Wild Encounters – Bandhavgarh

Source: A&W Magazine 

When I was invited recently to be a part of the Madhya Pradesh Travel Mart,I had a tough choice to make – to visit
any one of  the two famed National parks of the state – Bandhavgarh or Kanha.I
finally decided on the former and soon I found myself outside the Park on a chilly morning on the last day of October. In spite of having been on numerous safaris for the last 13 years, tigers had still remained elusive to my sight.

The safari I did before this in Madhya Pradesh’s Pench was a no show as far as the tiger was concerned. However being someone who enjoys the jungle for all its sights and sounds, I was excited once again to venture into the wild.

Our safari was from Gate 2 or the Magadhi gate and our guide Mohan Singh was an old hat with close to 25 years of experience.Our first sighting was of the Sambhar and Mohan started giving us anecdotes on how they are considered the most foolish animals in the jungle.“Well they are an easy prey for the tiger as they keep lying down in the water or on the ground and if they sense the tiger, they check if one is around by walking a few steps in that direction. Also when they are being chased, they actually keep looking back and fall prey.”

While that generated a round of laughter, ten minutes into the safari, Mohan suddenly stopped the vehicle and said the magic word“tiger” and my first reaction was, “Where? I  cannot see anything.”

As I looked around in the thicket, I could see nothing. As Mohan navigated the vehicle to a vantage point, I could suddenly see it walking magnificently at a distance through the haze which was making it difficult to spot.

“Don’t worry he is coming to drink water,” assured Mohan and sure enough, the tiger suddenly disappeared while all the safari jeeps clamoured together to make the most of the moment.

However the king of the jungle decided to take his own time to quench his thirst and after a few minutes rose out and majestically walked past all of us (we were in all close to 50 people in different vehicles).

While all of us aimed our cameras at him, T37 or Bamera’s son as he is called could hardly care less as he nonchalantly walked past giving all of us a thrilling start to the game drive.

In fact for me, this was the first sighting of the tiger in the wild and to watch the most beautiful animal in its home turf is awe inspiring.You simply cannot take your eyes off the tiger and for good reason – no wonder he is the king of the jungle! The bright stripes of the tiger make for a striking contrast against the dull green grass. And as he walks past his packed audience who cannot stop taking pictures, he hardly seems to notice.

With a start like that, we headed further into the beautiful jungles that has mostly sal trees close to 70 percent of the jungle and bamboo trees as well. Soon enough, came our next treat a wild boar that however decided not to pose for any pictures.

Going ahead, we also spotted a family of Nilgai (a rare species of the Sambhar family) that decided to sprint past our jeep and seeing the five of them in different sizes was a wonderful treat indeed.

The topography of the forest was varied and there are 250 bird species across 53 families with 138 resident, 26 local migrants and 86 migrants species. Naturally being a haven for birds we were lucky to spot a whole lot of them including the Crested Serpent Eagle, River Ducks, Indian Rollers, Crested Hawk Eagle, Kingfishers, Jungle Barbets, Indian Longbilled Vultures. Of course the jungle is full of spotted deer and peahens and peacocks too.

Interestingly this is also the time to spot several kinds of spiders which spin huge webs. It is a visual delight and a photographer’s must take photo. Specifically we also saw a lot of funnel spider webs that are said to be a poisonous variety as they instantly suck in little insects that come near them.

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