Shooting a Tiger at Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve!

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Located in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve is the most famed home for the Indian tigers. Spread over an area of 105 km square, the reserve has one of the highest density of Tigers in India. However, it's not just the tigers that the reserve is famous for, but it's large biodiversity.

Here is the story of two wonderful days I spent there :)

safari Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve
Tiger at Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve 

It was 4am and I was already up and making some green tea. It was pitch dark outside and I chose to sit on the porch and enjoy my morning ritual. I had arrived the previous night to Pugdundee’s King's Lodge after 30 hours of continuous travel from Pune (cab/ train/ cab), yet I was strangely not tired.

Day 1, Morning Safari 

We left the resort at about 5am after I had another cup of coffee (a decision I regretted very soon). For the first safari, we had chosen the Gate 2 or Magadhi gate. There are essentially three Gates, out of which Gate 1 or Tala Gate is the premium gate and other gates are a little cheaper. Gate 2 has routes which are allocated as you take your ticket and get the guide, while Gate 3 has no specific route and you can drive about anywhere. Each has it’s advantages and disadvantages and Tiger sighting is more a matter of luck than anything else.

I had two more travellers with me who were much older to me and spoke little. So I quickly became friends with out Naturalist, Saket, and our guide, who were both very enthusiastic about sharing knowledge with me, both about the jungles as well as the people in the region.

safari Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve
Drive into the Bandhavgarh Forest Reserve

If you are new to a forest, its can be difficult to remember the mud roads and the small details which mark areas. This is essential when you have to spot tigers, and I was only slowly learning about it. So basically, its a little unlikely that tiger would just walk in front of your jeep, so one needs to keep his eyes and ears open and keep looking for signs. Some of these signs are:

Pug marks
Distress calls of other animals
Water bodies
Known sighting areas

The area beyond Gate 2 has an active male called Mahaman who is an active male and ‘Kankati’, a female of 3.5 years. There was a good chance to see one of these. In hope we passed through Sehera (meadow) where we narrowly missed the sighting of a sloth bear. By this time, one of my travel companion needed to go to the loo so we decided to go to the Mukunda camp. Actually, I also needed to use the rest room and was rather relieved when we went there. The camp is known as Mukunda after a tiger called Mukunda, whose whereabouts are not known.

Within a forest, there are many camps where forest rangers live and are generally located on a higher ground. With time animals also get used to the presence of humans in their territory and do not come near the camps. The rangers sleep at the camps in the night and go inside the forest for surveys during the day. There a few of them across the forest and it’s generally safe to stop by there for such breaks.

safari Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve
The forests are surprisingly not so thick...
elephants safari Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve
Elephants are not wild here - see here chilling out with their mahavats 

We then decided to move on to Sukhi Patiha which is the territory of Pathiha female who also has three cubs. We didn’t see the tiger, but stopped at the camp there for our breakfast and meet Gautam, the elephant, who is seventy five years old! Food was not really a high priority for anyone, and we decided to move on to the area called Chakrawati, which is the area of another female tiger  called Dotty.

As we drove around, we saw some really interesting vegetation, though the forest is primarily sal and bamboo, and many different kinds of birds. I am not at all a birder, so had a tough time both locating as well as identifying anything at all. Saket was patient and showed me through his camera, and I think there were more birds here than I have ever seen before in life. But I guess we all wanted to see a Tiger. However, it was time to leave the forest as safari time was getting over. The timings are actually very strict and if you get late to come out, the guide could be punished by fine or not allowed to take his next turn.

Day 1, Afternoon Safari

By the time we started the afternoon safari, there pressure was much higher on all of us to sight the tiger. It's actually quite odd - everyone kept talking about how the forest had so much more than this one animal, and we all kept nodding. But deep within we all just wanted to do just one thing - see a tiger!

However, just like the morning we started with Gate 2 and drove around across the reserve, but saw nothing.

running deer safari Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve
Ah those lovely galloping deers!

Just when we were about to leave the forest, suddenly we saw another jeep driving past us in the opposite directions. There was just so much excitement in the air and suddenly we were also out of our afternoon slumber. A quick seconds later we took a U turn and followed the other jeep. It seems they had just heard a roar and knew exactly where the king of the jungle was. All three of us in the jeep had our eyes bulging looking all around in anticipation. Suddenly we stopped and our guide looked at us and asked us to make no sound at all. The silence was deafening but I couldn't hear anything. In fact the regular chirping of the birds had also temporarily stopped.

We waited for another fifteen minutes, but nothing happened. Our guide knew exactly where the tiger was, but he was far behind the trees and not visible to any one of us. However, it was time to leave the park (the rules are quite strict on this) and with a feeling of dejection we turned back. We were so close, yet so far from our first sighting.

deer safari Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve
And some resting deers :)

We spent the evening with the rest of the gang and none had seen any tiger on day 1. Our group came the closest to a sighting, yet it didn't mean much. The morning was early again and we slept off a little earlier than usual. I somehow slept with a resolve that I would make sure I enjoy the forest whether or not I see a tiger.

Day 2, Morning Safari

We started yet again early in morning before the sun rose. With sleep still in our eyes and camera already ready, we had passes for a different gate this time - Tala Gate. The gate leads to the largest and the most famed parts of the park. Even within this gate there are multiple routes and you are allotted only one and are expected to follow it through the morning.

The vegetation in this part of the park is visibly different and more full. My camera was away and I simply enjoyed the views around. There was much little conversation my jeep except a few tidbits from our guide - Amarjeet Singh.

Here is his story :)

#TellMeYourDream2015 What is your dream? . "My dream is simple. Since I am married now and have kids, all my dreams are now related to them. I want to give them good education and help them realise their dreams." . Amarjeet Singh is a twenty-eight years old guide at the Bandhavgarh Tiger Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. He grew up in the forests as his father was a 'mahaut' of an elephant who took tourists for tiger sightings. He often went with him and learnt all about the forests from these trips. He started his journey of being a guide here in 2004 as a junior guide and was then trained extensively by the forest department. After he passed the exam he became a certified guide. During the non-season, he works in his small farmland. Amarjeet is married, has two kids and both of them go to school. They visit the forest often with their grandfather, but he wants them to decide their own career path after education. ---------- This is a part of a 365 days project to collect dreams and I call it 'Tell me your Dream'. One dream, each day. It's an open initiative and everyone is welcome to share a portrait with a story for a feature here. The portrait could be yours or a stranger. You can mail me at connect@siddharthajoshi.com. Or tag me in an image and we can take it forward from there. 28th June 2015
A photo posted by Siddhartha Joshi (@siddharthajoshi) on



Finally sighting the tiger!

However, very soon we saw a bunch of jeeps simply parked and waiting for something. We knew something was up and decided to go and join in. However, as soon as we reached near them, something happened suddenly. A tiger came out of the thick forest and walked right next to our jeep. It all happened so suddenly that I didn't even have the time to pick my camera and click. But the tiger was patient, he came out, looked at all of us as if we were animals in a circus, lazed around on the street and then leisurely walked away.



tiger walking on road safari Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve
Our majestic tiger walking away...
safari Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve
...and into the forest :)

It all got over within a few minutes, but the impact this dude left on us was phenomenal. There was hushed silence in respect to this majestic animal and we were just so happy to have witnessed this great moment.

safari Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve
We could then enjoy the nature...
safari Bandhavgarh National Park and Tiger Reserve
And could even do some bird-watching :)

With the weight of tiger watching lifted from our backs we could finally ease up. We drove around and had much more fun than the first day just looking around. Our guide was happy too as we were now actually interested in the plants, trees, birds, deer and other animals too :)

In the evening when we told about our tiger experience, everyone was a bit jealous. None had seen a tiger at all and with our safaris coming to an end, it was a bit sad that so many of us were going back from Bandhavgarh without seeing a tiger. I had only a few pictures to share with them and everyone looked at them with sounds of oohs and aahs.

I felt bad for my friends but was really really happy with my day. I had never imagined that I would actually see a tiger so close by and also manage to shoot him, so for me this trip was already a memory to be cherished for life.

Bandhavgarh beyond Tigers & booking tips

Despite the obsession of tourists with Tiger (and I can't blame them for this), Bandhavgarh has more to offer beyond tiger, in fact, even beyond wildlife. I stayed with the beautiful King's Lodge and came back with so many memories of the wonderful place and a short trip to a nearby village - Ranchha.

Looking forward to an experience of lifetime at Bandhavgarh? I can recommend planning your vacation with Pugdandee Safaris who are an expert at planning vacations in the wild. Between 2010 and 2016, they have been awarded for their excellence in eco-tourism, commitment to green architecture, their experienced naturalists and their pioneering mobile safari initiative.

Book a safari online at the link below :)

booking pagdandi safari bandhavgarh


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Disclaimer: I was in Bandhavgarh on invitation of Pugdandee Safaris. All views expressed are my own and based on my personal experiences.
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14 comments:

  1. Your post brought back great memories of my time in Bandhavgarh. I had the most amazing time there including some fantastic and truly memorable tiger sightings!

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    1. That's so cool Kristy! My time was truly memorable there as well...the forests have magic :)

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  2. Thanks for sharing. What an exciting trip you had. Whereabouts in India is the reserve. It's certainly something i would love to do.

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    1. Thank you :) This is located in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

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  3. I like the post... not sure about the heading.. was a bit worried when I first read it... :)

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  4. Not sure if the heading was clickbait but I am glad you didn't actually shoot a tiger.

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    1. Haha...not a clickbait! Just something I found interesting as a title. I am a huge supporter of tiger conservation and wouldn't even dream of shooting one :)

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  5. Nice account of your experience and sightings at Bandhavgarh.

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  6. I think that's the only way to shoot a tiger. What a beautiful place.

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    1. Absolutely! Completely agree with you on this...

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  7. Wonderful exploration. I am happy you are one of the luck one to spot a tiger.

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  8. Lucky you to spot the tiger.Beautiful place.

    Cheers,
    Sriram & Krithiga

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