Saturday, June 10, 2017

Majestic Tigers of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh - Day III - Appointment with Tiger(s)

Day 3 - Final day - 01 June 2017
This was our day of taking a morning safari trip to best of 3 regions of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, the Tala region. The anticipation was written large on our faces (obviously of sightseeing Tigers) when we got up at 0420 to board safari gypsy which was to come at 0500 hrs.

Early Morning at Mogali Resort

Mogali's Jungle

The resort had provided us a cup of tea at 0445 as committed to us the previous day. As we had our tea the gypsy was there, dot on time. Since we were already ready with our cameras and binoculars, we boarded the vehicle and started for Tala gate.

Waiting in Anticipation  Tala gate

After verification of identity (by examination of Aadhar card) we waited for the gate to open. Gate opened at 0600 and we were in to a lush green beautiful forest bathing in soft morning Sundays and morning light chill. Chirping of birds all over the forest was a bonus.

Where are the Fish

What Colours?

Perfect Stillness

Two are a company

Keeping an Eye

Snow Capped Mountains at Tala? Just some clouds
As the vehicle progressed the lush green landscape gave way to hilly terrain and back to lush green plains. There was lot of bird activity but being early morning and lush green trees with thick canopy reduced the chance of sighting them.

I am Around - A Pug Mark

I am so Happy

How do I Look
In the mean time the driver got news of Tiger cub sighting at some place. Our gypsies immediately changed directions towards that area. Going there, it was a “wait n watch” time for us. There was a trainee elephant tracking that cub and we were tracking the elephant.

During waiting for the Cub we also found a Hornbill (hope I identified it correctly) sitting atop a leaf less tree. That got photographed to best of our ability in wildlife photography.

Under trainee Elephant

An Eagle


Should I fly away

Still Thinking

Horn Bill

Run, they are coming

Hush, Finally crossed safely

After a prolonged wait some of us saw motion of that cub at a long distance but that was all we could see. This was supposed to be a cub from a group of 3 young cubs of 12 month age and tigress mom.

Getting tired of the wait we decided to go to “central point”, a real central point to all four routes (each safari vehicle is allotted a specific route in the forest out of four routes, A, B, C and D). Another important point is, this is the only place where one can get down from the safari vehicle, go to toilet (both ladies and gents toilets are available) and have a cup of tea or have some thing to eat.

Don't have Any Doubts
Even before we are done with our cup of tea our driver got to know of sighting of another group of a tigress and her three cubs (about two years old but still dependent on their mom) in a place called Andhiyari Ziriya (a spring of that name). Some photos taken enroute are posted below.

View from the Center Point

A Beauty - Name unknown to me

That made us gulp our time and quickly mount the vehicle and rush. The driver and guide got busy looking for tigers. The warning calls of the monkeys were getting louder. After some time they sighted another elephant with some people on the back (how does one get this elephant ride at Bandhavgarh is a mystery to me despite many inquiries). And as they watched the elephant (who was possibly tracking the tiger) a tiger was also noticed moving towards the road where our Gypsies were standing.


Her Majesty 



What a view that was. The majestic Tiger (actually a tigress as we were to realize later) kept walking in proud steps and nonchalantly crossed the road right next to our vehicles and soon vanished in the jungle.

Our guide was very experienced one (as stated by our driver) who soon realised that this tiger will have to reappear around Andhiyari Ziria area. He guided the driver to that area.

At Andhiyari Ziria we were not alone. There were about six to seven gypsies who arrived almost with us (and we were told some impatient visitors saw the single cub and left the forest to return to their hotels, just few gypsies was a possible confirmation). Then the wait started.

The Omni present big elephant was seen in the area (how easy it was to sight Tigers atop an elephant, I wish I had one) but the wait was still on. We were rewarded for the wait. There was a tiger (rather tigress) walking through the Nullah that flew from the mountain to plain and passed through this point. The tigress was moving from downstream to upstream towards mountains taking her time and resting in the Nullah water to cool herself. We waited with breath held for her to progress towards us and then on to hills.

Here comes the  Queen of the Jungle

Walking on

Waiting for Some One?
We did not know then what lucky we had turned out to be until we saw another tiger (her cub number 1) following her. Then came the second cub and the third. We could not believe that we are seeing not one, not two but four Tigers walking in the Nullah as if attending a parade walking one after the other in a straight line.
Bonus Three

Wait, Where are you going?

Perfect Synch

Where is our Mom

What a magnificent sight it was. They paused in the Nullah for a while, rested on the ground for a while and continuing their journey towards the hills in a seniority order with their mom in the lead.

Let me Sit and Think

Its Too Hot in Tala

Slowly, steadily and majestically they walked over the ground parallel to Nullah (as our gypsies were on the bridge on the Nullah) to there destination, each one crossing the road behind our vehicle. A sight to behold and cherish for days to come. In all the sighing was for about 30 minutes of visual treat.

Leading the Pack

Time to March

Boys, Lets Go

Let Me follow my Mom

Tired of Bathing 

Commanding Steps

I don't bother about you all

Marcthing on to My Den

Bidding good bye to the tigress and her 3 cubs we reluctantly turned our vehicle out of that area. It was already about 1000 hrs. Crossing the territory of the forest, watching few more birds, spotted deers, Sambhar, Monkeys and wild boar we returned to the main gate at about 1045. It was a very enjoyable trip to Tala range of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve with a absolutely huge bonus of sighting four grand Royal Bengal Tigers.

It was then a return to Mogali Jungle Resort, lunch and the return trip to Jabalpur. This trip took us four hours including a stop over.

In the end of this narrative which I enjoyed putting together I can only say “guys and girls, just come out of your comfort zone and go and meet the Kings (and Queens) of the Jungle at Bandhavgarh. Only advice is, get online safari booking at forest@mponline and then tailor your plan of travel accordingly. Else you will have to endure a few hour's hardship पर safari for current booking as I did endure.

Lastly, there was a board at the exit of the range which said’ “Perhaps you may noy have seen me but please don't be disappointed, I have seen you” (see photo below). There lies the key to happiness when one visits the tiger reserve at Bandhavgarh or elsewhere. Happy Safaris.

PS - Some answers to questions one would like to ask.

Best time to visit a Tiger Reserve - from April to Start of the Monsoon when water shortage in the deep forest brings out all animals into open at few water points in the forest.

Among Pench, Kamha and bandhavgarh (My ratings)

Beauty  in descending order - Kanhs, Bandhavgarh, Pench
Chance of Tiger sighting  in Descending Order - Bandhavgarh (highest per capita tigers by area), Pench, Kanha (Ever green forest)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Majestic Tigers of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh - Day II - Maa Sharada Darshans and Safari Current Booking

Day 2 - 31 May 2017 - Warning - No Photos but blog contains important information about safari booking.

As we got up at 0600 without wake up call (actually a knock as this place being a jungle resort it does not have phones in the room or even a call bell) it was evident that we have not got the safari booking. That made us execute plan Maihar.

After quick bath (if it was appointment with Tiger, bath was optional but with plan to visit Devi Sharada temple bath became mandatory) and breakfast we left for Maihar visiting Barahi by 0900.

Trip to Maa Sharada Mandir at Maihar in Satan Dist of MP

Our route from Bandhavgarh took us through Khatauli village - Barahi - Mahanadi bridge and finally to Maihar where our car could go all the way up to rope way station (other option being climbing 1100 stairs to the temple). The roads were good and the trip took 2 hours. After reaching the rope way and buying Prasad and pooja items we took the cable car to the temple. This being a working day and not a Tuesday or Thursday or Friday there was little crowd.

We had very quick and smooth darshans of Devi Sharada. The devine Murti of Maa Sharada looked peaceful and benevolent. After darshans we spent some time in the temple complex and returned back by cable car.

We did not partake the Maha prasad at the temple "Annachatra" but for completeness sake of the blog I must mention that "Annachatra building" is across the road from the Cable car station and it runs for about 4 hrs in the morning (till about 1300). One can have the Mahaprasad (a full meal) for Rs 15 as indicated there. Another point to note is the temple is closed for darshans from 1300 to 1400 and so is cable car.

Our return trip started at 1300 hrs and we reached Mogali Resort at 1500 hrs. The total trip lasted for six hours, two to go, two for Darshans and two to come back.

Current Booking for Next Day Morning Safari

After lunch we were resting when at about 1700 hrs I got a call from a friend who was working on our safari booking for 01 Jun asking me to come to booking counter.  This was a must because of the changed process (to stop agents from booking the tickets) in which the Traveler has to come in person to the Booking Window to book next safari. We reached there at 1730 and relieved our friend who was holding number one position in the queue for booking the safari tickets, may be from 1500.

The time was 1730 when I got into the line but the position was being held from about 1500 hrs  for a booking which was to start at 1930 (later I realized that time was Indian Stretchable Time) . It is also important to give out as to how the system operates. Apart from the online booking at forest@mponline, which is the best thing to do, forest department gives four gypsy safari booking as current booking. The first person in the queue gets Gipsy safari in Tala zone, next person in Maghadi zone, third person in Khatauli zone and forth at Tala again.

What does Forest Department do with the vacancies created due to cancelled online booking is a mystery as they cancel online wait listed tickets seven days before safari dates (mine was cancelled too) so it obviously is not given to wait listed tourists nor at the current booking counter.

They also gives current booking for next day "MP Tourism Safari Truck" with a capacity of 18 passengers on per person basis for Magadhi and Khatauli zone (Tala geography makes this vehicle unsuitable for that zone) where getting seats has very high probability. If one does not get Jeep safari he / she can switch to Canter safari (that is what it is called).

Coming back to booking part, I got into queue at 1730 at number 1 position (which my friend was holding for me since afternoon) and was sure I will get a safari for Tala ( the best zone, second best is Maghadi and third is Khatauli) zone. The queue was not long though but if one has to get in the queue at 1500 for 1930 counter opening, it is painful.

The counter was to open at 1930. One person of forest dept landed up as if doing a great favour to tourists at 1950 and opened the counter. That did not mean booking stated at 1950. When asked, he said booking can start only after madam (some one else from their hierarchy) comes. That illusive madam arrived at 2005 with neither any regard for the fact that she has been 35 minutes late and that too when ticket seekers are queued up from 1500 or so, nor she had any remorse about coming late.

The booking still did not start because this lady was confused and wanted to wait for some other saheb to come. However when confronted about she being late by 40 minutes, she started the process.

I call it process because she just wrote serial no and zone on the booking form. Then I had to go to Gipsy operators union, pay the fees (Rs 2200) for Gypsy and get the Gipsy booking. After that one has to go back to the counter, pay the safari fee and guide fee and then your final booking gets done.

Having won this major battle of Waterloo I returned to resort at 2030. It was then the usual process till sleep time. 

Majestic Tigers of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh - Day I

Day 1 - 30 May 2017

Leaving Jabalpur at 0730 and with one stop at Shahpur at 0930 for some eats we reached Mogali Resort at Bandhavgarh by 1100. The route that we took was Jabalpur - Shahpur - Umaria - Bandhavgarh using state highway. The road was one and half lane either side and road surface was very good.

Mogali Resort is deep into wild after Bandhavgarh village and a beautiful place. This place has a total 31 rooms of various types. We were booked in ac cottages. Cottages were clean, modern yet rustic. Surroundings are beautiful with plenty of trees n shrubs. It also has simmering blue pool too.
As One enters the Mogali Jungle Resort

Lotus Pond

Perfect Geometry - Lotus

Reception and Dinning Area


Swimming Pool

The only safari that we had confirmed booking was to start at 1530 and it was in Khatauli zone. We had lunch which was tasty and homely (not too much of oil and condiments). Post lunch we started at 1515 from Mogali Resort and reached Ticket counter for ticket verification. Post that we reached the gate of the zone and the safari started at 1600

Khatauli is a Sal forest but as one gets deeper Sal trees reduce and  Bambu plants get added to make the Jungle thick. There is usual wild life of spotted deer, few odd bison, wild boar, etc. This area though was not teaming with wildlife unlike Pench or Kanha sanctuaries that we had visited earlier.

This is what Lush Green means

Sal Tree

Feed Time

So Cute

Two Deer and Two Body Guards (Storks?)


Majestic Pose of a Male Spotted Deer

Happy Days when Tiger is not Around

Merryment - A Sambhar also joins

Reacting to the (Warning ) Call of The Jangle - False Hope

King Vulture

Oil on Canvas - At least the Looks of it

God's Fan

Happiness Unbound

"Jangle Me Mor Nacha, Hamne Dekha"

Lone Bison

As we started the trip, weather was very hot and humid. As the time passed, it started drizzling which soon turned in to rain and drenched us fully. Rains brought down temperatures and also brought down our chances of sightseeing the Tigers as cooler temperatures would reduce the need for Tigers to come out.

While we enjoyed the trip through the Jungle in differing weather and enjoyed the trip, we did not see any tiger. At around 1830 we started our return trip and left the Khatauli range by 1900 and returned to Mogali Jungle Resort.

In order to get safari booking for tomorrow ie 31 May we gave some money to resort staff. They told us that incase safari is booked they will give us wakeup call tomorrow by 0500.  As a hedging strategy, we decided to visit Devi Sharada temple, a famous shakti peeth at Maihar in Satna dist of MP tomorrow in case the booking does not materialize. Else if we get the booking we would go to Maihar the day after tomorrow.

With usual ritual of dinner etc, we would up the day.