First and foremost never go towards the forest on foot or in a vehicle if it is prohibited. There are gates from where all tourists vehicles enter. Use only the authorised gates to enter at the given time with a valid permit to enter the park. Do not even try entering from any other area in the protected areas. There are many precautions to take while staying near a national park. Some are listed below.
Caught in a national park without a valid permit will attract a jail term for you besides impounding of your vehicle. So please do not even think on these lines even if any local or a resort person tells you to.
Never leave the vicinity of the resort by yourself after sunset. Not even if you plan to just take a stroll around after your dinner. After sunset Leopards often tend to come close to the villages and resorts in search of food or the livestock. Tigers also move around in the night outside the protected areas. It is not worth the risk or adventure that you might want to experience.
If you must go out for some emergency work, and you must cross the buffer area of the forest, please do not go on a two wheeler. Ensure you are in a car and take someone along from the resort who knows the area, and do not forget to carry a torch for sure. Driving a two wheeler in a forested area is a huge risk more so in the night. If it breaks down, or a flat tyre, you can be in for a tough time. Four wheeler will at-least ensure your safety from the predators.
But if you happen to be in the Elephant country, then even a four wheeler is not a good idea to travel in the night. It is best that you postpone all your work for next day morning. Wild Elephants can treat your vehicle like a football. Hence it is in your best interest to stay in safe vicinity of your rooms.
Please do not even consider carrying any weapon even if you have one. Caught with a firearm is a non bailable offense and attracts a term of up to 7 years in prison. But yes, it is a good idea to carry a wooden stick while on foot. No weapons whatsoever even in a safari vehicle.
While moving out of your room to go to the dining hall please carry a torch. Normally the electricity supply in the remote areas is erratic. Though most of the resorts have power back-up but it can take few seconds for the power supply to resume, hence carrying a torch is a good idea. These days there are wonderful caps which have a solar light, it is convenient to carry the same to as well. While doing the safari if the cap is on it keeps getting automatically charged, and in the night you can use it wherever you are going within the resort. Please click on this link below to see a good quality cap which i have been using for last 4 years.
Also be extremely careful not to go into bush, as there are many varieties of venomous snakes in the national parks.
Safaris in the National Parks of India opened after the monsoon break with some amazing Tiger sightings. As we all know that the Tiger reserves in India close during the monsoons, which is from 1st July till 30th Sept. Hence during this time it is not possible to do safaris in the national parks of India. So, all the animal and nature lovers wait eagerly for the parks to reopen on 1st October to enter the parks. And out of the 50 Tiger reserves in India, the eye of all the Tiger lovers are mostly on, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Ranthambhore, Pench, and Tadoba. Such is the eagerness of some safari lovers that they book themselves for the first safari on first day.
Kanha National Park
The news of first phenomenal Tiger sighting came from Kanha this year. On October 1 in the morning safari, Chotta Munna was seen walking from district line. He is the son of legendary Munna. What surprised everyone was his sheer size when he stood against a tree to mark his territory. While he continued to walk, the vehicles continued to reverse. After quite a while he changed course and went towards Chotta chatapatra. Some of the experienced guides knew exactly from where he would come out, and reached that spot.
Their experience paid dividends when Chotta Munna appeared from the said trail at the time they anticipated him to come out. Sightings during a safari is not purely luck. When you have experienced guides, and drivers accompanying you in your vehicle then it is a lot of science, mathematics, and the jungle knowledge.
The Duel; Bheema and Chotta Munna
While some tourists were happy with Chotta Munna’s sightings less did they know that another big surprise was about to unfold in front of their eyes. Bheema, the peaceful warrior, emerged in the Junglescape. He seemed to be following a scent mark. Was he following Chotta Munna? The naturalists around did not take long to guess that indeed he was on Chotta Munna’s prowl.
Their fights over last two years has still not ended. Chotta Munna at a budding, youthful, but an inexperienced age of 4, had challenged the mighty Bheema at a competent and seasoned age of 6. Bheema’s efficiency overshadowed the over-confidence of Chotta Munna, and he has repeatedly got Chotta Munna to retreat. But the dominating genes of Chotta Munna remind him not to let go, and he comes back to challenge Bheema quite repeatedly. So far, he has retreated regularly, but he has lately learnt now to avoid injuries in such skirmishes, and simultaneously inject injuries on his opponent. Chotta Munna is surely more richer now having learnt that what does not kill you, makes your stronger.
It seemed that this territorial tug to establish one’s supremacy left some marks around the neck of Bheema. The claws and canine mark around his neck would have also left an indelible scar on Bheema’s mind to either start relinquishing his domain, or be prepared for an inevitable duel in not so distant future. Happy were those who saw this scene on 1st October.
Other Tigers of Kanha
Apart from Chotta Munna, and Bheema, other Tigers that have showed up in Kanha are the mighty and legendary Munna, Dhawajahandi female, and Chotti mada. But there is one Tiger, i am earnestly waiting for, the big Umarpani male. He hasn’t showed up till the writing of this note on 11th October. I pray to almighty on this Dussera day that he is save, fighting his ordeals vigorously, and will show up soon. Son of Munna, and Umarpani female, he is bulky, and a dominating Tiger of Mukki for last 3 years.
Safaris in Bandhavgarh National Park
Bandhavgarh of yore beckons many a Tiger lovers to witness the land of Sita, Charger, B2, Bhamera and some more legendary Tigers. This year once again, the Tiger sightings opened with a prediction that months to follow will be magnificent, and will reinforce the Champion status to Bandhavgarh National Park.
Once the area of a handsome young male (Challenger) whose life was cut short by an unfortunate incident, Mahammen is now home to T24 and her cubs. Relax, this is not T24 (Ustad of Ranthambhore). This is T24 of Bandhavgarh. The Tigers in Bandhavgarh are numbered like in most of the parks. So T stands for Tiger, and 24 is her number. She was sighted next to the Mahammen water hole with her cubs.
The last two years in Bandhavgarh have belonged to Rajbhera female (T34) and her cubs. This year again she made a public appearance on Bairahani road which was a feast to the eyes of the tourists. Chotti female (T40) was seen with her cubs too. Spotti (T41) was sighted in Tala near Piparadandi. The mighty Bheem male Tiger (T22) was sighted in the evening on 6th October at Patparha in the Khitauli zone. So the good news is that all the zones have had a decent sighting. But my gut feel is that the future months will belong to the Tala zone.
Safaris in Ranthambhore National Park
The land of the Tiger; Ranthambhore is one Tiger reserve which satisfies the Tiger appetite of maximum tourists every year. It is the location of Ranthambhore which makes it the fastest selling Tiger reserve. So if you have less time on hand, then spend 3 nights in this park and take back home some real memorable Tiger sightings.
Due to excellent monsoon this year, all the national parks are full to the capacity as far as water is concerned. This is indeed good news for the flora and fauna of the parks. Ranthambhore as well has it’s share of good monsoon thereby a lot of water in some zones. Currently (while writing of this note on 11th October), it is only zone 2 which is fully open and accessible. Thus the Tiger sighting in this zone specially during the evening safari has been very good. Noor (T39) is sighted often, though her young cubs are not seen yet. But it is a matter of time before the tourists jubilate with the cubs sightings.
In zone 8, which is not so commonly done zone by most of the tourists, the Tiger sightings have taken off very well. T61 is being seen regularly with her cubs. In the celebrity zone 3, Arrowhead, Pacman, and Lighting all showed up on the opening day of the park.
Safaris in Satpura National Park
In Satpura National Park also, the Tiger sighting happened to some guests on first day, first show. This park might not be a favored park as far as Tiger sightings are concerned. But this park is simply amazing because of it’s bio-diversity. It is a matter of time before this parks also gets branded for good Tiger sighting. An orphaned Tigress from Bandhavgarh which was relocated in the Churna areas has given cubs, and is sighted often in the region. This particular Tigress lost her mother when she was just 4 months old. The park authorities reared her in a large enclosure till she learnt to kill on her own. Then they relocated her in an area which had lesser density of Tigers in Satpura’s Churna range. She made this new home her permanent home, and has given a litter of cubs in Satpura.
Lately, a Tigress has been moved from Panna national park to Satpura. She had started to wonder out of the core areas, and started to pick on the cattle. Fearing some resentment from the locals, and to avoid any catastrophe they shifted her to Satpura. Whether this reason is good or bad, only time will tell. But there seems to be more than what meets the eye for this shifting. Is the Ken-Betwa river link project also a major reason behind this shift? Most likely yes, as another Tigress was also moved from the area which they feared will be drowned once the river linking project is completed.
Hope that you can make it soon to see some Tigers in the wild. Remember to book yourself atleast 120 days before as the safari permits are now very limited.
There is a lot of history hidden in the forests of Bandhavgarh. The Bandhavgarh Fort inside the national park is considered over 2000 years old. There is a mention of the Bandhavgarh Fort in Narad Panch Ratra, and Valmiki’s Ramayana. It is said that after killing the demon King Ravana, Lord Rama stopped here. He asked Nal and Neel, the two monkey architects to make this fort. It was these two who had also made the bridge to go to Lanka in the Indian ocean. The idea to make this fort was basically to keep an eye on Lanka from here, as this is one of the highest hills of central India. He made his younger brother Lakshman as resident deity of the fort. So the fort gifted to a brother (Bandhu in Hindi), came to be known as Bandhavgarh. Lakshman is also called as Bandhavdeesh after this.
History of Bandhavgarh
Around the fort there are caves dug in sandstone which are over 2000 years old. One can see the Brahmi inscriptions on the walls of these caves. It is said that many saints and sages meditated in these caves. The Maghas, the Vakatakas, the Chandels inherited the seat of this fort. Finally in the 12th century the Baghels laid their claim on this fort, and until 1969 the Royal family of Rewa ruled this fort. The Royal family played a big role in conservation of Bandhavgarh. Though they did some hunting in this area, but they overall protected it as well. Once it was declared as a national park in 1969, they vacated the fort. Inside the fort one can still see the remains of the court, the treasury, the temple, the horse stable, and the school etc.
You can also see the statues of the Dashavatar (the ten incarnations) of Lord Vishnu here. There are two big lakes in the fort. The story goes that the water from these lakes seeps in, and then emerges from the foot of a 32 feet reclining Vishnu statue at Shesh Shaiya. Thereon this stream is known as Charan Ganga which flows through the Chakradhara meadow, alongside Siddbaba, and out of the park).
Kabir in Bandhavgarh
The famous mystic poet saint of 14th century, Kabir also spend quite a few years in the fort meditating, and writing his famous Dohas (the couplets famously known as the Kabir Vaani). There is a Kabir hermitage in the fort. On my visit here i was shown a secret escape from a room in this hermitage which apparently Kabir used often to move out from the fort. This escape used to take him to Kashi (Varanasi) to meet his Guru (Master). The Kabir panthis (followers of Kabir) gather here in the month of August every year for a two day celebration. This is the largest gathering of Kabir followers worldwide. They walk on foot till the Fort, stay put there, and come back after two days.
It is indeed sad that after the Supreme Court decision in 2012 visit to this fort has been prohibited. The reason is that this fort is right in the heart of the core zone of Bandhavgarh, and to go up to the fort one has to trek about 25 minutes from Shesh Shaiyya. Needless to mention that there are Tigers and other wildlife in and around the fort, hence it is not considered safe to walk up. Besides it does disturb the wildlife too. I have personally seen Sita with her cubs close to Shesh Shaiyya way back in 1996-97.
Meeting B2 enroute to Bandhavgarh Fort
For me a visit to Bandhavgarh was incomplete if i had not visited the Fort. Way back in 2004, once while trekking up, i encountered B2 in his early days on this route. There were four of us on foot, and at a bend, we see B2 come up from the valley on to the track of the fort. We froze right there, and so did B2. He paused for a moment, gave us a glimpse, and without bother left the track to go down the valley. What seemed like eternity was actually just 5 seconds.
This was my first encounter on foot with the Tiger in his own backyard. I breathed a sigh of relief. The trek is steep so the camera was around my neck. With B2 looking into my eyes from about 10 meters in front of me, i forgot that i had a camera, so clicking a picture was totally out of question. But the image imprinted on my mind of that moment is still fresh like it happened yesterday, thought it was almost 12 years ago.
The Temple priest
From 1997 till 2008 i trekked upto the fort atleast 4-5 times every season. Not only I loved the hike to the fort, but the view from the fort, the feel of the fort, and more than anything else it was meeting and talking with the resident priest of the fort that i always looked forward to. A very old man, tall, with a broad frame, deep voice, and an intense look in his eyes. How he stayed in this temple all alone in this national park always surprised me. No company, no radio, television i doubt if he ever knew it existed. He would give Charnamrit (tulsi water) pronouncing the sacred Sanskrit shloka:
विष्णुपदोदकं पीत्वा पुनर्जन्म न विद्यते।।
Meaning, “whosoever takes this sacred water is protected from any accidental death, deadly diseases, and is liberated from the cycle of birth and death”. This chant in his deep voice in the corridors of the temple would resonate in my ears for a long long time.
He would walk down to the Tala village to secure his provisions and by late evening he would get back to Bandhavgarh. Once while going back he had an encounter with a Sloth bear. It is said that a Tiger emerged from the nearby grass, and fought the Sloth Bear away. Then the Tiger walked with the priest for some distance to ensure that he reached the temple.
He once told me, “the Tigers are my family, and I know all the Tigers of the area around the fort”. We would sit in the corridors of the temple, and he would make tea for us. Then we would share our lunch with him. There were times we just slept off in the corridor of the temple. As he grew quite old, he became unwell, and was brought down from the Fort much against his wishes as there was no one to take care of him inside the Jungle.
What all is bygone, and will those days return?
Though Charger, Sita, B2, have all gone, and they have been replaced by many beautiful Tigers of today. But the enigma of the priest, the temple, and the fort cannot be replaced by any. For people who have seen the Bandhavgarh Fort miss it still. And those who have visited Bandhavgarh after 2012, know not what they have missed.
The above photo is not photoshopped, yes there was a time when Bandhavgarh hardly had tourists. I recall sighting 10 different Tigers in 2005 in one morning safari of 4 hours. But the popularity of the Tigers and wildlife photography through social media has made wildlife tourism a big business everywhere.
Many resorts have sprung up in the area, Tala a small village now is a place where you will get everything you need, including a broadband, wi-fi, and a spa treatment. Do not expect the standard of the Spa to be anywhere close to a city hotel. To an extent if handled well, tourism can be a big conservation tool, but if gone awry, it can be a very disturbing factor for wildlife. So yes, those silent, peaceful days of less tourism are also bygone.
The rush of tourism has been regulated to quite an extent by opening of some more zones, and also buffer zones. Yet, one thing that has not reduced is the kind of Tiger sightings that are still taking place in Bandhavgarh. There was a lull year when there was a marginal drop in the Tala zone, but it seems the golden years of Bandhavgarh are almost back as far as Tiger sightings are concerned. The Tiger sightings of Bandhavgarh will never be bygone.
Changes in the tourism policies in Madhya Pradesh NP’s, i.e. Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench and Panna National Parks done by the forest management.
Listing the most important changes below:
1. Good news coming in less then 24 hours of my yesterday’s blog about Premium zones, i.e. PREMIUM ZONES ARE SCRAPPED in #Kanha and #Bandhavgarh #National Parks from the coming season starting October 2016. All zones will have only one rate. Did the Chief read my blog post, and thought of doing changes, well i would love to believe so..
2. All the Foreign tourists have a reason to rejoice, the differential rates in entry permits of Indian and Foreigners has been done away with. Now there will be one rate for all tourists. Absolutely incredible. This means the safaris become a bit reasonable for our foreign tourists. This is a first of it’s kind step by any state in India. This is one of the best Changes in the tourism policies in Madhya Pradesh NP’s.
3. Even better for all foreign tourists doing Kanha and Bandhavgarh, Panna and Pench national Parks is that now the parks will remain open on Wednesday afternoons also.
4. There is some good news coming for last minute bookers as well. Wherein they can book individual seats in the Jeeps. A small percentage of seats will be kept for the last minute bookings. This means that you will get to do safari on sharing basis with four more guests. My recommendation is that you book your safaris in advance, ideally 120 days prior to safari date. The advantage of booking in advance is that you get to choose the zone of your preference. How to choose which zone? Well, we are there to take care of the same for you.
5. The opening timing of the park is from 1st October till 30th June henceforth.
Isn’t this all incredible, great news for tourism, that too coming on International Tiger’s Day. In my opinion these are some initial good signs. Some more will follow soon. Hopefully some good areas like Bamni Dadar in Kanha and Bandhavgarh Fort in Bandhavgarh might be opened for tourism again.
Bandhavgarh National Park has been popular with the tourists as it provides excellent Tiger sightings consistently. Like every year the nature of the Tiger i.e. intense discipline, ferocious will power and fearlessness was on display this season at Bandhavgarh National Park. One always wants to get the glimpse of the Tiger walking in front of their jeep, or behind the Jeep. But would one have the rare sight of the Tiger depends on your destiny and devotion.
Will we be able to pass this legacy to our newer generations is a questions which keeps haunting us? But the efforts of the Forest department brought reasons for some celebrations. Bandhavgarh this year had 61 adult tigers and 14 sub adults. These are unprecedent Tiger numbers for the first time in the history of this park.
Bandhavgarh National Park opened on October 01, 2015 with only two routes in Tala zone. The opening wasn’t impressive with Bandhavgarh standards. It was like a lull before the storm. One could even say a sedate start to a Virat Kohli innings. But as the season progressed Bandhavgarh returned to it’s former glory of the best place on the planet to see the Tigers. Subsequently with every passing day the sighting graph only improved.
Banbei Tigress (T32) and her son Samrat were very frequently sighted near Sita Mandap, a historical point in the park. But in winters their sightings shifted to Ghorademon area. They were often seen playing with each other. On many occasions Samrat was seen near the water bodies of Kindarbah, Sita Mandap and Banbei river. For a Tiger just 18 months to be sighted alone so frequently is a bit unnatural. Samrat had everyone worried with his solitary excursions into the wilds, but luck favors the brave and he survived.
Spotti (T41) – This Tigress enchanted the visitors in the famous Tala zone. Infact during the winters she kept the healthiest record in sightings with her presence. She was seldom accompanied by the male of this region. This pair was seen mating at Andhiyari Jhiria, Rampur Road and Bandarchui. THis togetherness resulted in Spotti becoming a mother of her first litter of three cubs. In June this entire Royal family was seen at Damnar for three consecutive days. Guests who saw these cubs with their mother had sleepless nights.
Rajbehra Tigress (T34) – A very intelligent and an experienced Tigress. Initially she kept her cubs away from tourists behind Bathan area. Later in the season they were seen regularly as a family at Jhilki Nala. The summer months were quite amazing to see the whole family in the Sehra grassland. Almost every visitor in Magadhi had a glimpse of her with her cubs.
Sukhi Patiha Tigress (T5) was active from October to January near Patiha water hole. She was seen cooling off in summer months in the same water hole. Also her sighting was with T 18 near Dabhadol area. This area was also inhabited by a sub adult T 53 and has a healthy population of Indian Gaur.
Dotti’s (T17) movement was recorded primarily in winter months near the areas of Charakbah water hole, Boda Talab and Bhool Bhuliya area. She was occasionally sighted with male of Rajbahara offspring. Many were anticipating new cubs by the end of season but nothing happened.
New Kankati (T35)- Young offspring of Rajbahara is unrivaled queen of Tadoba – waterhole. In summer months she was accompanied by the male believed to be Bamera’s offspring. They were seen mating at least on three occasions in different parts of Magadhi zone.
Mahaman Tigress (T24) is an extremely shy female. She has been blessed with three young ones. These young cubs are now 1 year old and often seen crossing Magadhi to Khitouli zones by the tourists.
Bheem (T22) the male at his prime has been seen both in Magadhi and Khitouli. True to his name well-built challenging and winning the battles for dominancy from other males. It is most likely that he might fill in the void left by Bamera. He has all the requisite qualities to dominate the area. Besides, he is overcoming his shyness of tourists gradually.
Ranccha (T29) is a handsome male who roams in #Tala and #Khitouli. An exceptionally peaceful male #Tiger seen a few times at #Kindarbah and #Chakradhara area with the #Banbei and #Kankatti respectively.
Choti female (T40) – Mother of 4 cubs seen regularly in Khitouli. #Kodghar Nala, #Darha Talab and #Nigah water hole became popular this season. All thanks to T 40 and her cubs.
Dhamdhama female (T21) this elusive female was older of the lot. Last season her cubs were separated. This season brief sighting was reported near Dhamdhama area along with the new cub. Nothing mentioned for the rest of the season.
Chota Charger (T47) has been seen in Khitouli near #Nigha daria and #Kansa area. His name kept after his habit of mock Charging. Father of four cubs from Nigha or Choti female.
Solo (T42) – This young lady is sister of new Kankati. She was active throughout on #Nilgai road, #Jhurjhura and #Bathan road areas. She was often seen resting near #Nandu gufa.
Bamera bids bye to Bandhavgarh National Park
Finally we had to say Good bye to Bamera – a handsome male born in 2004 from Chakradhara and legendary B2. He was the undisputed king of Tala zone. After an injury in 2012 he was pushed out of his territory and he kept living in small area of Khitouli. Last six month he was kept at an enclosure in Bahera for his safety and survival. His tales became immortal forever on May 13, 2016.
Rest of the wildlife also kept the visitors busy this season. Khitouli had some good sightings of the pack of 18 wild dogs. This zone was also busy with Leopards as well this whole season along with sloth bears. Indian Gaur were also seen throughout the park. As of now the core zones Bandhavgarh national park are resting and preparing for the next season. Though the buffer zones are open for the tourists to come and enjoy the monsoons in Bandhavgarh.