The Pride of India
After my few days in the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, I planned to spend some time in one of India’s most renowned and popular parks. I decided to visit Bandhavgarh after my Tadoba trip for reasons I have detailed in my Tadoba Trip report. In short, I took the gamble that I would see more tigers with better quality sightings in Bandhavgarh. It certainly paid off.
You have to take an incredible overnight sleeper train trip across central India to get to Bandhavgarh from Nagpur, and so I arrived at the Nature Heritage Resort, well-rested and keen to get tiger chasing. Wildlife Trails UK booked me a mix of safaris to two of the four regions that you are allowed to visit because all have different landscapes and would give me the best chance to see tigers in various backdrops. Nature Heritage is a comfortable resort with fantastic service from the friendly and helpful staff, always ready to serve you a deserved Kingfisher beer. I settled into my well-furnished, air-conditioned room and checked all the equipment. On the first trip, we had four photographers in the jeep, which proved a bit of a tight squeeze, but after chatting to the resort management, they changed the arrangement, and we never had more than three after that.
Meeting the legend – B2
The first two safaris yielded no Tiger sightings, but we got to see a lot of its prey species and enjoyed the magnificent park landscapes. There are a lot more water holes in Bandhavgarh than in Tadoba, and your chances are better during the heat of the day. The first sighting came on the second day when we caught up with B2, a legendary dominant male that has been featured in many documentaries done in Bandhavgarh. He was looking a little old and weary but gave the 20 or so jeeps a great show as he lay in the shade. Over the next four days, I had great sightings in both zones, although Tala was the most productive zone for me on this trip.
Even though vulture numbers are on a dramatic decline in India, we saw a lot of them on kills around the park. I managed to see all 4 of India’s common vultures, with the Egyptian vulture being a real highlight. I have long wanted to see this species, and it was great to get some decent photos. We only just missed 2 Jackals bringing down a Spotted deer but saw them retreating from the swarming mass of arriving raptors.
Gaurs and Serpent Eagles
In the Magdhi zone (zone 2), they have reintroduced Gaur, and we caught sight of them a few times, including a sighting of a young calf. They’re all radio-collared to monitor their movements around the park, and although I managed a few photos, they tended to wander off quite quickly.
I finally got some close-up photos of the Crested Serpent Eagle, as they seemed a lot more tolerant of jeeps than in Tadoba. I loved the way wherever they went, they got mobbed by some or other angry bird species. We sat and watched a Red-wattled Lapwing dive-bomb an eagle on the ground near a waterhole for a few minutes before the big raptor retreated to a nearby tree.
I arrived in Bandhavgarh with purposefully lowered expectations. I know I wanted to get great shots but knew that I would have a few safaris where we didn’t see very much. A few of the people that I spoke to had much higher expectations, and so were disappointed when all they saw were deer, langur and a lot of bird species. It’s sad that their tour operators were guaranteeing them sightings of tigers on every safari because, in the end, all they had were unhappy clients.
I’ll be back.
And so, my second Indian Trip came to an end. It was another fantastic two-week experience that I wish everyone could experience. The people are warm and friendly, and the scenery is both diverse and exciting. I went to see Panthera tigris tigris in the wild and was privileged enough to have eight sightings in ten days in both parks. I shall return.
Some Jeep Safari Tips:
- Try and book into the Tala region of the park – on average more Tiger sightings (Gate 1). Gate 2 has a lot of good sightings of other species too, but fewer tiger sightings.
- Make it clear to the guides and drivers what species you want to photograph.
- Keep slowing them down as they will want to race from waterhole to waterhole.
- Take a cleaning kit with you on the trip. I took a small DIY paintbrush and slipped it into my pocket. It helps with the red dust of Bandhavgarh. This is especially important if you have to regularly change your lenses.
- In the end, I was the only client/photographer in the jeep and had plenty of space. I used a tripod to support my 500mm lens but in future, I would only bring a monopod, which is lighter and doesn’t take up much space in your check-in luggage.
If you liked this post, you might love a similar trip I did in South Africa
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