MY FIRST TIGER SAFARI: BUDGET TRIP TO BANDHAVGARH NATIONAL PARK, MADHYA PRADESH INCREDIBLE INDIA!
This blog is about my first successful Tiger safari in Bandhavgarh National Park in Budget. It is situated in Madhya Pradesh, Incredible India.
We approached Bandhavgarh National Park late night from a short cab drive from Jabalpur. After making Dhaba stops at interesting places, we entered the pitch dark pathways of the forest. Deers ran past swiftly, their eyes shining when met with the headlights of the car. Suddenly the car gets stuck on a large stone. I came out of the car, secretly scared that a Tiger will snatch me and drag me to the dense dark jungle. None of that drama happened. We crashed into our bed, shivering thanks to the extreme North Indian winters.
THE NEXT MORNING AT BANDHAVGARH NATIONAL PARK:
The uncanny silence had cast its spell on the dense forest of Bandhavgarh. As we sat like statues in the safari jeep, holding our breaths alongwith other creatures of the jungle, a faint grumble made us skip a heart beat. I suspected it was a tiger roar. Just as I was anticipating my first Tiger sighting in the wild, Joanna, the Polish co- traveler who accompanied us suddenly blurted, “Guys, chill, it’s the tummy of one of us!” Laughing out loud would have been a mistake. We settled for constipated smiles and concentrated on hearing a real roar.
The guide was unperturbed by our tomfoolery. He focused on each sound the jungle made. A peacock call! A monkey haphazardly jumping over branches. With every movement of a tiger, the inhabitants of the forest unite. The different species communicate with each other and their own kind about the looming presence of the predator.
After waiting for sometime in futile, the guide moved the jeep to another spot. He told us that the probability of seeing a tiger is high on that spot. We waved to other weary and grumpy wildlife enthusiasts on another jeep. They looked disappointed as they punished themselves in the chilly North Indian winter morning just for a glimpse of the elusive tiger.
As we stopped behind a slew of safari jeeps, populated with anxious travelers, we were told that a Tiger roar was heard sometimes back. A half-hearted roar welcomed us minutes after parking ourselves. A real one! We were told that a tigress and three sub adults were lazing behind a bush! Is it this bush? Or that corner? Goosebumps ran through our hands as we realized that we are very close to 4 tigers. We waited patiently, almost forgetting to keep breathing!
A sudden commotion disturbed our meditative search for tiger. Here it was! A sub adult tiger suddenly walking in the middle of the dirt track! Unfortunately we faced the other direction. We turned our backs in a jiffy. Unperturbed by the human presence and all the unsolicited attention, the Tiger moved arrogantly in a self important way. He walked without making any eye contact, with a swagger fit only for the King Of The Jungle. Within few seconds, he disappeared in the thick forest, leaving us with lasting memories. It will be always special to me he was the first Tiger I spotted in the wild.
Making the effort to travel all the way from Mumbai, waking up on a freezing winter morning in the middle of the jungle, skipping breakfast; all made sense now.
My maiden Tiger was successful maybe due to the beginner’s luck. I did more safaris after this in other National Parks and missed the tigers by few minutes. The famous Bandhavgarh National Park is famous not only for its celebrity tigers but also for its heritage sites and rich history. I had planned to visit the fort in the forest. However, it was closed thanks to an annual religious fair where Kabirpanthi congregated and made music!
As our Tiger obsession met its satiating end, we made sure we appreciate the other gems Bandhavagarh has to offer. An Asian paradise flycatcher showed up and vanished instantly, as if it never appeared. This is one of the most beautiful birds I have seen in India. A long and bright tail and a crown perched on its head gives it the aura of ‘Queen of the jungle.’
We came across an open grassland. Monkeys and spotted deers had huddled around a mahua tree. It was a symbiotic relationship. Deers and monkeys are always found near each other. They alert each other of the presence of a predator. The monkeys drop fruits as they feed or jump over the branches. This helps the deers gain access to the fruits on tall tree. This strategic arrangement amused me with the ways of the jungle. We also spotted the spotted deers, monkeys, swamp deer, peacocks etc.
Best time to go to Bandhavgarh National Park: The Bandhavgarh National Park is open for wildlife safari from October to June every year.
How to reach Bandhavgarh National Park on a budget:
I arrived at Jabalpur from Mumbai via train. It is also connected with other metro cities like New Delhi and small cities. I stayed overnight in Jabalpur. I made a stop in Jabalpur to see Chausath Yogini Temple and Bhedaghat. I stayed at the home of my friend Mayuri and Sudeep Sen. From Jabalpur I took a cab in the evening. I stayed overnight in a guest house. The next morning we did the safari and returned for Jabalpur in noon. Easy!
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