Tiger Safari in Bandhavgarh | Experiences in Bandhavgarh

Tiger Safari in Bandhavgarh | Experiences in Bandhavgarh

“Nature doesn’t promise you anything – an afterlife, rewards for good behaviour, protection from enemies, wealth, happiness, progeny, all things human desire and pray for.

No, nature does not promise these things. Nature is a reward in itself.”

– The Book of Nature, Ruskin Bond

Experiences in Bandhavgarh | Tiger Safari in Bandhavgarh

Long Post Alert: Having said that brace yourself to be enchanted, as I take you to the enigmatic forests of Bandhavgarh. 

 

Of Impromptu Holiday Plans

On a cold, windy January afternoon; I was having lunch with a friend from yesteryears. We had recently revived our connection of over twenty-three years, even though we live in the same city for more than a decade now. Possibly been beyond occupied: raising our girls and keeping up with our professional commitments.

We were gorging on a glorious Mushroom dish and some Thai cuisine that Thursday afternoon, when Vibha suddenly quipped,

“Why don’t we head out for a vacation together, before I re-join work.”

I retorted,“When?”

“How about this weekend…?” she responded rather smugly, as her light green eyes twinkled mischeviously.

“You got to be kidding me! Really and where to?” I exclaimed.

“To the forests.”

I can never, ever say no to getting away to the forests.

It’s where I belong, and where I feel most at home.

“Sure thing. But when do you want to go?

“This weekend,” she grinned.

“That’s like 2 days away!! Can we even make it?

“No harm trying,” said Vibha, rather effortlessly.

I was totally stoked about following up with this plan. I called the Pugdundee Safaris office and we were blessed to not just get bookings in the lodges, but two safari bookings as well. All arranged over a phone call, in the forests of Bandhavgarh, the tiger country in Central India, known for one of the highest density of tigers in India.

 

Tiger Country Beckons

The last minute plans worked out rather seamlessly.

In a jiffy Sunday was upon us. We were at the airport, in the wee hours of the morning; bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to board the flight that would drop us closer to our destination.

But as luck would have it, our flight kept getting delayed without further notice and we continued to wait patiently for hours. Fortunately we had a back-up plan. The DH (Darling husband) very generously helped cancel and book us on another flight, while we lazed around at the airport lounge.

Thereafter, we took a four hour cab ride from the Jabalpur airport, cutting across the meandering countryside. As the sun sank across the dotted meadows, the azure skies gently turned a shade of inky blue and the grazing cattle returned to their hearth; yet again, to give way to another pristine blue-hour.

We eventually reached our much awaited destination, Bandhavgarh; seven hours late, but supremely grateful to have made it.

 

Luxuriant Living in the Lap of Nature

tree-house-banyan-tree

For the first leg of our trip we were booked at the stunning, forested estate of Tree House Hideaway (THH) of Pugdundee Safaris. We reached the lodge in good time for supper and were given a warm welcome by Ashish Tirkey and his team. Ashish is the Manager of THH and that apart a very talented naturalist and an impeccable host. I’ve known him for five years now, because of our work with Pugdundee Safaris.

We could not wait to dunk our luggage in our plush, grunge; yet utterly luxuriant Tree House for the next few days. Banyan was large, cosy and  inviting and constructed around an ancient Banyan tree, as you would have guessed by now. The wood work was aesthetically done using recycled wood, and the wall frames made by local, tribal Baiga artists, had our heart.

The sprawling balcony over looked a forest patch, where a tigeress was spotted with her kill, only recently. The cosy cots with crisp white linen and gossamer mosquito nets were inviting us to curl up, after a long, long day. But we could not wait to dig into a comforting home-cooked style supper that awaited us, as we were famished after a long day.

We also happened to be the only guests in this diversely thriving, magnificent property at Bandhavgarh.

We had our hearts fill with a lip-smacking, four course regional meal (or was it five?) served with dollops of love. This was peppered with an enthralling conversation with Ashish about Tiger country, Bandhavgarh, his various escapades in the wild and around the lodge property; before we headed back to Banyan, for a relaxed night of sleep.

We had an early start the next morning, for our Tiger Safari.

 

Tiger Safari in Bandhavgarh : Adventures of the Forests

“Into the forests I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.”

– John Muir

Most people come to Bandhavgarh to see tigers, but for me it’s always been the sheer experience and brilliance of becoming one with the wilderness and connecting with nature, irrespective of what I chance upon. I am always happy to let nature unfold its mysteries the way it chooses to.

We headed out well in time to Khitauli, one of the core zones of Bandhavgarh National Park, for our safari, as dawn broke out. The narrow, winding road leading to the park, cradled by thick forest fringes on either side, plunged in the glow of the morning darkness; was signalling us of unwarranted adventures ahead.

It was fairly cold and even though we were equipped with warm ammunition of our own, the lodge had thoughtfully provided us hot water bottles and ponchos. The crispy, cold morning breeze hat smothered our faces on this exhilarating safari, was the perfect gift from the forests.

We were accompanied by Ashish on this open jeep safari. Like a gracious host intending to take us through the best possible adventure, he ensured ours was the first jeep to enter the park, when the forest gates opened at 6:45 am. A few protocols were wrapped up prior to that at the entry gate; like ID and booking checks, and a forest guide who would also accompany us, before we could enter the park.

Expect the Unexpected at Khitauli

The Early Bird Gets The…

As the sky turned a slight golden tint, we entered the Khitauli gate and were greeted by a scattered herd of Spotted Deers. The sun was still lazily emerging from its slumber. Our jeep began to hurtle towards the forest, crossing the grazing deers.

We must have barely crossed a 100 meters, when suddenly loud alarm calls broke out into the tranquil morning of the forests. A tiger had just made an ambush kill. For the uninitiated, alarm calls are a signal from the herbivores like deers or monkeys, of a predator lurking around, or of impending danger.

The alarm calls were very loud. There had been an ambush kill. Even the deers were caught off-guard by the hunter.

The predator many a times does hunt stealthily, and the species are unable to tell and forewarn; and this was a befitting example.

Kanha-spotted-deer-natasha-musing
Spotted deers (This one’s from Kanha forests though)

Rendezvous with Ra

This particular tigress that had made a stealth kill was a female called Ra, who was raising cubs. She had ambushed an adult Spotted deer and we caught glimpses of her hiding her prized kill behind the bushes. Thereafter, she came out for a few short minutes, but there were way too many jeeps trying to photograph and hound her like paparazzi.

Ra, is a shy tigress, unlike many others in the park who love all the attention and are unruffled by the safari jeeps. Though we caught a few glimpses of her from almost 12 feet away, she quickly sprinted away into the forest, leaving her kill behind.

Later in the day when we returned from the safari, the hunted deer was still lying camouflaged behind the bushes. The humans had managed to scare Ra off and we were told she would return only later in the night to take away her meal and feed her cubs. I was saddened by this reality which meant she and her family would go hungry for the rest of the day.

Adventures that Followed

Off Roading on Khitauli Zone

And if this wasn’t enough, Ashish convinced us,

“Ma’am, the adventure has just begun. There is much more to come!”

Khitauli zone is known for a huge herd of elephants including tuskers that migrated into Bandhavgarh just a few years ago. Bandhvgarh or Central India never had a resident population of elephants prior to this. We saw a lot of elephant scat, hoping to catch a glimpse of the gentle giants. These giants in Bandhavgarh, aren’t that gentle either. They can be seen charging at jeeps on some days. They bring down full-grown trees to their knees, and love plundering the bamboo thickets for their gargantuan meals. I would have loved an encounter with them, but it wasn’t meant to be.

“A big herd of elephants used to come and eat off all the bananas and trample our vegetable garden, at the Tree House, multiple times. Finally we had to do away with the banana trees and created a better fencing,”  Ashish narrated to Vibha.

I had heard this story a few years back too, especially during the pandemic. Tree house is right next to the stunning Tala zone of the forests. 

The Other Mighty Residents of Bandhavgarh

Bandhavgarh has a good population of sloth bears too, believed to be a lot more territorial and aggressive than the tigers, especially when they are piggy backing and raising their cubs. But we did not spot any either. I was happy to witness the forest unfold what it deemed fit to. 

We drove around the forests, hearing alarm calls all along. We spotted a bunch load of plum headed Parakeets, Racquet Tailed Drongos, lots of Sambhar deers, more Spotted deers, Nilgais, a lone Barking Deer, Langur monkeys, Jungle Fowls etc.. The forest of Khitauli primarily comprises a mixed vegetation of bamboo thickets, Saal trees and others.

A tiger named Pujari (translates to Priest in English) is regularly spotted by the lake at Khitauli each morning. He is named so, he loves to undertake his morning ablutions, much like a true-blue pujari who will not start their day without taking a bath. But we did not chance upon Pujari either, while some jeeps did. 

I love snakes and was very keen to spot a snake or boa, but winters are not the ideal time for sighting reptiles. I had made up my mind that come what may I would spot an owl or too, though. Manifest, manifest, manifest!

Be Ready to be Surprised, on a Forest Adventure

We circled the length and breadth of the forests for the next 3 hours, in a bid to sight more tigers.

When in Bandhavgarh, do as the Tigers do!” I was told, though not in the same lingo.

We then decided to take a bio break. But enroute we spotted a family of Grey Mongoose by a rocky creek.

As we were checking out the scuttling mongoose family, our forest guide suddenly announced,

“Tiger! There’s a tiger walking on the road!”

Again there were no alarm calls, no signs to give us a heads up of a lurking predator, when we chanced upon Tara, the stunning tigress of Khitauli. Tara languorously ambled on the dusty road and my heart popped into my sleeve, at her sheer poise, grace and gorgeousness. Ashish slowly trailed her from behind and then she stopped and stood gazing at us nonchalantly. 

She then gracefully bent down to lick salt off the dusty terrain. Lots of animals lick salt as a mineral substitute, to supplement their nutrition. Tara graciously posed for us as we focussed our cameras to capture her sheer beauty.

She even yawned peacefully, and it seemed she was ready for a quick morning snooze.

Sleepy Tara
Yawning Tara
Here’s looking at you gorgeous, Tara!

She looked smug and relaxed, till a jeep came from behind and parked a few feet away. Tara was distracted and disturbed out of her relaxed zone. She got up and started walking away.

Ashish tried telling the jeep to give her way, so she could walk on the dusty path. Tigers prefer walking on the road versus the forested area, but the jeep paid no heed in a bid to photograph her. Sometimes it gets truly exasperating when people do not follow protocols, just so they can get better angles on their cameras. 

Albeit, we trailed her for few more minutes, and she growled gently calling out to her cubs.

Tara is a rockstar Mom. She has two young cubs, barely eight-months old and two sub-adults that are close to twenty-two-months and are ready to be weaned off, to establish their own territories. Tiger cubs stay with their mothers for close to 20-22 months and the mother raises them single handedly.

Meeting Tara, was an experience of a life time. She gave us 25-minutes of her unadulterated time. The last I saw a tiger in the wild was in Kanha, when we spotted the handsome Chota Munna, but from much farther a distance.

Seeing Tara up-close and personal was a blessing to be truly cherished forever.

Here are a few videos of Tara that you may enjoy.

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright

Tyger Tyger, burning bright, 
In the forests of the night; 
What immortal hand or eye, 
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
– William Blake

Tigers are solitary beings. Folklore and other stories spin myriad tales on how these royal animals rule the forests and are the king of the jungles; but that is far from the truth.

Tigers have it very tough. They are killed innumerable times due to territorial fights with other tigers. Even the cubs are killed many a times by another tiger, and tigers constantly strive to survive amidst the mayhem of poaching and man-animal conflict. There have been repeated instances of villagers from the fringes of the forests, poisoning them and their brood, as they come to feed off their cattle, when they don’t find enough herbivores in the forest.

This apex predator has a critical role to play in the ecosystem. India is the only country which has a population of Royal Bengal Tigers in the wild. Though with concerted efforts, the population of Royal Bengal Tigers has improved drastically in the recent years, but this grandiose species continues to be listed as Endangered by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), as it is illegally poached and killed mercilessly despite stringent laws. 

Grateful To the Forests of Bandhavgarh

It was a day of divine feminine energy; and our good fortune of sighting two beautiful tigresses – Ra and Tara, the Goddesses of Khitauli. 

We drove back to the lodge by 11:30 am, grateful and satiated in heart and soul. But, not without a stop-over at Tala gate to say hello to a Spotted Owlet.

Owl about nature, in Bandhavgarh – A Spotted Owlet

A refreshing, cooling drink awaited us at the porch of Tree House, that we thirstily guzzled down. We were all dusty, but our hearts were full and brimming with joy. After a nice, relaxed shower, we dug into a piping hot, delicious lunch, while gloating over the adventures of the day.

Bandhavgarh had been supremely kind to us and this was just the beginning of our adventures. 

(I wish they made more songs on the magnificent Tiger. This one is a personal favourite. I’m sure most of you like it.)

 

Wishing you a wonderful new week of love, light and laughter. 

Make some time for self-love will ya, this Valentine week! ♥♥

**Also sharing Miley Cyrus’s all new hit- “Flowers” that I love to bits. And since I just spoke about self-love and divine feminine energy, it seems apt to share here too.** 🙂

Kisses!

~Natasha~

 

All images shot by me, on my 14 year-olds Canon DSLR. These images are copy righted by the author and should only be reproduced with prior permission and with credits. 

 

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Jumping in with the incredible Cathy and Alana for Monday Mewsic Moves, terrific Trent for Weekly Smiles and my magnificent Wordless Wednesday gang SandeeKeithSuzanaBrianSteve this week, Eileen’s Saturday Critters and Lydia’s Seasonal post, Betty’s My Corner of the World and Mersad’s Through my Lens. Hopping in with Corinne, Parul and Shalini for Friday Reflections as well. Gratitude to everyone hosting. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

53 thoughts on “Tiger Safari in Bandhavgarh | Experiences in Bandhavgarh

  1. Oh I felt like I was in the adventure with you and what beautiful pictures. Tigers sure are majestic creatures and the sheer grace and wonder with which they move! At the same time I wish we are more conscious and let them be, follow protocols rather than being greedy for the perfect Instagram picture. And then haven’t you felt that many a time we are actually living for the social media updates rather than relishing the moment.

    1. You said it my friend. I’m labouring myself away from social media and focussing in the now. We all have become slaves of technology and like how!

  2. NATASHA!!!!!!!!!!!! HELLO DEAREST FRIEND! YEP, IT’S ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’M BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! XmasDolly! I’ve missed you so much. I had to take a big break due to my back & leg. I had many sessions of therapy & a surgery, but I’m better now & I’m back for GOOD (I’M HOPIN’)! SO, DID YA MISS ME? I surely missed you so much. I always wondered how you were doing. My computer just got fixed and overhauled (hehehehe), and I’M BACK FOR GOOD & we can stay together forever! Now remember is you ever come to the U.S. please stop by to see me! I would love to give you a great BIG HUG! So how have you been? My back still hurts a bit, but as soon as the weather gets better and I can start walking my back & leg should feel much better. Okay, more next time! I’VE MISSED YOU SO MUCH! DID YA MISS ME TOO????? HUGS, MARIE

    1. Can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see you, dear Marie. That you are doing much better.
      All of us at blogosphere missed you and prayed for you. Glad you are bouncing back to good health. May it continue to be so, always.

      Big hugs. <3

  3. Love ‘Eye of the Tiger’, apt accompaniment for the video. Mesmerised by your post, Natasha. Sudden plans are always best. You had a great time and I’m now pining for a getaway like this. Tara is magnificent!

  4. Bad luck, my mouse’s battery died as I was trying to post my comment a couple of hours ago (modern problems). Finally, here I am again. An amazing trip, an even more amazing encounter with a tiger, and good music – thank you for taking us along. I hope Ra was able to return to her kill later that day and get her cubs fed. I’d be a little surprised if no other animal helped him/herself to the kill first – let’s hope not.

  5. The words do not flow. What is here, in this post is fantastic, absolutely fantastic!
    You are lucky to go there, to observe, to breath the wild!
    Thank you for sharing these moments, images, your thoughts and quotes.
    Love, light and big hugs, dear Natasha!
    Happy WW and a fantastic week! ❤️

  6. OMG! What a wonderful dose of wilderness
    Trip with friends are always fun which reminds me, I am yet to pen down my Panna safari
    You had an envious sighting of the gorgeous Tara and such beautiful clicks too of the terrain and it’s inhabitants.

    I feel that safari pattern needs a change. It should be more holistic and not focused alone on chasing the big cats (away).

    Enjoyed reading about your & Vibha’s fabulous impromptu trip!
    Monika Ohson recently posted…Landour on foot & through it’s café trailMy Profile

    1. You said it and like how.

      They should have certain dos and donts listed out to people before they are allowed to venture into the parks.

      Game drives has suddenly spurted as a new found passion amongst many, and it’s appalling to see how the animals get harassed by people sometimes. And that can be detrimental to humans and then the animal is blamed for being aggressive.

      I hope to read your Panna tales. 🙂 Love.

  7. OMG! What a wonderful dose of wilderness
    Trip with friends are always fun which reminds me, I am yet to pen down my Panna safari
    You had an envious sighting of the gorgeous Tara and such beautiful clicks too of the terrain and it’s inhabitants.

    I feel that safari pattern needs a change. It should be more holistic and not focused alone on chasing the big cats (away).

    1. Agree 200 %
      There is so much more to the forests than just tigers.

      But it seems like a norm all over the world. Even in Africa, the apex predator is made out to be such a big deal.

      Some day things will change. Amen.

    1. So glad to hear, Soumya. You must. And even Kanha if you can as it has a more diverse and thriving population of wildlife. 🙂

      Thanks for swinging by. <3

  8. The photo where it’s licking the salt really shows the power in it’s body. Tigers are magnificient. I’d be scared being that close, even with the car in between us…great shots. What a special experience….a 4 hour taxi ride? That must have cost a bomb! Thanks for sharing with #Allseaons (love the monkeys too)

  9. I would love to have been on this trip and stay in a neat place up in the trees. I love the pictures of the tigers. It’s such a shame they are still hunted.

  10. Natasha,

    What a spontaneously fun get-away with your dear friend of man years! My heart would absolutely jump out of my chest if my eyes fell on a tiger that close but that’s not going to happen in my part of the world unless I visit the city zoo. lol I do get equally excited every time we’re in the Smoky Mountains when I spot bear or elk. 🙂 Thanks for joining the 4M party. Have a boogietastic week, my dear!

  11. Sounds amazing! And for an impromptu trip, just fantastic. Sorry about the travel issues. And poor Ra. I’m sure she eventually got her meal, but still… Tara did seem to be showing off – look how beautiful I am! Glad you got a good view of her. And the other animals, particularly the owl (there are a lot of owls around here, I am usually not far from one, but I almost never see them, and when I do, they are mostly hidden). Very cool adventure with your friend 🙂

  12. I so enjoyed reading this and seeing your pictures (nice toes by the way!) Despite multiple visits to India, I’ve never seen a tiger! My only safari was in South Africa, and tigers don’t live there.

    Wishing you a week filled with loveliness Natasha!
    Keith’s Ramblings recently posted…I spy…My Profile

  13. Wow, what an amazing trip, I would love to see the Tiger and all the critters of the forest.
    Beautiful photos and post. Thanks so much for sharing your link. Have a great day and happy new week!

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