Bandhavgarh National Park: Best Chance of Sighting Tigers

One of the India's best National parks, Bandhavgarh is located in the state of Madhya Pradesh in an area which once inspired the background for Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book. As mentioned in many guide books, Bandhavgarh is considered as one of the best places to sight tigers in the wild and In fact at one time, before the boundaries were extended, it had the highest density of tigers anywhere in the world. The park also holds panthers, and an abundance of bird species flit through the rainforests.
Deers grazing at Bandhavgarh National Park
                              
Deers grazing at Bandhavgarh National Park
Bandhavgarh National Park is located in Umaria district. This jungle settled in the midst of Vindhya hills came into existence in 1968 when the Maharaja of Rewa handed over the area to the government for its development. At the time when it was handed over to the government, the fauna was not prospering too well due to the challenge in the control of poaching. Once it became a protected forest reserve, the animal population took a drastic turn and began to flourish. In the beginning, the entire park covered an area of 106 square kilometers whereas it presently consists of an area of 448 square kilometers. These much required extensions, to the northern and southern areas, of the park were done in 1982. These areas consisted primarily of Sal forests, which is the main tree-cover found in the entire park along with Bamboo. It was finally declared a tiger reserve under Project Tiger in 1993. The terrain comprises of 22 hills of which the highest has an elevation of 400 meters.
Bandhavgarh National Park Map
                                Various Zones of Bandhavgarh National Park
Climate: Tropical; summer temperatures rise to over 42°C.

Flora: Peninsular Sal forest, Dry bamboo brakes, Dry tropical riverine forest, mixed deciduous forest.

Fauna: Tiger, leopard, Indian wild dog, gaur, wild boar, sloth bear, nilgai, cheetal, sambhar, chinkara and many species of birds.
Grass land of Bandhavgarh National Park
                              
Grass land of Bandhavgarh National Park
How to reach Bandhavgarh: Due to poor road transport in Madhya Pradesh, Trains till Umaria are the best way to approach Bandhavgarh National Park though there are not many trains to/from Umaria railway station.

Number/ Days

Train

Departure time

18507/Tue,Fri,Sat

Visakhapatanam-Amritsar

23:37

18236/Mon,Wed,Fri

Bilaspur-Bhopal

04:15

11266

Ambikapur-Jabalpur

11:24

15160

Durg-Chhapra

04:34

18203/Mon, Wed

Durg-Kanpur

03:07

51606

Chirimiri-Katni

10:00

18205/Fri

Durg-Nautanwa

03:07

18234

Bilaspur-Indore

16:20

58221

Chirmiri-Chandia road

13:20

18477

Puri-Haridwar

20:50

18201/Thu, Sat

Durg-Nautanwa

03:07

12853

Durg-Bhopal

01:38

51754

Chirimiri-Rewa

00:5

For more trains towards other destinations, Katni is the better choice which is some 90 minutes away from Umarai.

After reaching Umaria, you will have to catch one of the painfully slow private busses to Tala (Forest gate of Bandhavgarh National Park) those will take around 90 minutes ( 25 INR, 32 km). Private busses are not always available so in case you are landing Tala after sunset, you can hire a private auto (300 INR) from Umaria.

First bus from Umaria: 7:30 AM / Last Bus from Umaria: 7:30 PM
First bus from Tala: 9:00 AM/ Last Bus from Tala: 7:00 PM
Rikshaw from Umaria Railway Station to Bus Stand: 30 INR

Nearest town and railhead—Umaria (35 km), Nearest Airport—Jabalpur (195 km).
Sunrays penetrating the woodlands at Bandhavgarh
                         
Sunrays penetrating the woodlands at Bandhavgarh
Park Timings:  

Park Safari Timings

Morning Safari

Evening Safari

16th Oct-15th Feb

06:30 AM to 10:30 AM

02:30 PM to 5:30 PM

16th Feb-31st March

06:00 AM to 10:00 AM

03:00 PM to 6:00 PM

01st April-30th June

05:30 AM to 09:30 AM

04:00 PM to 7:00 PM

* Closed in the second half each Wednesday
* Fort (Which lies in Tala Zone) is open from Sunset to Sunrise every day.
* It remains dosed between the monsoon months of July and September.
* Around 50 vehicles are allowed inside the Park per day. Only light petrol and diesel vehicles with four-wheel drive manufactured in the last 5 years are allowed inside the park and have to be accompanied In a Forest Department trained and licensed guide. Most of the vehicles are owned by local people and resort owners.
Safari Trail in Bandhavgarh National Park
Where to stay: Tala is the closest town to the entrance zones of Bandhavgarh National park and it is the best pick for all the travelers. Though Tala is a very small town yet it offers a wide range of accommodation (including couple of luxury resorts, Guest houses influencing jungle theme), restaurants, safari organizers, internet cafes, saloons, emporiums etc. Tala also has plenty of options for budget travelers as well (200-300 INR per night).

 

Where to eat: Food is generally not a problem in Tala with plenty of restaurants lined up in the main road. Most of the resorts have their own in-house restaurant and room-service for the guests.  Roof-top restaurants overlooking the absolute wilderness of Bandhavgarh could be your best pick for dinner during summers.

Best time to Visit:  After 15th March to Mid May is the best time to sight tigers in Bandhavgarh National Park.
Early Morning Safari at Bandhavgarh National Park
Booking a Safari at Bandhavgarh National Park:

 

Getting inside the forest is generally an expensive affair in all the National parks of Madhya Pradesh/India. If you are a solo-traveler or a couple then you must find a company to cut down the safari expenses.  It’s generally easy to find fellow travelers at Forest entrance gate/Ticket counter or in the main market of Tala. Sometimes Gypsy’s drivers can also help you connecting with others those are looking for someone to share expenses. A gypsy can generally accommodate 4-6 visitors excluding driver and a Guide.
 

Once your group is formed then you can either use the link below for booking your safari or contact any gypsy guy (ticket counter) directly to get the booking done. Charges vary with each of the national park and with their zones.

http://www.mponline.gov.in/Portal/Services/Forest/Search.aspx

Crested Serpent Eagle at Bandhavgarh National Park
                        
Crested Serpent Eagle at Bandhavgarh National Park
Vehicle Entrance Charges:

Purpose of entry

          Light vehicles
      (Up to 8 persons)

                 Minibus
          (9 to 32 persons)

Remarks

Viewing wildlife in Vehicle (per round) – Other Zones

Indian

Foreigners

Indian

Foreigners

 

1000

2000

1600

12000

Rates for foreigners shall be applicable if persons of mixed nationalities travel in a vehicle

Viewing wildlife in Vehicle (per round) – Tala Zones/ Visiting Bandhavgarh Fort

2000

4000

3200

24000

Besides vehicle entrance fee, Gypsy guys generally charges 1500 INR per round which is the same for all the zones so total cost per vehicle reaches 2500 INR (3500 INR for foreigners) for single trip inside the national park. So it’s a simple equation of cutting down the cost per person by adding more visitors to a vehicle.

Entree Fee of Various Forest reserves and sanctuaries of Madhya Pradesh

Notification for the revised rates of Tala Zone

Safari trail inside Bandhavgarh national park
                             Safari trail inside Bandhavgarh national park

Personal experience:  I was traveling solo and was able to get a place in a gypsy for all the Safaris I did in Bandhavgarh National and every time I paid 600 INR (I am an Indian National). I was able to connect with travelers directly or through drivers/ Forest Guide either in the market or at the ticket counter.
 

Tips: Reach 10-15 minutes before the timings at park entrance gate/ticket counter and ask around with other travelers, guides, drivers about a spare seat in their vehicle. Chances are always bright to get one.
Grassland of Bandhavgarh National Park
                                   Distant view of Bandhavgarh Fort

Tiger show: While visiting national parks of Madhya Pradesh, you will hear this term “Tiger Show” quite often. Tiger show is an event when tiger is sighted by an elephant first and later an opportunity of sighting tiger is offered to all the visitors in the same zone as an elephant safari obviously there are some rules. This way you can experience the lofty experience enjoyed by the Maharajahs of the past, by tracking tigers from the back of an elephant.

* 200 INR (Indian Citizens), 600 INR (Foreigners).
* Tiger show continues irrespective of park timings till all the visitors
* Only four person shall be allowed to sit on an elephant
* Children up to 5 years of age shall be allowed free, along with adults.
* The Maximum time limit for viewing a tiger or leopard from elephant shall not be more than 10 minutes.
Landscape of Bandhavgarh
                                        
Landscape of Bandhavgarh
Key information:
* There is no ATM at Tala (Closest ATM is at Umaria)
* There is a liquor shop on the main road at Tala.
* Temperature drops drastically in the night during winters.
* I found Tala/Bandhavgarh National Park as one of the best place for your laid-back vacations quite away from the eyes of vacationers and indeed very much affordable (excluding safari expenses) for budget travelers.

Heading out:
Besides typical guide book destinations of Madhya Pradesh, the holy town of Amarkantak, source of river Narmada lies some 220 km away from Tala.
Bandhavgarh Fort
                                                
Bandhavgarh Fort
Brief History and Mythology:

Bandhavgarh has a very ingrained importance of its own in the history and mythology of India. Rising high over the entire forest and located in the heart of its core area is a fort dating back to the mythological era of Rama and Hanuman from the Hindu epic Ramayana. Legends suggest that the two monkeys who created the "setu" or bridge, between India and Lanka to enable Rama to cross over and conquer the demon king, Rawana, were also the architects of the Bandhavgarh fort. This fort was used by Rama and Hanuman on their journey back to their kingdom from Lanka. Later, the fort was handed over by Rama to his brother Lakshmana who came to be known as the "Bandhavdhish", lord of the fort.
 

The Maharaja of Rewa set aside this area as a wildlife preserve for private hunting parties so his friends could shoot tigers, leopards, deer, wild boars—but tigers particularly. Each maharaja's personal fantasy was to kill as many tigers as possible. After 1968 Bandhavgarh became a no-hunting sanctuary for tigers and their impressive companions, including hyenas, jungle cats, jackals, porcupines, elephants, and more than 200 species of birds. This reserve of hilly moist tropical woods and grasslands in north-central Madhya Pradesh now is a relatively small but glorious national park.
Birds Inside Bandhavgarh National Park

Living Environment of Bandhavgarh National Park:
 

More than 20 non-perennial (spring-fed) water streams either originate or flow through the forest. These streams are favorite spots for Tigers to cool off in summer, Tigers are generally seen swimming sometimes almost totally immersing, or they drop by for a drink in all seasons. Their half-moan, half-soft roar can be heard in the early morning mist.
 

Leopards do not get around to their larger striped cousins, feeling safer on dry rocky ledges which they negotiate easily and where their spotted coats blend so well with foliage they are seldom seen except when they move.
 

Main prey here for both of these are beautiful cats are little chital spotted deer. Also in the lush grasses are sambar deer, shy chinkara, chousingha, horselike nilgai or blue bulls, and occasionally enormous gaur, world's largest wild cattle, which move down from the hills for fresh grass and water.
Wild boar in Bandhavgarh National Park
                                  Wild boar in Bandhavgarh National Park

Black-faced langur monkeys and sometimes rhesus macaques forage in synchrony with chitals on the ground—chitals following the monkeys' progress through the treetops. Watching for them to drop fruit scraps and succulent leaves.
 

Stork-billed kingfishers and gray-headed fish-eagles monitor streams. Crested hawk-eagles pounce on rufous-tailed hares. Shikra swoop on well-named jungle babblers. Handsome orangefaced white Egyptian or scavenger vultures look for kills, waiting their turn and sometimes rummaging through tiger droppings.
Tree with Spiral branches in Bandhavgarh
                          
Tree with Spiral branches in Bandhavgarh

Jungle bush quail chicks appear in November. Young red-wattled lapwings come out in May. Beguiling jungle owlets raise families in sal tree holes. Jungle fowl, colorful ancestors of all barnyard roosters and gorgeous peacocks noisily alert all to their woodland presence. Yellow-legged green pigeons gather in fruiting trees, especially pipals. Crimson-breasted barbets offer fruit to their mates. Blossom-headed and rose-ringed parakeets prefer ber trees and bamboo seeds.

 

Multicolored Indian rollers display iridescent wing patches to impress matos. Purple sun-birds flash plumage of metallic red, yellow, green, blue or purple-black or all these, foraging at bright flowers and nesting in low shrubs. Bright, plump little Indian pittas 511 the forest with rich whistles and trilling calls. Nightjars begin evening serenades in February.

Entree Fee of Various Forest reserves and sanctuaries of Madhya Pradesh

Awesome article! Appreciate

Awesome article! Appreciate you taking time to write such a detailed article on Bandhavgarh. I'm planning a trip to Bandhavgarh this December with family. I wish i had found this article earlier! I'm planning to try my luck for Safari booking at the counter. 

You can get the Safari

You can get the Safari booking at counter. December is not the peak season and chances of tiger sighting are very low.

+- Vishnu

Thanks Vishnu.  

Thanks Vishnu.

 

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