Bandhavgarh National Park is always at the top ten lists of most wildlife enthusiasts when it is about seeing and photographing tigers in the wild. I finally got the opportunity to visit this forest last year in December and the trip was undoubtedly amazing!
Located in Umaria District (Madhya Pradesh) and Spreading across an area of 450sq.kilometers, this forest is one of the most popular Tiger Havens in India. It is home to a good number of Bengal Tigers, and has the highest known population density of tigers in India. Many iconic Tiger documentaries have been made in this park. But, apart from Tigers, the forest also houses a variety of other mammalian species such as the Indian Leopard, Jackal, Dholes, Sambar, Chital, Chinkara, Striped Hyenas, Gaurs, Nilgai, Barking Deer and also a variety of avian and reptilian species.
Our 4 days trip was organized by a Kolkata-based Wildlife Tours Company, and the stay was at Nature’s Heritage Resort, a beautiful resort with a blend of the jungle inside the property itself. Right from the hospitality to the food, everything was absolutely brilliant over there!
We got to see and photograph quite a good number of fauna in all the 5 safaris that we went for.
Interestingly I got to see Vultures for the first time during this trip. Once quite common, these birds are now highly endangered because of the widespread use of Diclofenac in veterinary medicines.
Red-Headed Vulture – Also known as the Asian King Vulture is categorized as a “Critically Endangered” species on the IUCN Red List.
The first-morning safari at Khitauli (Gate 3) zone gave us only a few common species and some birds, but no tiger. Next up was an evening safari at Tala Zone (Gate 1). This zone is known as the best in terms of Tiger sightings, and thus, we were quite optimistic about this safari. But, after spending over an hour without a trace of a Tiger, we thought that bad luck had once again crept in. The safari was almost over for that day and we were heading towards the gate. There was a short bend ahead at the road, and just as we took the turn, we noticed 4-5 vehicles from which one of the guides signaled our driver to stop the car. This was when our guide whispered “bhaiya tiger hain!” (there’s a tiger). Those three words were absolutely the best thing that I’ve ever heard!
I finally got the chance to photograph a tiger in the wild for the first time! We were blessed with the sighting of this phenomenally beautiful tigress called “Spotty/Spot-T”. She is one of the cubs of Sukhi Patiha, one of the most popular Tigresses of Bandhavgarh.
I thought that this moment would last for just a few seconds, and she’d disappear back into the thickets. But, to my utter surprise, she came out and started walking right in the middle of the road.
It was amazing to see how fearless she was. There were so many cars behind her but she walked ahead calmly without caring at all!
Our driver kept on moving back, and we got some great opportunities for head-on shots 😀
The sighting lasted for around 10 minutes, with a few seconds of eye contact at the end! This was one of the best moments I had in the wild.
We did not get to see any more tigers in the rest of the safaris. The last one was at Magdhi zone where we missed a sighting of a young male by just a few minutes.
The entire trip was very successful in terms of wildlife sightings and photography, and of course, my first tiger sighting made it extremely special!
Planning a trip to Bandhavgarh? Here is some information that might be of help
1. The forest remains open from October to June
2. There are three gates, namely Tala (Gate 1), Magdhi (Gate 2) and Khitauli (Gate 3)
3. The temperature in summers reaches 40 degree Celsius and above during daytime. The weather will be dry and there will be a strong presence of heat waves. In winters, the temperature is usually below 25 degree Celsius. The early morning safaris in the months of Dec-January will be bone chilling!
4. November-March is the best time if you want to see a variety of Flora and fauna whereas the months of April to June are considered best for Tigers
5. Safaris must be booked well in advance
6. Each safari has a duration of 3.5 hours
7. The nearest Railway station is at Katni (100 kms) and the nearest Airport is at Jabalpur (190 kms)