit at their favorite place where I saw the male cub this morning.
I clicked on some more pictures though the female tigress was perhaps in too much of a playful mood as she did a mock charge to a gypsy who dared to cross the road. We got a little scared but remained unmoved.
After some satisfying moments looking at these beautiful young tiger/tigress we thought to call it a day for our Bandhavgarh experience. We left them in their habitat and with some very rare, fond and precious memories, started our journey back from the Land of tigers, hoping to return back too see them fully grownup tiger/tigress.
Bandhavgarh experiences climatic conditions that vary to opposite extremes. In winters, the bitter cold forces the visitors to put on multiple layers as protection against the biting cold. Early morning rides can be in temperature that dips below zero, once you take the wind chill factor into consideration. In the summers, it changes drastically to the opposite.
In the summers, the temperatures move to the other extreme and can go up to 46 degrees centigrade. Towards late summer, it is also advisable to carry some protection, for yourself and for your cameras, from rain. Bandhavgarh has an average annual rainfall of 1200mm. The rains here give very little prior warning and it is preferable to be prepared for your own protection, as well as for your equipment. These rains, however, bring good respite from the blistering heat.
Area 1161 sq kms
Core 624 sq kms
Buffer 537 sq kms
Altitude 440 to 810 mts above sea level
Temperature: 2-44Deg C
Park is open from 1st October to 30th June.
DISTANCES: Jabalpur to Bandhavgrah- 195kms
Resort: MP tourism White Tiger Forest resort.
Tariff: INR 3500/- for A/C Double- AP basis
Safari charges: One round- INR 700
Full day ( 2 rounds) INR 1300
Park charges: Vehicle charges INR 125
Guide charges INR 105
Entry fees INR 25 per person