The trip to Bandhavgarh is a very special one for me. Marking the end of the two years of the pursuit - this was the third in series in search for elusive cat after Jim Corbett and Ranthambore.
The plan was for 3 days including the travel.
A LITTLE ABOUT BANDHAVGARH
Sprawl over an area of 450 Square Kilometers, the Bandhavgarh National Park is known for its breathtaking array of flora and fauna. Its geographical positioning has gifted a repository of over 250 species of birds and 22 different species of mammals. Though, the park is considered as the real home of white tigers but the park provides shelter to several Indian wildlife species like Bison, Cheetals, Langgors and Sambars.
The topography of the park is quite rocky inside the park, and there are around 35 sandstone caves. To spot one of them you can take different safaris, jeep safari is the popular way among the visitors. Jungle safari is the most prominent part of any wildlife excursion. Tourists coming to Bandhavgarh National Park can do jungle safari two rounds in a day. The jeep for the morning safari departs early by 6:15 AM and 2:30 PM for the second round. Though, safari timings in Bandhavgarh depend on the particular season you are visiting. You can go for a jeep safari in the Tiger Reserve area every day except Wednesday evening as the park remains closed for evening safari drives. Safari is allowed in only core zone of the park i.e. Tala Zone (Staring Point Gate No. 01), Magadhi Zone (Staring Point Gate No. 02) and Khituali Zone (Staring Point Gate No. 03) of the respective zone.
For more information you could check here.
HOW TO REACH?
We took an overnight train to Umaria from Delhi (Jammu Tawi Weekly Superfast, reached at 7:00 in the morning) and the resort we had to stay at had arranged for a pick up from Umaria to Bandhavgarh. The drive from Umaria to Bandhavgarh is a long one - takes 90 minutes - though the road is great and traffic minimal.
WHERE TO STAY?
Out travel wasn't the most well planned. We looked up resorts online to match our dates. We stayed at the Wild Haven Resort. The resort was a beautiful quiet one. It was hot - right in the middle of May - and it was dry. We had booked a cottage - the room was big and comfortable. The food was very homely and delicious. I did not even realize that I was eating lauki.
We freshened up in the room and spent a good chunk of time lazing around the resort. We managed a scrumptious breakfast and lunch and walked around the resort property. There seemed to be very few people in the resort, but then we had planned a weekday trip.
We had booked the safari in advance from the Madhya Pradesh tourism website. For the evening safari we got the Tala Zone (one that has the highest number of sightings). We were pretty excited. We hadn't booked for the next day's morning safari. We asked the resort manager to help us book the next day's morning safari. We did not get the Tala Zone for the morning safari. We managed to get the Khitauli Zone.
It is advisable to book the safari well in advance - as during peak seasons, it is extremely difficult to get the booking.
We went for the evening safari and the forest was beautiful. The calmness of the jungle always manages to uplift my spirits. The jungle was a vast spread of deciduous forest. Bandhavgarh is considered the most vegetative part of the Umaria region. The riverbanks are extremely fertile and lush and home to 300 species of flora. We spotted deer, sambhar and langoors in our evening safari.
The next morning safari was nothing short of an adventure - we were not very excited about the Khitauli zone - but our guide seemed very excited. We left the resort as early as 5:30. The jungle was beautiful and cool. The morning had just set in - watching the jungle in its pristine state was beautiful. Our hopes weren't really high as we hadn't heard that the sighting was high in the zone. We wandered into the jungle at 6:15 AM and kept driving into the jungle. We spotted the tiger at 6:40 AM, the first glimpse was of its butt sticking out as it lay behind a rock. It was crazy, soon a lot of jeeps started crowding in as a tiger had been spotted. The tiger was fast asleep and showed no signs of waking up either. It was insane how it kept us waiting - It would move its face a little, it would raise its head, an ear, a paw, change direction, sit up for a while and go back to sleep.
It kept evading us till about 8 in the morning - when it strode past us majestic and beautiful. It was a tigress. It only moved because the sunlight was bothering her. It got up, sat up for a while and strode towards the water hole. It drank water, kept sitting there and then walked past us into the jungle.
Every second was worth the wait. We also saw some beautiful birds and deer along the way back. We also captured orchids that are supposed to grow only when the percentage of CO2 is less that 0.3%.
We however missed our train coming back and had to manage our travel in an unreserved compartment! It was a nightmare - we were at Umaria station not knowing what to do - have never missed a train in my life. We managed to get the TT to get us a ticket. Luckily he did have one berth and we managed to reach Delhi safe and sound.
It was all in all an amazing adventurous crazy travel into the wilderness.