BANDHAVGARH NATIONAL PARK
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Within the park : Bandhavgarh is justifiably famous for its tigers, but it has a wide range of other game . The undergrowth is not as dense as in some northern terai forests, but the best time to see the park's inhabitants is still the summer months when water becomes more scarce and the undergrowth dies back. The most effective way to search for tigers is on elephant back. It's advisable to book your elephant in advance and to wear plenty of warm clothing if going for an early morning ride in winter. The mahouts are kept well-informed of the whereabouts of the nearest tigers but will generally only go for comparatively short trips into the jungle on the north side of the main viewing area. There are several good weather roads in the park .
Jeeps are definitely recommended over other vehicles and can be hired from the White Tiger Lodge or the Bandhavgarh Jungle Camp. It's also advisable to take a guide. The Bandhavgarh Jungle Camp provides an excellent service of good, English speaking guides, who are also available from the White Tiger Lodge. A forest guard must accompany all visitors into the park. Entry into the park is allowed only during daylight hours. For both elephant and jeep rides the hours immediately after dawn and before sunset are best. There are two types of monkey common in the park - the rhesus macaque and the black faced langur. Drives can also reveal jungle cats, hyenas, porcupines, ratels and a variety of other mammals. At least one small pack of wild dogs inhabits the central area of the park.
As the park is relatively new, there is still a good chance of adding birds to the checklist of some 150 species already compiled . Bandhavgarh attracts many migratory birds in the winter months, including birds of prey like the steppe eagle and a variety of wildfowl. Very attractive and less common birds can be seen - for example the blue bearded bee eater, the white- bellied drongo, Tickell's blue flycatcher, the white-browed fantail, both the gold fronted and Jerdon's leaf birds, minivets and wood shrikes. Any large fruiting tree generally reveals a population of green pigeons and some of the noisiest residents blossom headed parakeets. Gray and less often, the magnificent black and white Malabar hornbills , fly across. On roads through the sal forests it's worth looking out for the large racket-tailed drongo and the dipping plumes of the paradise flycatcher.
As you follow the path southwards, the most remarkable sights are the 10th century rock images of the incarnations of Vishnu. A statue of Narasimha (half-man half-lion) towers almost 22 ft above the grass. There is a carving of Barah Bhagwan (the boar incarnation), and a small temple enshrining a large image of Vishnu in his fish avatar. The tortoise incarnation stands unenclosed and flanked by later carvings of Ganesh , the elephant god, and other deities. The charm of this walk lies in discovering these monuments in the jungle , unspoiled and unexploited. Some of the statues lie off the main path and so it is best to take a guide. Apart from the avatars, well worth seeing are three small temples of around the 12th century. These temples are deserted but the fort is still used as a place of worship . Kabir Das , the celebrated 16th century saint, once lived and preached here.
This national park is 197 km northeast of Jabalpur in the Vindhyan mountain range. It's not part of project Tiger but tigers are occasionally seen here, more frequently late in the season. There are 25 tigers in the 'core' area of 105 sq. km but a buffer zone of 343 sq. km has recently been added , along with another 25 tigers. Bandhavgarh's setting is impressive. It's named after the ancient fort built on some 800 meter high cliffs. There's a temple at the fort which can be visited by jeep and below it are numerous rock-cut cave shrines. The core area of the park is fairly small with a fragile ecology but it supports such animals as nilgai, wild boar, jackal , gaur, sambar and porcupine as well as many species of birds . The ramparts of the fort provide a home for vultures, blue rock thrushes and crag martins. Like Kanha , the park is closed for the middle part of the day , and completely from 1 July to 31 October. There's a small entry fee, and jeeps and guides can be hired. There's a small range of accommodation just outside the park gate in the village of Tala, where there are also several cheap places to eat. The cheapest accommodation is at the ornate looking Tiger Lodge . The hotel Baghela looks better and is worth checking out, if it's open. The nature resort might be fun- it advertises ' lunch time games for everyone' . MP Tourism's white Tiger Forest lodge is a good place, overlooking the river where the elephants bathe. The food is good and the waiters and manager all very friendly. Advance booking is advisable, phone the lodge directly if you're booking less than five days in advance. You can also stay in the former palace of the Mahareja of Rewa here, the Bandhavgarh Jungle Camp. It's an expensive place , includes all food and visits to the park,. The address for bookings is 1/1 Rani Jhansi Rd, Delhi 110055 (Tel (011) - 52-3057).
Umaria, on the Katni to Bilaspur railway line, is the nearest railhead, 32 km away.
Local buses are available from there to Tala. From Satna there's morning bus to Tala which takes around four hours via Amarpatam .
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