When they say that Madhya Pradesh is the heart of India, I didn't pay attention. I hardly knew anything about Madhya Pradesh before I visited Bandhavghar National Park. We flew to Delhi and then to Jabalpur and then drove 4 hours to the Park. We stayed in a lovely hotel, Mahua Kothi, which is a joint venture between the Taj Hotels and CC Africa. The hotel is lovely and located bang in the middle of acres of forest and grassland - typical tiger country. It was my first stay inside a forest and my first safari, so I was quite excited.
Madhya Pradesh has the largest number of national parks in the country and the largest concentration of tigers. Its a beautiful country!
We left early the next morning (5 am) and saw a lovely sunrise, while keeping our eyes peeled for tigers. We saw lots and lots of langurs, deer and many varieties of birds and plant life. We never did see the tigers that first day! This sign just about summed up our experience!
Everyday, we'd head off for 4 hours in the morning, having lavish picnics on the road. Return for lunch and then head out for a 4 hour drive in the evening, returning by sunset. The forest, at night, is an amazing place to be. The tables are definitely turned. A tiger has unparalleled night vision and we can't see 2 feet in front of us! It gave us chills just to walk from dinner back to our rooms.
The food, made from fresh local ingredients, was simply superb. Simple and elegant. They also offered splendid massages right in the verandah of our rooms. Each room was like a little upscale hut, with its lovely local craft and woodwork. The highlight of the day would be when you return from the drive and a bath had been drawn filled with sweet smelling petals. It was exactly what you needed after a long, bumpy drive inside the forest.
The forest is a serene place and for once, I saw no trash anywhere, and everyone was always quiet, being careful not to disturb the animals in their natural environment. One day we heard that there was a tigress who comes down to the stream to drink water between 5.15 and 5.30 every evening. We brushed away the story as another way to keep our hopes up. Especially since we hadn't seen a tiger for 1.5 days, we were starting to feel a little disappointed. So we took the chance and showed up at 5 to wait for the punctual tigress. And she did come - at exactly 5.20! And she walked right through the waiting safari jeeps. No one made a single noise - the feeling was almost spiritual to see a tiger in the wild, in its own habitat. It walked right through the waiting jeeps and clicking cameras and standing, hardly-breathing people! It barely gave us an acknowledgement. It seriously couldn't care who we were or what we were doing there. It headed straight for the tall grass and the water on the other side and lay down in the tall grass and she was gone as fast as she had appeared.
Our Beautiful Tigress:
We saw several other tigers while we were but the first one was the most memorable. We also saw lots of beautiful birds - vultures, hawks, eagles, owls, rollers, kingfishers. And lots of lovely foliage - most notably the bright green Sal trees and the lovely Mahua trees with their yellow intoxicating fruit.
Elephant and Mahoot
Red Headed Vulture
Brown Fish Owl
I highly recommend Bandhavgarh and Madhya Pradesh to everyone who is remotely interested in nature. We are now addicted!