Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bandhavgarh National Park - in tiger territory!!

An event of days gone by...last December during my solo all india motorcycle journey...

Bandhavgarh National Park lies in eastern Madhya Pradesh, in the northernmost spur of the Maikal hill range in the Vindhyas, which it shares with Kanha (located 160 km to the South), in Shahdol district. Bandhavgarh National Park has the highest tiger density of all national parks in India.

My friend and I had ridden from Pench National Park via Seoni and Jabalpur to Umaria. It was the Christmas-New Year holiday season and we did not find any decent accommodation at Bandhavgarh. Hence, me and my friend opted to stay at the nearest town, Umaria, about 36 kms from Bandhavgarh National park.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we had to stay at Umaria for 10 days. On most of the days, we would leave our hotel premises at 4 in the morning and ride 36 kms of rattling roads in freezing temperatures to reach the tiger reserve in time for the morning jungle safari.

Bandhavgarh is a 448 sq km of land with ranges of flat-topped hills on its flanks and the high hill of Bandhavgarh fort (811 m) in the centre, dominating the landscape. Large meadows such as the Chakradhara and Sehra, and swampy ground like the Sidhababa Meadow, lie at their feet. It is bounded by the Sone river in the east, the Johilla river in the south and drained by the Umrar river in the west.

The topography changes from the  sal forest and bamboo to grassland around the nallahs and swampy terrain. There are four entrances to the park: Panpatha in the north, Tala in the east, Dhamokar on the south-western perimeter and Khitauli on the west. Two roads, the Umaria-Rewa highway and the Parasi-Katni road via Khitauli pass through the park.

We took umpteen safaris from the Tala and the Dhamokar entrances and each of these safaris were worth the bone-chilling weather and dust as they allowed us to see and appreciate the jungle from different angles. It got even better when we befriended 3 folks, who turned out to be fellow wildlife enthusiasts.

Following pugmarks, keeping an ear open for alarm calls, smelling the air, keeping our eyes open just took our excitement to higher levels. And, it turned into total peace and awe when we saw the majestic ROYAL BENGAL TIGER, all muscle and sinew in his flame-orange coat ambling across our jeeps.

A very rich wildlife experience where we ended up spotting sambar deer, spotted deer, wild boar, pea cock, common mongoose, jackal, red-headed vulture, white breasted kingfisher, black drongo, indian roller, spotted owlets, blue jay, crested serpent eagle, common langaur in addition to the Royal Bengal Tiger.

And there is also the endlessly varied beauty of the forest itself, made different at every moment not just by terrain, but by mood and ambience contributed by a trick of light, of weather, of temperature.

The only sad part in this overall great "tiger' experience is the chaos that the unruly tourist crowds cause. Take a look at the picture on the right. About 50 jeeps made "MAD RUSH" to see the tiger. Cacophony rang at every corner as excitement levels rose on seeing a tiger. Some cheer, some talk gibberish, some scream...And all this disharmony even disturbs the usual proud and calm tiger. Why don't people realize that they are in the wild and should preserve some sanctity when they are not in their HOME?

To see India through the eyes of a motorcyclist's lens, visit the album below.
my solo all-india motorcycle journey

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