Bandhavgarh National Park is best known for tiger sightings. Being a small national park with a fair number of tigers, tiger sightings here are almost guaranteed. In fact, we were told that you have to be lacking in luck to not see the tiger here. As luck would have it, Tigers decided to give us a miss for all the three safaris that we took in the Magadi and Tala Zone. Some fellow-travelers did see the tiger. Confirming that it was indeed a matter of destiny for those who missed. What happens when you miss the most coveted catch of the jungle? You start observing the rest of the jungle and its eco-system. This is exactly what happened to us. We saw the Bandhavgarh national park in all its diversity.
Bandhavgarh National Park beyond Tigers
Sal trees with their fresh green leaves dominated the jungles of Bandhavgarh National Park. Followed by the bunches of Bamboo trees. Sandy earth from which these trees come out, remind of the times when this place might have been a part of an ocean. That left its mark on this land with its sand. An intriguing part of these jungles is the Lyna Vine – which is a vine that grows on Sal trees by wrapping itself around the tree. The irony is that it is a parasitic vine and eats the very tree that it grows on. Once the tree that it grows on dies, it obviously dies itself. At a philosophical level, is this not how many people behave in life. They cut the very trees that sustain them, only to realize that they have no identity without this tree.
Our guide showed us many medicinal plants in the jungle that are used by the local tribal populations. Who has been residing in these jungles since time immemorial? For example Anti-Malaria plant like Chloroxylon Swietania, locally known as Bhira.
Saja tree is an ash grey colored tree with a skin pattern resembling that of crocodile skin. This is a tree that is worshiped by the locals as a representative of Shiva for this tree also resembles his ash smeared skin. They never cut this tree for any purpose and would bow down to it as and when they pass through it. There were Jamun trees at places leaving the dirty paths pink and purple with their juice.
Birds at Bandhavgarh
Birds flying in their natural habitat became the favorite catch for my camera. Pitta and Indian Roller flew around flaunting their colors as they flew. Indian Pitta looks lovely in its bright yet somber colors when it is sitting. But is a riot of colors when it flies – especially on its red back. No wonder is called Nauranga in Hindi or the Nine-colored. Indian Roller reveals its bright blue colors beneath its wings as it flies while the blue merges with its grey top while it is sitting on the branches. Woodpeckers and Orioles gave a tough time to my camera as if saying – enjoy us. And let others come to us and meet us rather than see us through your camera. Point taken.
Variety of Birds
Birds of prey like Oriental Honey Buzzard, Crested Serpent Eagle sat confidently on the tree branches oblivious to the tourist pointing their long lenses towards them. They were either flying high in search of prey or sitting quietly on the tree branches. I assume after having their fill of the day. Painted Storks sat in the distant, mostly in the meadows, with their eyes scanning the grasslands for a potential meal. Jungle Babblers camouflaged their dusty color but would get noticed with their constant movements. And for the fact, they always occupied the branches in bunches. Black and White Magpie played hide and seek with me and my camera and beat me hands down for I could not catch it.
Spotted doves had a quiet presence in these jungles. Black Ibis, Drongos, Cormorants and Lap wigs were also seen mostly in flight. Peacocks ready to shed their feathers ran around adding their brightness to the jungle.
A bear busy looking for its food entertained us for quite a few minutes. He was digging a small termite hill ferociously looking for termites to eat. It turned around a few times to dig the pit from various sides. While we clicked its video and pictures, but it showed us its face for a split second maybe. Wild boars made guest appearances here and there. Spotted deer dominated with their numbers – always found in big groups. As if being in the group would save them from the animals who feed on them. Sambar deer that is always referred to as the most stupid animal can be found in pairs moving around – with its alert ears.
Monkeys – common monkey, as well as the Hanuman Langurs, were found with their little ones clinging onto them or some of them hugging the trees. At one place we found a huge bunch of them drinking water from a pond, and then admiring their own reflection.
Video of Sloth Bear at Bandhavgarh National Park
Watch this video of the Sloth Bear I managed to capture at the national park.
Read about our Night Safari at Satpura National Park when we sighted a pair of sloth bears.
Butterflies & Insects
One particular tree that I choose to call Buzzing Tree with small white flowers was home to many butterflies and insects. We spent quite some time standing under this tree in two different safaris. And were amazed to see two different sets of insects and butterflies in the morning and evening.
3 Zones of Bandhavgarh National Park
The National Park is divided into 3 main tourist zones – Khatauli, Magadi & Tala. Tala is the premium zone followed by Magadi. Both these zones are located on either side of a giant rock hill also called the Bandhavgarh Fort. Even when they are adjacent, you can easily see the difference between the two zones. Tala is a much denser zone with thick trees, lovely landscapes compared to Magadi zone. I did 2 safaris in Magadi and one in Tala. I would definitely choose Tala over Magadi, although I was told the tiger sightings are much more in Magadi.
Giant Bread for the Elephant
A forest department elephant with a Mahout roams around looking for tigers and directs the jeep in the most probable directions to see them. Now near a well where a big snake was resting coiled inside the well. We found the feeding place of this elephant. Giant chapatis – each made from a kilo of flour were being cooked. They looked too small for the elephant. But we were told that each day elephant is given two such chapatis for breakfast and 8 for a later meal. And then he is free to graze in the jungle.
Here and there we found orchids sprouting from the tree trunks. At one place we found a man from Baiga tribe picking up the fallen stuff in the jungle. I assume as they did always, taking what the jungle offers gracefully.
It seems not finding the tiger turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We observed the jungle in all its diversity – of course, limited to birds and animals who decided to make an appearance on our path.
Recommend you to read following blog posts on National Parks of India on my Travel Blog.