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|
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.
|Giant wood spider|
|A naughty langur|
|A pretty pair of spotted deer|
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|
|A grey hornbill|
|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.