Peacock bird (Photo credit: @Doug88888)
After receiving freshly brewed coffee in our room at 5.30 AM, we left our lodge at 6.00 AM in an open top four-wheel drive vehicle – we were full of eager anticipation. The driver introduced himself as our leading naturalist and we headed off to pick up our second naturalist, complete the park formalities and enter the enclosure at opening time of 6.30 AM.
We were wearing all our warmest clothes, including hats and gloves but it was bitterly cold, especially with the wind chill factor in the open jeep. We reflected back on what we had learned about Bandhavgarh.
The Bandhavgarh National Park is a wild life sanctuary, situated in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, spread over an area of 448 sq km and it was declared a national park in 1968. It has the highest density of tiger population in the India – according to the latest census there were 68 tigers. Other wild attractions include gaur (Indian bison), sloth bear, leopard, porcupine, wild boar, both sambar and spotted deer.
After handing over our passports for completion of the formalities, our driver entered the enclosure. There were two morning game drives 6.30 – 10.30 and one in the afternoon 2.30 to 5.30. At other hours, the park was closed unless one had a special license, like the BBC wildlife team who were also filming – we spotted them with their enormous cameras and heavy padded jackets.
It was dark at 6.30, however we were amazed how quickly it became light there was no dawn, just dark to light!
The first game that we saw in large quantities was spotted deer – we saw several hundred over the two days. These were both elegant and beautiful, with the males having large antlers.
The first day, we were rather disappointed by the quantity of wildlife that we had seen. We had been to national parks elsewhere, where there was a much greater abundance of wildlife. The selection of animals that we saw on our first day included:
- Spotted deer
- Samba deer
- Black faced monkeys
- Red faced monkeys
- Peacocks – the national bird of India
- Wild Boar
Our first game drive ended at around 10.30 and we were returned to our lodge, where we later had lunch (curry of course) and prepared for our afternoon viewings. We left our lodge at 2 pm and the sun was shinning brightly, were looking forward to hopefully seeing a tiger or two! But no such luck and saw lots of the same as the mornings outing. However we did see some beautiful landscape as our guide drove us high into the mountain where the views were spectacular. We ended our afternoon watching a family of long-tailed monkeys jumping trees and feasting on the vegetation,which seemed in abundance. We then headed back to our lodge and arrived about 6 pm.
We spent a pleasant evening in our lodge and had an excellent dinner (curry once again!) We spent some time talking to the General Manager, who was a lawyer by profession but he had a passion for helping preserve wildlife. We had a bottle of excellent Indian red wine and talked at length about tigers. We were the only guests and there were about a dozen staff and they were all praying that we would see a tiger on our second day.
The second morning was even colder than the first, but our two nature guides pointed to tiger paw marks and started to follow them, they also explained that Deer and Monkeys were setting the alarms in place and our hopes were now very high. We sat patiently and quietly and then it happened a beautiful Tiger appeared, he was a two-year old male about thirty meters away. At first it was just relaxing in the camouflage foliage but it then decided to cross the rough road right behind us, so we had an excellent view. It was truly magnificent. Through the binoculars, it’s face looked a giant pussy cat – Alf remembers, as a child, having a cat called “Tiger!”. Our tiger was so muscular, majestic and powerful as it glided across the road. We had heard the frightened calls from the deer that there was a tiger or leopard nearby. We have seen endangered wildlife in other countries but it did not compare with the awe of seeing a tiger at home in its own habitat.
Some hours later, we saw our second tiger at about three hundred meters. It was a large, fully grown male and the father to the first tiger. We had achieved our aim and considered it a privilege to have seen such an endangered species in his own back garden! On our way out of the park, we again saw about thirty or more black faced, long tailed monkeys, but this time they were at ground level. There was a man praying and offering up to his God a coconut, when he had ended his prayer, he cracked open the coconut and the monkeys must have thought it was Christmas!
We returned to our lodge very satisfied and had a late breakfast, sitting in the sunshine with wonderful foliage around us. All the staff were smiling. After all, they knew that we had seen two tigers and were pleased for us.
We checked out at 1130 and our driver took us back to Khajuraho, the reverse of five and a half hour journey that we had completed two days earlier. Khajuraho was to prove very special as well, so watch out for the next blog.
We have some amazing photos and video footage that we’ll share in due course. Meanwhile, please take a look at some excellent photos in the public domain – open this link.