Friday, July 20, 2018

Planning a Wildlife Tour

Planning a wildlife safari in India? Confused from where to start? Search engines are loaded with information about planning safaris, booking accommodation and transportation. But the real fight is getting a safari ticket. 

tiger safari India
Tourists on a tiger safari in India
Travel bloggers from all over the globe have been visiting and writing about Indian wildlife. Some call it adventure while others term it as an excursion. “Things to carry” and “What to do and what not” articles are readily available all over the web. But all this comes to help only when you’ve decided the destinations and your itinerary.

So first decide the destination according to your choice and interest.

Indian Golden Jackal at Kanha Tiger Reserve, India

This can be a tiring and confusing process as not every member travelling with you has the same interest. Some might look for birds and some might go after the big cats. It is beaches for some and mountains to the rest. India is a large nation with diverse destinations. So plan your travel according to your need, time and pocket. If you’re looking for Asiatic Lions go to Gir National Park in Gujarat, and if you’re interested in bird watching, Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary is the place for you.

Once you know what interests the group and have shortlisted the destinations you would like to explore, you can start the booking process accordingly. 

Tiger Cub
A tiger cub trying to make a kill.
Booking your hotel, transportation and safari rides can be taken care of by good destination management companies which follow the responsible eco-tourism policies. I would recommend  companies that are certified by TOFT (Travel Operators For Tigers) and follow the guidelines of responsible travel in India.

It does not end here. Stay and transportation is half job done, the purpose of the visit follows – The Jungle Safari!

A joy ride as it may seem, is only possible if you have the ticket to the roller-coaster. Safaris are booked well in advance and it is a first come, first serve process. Tiger reserves have several zones which are further divided by a number of entry gates. Each zone and gate has its positives and negatives. Some are good for tiger watching and some are birding paradise. While the topography of some many render you speechless. 

Tigress Bandhavgarh
Tigress at Bandhavgarh National Park, India
The safari tour company can make bookings for your wildlife game drive according to your interest zone. But what matters is the time. If you’re booking months before your travel, you might be able to get the best seats for yourself. This does not guarantee any sightings but sure gives an edge above the rest. 

My suggestions would be to ask the tour service provider to inquire the availability of the zones. They do this on a daily basis and are good at it. They have their team of naturalists and birding guides who are regular visitors to the parks and have deep knowledge about sighting of tigers and leopards. They even excel at birding in these areas and can help you find your targeted species. It is highly recommended for readers to engage one for their trip. 

Brahminy Shelduk
Brahminy Shelduck at Pench National Park, India
Take out some time and discuss your plan and your targeted checklist with your naturalist. Ask them more about the place. They might be able to help you add more to your list. Some of the local facts and findings which are not even on web articles are known to them. Their experience will surely come in handy.

The other half for a complete memorable experience is good sightings and great pictures you take back with you. 

Destination recommendation:

Asiatic Lions: Gir National Park, Gujarat.
Royal Bengal Tigers: Kanha and Bandhavgarh, Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra and Ranthambore ,Rajasthan.
Rhinoceros: Kaziranga National Park, Assam
Wild Ass: Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat.
Birds: Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan

Monday, July 2, 2018

What can you expect on a Tiger Safari in Bandhavgarh?

When it comes to tiger sighting, Bandhavgarh Reserve is the first choice of tourists coming to India.  Tiger spotting is fairly easy due to the high density of tigers found in the park. The land of Charger and B2 has never disappointed. The legend of Sita and Charger is not new to anyone. The couple raised several litters in their kingdom before Sita fell to a trap of poachers in 1998. The tigers we see today in Bandhavgarh are the bloodline of the royal couple.
Royal Bengal Tiger Bandhavgarh
Tiger in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, India

Today, the jungle holds a population of about 60 tigers in the tourism area. The area open to tourists is divided in 3 core zones viz. Tala, Magdhi and Khitauli. The buffer is further divided into 3 zones which are Pachpedi, Dhamokhar and Panpatha. The manmade barriers, gates and zones are no hindrance to a territorial cat like Tiger. Every zone and route is its territory.

The forest department of Madhya Pradesh takes care of safari bookings in Bandhavgarh. The vehicles are limited to 20 in each of the tourism zone. The department offers two safaris everyday viz. Morning and Evening. Open jeeps carrying a maximum of 6 guests enter the park in each round. The guests are accompanied by a driver and guide for help and guidance.

Tourist Bandhavgarh
Tourists waiting to see tiger in Bandhavgarh
The umbrella species which marks a healthy eco-system is the Royal Bengal Tiger. The continued presence of a predator is an indicator of a good prey base. Mammals like Spotted Deer (Cheetal), Swamp Deer (Sambar), Barking Deer or Muntjac, Bluebull (Nilgai) makes the prey base of Bandhavgarh. Tourists on safari drives come across several deer herds of hundreds.

The forest also has a good population of the elusive of all cats the leopard. They are for sure difficult to sight, but seeing in the wild is an experience of a lifetime. Even the safari naturalists and drivers are excited to spot the rosettes. No less than a tiger, leopards are masters of the ecosystem.

Primarily nocturnal, the Sloth Bears' often joins the party in broad daylight. They can be seen in the meadows carrying their young ones on their back. Game drive through the thickets also gives a chance to see Wild Boars. They fall under the prey category and are favorite food of the predators. A forest with tigers has the more to offer than one without.

Like any other national park in Central India, Bandhavgarh is a tropical moist deciduous forest with Sah tl as dominant species along with the mixed forests. It has a variety of trees, and vegetation changes with topography. The dominant of all Sal Shorea Robusta and Bamboo Dendrocalamus strictus covers a large chunk of the forest land. Trees like Flame of the Forest Butea Monosperma (Palash or Tesu in Hindi), Crocodile Bark Tree Terminalia Elliptica (Known as Saja or Saaj in Hindi), and Indian Ghost Tree Sterculia Urens (Called Kullu in Hindi) are fairly common. Visitors who have already been to a tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh are familiar with these names. Apart from large patches of Bamboo, the grasslands extended to the horizon are a treat to the eyes.

Vishnu Idol Bandhavgarh
Photograph of Vishnu idol in Bandhavgarh
A visit to Shesh-saiya which is nearly half way to the fort is highly recommended. A drive through the lush green valley in a four by four Maruti Gypsy is an experience in itself. What awaits on the other side is worth the an adventure drive.  A 32 feet reclining Vishnu idol resting amidst deep forest leaves the visitor enchanted.

The lifeline of Bandhavgarh - Charan Ganga, originates here and flows across the forest spreading water to every nook and corner of the park. Mother to several lakes, ponds, waterholes and wetlands in tiger territory there are around 12 manmade talabs (ponds) built on the tabletop mountain from which the river originates.

Visitors are not allowed beyond Sheyya Shaiya. Some attractions which are now closed for guests are Bandhavdheesh Temple, Kabir Temple and sightseeing spots like the Suicide point. A paradise for bird watchers, it is the breeding ground of the Malabar Pied Hornbills.

Haven to around 300 species of avifauna Bandhavgarh is a bird watchers treat. Birding can be done from the open vehicle while tracking tigers in the core. But tourists are not allowed to walk in the core. The meadows, grasslands and waterholes are very rich in avifauna. The forest is a hotspot if you are looking for the Blue-bearded Bee-eater.

A walk in the buffer area can get you some rare findings. Close to the village ponds, waders in

Oriental White-eye Bandhavgarh
Oriental White-eye found during a birding trip
good number arrive in the winters. Not only winter visitors, the jungle also shelters summer migrant species like Indian Pitta, Banded-bay Cuckoo and Eurasian Cuckoo. A widespread resident Mottled-wood Owl can be found near these water bodies.

The stories narrated by guides and drives are endless. Bandhavgarh awaits a new event to happen every day. Each safari is a beginning of a new episode, full of adventure and fun-filled experiences.
Come to India, Come to Bandhavgarh!  

View from Bandhavgarh fort
A view of the Jungle from the Bandhavgarh fort

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Spotted Cat - Leopard in Bandhavgarh!

I have seen and photographed many tigers. But finding a leopard in the wild is always special. Known to be very shy and elusive, leopards are masters in tricking anyone.

The jungle of Bandhavgarh holds a very high density of tigers. With so many tigers around leopards are even harder to sight. Though not many tourists and photographers choose Khitauli zone for their safari, I recommend it as the best zone in Bandhavgarh to see leopards. In my personal experience, I have always seen a leopard on my drives to Khitauli. I've come across a couple in courtship, cubs, males wandering around and all. 

The forest department in Bandhavgarh has closed nearly half of the area in Khitauli after the Apex Court ordered for limiting the tourist area. But Khitauli is still by far the best area, mostly unexplored and a birders paradise.

The leopard at Bandhavgarh
Marjatgarh, an area situated in the centre of Khitauli has a watch-tower from where you can have a bird’s eye-view of the jungle. We planned to visit marjatgarh, as there are some water bodies near the area which attract tigers and other animals. On our way to marjatgarh, all happened in a flash. Here we were right in front of a male leopard who was trying to cross the road. Stood right in front of our vehicle and then rushed towards the other end of the road. Before it vanished in the thick forest it turned around, posed and walked away. What a sight it was!

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Sunday, March 31, 2013

The New King!

As they say time never stops for anyone. Bamera took over his father’s dynasty in no time. He made his plans clear when he started visiting the grasslands of Tala. He has been known for aggressively expanding his empire’s frontiers. In 2010, Bamera came up front with his father B2. The father was badly wounded and had to step back. With the death of B2 in 2011, it was time for all to bow down to the new king in Bandhavgarh!
It is very hard for tiger cubs to survive till maturity. To get rid of the future rivals cubs lose their lives to males other than their own father. Some vanish in search of a safer haven and never return to their usual territory while some go missing forever. Poached or even killed in territorial mishaps.
Born to a very courageous mother Chakra, Bamera had to leave tala at a very young age in search of territory. B2 was in his prime and was not letting any tiger intrude, be it his own son. Bamera had to fight his way up the chain of command. It was B2’s own blood who could take on him and conquer him. With time he grew and was all set to win it from his father.

The ancestry of “Charger” and “B2” has now passed on to all together a new generation of tigers. Today the new king has taken over most of the region of Tala. The king has about 5 females in his kingdom. Bamera keeps exploring his dynasty, while keeping an eye out for his enemies and has built his empire strong and safe for his cubs to grow. 

Here are a few pictures I have clicked of Bamera.

Bamera near Siddhababa temple, Bandhavgarh National Park.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Leopard attack! Rescue Operation. Man Vs. Wild!

06.30 am, Khamaria woke up to fear and shock. A lady was attacked by a leopard in a residential colony in Khamria, Jabalpur. The incidence took place not more than 10 kms from the city. After the attack when the residents of the building got up and searched for the animal it ran and took shelter on a eucalyptus tree. The poor animal had no other option than to sit on the tree whole day. The mob that had gathered to see the leopard was very noisy and was disturbing the staff as well as the animal. On a few instances the leopard growled in anger and rushed down a few branches just to show its anger. The animal was stressed and had no way out. It was surrounded by thousands of people.

Thousands had gathered to see the leopard. It was very hard for the staff that had come to rescue the leopard to control the crowd of thousands and also rescue the leopard.

The trap was laid. But it was very hard for the officials to control the mob. Then it was decided to wait till it gets dark. The crowd could be cleared and they could go more easily with the operation. The safety of the people and the animal both were of prime importance to the team.

As per sources that were also present at the spot, the leopard got down 02.45 am and ran towards the forest. Though the poor leopard was lucky to escape, but the fear still remains! The natural habitat of the leopard was just a kilometer away from where it was spotted. This was not the first time when an animal had lost its way.This is another big example of man-animal conflict.

Leopard on the eucalyptus tree.

The poor animal could not do anything but just wait for the mob to clear.

The officials controlling the mob.

Watching the team get ready for the operation.

The trap!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Adios B2!

B2, a name that does not need any introduction. A name that will never fade with time. He will always be remembered as one of the friendliest tigers of India. A tiger who reigned for more than a decade in Bandhavgarh will always be missed by all wildlife lovers. It is not because he reigned for more than a decade but for the greatness of tiger himself. I waited hours and hours for 10 years to get a glimpse of him. But I consider myself more than lucky to have seen him and photograph him.

It was until April 2010 when B2 for the first time faced a rival who was able to push him back from his own kingdom. He was lucky to have survived as age was catching up and B2 was a soft target for all the males trying to establish their territories.
With time B2 realized that it was for his own good not to fight for territory and move. He moved to the outer parts of tala where there was no or very less competition. His own cubs (mirchehi) were too small to put a fight against him so as B2 decided this was the best place for him. After settling for a smaller territory near Damna, which is one of the most sensitive areas of Bandhavgarh B2 made regular cattle kills. The security of B2 was of prime importance to the forest department here. But he survived. Until one day when he was attacked by another male where B2 was seriously injured. B2 was again pushed back and was found 22 kms away from his regular territory.

With wounds all over his body, B2 wasn't able to move. B2 was tranquilized and was being shifted to his normal territory where on the way he took his last breath. The post-mortem report suggested that he had not eaten since 15 days and was very weak after the mishap. It is still not clear as to which tiger had a fight with B2. But it is the simplest rule of the wild “Survival of the fittest”. B2 will always be remembered as a ruler, a king, a true Maharaja of Bandhavgarh.

The hunting grounds of Bandhavgarh will never see him roam again! Here are few pictures I could manage to click of the Maharaja. The best way I can pay a tribute to my favorite tiger, who once ruled Bandhavgarh!!

B2 crossing the road near Damnar river. Photograph December 2010.

B2 near Badi Gufa. Photograph May 2010.

B2's pug. Photograph May 2011.

B2 resting under a tree on a summer afternoon. Photograph May 2011.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

B2.. The Maharaja!

B2, born to Mohini (Bachchi) in April 1997, was one of the 3 males born in the litter. With rivals like “Charger”, the then king of Bandhavgarh, and his own brother “B1”, the road to the top was not easy. But with the death of Charger in 2000, B2 started to take over the kingdom of Bandhavgarh from his nearest rival B1. B1 was reported to be poached somewhere around 2002. B2 was the new king.
B2 marched the jungle of Bandhavgarh like a maharaja now. His mere presence would send an alarm in the whole kingdom that the king was on the prowl. But the Rajbehra male (BOKHA) had different plans. He was the only tiger to have challenged B2 in Bandhavgarh and survived with his share. No other male could even dream of stepping in the maharaja’s kingdom. B2 still was the dominant male tiger with more than half of the kingdom under his belt.. Bokha, on the other hand was happy with what he got.
2009, B2 turned 12. With age catching up, B2 was an easy target. Kalua, one of the Mirchani cubs and his own son took on B2. But the wounds on the face and body of Kalua were a straight message.. DO NOT MESS WITH ME.. !!!! Bokha again tried to push B2 in 2009. With Bokha walking upto Chakradhara, again it was a challenge for B2. But this time B2 backed off. Bokha still visits the meadows of Chakradhara but on no occasion has any fight taken place. B2 still is the maharaja.. !!!!
Being one of the largest recorded male tiger in the country and undoubtedly the most photographed tiger of his times, B2 has ruled Bandhavgarh for a decade now. B2 lived fearlessly throughout the years until the NEW TALA MALE (BAMERA MALE) stepped in his father’s territory to start his own kingdom. He was in no hurry. He walked from the Bamera Range till the Tala range, but would never cross Siddhbaba. He was moving in with a plan in mind.
12th April 2010, Bandhavgarh: News of B2 injured in a territorial fight with Bamera male. B2’s got wounds in his paws and was seen limping in the Mirchani area. Every social networking website was full with the news of B2 being injured. “Prayers for B2” was the status message of millions of fans of B2. This was not the first time when B2 was injured but this surely was the first time when the MAHARAJA was BADLY INJURED.
I have so many wildlife lovers, photographers, journalist on my list. And everyone knows the primary law “Survival of the fittest”. But no one ever said so in the case of B2. Their love for B2 made them selfish. Nobody.. Nobody asked how the Bamera male was..?? Was he also injured.. ?? Had it been the other way round and the Bamera male would have been injured in the fight. It would not have gained so much publicity……
I myself love B2. I have waited for him for hours. I have never waited outside a girls’ school or a college for so long. But I have never seen B2 in my life. Never.. !!!! Came close many times but missed him by seconds.. I have been following him since the last 10 years now.. I have sighted almost all the males and females in the tourism zone. I have witnessed territorial fights, courtships, kills and all. But I could not manage even a glimpse of the Maharaja. Seen thousands of photographs of B2, but have never been able to click a single photograph of the maharaja.
I also wish B2 a long life. I pray that he recovers from his injuries soon. So that I may be able to see him and photograph him once in my life. That still remains a dream.. a dream…. !!!!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Habit - We still have it!

Planning a holiday to Kanha, Bandhavgarh or Pench National Park?  Drop your plans. Book your holiday at PANNA NATIONAL PARK because in sometime all the tigers of Madhya Pradesh will be sent to Panna. And it won’t be a bolt from the blue if we start re locating them from other states too. After all everything is doable in India !

Panna has a lot to offer. Two tigresses flown recently(though they are missing), A full grown male(Only seen, spotted and recorded by the hard working staff at Panna), and now two male tigers that are to be sent soon to Panna from Pench. Where do you get to see so much?

I am not against re locating tigers. But I feel sad when tigers go missing due to the inefficiency and laziness of the staff. For once when Panna lost all its tigers, they should have taken it as a warning and should have worked day and night to save them. After all what are they posted there for?

Panna has lost all its tigers in the last decade. And trans locating tigers has become a habit here in Madhya Pradesh it seems.

Is the forest staff trained and equipped just to re locate tigers from one reserve to another?
Are they not there to save them from intruders and poachers?
Is the government only spending money to send them from one place to another?
Is relocation some kind of a joke to the officials?

संता : साहब कहाँ जाने की तय्यारी है ? बंता : छुट्टियाँ है, सोचा कहीं घूम आये, तो पन्ना टाईगर रिजर्व घूमने जा रहे है. संता : क्या आप फॉरेस्ट डिपार्टमेंट में काम करते है ? बंता : नहीं.. संता : तो फिर न जाइये, क्यूकि टाईगर तो सिर्फ वहां सिर्फ और सिर्फ फॉरेस्ट वालो को ही दिखा करता है....

अरे ! अब तो संता को भी पता है की वहां टाईगर नहीं है ..

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Missing Stripes!

Friday, June 26th, 2009: Living in Jabalpur, which is surrounded by the most popular and famous tiger reserves in the country, I feel being far away from the magical stripes. Not more than a decade ago, tigers could be easily spotted on the way to the Dumna Airport, Jabalpur. But the development, construction and opening of numerous colleges here has led to the fading away of the stripes, and the animals are forced to a few square kilometer fenced jungle. The pakki sadak clearly tells the story of the diminishing pugmarks. Everyone here has a story to tell about the tiger, but no one has seen him since years. The King is gone………… Where?

When the news channels and newspapers reported that the last living male tiger in Panna has moved in to some nearby jungle in search of a soul mate, I had an intuition that there was no tiger left in Panna. Then came the relocation process, Tigresses from Bandhavgarh and Kanha were airlifted and trans located to Panna. They were radio collared and were followed for a few weeks. And since the last week, the radio collars are not answering. Both the tigresses of Panna are now missing. The Panna’s forest officials have been boasting about the Tiger number being 30, five years back. NOT EVEN A SINGLE TIGER IS PRESENT IN PANNA TODAY. The report sent to the Chief Minister of the State clearly confirms the inability of the staff at Panna. If we are to believe that forest people, then Panna has lost over 30 Tigers in the last five years. Panna has even lost the two BORROWED Tigresses. The sweep was the last alarm for Panna. Does it have any hope now?

This is not the story of only one park in our country. Everywhere it’s the same. A Tiger goes missing, the local forest officials report the matter and send their report about the missing tiger, the govt. constitutes a team for the investigation, Investigations are held, but none of the poachers are arrested or no staff is penalized or punished for the lazy behavior.

Stories about the Tigers being electrocuted, shot and even poisoned are very common these days. And that does not even make a difference to the general public today. We have our own lives and we are busy fighting for our own needs. Nobody cares for the national animal. The decline in the number is so swift that in and around the next decade we shall be forced to choose a new national animal for the country. Tiger would then appear in magazines, postcards, stamp, documentaries and pictures. We are killing ourselves……..

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Iski Topi Uske Sirr

Panna, One of the five Tiger Reserves in Madhya Pradesh, was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1994 is nestled in the Vidhya Hills of Bundelkhand region. Merely an hour away from one of the most favorite destination of foreign tourists, Khajuraho, Panna has just pugmarks to offer. Whatever may be the official figures, The State’s Chief Conservator of Forests, Mr. H.S. Pabla, could also not get a glimpse of the National Animal.
(As per the Hindustan Times, 21st Feb, 2009 “Two days after the state’s Chief Conservator of Forests, H.S. Pabla, was not able to sight a tiger in the 540 sq km reserve, he told HT on Saturday that he was not adverse to the idea of relocating even a tiger. "If required we will even relocate a tiger to Panna," he said.”)
After the success of trans-location of two tigresses from Bandhavgarh, Kanha/Pench to Panna have been called by the Field Director Panna Tiger Reserve.ting tigers in Sariska, now its Panna’s turn. Tender forms calling bidders for filming and photography rights of the But would it turn out to be a success in Madhya Pradesh? I personally don’t think that this would work in M.P. How can we trust the same staff which was present when all the wild cats in Panna disappeared?

Relocating tigers may be answer to the ever declining population of tigers in the reserves. But this situation could have been avoided only if the officials would have worked when Dr Radhu Chandawat first alarmed the officials about the missing tigers in Panna long time back.

Why do we have to relocate tigers, when we can Save them.
Were the Panna officials not aware of the poaching done inside the restricted area? If not, why are they posted there?
What were they doing after the first tiger went missing?
What happened to the Tigers that were in Panna in the last census?

Who will be held responsible if the new tigers that are being relocated are poached?
 What is the surety that illegal killing will not be done now?
For now, the relocation is to take place sometime in the last week of February. And all I can do is to pray that it turns out to be a success.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Some Good News!

Every now and then we come across news reporting poaching of tigers, Arrests of poachers and seizing skins and other body parts of the tiger. The census of 2007 made it very clear that poaching still is done on a large scale in the most protected forests of India.. This may be our last chance to save the last surviving Royal Bengal Tigers in our country. The final figures of the census should not only be taken seriously but as a WARNING.. !!!!

It is never too late to start.. The result of the census came as a shock to most in our country.. With only 1411(The figure of 2007) tigers left, It is high time when steps for tiger conservation be taken up more seriously..

I came across a news article from Reuters where the Indian conservationists say that its too late to "Save the Tiger" now. There is the video showing what different conservationists have to say about the last living tigers in India.. Click Here to See The Video..

But the tigers themselves have not lost hope. There has been growth in the tiger numbers in the last month. On May 16, A Tigress in Pench Tiger Reserve gave birth to four cubs. Five days later another tigress gave birth to three cubs. On May 25 another tigress in Pench had a litter of three. Two more tigresses are expected to have a  litter in the coming days. Official figures say that there are 22 cubs ( aged 15 days - 2 years old) in the park.. There are a few tigresses in Bandhavgarh National Park who are also expected to have a litter soon. The Banbie Female in Bandhavgarh gave birth to cubs a few days back. The Churbehra Queen is also expected soon. When tigers have not lost hope. Why should we?. Long Live the Tiger!

The Elephant Show has also been stopped in Pench Tiger Reserve to provide security to the cubs and their mothers.. The Elephants are being used for protecting tigers. Four camps have also been set up in the park. 30 Tiger Protection Force Personnel, 17 ex-servicemen and over 300 daily wagers are maintaining security of the reserve..

Nobody gets to live life backward. Look ahead, that is where your future lies. -- Ann Landers

Planning a Wildlife Tour

Planning a wildlife safari in India? Confused from where to start? Search engines are loaded with information about planning safaris, book...