Bandhavgarh National Park: Where roaring wildlife meets whispers of nature | Travel - Hindustan Times
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Discovering Bandhavgarh National Park: Where roaring wildlife meets whispers of nature

Oct 21, 2023 02:11 PM IST

Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh is famous for its Bengal tigers and diverse wildlife. From safari to best zones, here is your complete travel guide.

Nestled in the hills of Vindhyas, Bandhavgarh National Park is a serene abode where wildlife roars and jungles whisper. Amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life and its struggles, national parks offer a soothing escape where life feels more like a gentle stroll than a marathon. Located in the small Umaria district of Madhya Pradesh, this park is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, 37 other species of mammals, 250 species of birds and 80 species of butterflies. The entire economy of this small district is based on tiger tourism, and as you enter you will see posters and pictures of tigers in every corner, from gift shops to tea stalls. Beyond the exhilarating jungle safari, you'll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in rural village life, where the unpolluted air is guaranteed to invigorate your senses. The nights are equally enchanting, with a star-studded sky and the mesmerising sounds of rare insects that will leave you in sheer awe.

Bandhavgarh National Park: Where roaring wildlife meets whispers of nature(Unsplash/Naveen Naidu)
Bandhavgarh National Park: Where roaring wildlife meets whispers of nature(Unsplash/Naveen Naidu)

Bandhavgarh National Park Visitor's Handbook

Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh is a place of mythical significance. The historic Bandhavgarh fort is significant because it is believed that Lord Rama gave it to his younger brother Lakshmana to keep an eye on Lanka. As 'Bandhav' means 'brother' and 'Garh' means 'fort', this fort is called Bandhavgarh. There are several man-made caves in Bandhavgarh that date back 2000 years and contain inscriptions and rock art. The national park was once the hunting preserve of the Maharaja of Rewa and is now a well-known natural habitat for white tigers. The first white tigers were found in Rewa, not far from here, and are now a popular attraction in zoos around the world. It is also believed that all white tigers in the world have their roots in Bandhavgarh.

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How to reach?

You can travel to this place by road as it is close to Umaria, Jabalpur, Katni and Khajuraho, among other places. Tourists can use a taxi service to reach Bandhavgarh National Park from any of these places via SH 11, 22 and NH 43. The nearest railway station is Umaria, which is after Katni, and it takes 40 minutes to reach the wildlife sanctuary from there. Alternatively, you can take an overnight train from Delhi to Umaria and then drive (30 minutes) to the park. Only jeeps are available for transport. The drive from Khajuraho to Bandhavgarh is 250 km (8 hours). Drive (7-8 hours) from Khajuraho to the Tala Park entrance at Bandhavgarh after flying from Delhi, Agra or Varanasi. Khajuraho is the nearest airport to the park.

However, we advise you to take a road trip as the journey is a scenic adventure in itself. Picture yourself driving along a jungle road, where, with a stroke of luck, you might catch a glimpse of some wildlife; spotted deer and Asian deer sightings are quite common. Make a pit stop at Dhaba for a refreshing break and savour a cup of desi chai paired with a few delectable pakodas, all while immersing yourself in the captivating beauty of nature.

Wildlife safari, timings and zones

There are three types of safaris offered in the park - the morning safari, the evening safari and the night safari. While the morning and evening safaris can be booked from the official website of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, the night safari can only be booked offline. However, the amount of vehicles and guide is not included in your online booked permit. You have the flexibility to either book a whole jeep or opt for individual seats, depending on the size of your group. It's worth noting that booking individual seats is usually less expensive than booking a whole jeep. For the night safari there is also the option of a canter, which is similar to an open bus. This option is not only more economical than a jeep but also offers the chance to enjoy the company of fellow travellers while keeping an eye out for majestic big cats.

The safari zones are divided into two categories: Buffer and Core Zones. Buffer zones are the areas where the jungle exists along with the village and the tiger sightings are less compared to core zones where it's just the lush green forest without villages. The two most popular zones are the Magadhi and Tala zones, where there are regular tiger sightings, but there is no guarantee. The Tala zone is one of the most beautiful as it has a river, a mountain and even a fort, so even if you don't see a tiger, it's still worth a visit.

What to carry?

Before embarking on your wildlife adventure, don't forget to take a hard copy of your permit and Adhar card with you. Bring a non-plastic water bottle as any type of plastic is not allowed in the park. Always carry a warm jacket as the mornings are colder in the jungle. Do not forget to bring sunscreen, a hat and a pair of sunglasses as it can get sunny towards the end of your safari. Pack a binocular if you have one or you can rent one from the local shops.

Where to stay?

Accommodation in the area is short on traditional hotels. There are many tiger and jungle themed resorts that are set in nature and offer a rejuvenating experience like no other. The resorts come in a variety of price ranges so you can find the one that best suits your budget. The exciting thing is that many of the resorts use eco-friendly or sustainable materials. From rope swings and antique staircases to wooden cottages, staying in these beautiful green places is a wonderful experience that you will remember for a long time. Don't forget to try some of the local delicacies and enjoy a hearty meal of hot roti cooked in a clay oven next to a desi sag around a campfire with your favourite people.

Places to visit

After a thrilling safari ride, don't forget to take a stroll around the local market. There are many gift shops full of wildlife and tiger-inspired mugs, t-shirts, key rings and more. Almost everything in the area, including walls, restaurant names and resort themes, pays homage to the jungle and its wildlife. As you enter any of the shops, you can feel the excitement in the shopkeeper's eyes as they enthusiastically show you the adorable tiger accessories. If you're on a budget and can't afford to buy anything expensive, take a tiger paw bamboo key chain as a souvenir.

There are also a few unique shops and stores selling organic honey, spices, oils or soaps, so if you are someone who loves to use natural products, then take a look. Aside from the shops, there is also a cute book cafe that looks straight out of Pinterest, and what will captivate you, even more, is the 65-year-old graceful lady who owns the adorable Cafe Malaya. Neelam Varma, an extroverted escapee from the marketing business in Ahmedabad, says, "She hates city lives as they are growing too fast". This place is a must see if you love rare and unique handicrafts that you can buy as a takeaway souvenir.

Apart from that, there is also a Bandhavadheesh temple which is situated in Bandhavgarh National Park, on a hilltop site, at a height of 811 metres above sea level. The Jwalamukhi temple is also an interesting visit for those who want to get immersed in the religious fervour amidst the purity of nature. Don't forget to talk to the local people and learn more about their culture. Talking to them will help you realise that the tiger for them is not just an awe-inspiring animal, but rather a symbol of respect and admiration. Whether you are at your resort, on a safari or roaming the streets of the market, there is always one question everyone will ask, “Tiger dikha kya?”.

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