November 9, 2013

Bandhavgarh National Park- The Wild Country...!!


Yes, I did not spot a tiger at Bandhavgarh! The national park at Bandhavgarh opened before me a plethora of fauna and flora, that the famous tigers of the region seemed like the least of interests. Had I gone with the mission of sighting just the tiger, I would have definitely missed out on all the other vivacious creatures, the lovely engulfing greenery and the gorgeous landscape. I was advised by many keen wild lifers to enjoy the jungle rather than chasing the wild cat. If you are lucky, you will definitely spot one. If not, do not miss out on other species. If all that you want to see is a tiger, then the zoo nearest to your place is the ideal destination.

During our stay at Kings Lodge, we started exploration of the jungle with a nature walk. The naturalist from the lodge who accompanied us was quite knowledgeable about the various species of plants, butterflies, birds and introduced us to a few of them. The place had a fairly thick foliage with lots of bamboo, asparagus, lantana with beautiful tiny flowers and mahua trees from which the local alcohol is made. The naturalist also pointed out the local and botanical names of most plants. Though am not able to recollect the names, it sounded wonderful and took me back to my biology classes.  A large pond with lots of water lilies looked spectacular with the hues. On a very lucky day, I was told there are chances of spotting a stripped cat quenching its thirst at the pond. Avian fauna was aplenty and the colourful butterflies were fluttering all over the place as we trod on the narrow trails. Dug ups by wild boars were seen in quite a few spots and the naughtiness of monkeys were ubiquitous. We walked deeper and spotted a white necked stork in the distance. As I was capturing it on my lens, a few parakeets flew past my head squeaking as they went, followed by a red throat fly catcher. We spotted more avian fauna like macpie robin, indian robin, spotted dove, egrets, red vented bulbul and much more as we explored the wonderful countryside surrounding the Bandhavgarh national park. On our way back, we were greeted by a huge herd of cattle which were being led home by herdsmen from the nearby village. The huge round orange ball of setting sun made for a magnificent landscape. It was almost dark as we were driving back to the resort when suddenly a jackal crossed our path. First spotting of a wild animal in Bandhavgarh and that got me excited. However the smart fellow was too quick to be captured on my lens and disappeared into the nearby bushes.



An interesting tree
White necked stork


A robin
We spend the evening with a British couple who were so frustratingly in search of a tiger in the wild. They had been to a couple of safaris before and were yet to spot one. From their talks, I was sure that even a leopard will bring no excitement. A tiger is all that they wanted to see and they were to accompany us for the next day early morning safari. To get out of the room at 5 am and walk through the paved way to the reception area is in itself quite a wild adventure. The tiny lamp shades along the path and a torch light was definitely of no help to spot any wild one lurking around. It was a quick quick walk in the darkness before we got onto the jeep and headed for the safari. It was a bumpy ride to Tala zone (one of the three zones at Bandhavgarh) in the chilly weather. The sky looked gorgeous with the stars and the moon yet to leave the stage. There was a long line of jeeps that greeted us and we waited for the forest officials to inspect our identification cards before heading into the park at 6 am along with a forest guide and our naturalist. 

The gate opened and the jeeps lunged forward into the vastness of the jungle. The mud path snaked its way through the greenery and the mist engulfed the tall grasses and the broad deciduous trees. All eyes peered in search of anything wild. We began with a visit to Sheshaiya which has a big statue of Lord Vishnu in a reclining posture along with a Shiva linga and a statue of Brahma. There is a green pond right in front of it and followers believe that a river by the name Charanganga starts from here. The place is undoubtedly one of the most serene points inside the national park. 


Misty morning
Sheshaiya
The jeeps travel through different routes marked as A,B,C and D in Tala zone. Supposedly Tala zone has high concentration of wildlife compared to other zones and hence the rush. We were allocated route A and began our wild safari by spotting many avaian fauna like lapwings, a grey hornbill, coucals, oriental turtle doves, plum headed parakeets and many more. The giant wood spider with its enormous cobweb was seen everywhere. As the sun opened up, spreading its rays through the thicket of jungle, the drive through the long meandering pathways made for a beautiful morning. The jungle was dark, deep and green. With chirping of birds and chattering of monkeys accompanying us all through, I could not have asked for anything more. We stopped by on sighting spotted deer who are always the best posers for photographers. Perched on tree tops, langurs and rhesus macaques kept leaping as we drove past them. Two gorgeous peacocks walked away as our jeep sped past them. Quite shy to pose for the camera, they hid themselves in the bushes. We also waited for a pair of mongoose to cross the road and that was indeed a beautiful sight. Though they were quite shy in the beginning on hearing the noise, they quickly walked across the road for a wonderful frame. We also spotted a tree shrew on a nearby tree and that was a first time for me.



Giant wood spider
Indian roller
Lapwings
Peacocks
A dove
A naughty langur
Mongooses 
Tree shrew
A pretty pair of spotted deer
Meanwhile, our co-travellers were restless without a tiger spotting. Bandhavgarh has one of the highest percentage of tigers in the country and they were yet to spot one after 3 safaris (including the present one). The jeeps crossed paths, but the guides and naturalists nodded their head in disappointment. The elephant trackers (forest guides tracking tigers on elephant tops with wireless) were seen frequently crossing our way but with no luck. The park had just opened up 10 days back and the guides and naturalists needed time to spot the locations and the movements of the wild one. So cannot label them as mediocre guides. More jeeps came by and after discussions followed by assumptions we headed to a couple of points and waited at each of those places with hard luck. Then came an elephant tracker who said he saw a tiger lazing on the mud  pathway just before the park opened up. Tiger spotting is sheer luck!



After refreshing with a cup of coffee and cookies which we had carried, the search for that elusive tiger began again. I too wanted to see a tiger in the wild, but that however was not my sole purpose of the safari. So as others chased the tiger, I enjoyed the greenery, the colourful birds and butterflies that flew over us and the spotted deer and monkeys that popped up from no where. Suddenly the jeep stopped. Our naturalist heard alarm calls from monkeys and then the excitement grew. We waited with bated breath for the stripped one to enter the arena. There was more hooting and alarm calls going around. Surprisingly we spotted a couple of deer grazing away happily a few meters away. False alarm calls, said the guide and we proceeded further. Had it been a genuine call, the deer would have leaped ahead in a flash. We did find a few pug marks on the way and also waited at a water hole which was supposedly frequented by a male tiger. No signs there too. The sun was shining bright and beautiful by the time we made our drive back to the gate with a few sulking faces on board. That was a wonderful drive early in the morning, sighting so many wonderful birds and animals along with some gorgeous greenery and landscape. 


A pug mark
After a heavy breakfast and a quick lunch without much gap between them, we headed back to the park for our afternoon safari. The route that we took was B and D and had a more beautiful landscape than the earlier one. It was quite sunny all the way and the drive started with the sighting of more langurs, rhesus macaques, peacocks and spotted deer. We had something new this time and spotted a sambhar deer grazing. It looked up when we stopped by for a capture. A wild boar was seen at a distance as we drove deeper in to the jungle. However it did not pop up and kept searching for its food amidst the tall grasses. Vultures, grey hornbills, parakeets and indian rollers were seen aplenty this time either perched on the branches or flying away into the horizon and that made for some lovely frames. It had rained in the last couple of days and the streams were still trickling by. We were languorously driving trying to spot as much wildlife as possible when our jeep came to a halt and a group of rhesus macaques crossed our path. It was a huge bunch with lots of babies clinging on to their mothers. Simultaneously, the search for the tiger was quite active and the guides concentrated on alarm calls and interacted with the elephant trackers for information. We again waited at a couple of spots, where the chances of spotting was quite high. Suddenly information passed around that a tiger was on its way down a hill and then the wait began. More jeeps joined us and more cameras came out all set to capture 'the one'. Patience pays, but not always. After a long wait, the jeeps headed further with luck not favouring us again. The sun was about to set by then and the harsh heat had given way to cold winds. The thick jungle also opened into a expansive landscape with tall grasses, hills and the Bandhavgarh fort. The grassland look breathtakingly beautiful against the setting sun. As we drove back, I gazed at all those lovely greenery, took in a lungful of fresh air and listened to the numerous sounds that came ringing from all corners of Bandhavgarh national park.



A grey hornbill
Rhesus macaques
Sambhar deer
The expansive landscape of Bandhavgarh national park

As we left the resort the next morning, we passed by the british couple who were returning after their fifth safari. From their facial expressions, I could make out that the tiger had still eluded them. I seriously advise all visitors to enjoy the drive, sighting all those gorgeous avians, mammals, rodents and many more that the forest offers along with the luscious greenery and magnificent landscape. To top all these, if you sight a tiger, undoubtedly it is the icing on the cake. Bandhavgarh is wilderness at its best and the ideal time to spot wildlife would be during the summers when the tall grasses die out, the trees become leafless and the animals wander in search of water. I wish the tourism authorities promoted Bandhavgarh as a national park rather than just a tiger country.

Signing Note- Get engulfed by wilderness in Bandhavgarh...!!

Location- Madhya Pradesh
Nearest railhead- Umaria (35 Kms), Katni (90 kms)
Nearest airport- Jabalpur (190 Kms)


P.S.- I was in Bandhavgarh on an invite from Pugdundee Safaris.

49 comments:

  1. Wonderful shots. You have explored region very well and spotted a lot of wild life.

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  2. Beautiful snaps and nice narration!!

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  3. wonderfully written and the landscape shots are too good... btw, the stork is a Wooly-necked Stork and its a White-eyed Buzzard above the hornbill :)

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    1. Thanks Santosh. Thank you for the pointers.

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  4. Very Lovely Write-Up and Equally wonderful captures.. :D

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  5. Great shots.I used to live in MP for 2 years and Bandavgarh used to be our weekend gateway ! Nice.

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    1. Thank you. It is so nice to have so much of wildlife close to you.

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  6. Oh incredible captures. Have you been there? oh I can't think of..I have never been in such wonderful place. You have minutely explored the wildlife..keep it up.

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  7. wonderful captures! true!! jungle safari is not just about seeing a tiger, its more about exploring and observing the flora and the rest of the members in fauna.your post reminds me of my trip to Jim Corbett :) Nice narration.

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  8. Mazaa aa gaya pad ke...really enjoyed ur lazy narrative....wish those brits see a tiger the next time

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  9. You had such a great time, it shows in your narrative...And what amazing pics! I kept on returning to them even after I finished reading the whole post. Each and every frame is so beautifully captured. I love the pictures with the jungle roads and also the one where sunlight is filtering through the tree. Very good work and I am super jealous!

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    1. Glad that you liked it. Thanks a lot. :)

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  10. You went with the right attitude and made the most of your trip to Bandavgarh, my friend. :) Good job. From the post and the pics in it, it is obvious that the place is rich in terms of fauna and flora and offers much more than the tigers. I'm positive it was a very rejuvenating trip.
    Waiting for the stories from the Himalayas. ;)

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    1. Thank you Divya. It is engulfed in rich flora and fauna. Other stories are coming soon.

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  11. Lovely post! I like that mongoose picture a lot! When I was there I wanted to hike up to that fort and the temple. I think that is the tour you took.

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    1. Thanks Kusum. I did not go up the fort. I was told there are restrictions now on going up.

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  12. Loved your post, as always. Made me feel what you had experienced over there. Beautiful pictures as well. Waiting for more, especially the Northern Karnataka write ups :) .

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    1. Thanks a lot Malini. Other stories are coming soon.

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  13. Wonderful compilation. I didn't go to Bandhavgarh but the scene with people was the same at Kanha.... looking only for the tiger. I was fortunate to see not one but two!! Even if I hadn't spotted them, the jungle is made of so many other animals & birds.

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    1. Thanks Nisha. I think the situation is the same in most national parks across the country. It is wonderful that you could spot two lovely tigers.

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  14. This is awesome!!! I'm so damn jealous of you right now man!!! :D
    Bhusha's INDIA TRAVELOGUE

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  15. Lovely write up and awesome pictures.

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  16. wow amazing pictures and rightly as u said, many people chase the cats and miss the larger wealth :) i have taken a vow to not even carry cameras these days to jungle.. u shud try that too some time... its just magical :)

    keep writing and sharing the wonderful stories :)

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    1. Thank you. Going on a safari without a camera sounds interesting. Not sure how much I would be able to resist taking the lens. :)

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  17. Wonderful images Niranjan! Enjoying nature is all very well, but I still want to see a tiger in the wild before I die :-)

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    1. That was me trying to comment with the Wordpres ID option.
      Is it possible for you to open up a name & URL option for commenting? Would be far easier for Wordpress Users.

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    2. Thank you, Madhu. You will definitely spot one soon. I shall definitely look into the name and URL option for comments.

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  18. Very Beautiful photos Which are showing us forest life and beautiful nature.
    Thank you,
    Best Holiday Packages in India

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