Bandhavgarh - Call of the wild

Photo of Bandhavgarh - Call of the wild 1/10 by Gauri Naik

Planning a wildlife trip? Then Bandhavgarh is the best bet, where lots of tiger sightings have been reported. Thus we planned to take up the offer of Twine Outdoors and joined them in this adventurous tour of the Bandhavgarh National Park. We had never been to any wildlife sanctuary and so were very eager to see wildlife at close quarters. Packing our cameras and binoculars had never been so exciting.

The train journey from Mumbai to Jabalpur 15 hours approx. Archis, the tour leader, and his team entertained us throughout the journey and the strain of the journey was not felt at all. We had a great time playing games and cracking jokes and sharing stories. We reached Jabalpur the next morning and though it was the summer season, in the month of May, we did not feel any discomfort in the heat.

Balancing Rock : Jabalpur

On the way we had breakfast and Archis took us to the outskirts of the city of Jabalpur to see the balancing rocks. We were amazed at the balancing rock which is located near Madan Mahal fort in Jabalpur city of Madhya Pradesh. We gazed at it incredulously, awe struck at the miracles nature can offer. It is a formation of rocks perfectly balanced without other supports. How did it balance, in this manner, in the event of an earthquake?

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The Balancing Rocks

The Dhuandhar Waterfalls

We took pictures from all angles and left for the visit to the Dhuandhar waterfalls. "Dhuan" which means smoke and "Dhar" which means flow, meaning a waterfall which creates an effect of smoke which looks misty. The Dhuandhar Falls are located on Narmada River in Bhedaghat and are 30 meters high. The Narmada River, making its way through the world-famous Marble Rocks, narrows down and then plunges in a waterfall known as Dhuandhar. The plunge, which creates a bouncing mass of mist, is so powerful that its roar is heard from a great distance.

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The Dhuandhar Waterfalls

The mesmerizing sights and sounds of the waterfall has a calming and exhilarating effect on you. The fall of the water is so forceful that it is thrown back in the air, creating a misty effect and adds to its beauty. A must visit place. No wonder this is called the "Niagara of India" as it has the same look and feel.

One can view the Dhuandhar waterfall from the east bank as well as from the west bank of Narmada River. To see the other side of Dhuandhar Waterfall you have to take the Cable Car Service available at Bhedaghat from the eastern gate. The Cable Car Service is available at the entrance gate of Bhedaghat. The ropeway facility is not available from 1:30 P.M to 2:00 P.M.

The Marble Rock Tour

The small town of Bhedaghat has evolved into a major tourist attraction thanks to the Marble Rocks. The Bhedaghat Marble Rocks is featured in the Shahrukh Khan-starrer Bollywood film Asoka, in the song Raat Ka Nasha Abhi.

The Rocks stretch on both sides of the Narmada river and are a visual treat. Soaring to towering heights which reach up to nearly 100 feet, the Marble Rocks look benignly down upon the gently flowing waters of the Narmada river. These calm waters turn into a roaring white torrents some distance away, forming the Bhedaghat Dhuandhar Falls.

Photo of Bandhavgarh - Call of the wild 4/10 by Gauri Naik

The Marble Rocks

We had a boat ride in the ravines and marveled at the splendor of this beautiful place. The limestone rocks, rising perpendicularly out of the placid waters of Narmada River, creates a stunning spectacle. When the boat travels through the gorges the rocks shimmer in the rays of the sun creating a magical effect. It is a unique experience and a must visit site in your trip to Jabalpur.

We were not willing to leave the place as this marvel of nature had us completely enraptured, but time was a constraint and we had to leave for our hotel.

By the time we reached the hotel it was late in the evening. We were served dinner and all of us retired early for the night as we had leave early in the morning before dawn the next day for the forest safari.

The Jungle Safari

There is a saying about the Bandhavgarh Park that goes: "In any other Park, you are lucky if you see a tiger. In Bandhavgarh, you are unlucky if you don't see (at least) one."

We woke up at 3:30 am the next morning at the knock on the door and readied ourselves for the exciting safari. Scores of jeeps arrived spewing dust all around and there was a mad rush to clamber into them. Each group was assigned a jeep and we were asked to wear a scarf or similar headgear as it was an open jeep.

We preferred wearing hats and set off for the jungle with a feeling of nervous anticipation. We first rushed to the booking centre at Magadhi. There are three zones in the Bandhavgarh National Park - Tala, Magdhi and Khitauli. Amongst these Tala is the premium zone and most popular as many tiger sightings have been reported from here. It usually remains in demand throughout the season. Jungle Safari Routes" A, B, C, D" lies in Tala zone. Among them Route B-D or D-B are popular among visitors. This zone remains in demand so make an advance booking to secure its entrance ticket for the desired safari.

We were booked for the Magadhi zone and as we started our journey the road turned dustier and rougher. We were first taken to Charger Point which is created in memory of the tiger Charger who was a legendary king of the Bandhavgarh tiger reserve. He was famous for his ferocious roar and his long leap. He was called "Charger" because he had once charged at an elephant carrying tourists. He had an unusually aggressive stance towards safari jeeps and and elephants. He was a fearless male and could enter the territory of other tigers anytime without fear. He held the largest territory in the Bandhavgarh Reserve of all times and all the others cringed upon his entry into their territory. When Charger became old, he was pushed out of the Tala range by his son ( male from his daughter Mohini). When Charger was not sighted in the park the forest officials got worried and presumed him to be dead. Later he was found outside the Tala range. After this he was put in an enclosure. He died in the month of September in the year 2000 in an enclosure at Magdhi zone of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve. A memorial was made in a place where his body was disposed of and is known by the name of ‘Charger Point’.

Photo of Bandhavgarh - Call of the wild 5/10 by Gauri Naik

As we drove through the jungle we spotted many inhabitants like the the Gaur, beautiful sambar and barking deer, wolves and jackals, hyenas and peacocks trying to woo the peahens.

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It was a beautiful morning and as the sun shone through the thick forest the birds were chirping and the peacocks were dancing.

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All of a sudden the jeep stopped and we saw the driver looking intently at some marks on the dusty road. He declared that there was a tiger near by as he pointed to the huge pug marks on the sand.

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The Tiger trail

All hell broke loose in the jeep. Everyone scrambled towards the front with their cameras ready in hand and eyes searching the jungle. Suddenly we heard the danger call of a monkey from nearby. It was a warning to the other animals that a tiger was searching for its prey. Another call echoed from the other side of the jungle in a diagonally opposite direction which meant that the tiger was somewhere between these two positions. All of us were on high alert. The jeep had slowed down but there was no sign of any tiger. Suddenly as we turned a corner we saw the jeep ahead of us come to a standstill. On peering closely we saw the most beautiful sight we had ever seen in the jungle. A tiger had stretched itself across the road and lay there nonchalantly, his flame and coal colored coat shining in the sunlight, his beautiful eyes gazing directly at us. Suddenly he yawned and his giant vampirish fangs sent shivers down my spine. We parked the jeep and everyone watched him silently as he flicked his tail and suddenly stood up and started walking in the opposite direction. All the jeeps followed him slowly. His gait was majestic, muscles rippling with sinewy strength and his brass brilliant coat shining in the sun. The jeep moved slowly along with him. He did'nt even bother to glance behind at us and kept on walking majestically at his own pace.

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Suddenly he turned left into a thicket and started prowling as if he had marked his prey. We could see some sambars grazing at a distance. My heart went out to them. There was a deep throated call by a monkey and all the sambars sprinted away as fast as possible. The tiger flicked his tail, as if in anger. I was thankful of the distance between us and had goosebumps when he turned towards us but then quickly disappeared into the jungle. After he left there was a lot of jubilation in all the jeeps on having spotted him for so long. This memory will ever be etched on our minds.

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The most amazing fact of the jungle, as told to us by our guide, was that the animals prey only when they are hungry. The tigers do not prey upon humans and I could see some inhabitants walking in the jungle without any fear. This meant that these animals strictly followed some code of conduct. As we learned this we realized that it was man who was wild and destructive and not these animals. They never disturbed the ecology around them, neither did they have any greed for more.

We drove back with a sense of gratification for having learnt a lot from this safari. The next morning we drove back into the jungle for bird watching and had a wonderful time watching and knowing about the birds. Our curiosity was amply satisfied by Archis who had a lot of knowledge about these birds.

All in all it was a fulfilling journey and made us hungry for more such excitement.

Tips before you on this safari:

1) Carry a scarf, binoculars, camera, torch and full sleeved clothing, sports shoes and hats with you for the safari.

2) Sun glasses and water bottles are also needed, when you are travelling in the afternoon in an open jeep.

3) Cotton clothes are better option during the summer season.

4) The booking of the safari can be done in advance and Tala zone is the most in demand.

5) The jeep ride can be very rough and bumpy at times so it may be very uncomfortable for those not used to such rides.

6) Always take a guide along with you on the jeep as he has a lot of experience in the jungle and can enhance your knowledge about wildlife.

7) You have to be prepared to rise early in the morning as the safari starts at 4 am.

8) Be prepared for disappointments as many people return from the journey without tiger sighting.