Bandhavgarh National Park
The famous park set amidst the outlying hills of the Vindhyan ranges was earlier maintained as a Shikargarh or the game preserve of the Maharajahs of Rewa. The density of the tiger population at Bandhavgarh is the highest known in India. It is also renowned as the ‘White Tiger Country’, as Maharaja of Rewa discovered the world’s first white tiger in the forests of Bandhavgarh. The small park is a home to 22 species of mammals and 250 species of birds. The most commonly seen animals are, gaur or Indian bison, sambar, barking deer, chikara, nilgai, leopard, jackal, Bengal fox, hyena etc. Bird life can be viewed along forest streams and clearings. Best season to visit the park is from November to June. The ancient Bandhavgarh Fort nestled atop a hill dominates the park. It is considered to be over 2,000 years old and finds mention in the ancient mythological texts. There are also numerous prehistoric caves adorned with fine inscriptions and drawings by pre-historic man.
Known as “Kipling Country,” despite the fact that the writer never set foot here, the nature reserves of Madhya Pradesh are archetypal India, with vast tracts of jungle, open grassy plains and, of course, tigers. Bandhavgarh National Park occupies 437 sq. km (168 sq. miles), making it a great deal smaller than its more famous cousin, Kahna National Park. But despite its relatively diminutive size, the park is home to some 50 to 70 tigers, the highest density of tigers in any park on Earth, and your chances of sighting one are as high as at Ranthambhore, in Rajasthan. Once the personal hunting grounds of local Maharajas who almost wiped out the tiger population, Bandhavgarh continues to experience problems with wayward poachers, usually suppliers for China’s lucrative traditional medicine industry. But, as locals will assure you, your chances of seeing a wild tiger (those at Ranthambhore are almost tame) are still unmatched anywhere else in India. Best of all, you will approach your predator on elephant- back, giving the entire experience a totally unreal air. Besides the sought-after tiger, the sanctuary is home to spotted deer, sambar, nilgai antelope, barking deer, shy chinkara (Indian gazelle), and wild boar; leopards and sloth bears are far more elusive. The varied topography includes dramatic cliffs that proved a natural location for the 14th-century Bandhavgarh Fort. If you give enough notice, you can arrange to visit the reserve’s rock-cut caves, with inscriptions dating as far back as the 2nd century B.C.
WHEN TO GO
The park opens as early as October (depending on the monsoon situation), but sightings are best February through June, when the heat forces more animals to search for water. Although the park attracts smaller crowds than Corbett and Ranthambhore, you should avoid Bandhavgarh the week before and after the Diwali, Holi, and New Year’s holidays, when the park may be filled with queue-jumping VIPs and noisy families.
ORGANIZING YOUR BANDHAVGARH SAFARI
Regarding entry fees and permits, the best plan is to book accommodations that include everything; the resorts and lodges we’ve reviewed below will take care of all your safari arrangements. Get to the park first thing in the morning, when you will join the line of open-top jeeps and other 4WDs waiting at the entrance for the daily rush, which starts promptly at dawn. If you’ve hired a vehicle and driver privately, you will have to pay a small fee for the services of a park guide who will accompany you; this and other charges for entry permits, cameras, and such are all paid at the park entrance. Jeep safaris can cover a relatively large area within the park, but most sightings occur as a result of information shared among the various drivers and guides. Elephant- mounted mahouts head out early to search for tigers; once they locate them, the mahouts wait at the nearest road until safari jeeps begin to congregate and word spreads, ensuring the arrival of other vehicle-driven visitors. Buys you an elephant-back ride for an unnervingly close-up view of the tigers, usually encountered minding their own business deep within the sal forest. You then have around 5 minutes to capture the elusive cat on film before your elephant returns to the road to pick up new passengers.
With any luck, your guide will be as interested in showing you the terrain, which is rugged and beautiful, as he is in finding your tiger. He may point out other species such as the chital, blue bull antelope, and sambar; and the many bird species such as spotted black kites, crested serpent eagles, storks, ibises, hornbills, white-eyed buzzards, black vultures, golden-backed woodpeckers, kingfishers, and dove parakeets. If all else fails, there are plenty of black-faced langur monkeys and rhesus macaques to keep you amused.
Bandhavgarh Distance Guide