Bandhavgarh National Park is one forest that wildlife enthusiasts often look forward to when it comes to seeing and photographing Tigers in the wild. Spreading over an area of 450 sq. kilometers, this pristine deciduous forest is home to a good number of Bengal Tigers and its population density is one of the highest known in India. Apart from Tigers the forest also houses a variety of other mammalian species such as Sambar, Nilgai, Barking Deer, Indian Leopard, Jackals, Dholes, Striped Hyenas, Gaurs and also a variety of bird and reptile species.
This was my first trip to Bandhavgarh and it undoubtedly was an amazing one!
The 4 days trip was organised by Nature’s Trail, a kolkata based wildlife photography tour company, and our stay was at Nature Heritage Resort, a beautiful and serene resort with a perfect blend of the jungle right inside the property itself. The hospitality and service of the staff was excellent, and the food was absolutely brilliant!
We went for a total of 5 safaris and were able to see and photograph quite a good number of wildlife.
Interestingly this was the first time that I saw Vultures. These birds were once quite common in India, even in urban locations. But due to the widespread use of Diclofenac in veterinary medicine, there has been a major collapse in their population in recent years.
Among this group of Griffon vultures, we also saw a few Red-Headed Vultures.
It was back in 2008 when I went to Corbett National Park with my family and that was my first ever visit to a Tiger reserve. We got to see a number of species but unfortunately I wasn’t lucky enough to see a Tiger. Since then I visited about 3 Tiger reserves but still no luck for a Tiger, the recent one was Sunderbans where we missed a sighting just by a couple of minutes.
Our first morning safari at Bandhavgarh (in Khitauli zone) gave us only a few common species but, I still had a hope that we might get to see a Tiger in one of the remaining four safaris.
Next up was an evening safari at Tala zone. Initially we were quite optimistic about this zone as it is often known as the best zone for tiger sightings in Bandhavgarh. The duration of the evening safaris are just 2 hours and we had spent more than an hour without a trace of a tiger. I now started to feel that bad luck had crept in already. The safari was almost over for that day and we were heading towards the gate. There was a short bend ahead on the road and just as we took the turn we noticed 4-5 jeeps ahead, from which one of the guides signaled our driver to stop and our guide quickly whispered “bhaiyya tiger hain!” (there’s a tiger ahead). Trust me, those three words were one of the best things that I’ve ever heard 😀
My long time wish to photograph a tiger in the wild was finally true! We were blessed with the sighting of a phenomenally beautiful Tigress called “Spotty” or “Spot-T”. She is one of the first litter of the Tigress called “Sukhi Patiha” and also the sister of another young Tigress called “Dotty Krishna”.
As soon as we saw her in the bushes, I quickly took a couple of burst shots thinking that the sighting would just be for a few seconds and she would disappear into the thickets.
But, to my utter surprise, she came out of the bushes and started walking right through the middle of the road! Our driver kept on moving back and she continued walking straight towards us, giving us a perfect opportunity for head-on shots.
The entire sighting lasted for around 10 minutes with an extra few seconds of eye contact at the end! Absolute love at first sight, this undoubtedly will be one of my most memorable moments in life.
This was the only Tiger sighting that we had throughout the trip. Our last safari was at Magdhi zone where we missed a sighting of a young male tiger by just a few minutes.
All in all it was a very successful trip, came back with lots of images and my first Tiger sighting made it extremely special!