All About Bandhavgarh
"UNLESS someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not". - Dr. Seuss
Bandhavgath National Park, India - Paradise Regained
About Bandhavgarh they say, that you have got be really unlucky not to see a Tiger in Bandavgarh. One park which is on top of the charts as far as Tiger sightings is concerned is Bandhavgarh. One park which is a hot favorite today with Wildlife Photographers is Bandhavgarh. One park for the true Wildlife Lover is Bandhavgarh. I have always believed that there are 2 kind of tourists, one Tiger tourists and the other Wildlife and general tourists. Somehow Bandhavgarh National Park has managed to satiate both the tourist category.
It is not only the Tiger sightings here, but the natural and archaeological splendor that awaits a visitor which is totally unexpected, and beyond imagination. Everytime people have asked me “Sharad, you seem to be in love with Bandhavgarh”, and I always proudly tell them, yes I am, and you will be too if you visit Bandhavgarh.
Although Bandhavgarh is a relatively small park in the last few years this former game reserve has become one of India's most prominent National Parks. The major reason for all the interest is Bandhavgarh's high density of tigers, which roam the mixed forests of sal and bamboo in search of an easy kill. The tigers have not only bolstered the local population by breeding successfully, they have also brought international media attention to the park and the plight of the Royal Bengal Tiger. It is the abundance of water and prey here that makes a lot of Tigers comfortable in the Tala Range for sure, not that the neighbouring ranges like Magdhi and Khitauli do not have prey and water they have but something special about Tala Range.
The Bandhavgarh Fort which stands tall, the beautiful meadows of Chakradhara, Raj Bhera and Sehra, besides some unimaginably beautiful spots like the Climbers point, Rampur Pahari, Sita Mandap which are the key for captivating tourists.
Safaris in Bandhavgarh!
There are 3 ways you can do a safari inside Bandhavgarh National Park
The first is your own transport, preferably a 4-wheel drive. (It is however necessary to take along an authorized guide.) But take my advise and do not do this mistake as the road are quite bumpy, and you can have a very uncomfortable ride in your vehicle, also with windows panes rolled up you cannot hear any alarm calls, the forest guide with you cannot see any pugmarks, so your chances of wasting petrol, as diesel vehicles are not allowed inside the park, are very high.
The second option are the numerous authorized 4-wheel drives run by the locals, which are available from the hotels and rest houses you would be staying at. This is the best option available and a very exciting one at that, as most visitors prefer an open a safari into the jungle and being accompanied by a professional naturalist who will guide them through the forest.
The third is an elephant ride. This happens are booked the same day depending upon the availability. Commonly known as Tiger show, it normally happens when the Tiger has been tracked by the forest department inside bush.
All the national parks in the country differ in the activities and the facilities that they offer to their visitors. Like wise Bandhavgarh too has certain unique selling point. There is a controversial method which is called "Tiger Shows". For these shows, the mahouts head out in the wee hours of the morning and track down a tiger. Once the tiger settles down in a spot, the word is spread and all visitors are taken for short rides from the nearest point on a jungle track.
This, although it ensures that almost all visitors to the park go back with happy memories of a "sighting", is never as exciting as chance sightings from the tracks. Not knowing what one has in store sometimes is no doubt more challenging than knowing the whereabouts of the animals.
General & Grocery shopping
There is a general merchant, Known by all as "Nathu Bihari", who is like an all-purpose store. There are a few vegetable vendors, cigarette shops and even a liquor store. A very welcome addition in the year 2001 was the opening of a fuel pump at Tala. This saves all the vehicles from making the earlier required 64 km drive to and from Katni. It is advisable to keep your tank topped up, as supply can sometimes be erratic. Tala is a small village, so do not expect hi speed broadband for sure, but lately there has been email connectivity at a couple of places. Making local and International Calls is not a problem, you can do the same from the hotel where you are staying or you can walk to the village and do the same. As of now, there is limited Cell connectivity, only BSNL and MTNL networks are available. Private operators have still not entered the area yet.
Closest hospital is 32kms away at Katni, where you can expect some basic treatments to any accidental injuries. .
Besides small shops at the some of the resorts at Tala, there is a shop at the main entrance to the park. This shop sells all kinds of stuff ranging from T-shirts to key chains to ashtrays. Also available at this shop are interesting maps and books dealing with wildlife of the park. There are also mounted pictures of tigers photographed at the park but most of them are not of very high quality. The rates are fixed and haggling is not really advisable or of any use. Other shop that sometimes stocks some articles that can be picked up as souvenirs is the WWF nature shop located beside the museum.
Best Time to visit Bandhavgarh National Park
Bandhavgarh defies all logic, most of Wildlifers think that hotter it gets better the Tiger and other game sightings near the water hole. For Bandhavgarh, it is applicable but only partially, the Tiger sightings are great from October till June. Sloth Bear sightings are good March till May, as they come out to eat a local flower called “Mahua”, the locals collect this flower to make a local alcohol as well. For Birds Bandhavgarh is good from November till March.
Worst time in Bandhavgarh
Only one time you need to avoid between October till June is the time in March when the Holi festival is on, the festival of colours and water spraying is very aggressive in this part of the country. The Park is closed for Safaris on this day. The date varies every year, but it happens in March sometimes. The locals, drink, and make merry, they dance on streets, sing on loudspeakers, so it can be a bit disturbing as well. The park is open daily from 1st October till 3th June every year, except on Holi Day and also on the Republicc Day of India, i.e. 26th January, when the park open late, as there is a ceremony of National Flag hoisting prevalent in all offices and organizations. So the Forest Department also hoists the National park and open the gaes normally around 8am, instead of about 6.30am.
Climate in Bandhavgarh
Like all good things have a season to compliment it, the national parks also have the best season and time to visit. Bandhavgarh is open from October till June every year, then closed from July till Sept for monsoons. Visiting in 1st half of October is not a good idea, as at times the monsoons are delayed and some of the park roads are not open for tourists. Safer bet is from 15th October onwards. Let me assure you that Tiger sightings in Bandhavgarh are good from October till June, but there are certain times that you can avoid, they are:
First fortnight of October, as there are chances for monsoons to delay opening of some routes inside the park
Christmas and New Years time, as this is the time when there is plenty of Indian tourists in the park, lot of people, lot of vehicles, less of peace, but Tiger sightings are still good. Month od December though good for Tiger sightings can get quite chilly in Bandahvgarh, the temperature drops to about 1 degree Celsius, so chose a hotel which provides you good heaters, as nights can be very cold.
Month of June only because it is hot, so chose a hotel which has Air-Conditioning, as you will find it real tough to stay in hotels without Air-Conditioning.
Towards late summer, it is also advisable to carry some protection, for yourself and for your cameras, from rain. Bandhavgarh has an average annual rainfall of 1200mm. The rains here give very little prior warning and it is preferable to be prepared for your own protection, as well as for your equipment. These rains, however, bring good respite from the blistering heat. A single shower can make temperatures fall from 45 degrees to 30 degrees centigrade. Some showers happen in 2nd week of December, end of January or late February, the time can change a bit also. Then from 15th June onwards you can expect heavy downpour any time. According to local myth there is a time of 9 days, normally last 9 days of May, locals call it, “Nautapa”, these days determine how much rain will happen in the area. The hotter these nine days get, more the rain. To discover this wonderland of the big cat, you have to pack your bags and come home to this paradise.