A summer jaunt to Bandhavgarh

It was summer, the heat was picking up and the noise levels at home were rising too, with the kids being on holiday. It seemed like an opportune time for a quick family outing. As we broached this idea with one of our closest friends ( BFFs, in fact 🙂 ) from Chennai, they concurred on a similar situation at their place and immediately agreed on a summer jaunt.

Deliberations on which place to go to, began. I was keener on something closer and driveable. However, that would have meant a place we would have visited before. The majority were not keen on that and were wanting to explore a new location. Also, a place with safaris and with some good chances of sighting the big cat, the Tiger of course was on the minds. Ranthambore and Bandhavgarh were two candidates that we shortlisted. I reached out to my go-to person in Bandhavgarh, Sunil Yadav and within a span of two days things were finalised and Bandhavgarh it was to be!

We reached Bandhavgarh late in the night preparing ourselves mentally to wake up and get ready to head out on our first safari early in the following morning. The anxiety and excitement were kicking in :-)

A cold, early morning breeze was blowing and as we rode in our open jeeps we were imagining and creating visuals of what could be in store for us over the next couple of days.

Just as we entered the Tiger Reserve, our guide asked for the jeep to be stopped and said that a tiger is standing in the thickets watching us. Adrenaline got hold of me and goosebumps started showing up as I looked in the direction he was pointing at ( this kind of happens every time, no matter how many tigers you have seen in the wild 😀 )

I wasn’t able to spot the cat though. Then, my driver, who was Sunil, incidentally, said ’ It is standing right there, come on! , can’t you see…’. It took me a few seconds to focus and spot the animal which was so well hidden amidst the undergrowth. The tiger standing there was called Bajrang, they told me. What a majestic male it was!

Male tiger - Bajrang

The tiger observed us for a few seconds and started walking on, all the while grunting and growling. It got into a dense patch of tall grass and disappeared. We waited for it to reappear but nothing happened for quite a while. We then decided to head on. What an opening it was for us, couldn’t have been better!

As the day progressed, the heat started getting intense. This was to be expected at this time of the year and we were prepared. Despite that, the heat was getting tough to manage. That didn’t dent our excitement though nor was there a dearth in terms of sightings. Over the day, we saw a mother with her two sub-adult cubs, another male tiger who was too shy to show himself to us and a couple of other individuals who came down to the watering spots for a quick drink. Overall, was quite a fruitful day.

The following day was an early start as usual. This time we were heading into one of the buffer zones which was an area designated outside of the core of the Tiger Reserve adjoining the nearby human settlements. As we were driving along the main road towards the entry gate, our driver stopped the vehicle and called out saying that a tiger was sitting on a bund of a lake far across from the road we were on. I couldn’t believe what he was saying until I saw it for myself.

The majestic animal, which looked like a sub-adult had settled itself on the lake’s boundary and seemed to be enjoying the lovely early morning weather. The light was nice and smooth making the scene breathtaking. It was as if the tiger was sitting on his/her throne enjoying its dominion.

Tiger scape
Tiger scape

After this wonderful beginning, we entered the buffer zone and soon came by a smaller cat, the Jungle cat. This was no less a sighting in any way.

Post that, the sighting dried up. We stopped by a couple of watering spots but nothing materialised as such. We returned to our place of stay for a quick respite from the soaring heat.

Refreshed and fed well, we headed on our evening safari. This safari was turning out to be dry too as we just kept driving around with nothing much happening, no encouraging pugmarks, no alarm calls, nothing. As the safari was drawing to a close, we got to know that one of the jeeps had sighted a tiger lazying amidst a dense patch of grass. We were quite a distance away. As we started driving towards the spot where the sighting was happening, I wasn’t very hopeful. We landed there and to our surprise, the tiger was still there. Within a few seconds of our arrival, the animal woke up and started walking. It was a great scene with the tall grass and all.

This was Bajrang again, the tiger that we had encountered on our very first safari. He slowly walked up a hill and down it, stopped at a small puddle to have a drink and headed on into the deep of the jungle. Not a bad way to finish the day! That brought our Day-2 to a close.

Day-3 started as usual with an early rise. This was going to be our last safari and hopes were rising to sign off on a high! We entered the jungle and our guide started tracking the pug marks. A lot of discussions about which direction the movements were headed.

We were trying at various spots but with no luck. Just as the hopes started to dwindle, my better half called out tiger! tiger! There it was, a majestic male walking along on our left.

As it kept walking, it glanced at us at times. The rear lighting kind of helped make the scene look nice and dramatic.

The tiger headed on towards a hillock nearby and didn’t appear for quite a while. We decided to leave the spot and try elsewhere. We drove around and as we did, our guide mentioned that we had missed a leopard in the morning. It was supposedly sitting on a tree right above us at a place where we were stationed looking down at the pugmarks and deliberating on the direction in which the tiger could have gone. What a miss it was!!

Ruminating on this miss, we continued to drive around and all of a sudden happened upon a tiger sitting right on the track we were on. This was the same male which we had seen just a while back. He had returned and was having a breather, resting on the jeep track. We were elated, to say the least!

The tiger got up and started walking around all over the place, sometimes to the left, back onto the jeep track, then to the right and again back onto the jeep track. Our guide and driver were saying that the male probably has caught the scent of a female and is looking out for her.

In the process, the male gave some nice opportunities for making images.

After roaming around for a bit, he headed into the thickets and disappeared. We left the spot too and went on to have our breakfast, relishing and reliving the experience as we gorged on our food. As we had wished, we were finishing the trip on a high! That’s as good as it gets I would say!

All in all, it was an absolutely fabulous and satisfying experience. A summer jaunt which was well worth our time and effort.

Hope you enjoyed reading through :-)

Feel free to let me know your thoughts by dropping a comment below.

You can find the full gallery of my images from the outing here - Bandhavgarh-May-2023

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