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Bandhavgarh National Park

In all national parks in India they say that you have to be lucky to see a Tiger during a Tiger Safari. But in Bandhavgarh National Park you have got to be unlucky to see only one Tiger. Hence this makes Bandhavgarh the most preferred national park for all tiger lovers. I have always believed that there are two kind of tourists, one who come only to see tigers and the second who wish to see general wildlife and birds also along with tigers. Bandhavgarh National Park manages to satiate both the tourist categories substantially.

It is not only the Tiger sightings here, but the natural and archaeological setting that makes Bandhavgarh special. The Bandhav-Dhish temple of the Bandhavgarh fort as seen from the Chakradhara Meadow, or the back of the fort as seen from Sehra meadow makes Bandhavgarh a picturesque park. Visiting the Badi Gufa and seeing the caves of the Yogis who meditated here centuries ago gets you thinking about the once beautiful past of Bandhavgarh. The view of the Vindhyanchal hill range from Sita Mandap will force you to stop here for few minutes as the beauty of the place will freeze you with awe.

Bandhavgarh is a relatively small park compared to some other parks, and that makes it a high tiger density park. There are other parks as well where the tiger sightings are good, like Ranthambhore, Kanha, Tadoba, and Pench, but the X factor in favour of Bandhavgarh is the high chances of sighting tigresses with small cubs. It is the abundance of water and prey here that makes a lot of Tigers comfortable in the zones of Tala, Magdhi, and Khitauli. Lately some wild Elephants from the neighbouring states of Chattisgarh have also made Bandhavgarh their home. A herd of over fifty Asian Elephants spends most of its time in Khitauli zone, and sometimes moving into the other zones too.

Bandhavgarh is is set among the Vindhya hills of Madhya Pradesh with an area of 1536 sq kms. It contains a wide variety of habitats and a high density of Tigers. This is also known as the White tiger country. It is said that the white tigers were found in the old state of Rewa for many years. The last known White tiger, popularly known as Mohun was captured by Maharaja Martand Singh in 1951. He is now stuffed and on display in the Palace of Maharaja of Rewa.

Prior to becoming a National Park, the forests around Bandhavgarh had long been maintained as hunting preserve of the Maharaja of Rewa. The Maharaja and his guests carried out hunting. This was good in a way as none else was allowed to hunt, so he forest was nicely preserved. It was considered a good omen for Maharaja of Rewa to shoot 108 tigers. His Highness Maharaja Venkat Raman Singh shot 111 Tigers by 1914.

History of Bandhavgarh

Bandhavgarh has been a center of human activity and settlement for over 2000 years, and there are references to it in the ancient books, the Narad-Panch Ratra and the Shiva Purana. The oldest sign of habitation in the park are caves dug into the sandstone to the north of the fort. Several contain Brahmi inscriptions dating from the 1st century B.C. Various dynasties have ruled the fort, for example, the Maghas from the 1st century A.D., the Vakatakas from the 3rd century A.D., From that time onwards Bandhavgarh was ruled by a succession of dynasties including the Chandela Kings of Bundelkhand who built the famous temples at Khajuraho. The Baghel Kings, the direct ancestors of the present Royal family of Rewa, established their dynasty at Bandhavgarh in the 12th century. It remained their capital till 1617 when the center of court life moved to Rewa, 75 miles (120Kms) to the north. Without royal patronage Bandhavgarh became more and more deserted until forest overran the area band it became the royal hunting reserve. This helped to preserve the forest and its wildlife, although the Maharajas made full use of their rights.

At independence Bandhavgarh remained the private property of the Maharaja. He finally gave it to the state for the formation of the National Park in 1968. After the park was created poaching was brought under control and the number of animals rose dramatically. Small dams and water holes were built to solve the problem of water shortage. Grazing by local cattle was stopped and the village within the park boundaries was relocated. The Tigers in particular prospered and the 1986 extension provided much needed forest to accommodate them.

Geography Flora & Fauna

There are 32 hills in this part of the park, and a large natural fort stands tall at its center. The fort’s cliffs are 2625 feet (800 meters) high, 1000 feet (300 meters) above the surrounding countryside. Over half the area is covered by Sal forest although on the upper slope it is replaced by mixed forest of sal, saj, dhobin, and saja. Winter temperatures (Nov-mid-February) vary from almost freezing at night to around 68 degree Fahrenheit in the daytime. Summer nights are also cooler than the daytime temperature, which rises to 104 degree Fahrenheit. This park is closed during the breeding season, which coincides with the monsoon (July-October). Rainfall in the park averages 50 inches (120cm) per year.

Within The Park

Bandhavgarh is justifiably famous for its Tigers, but it has a wide range of other animals. The undergrowth is not as dense as in some northern Terai forests, or as in Kanha which happens to be only 5 hour drive away. The best time to see the park inhabitants is still the summer months when water becomes more scarce and the undergrowth dies back. The most effective way to search for Tigers is in the safari vehicles.

Indian Gaur were successfully relocated in Bandhavgarh about 10 years back.  They were commonly seen till mid-90s. I saw the last solitary male in 1997 in the Chakradhara meadow, but for some unknown reason they all disappeared. After reintroduction from Kanha and successful breeding in Bandhavgarh the Gaur now roam their former territory confidently.

Leopard sightings had dipped over last few years, but lately in last two years, the Leopard sightings have improved considerably. Muntjac and sambhar prefer denser vegetation. The main prey animal, however, for the Tigers and the park’s leopards are the chital (spotted deer, Axis Axis), which now number a few thousand.

There are two types of monkeys common in the park, the rhesus macaque and the black-faced langur. Drives can also reveal jungle cats, hyenas, porcupines, ratels, and a variety of other mammals. Bandhavgarh attracts many migratory birds in the winter months, including the birds of prey like the steppe eagle and a variety of wildfowl.

But the most interesting news from Bandhavgarh has been the arrival of wild Asian Elephants from the neighbouring state of Chattisgarh. A herd of about 50 elephants arrive in 2018 and have since made Bandhavgarh their home. They had briefly moved out in 2019 but are now back and have more or less settled in the Khitauli zone. Once in a while they also move towards Magdhi zone. Bandhavgarah has what they require in a habitat, enough of food, water, and safety.

Tourism Zones

There are three tourism zones in the park, namely, Tala, Magdhi, and Khitauli, which are open from 1st October till 30th June. There was a time when everybody wanted to do safaris only in Tala zone, to an extent that the forest department had to increase the costs of safaris in this zone. But once Khitauli zone was opened for tourism, it brought in more conservation measures, thus giving tigers more inviolate area. They felt at ease and started to move around much. It is no surprise now that the tiger sightings have picked up in all the three tourism zones.

There are three buffer zones, namely, Dhamokhar, Johilla, and Panpatha, which remain open for tourism round the year.

Safaris in Bandhavgarh

The safaris in Bandhavgarh are conducted in a 4-wheel drive vehicle. It is an open vehicle with no roof, and quite comfortable and practical for tiger safaris in Bandhavgarh. It is mandatory to take a forest guide with you for safaris. When you book through us we ensure you get an experienced and skilful naturalist who drives you during the safaris. If the early morning Safari in Bandhavgarh National Park is a thriller, then the late afternoon rendezvous to get another glimpse of the Tiger, and watch the shadows grow taller as dusk approaches and the cacophony of birds grows louder in the trees, is not to be missed experience.

Entry in to the park is allowed only at sunrise for 4 hour, and then again around 3pm till sunset. Park opening and closing times depend on sunrise and sunset time, thus it varies every month. The park has several good weather roads. A unique part about this park is the nature of soil is sandy, and it water easily. So even if it rains during the safari, you can continue doing your safari and enjoy the rains simultaneously. This is quite unlike Kanha, where even a one hour rain can stop a safari due to clayey soil, which tends to get slippery, and slush gets created soon.

General

Over the years the small market in the Tala village has become busier.

There are vegetable vendors, cigarette shop, and even a liquor store. Lately, good internet broadband services have commenced in and around Tala village.

The closest hospital is 32kms away at Katni, where you can expect some basic treatments to any accidental injuries.

There are souvenir counters or shops in most of the resorts, and even in the Tala village market.

Broadband internet service is now available in and around Tala village.

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