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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

On a proposal from Maharaja Martand Singh ji of Rewa royalty, who was distressed by degradation of forests and unabated killing of wild animals which his princely state once controlled, protected and saved from destruction, the central government and Ministry of Environment and forests declared the forests around Bandhavgarh fort as a national park. Initially an area of 105 Sq. Km. was declared protected as a national park in 1965 and later this became the core area for Bandhavgarh Tiger reserve declared so for protection of one of the smartest predators - Tiger.

Situated in forest division of Umaria and Katni is one of the most popular of tiger reserves in India, Bandhavgarh National Park spread over an area of 694 km² today with buffer area of 437 km². The reserve derives its name after the highest hill Bandhavgarh (807 m) which is located in its centre. Mohan, the first white tiger cub caught alive by Maharaja Martand Singh ji was from these forests.

A chain of smaller hills, surround Bandhavgarh hill which is flat on the top and has a fort which is said to be having history of more than 5000 years. Chakradhara, Rajbahera, Sehra-Dadra, Bhitri bah, Kolua bah etc, are some low lying areas found in the valley formed by these hills. Rivers Johilla, Son and Umrar pass through or from the fringe area of the national park.

Bandhagarh National Park is famous for its rich historical past with Bandhavgarh fort being the foremost landmark. There are 39 caves in the surrounding hillocks and forest with the oldest one to be believed to be dating from the 1st century. These caves have embossed figures such as tigers, pigs, elephants and horsemen and many carry inscriptions in Brahmi script. The largest cave – Badi gufa, has nine small rooms and several pillars. The purpose of the caves still remain mystery. "Sheshshaiya" the statue of lord Vishnu in reclining pose is the biggest of all other statues of various incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

Flora and Fauna
The plains are mainly Sal & bamboo forest with many other species like Saja, Dhauda, Tendu, Arjun, Aonla, Palash, Salai, Bhirra, Khamer, Mango, Jamun, Bamboo, etc. Few rare species like insectivorous plants Drocera peltata and many having medicinal value are found in the Reserve.

This park has a large biodiversity and is well known for its high density of tiger population. Bandhavgarh forests have 22 species of mammals, more than 270 species of birds, 128 species of butterflies and number of insects, reptiles and other living beings.

Spotted deer, Sambar, Barking deer (Muntjac), Chausinga (Four-horned antelope), Nilgai, Leopard, wild dog (Dhole), Wolf, Hyena, Jackal, Wild boar, Sloth bear, Common Langur, etc. can be spotted here without much difficulty along with the striped cat – Tiger.

Bandhavgarh is best seen by Gypsy safari or Jungle walk. You can directly book your own safari permit through MPOnline portal or ask your Travel agent / accommodation provider to do the same for you. Jungle walks is a very good option and can be arranged by your accommodation provider.

Bird watching is an activity you should not miss if you want to spot the flying wonders. Bandhavgarh is one of the best places in Central India to spot birds. You can also plan visiting a tribal hamlet nearby or may be just relax in the peaceful environs.

How to reach:
Bandhavgarh is most easily reached by cab from Katni, Umaria or Jabalpur all of which have good railway connectivity. Jabalpur also has an airport connecting from Mumbai and Delhi.

Where to stay:
Bandhavgarh has well developed tourist infrastructure and you will find resorts and hotels as per your need and tariff. I will suggest Mahua Kothi by Taj, Tiger garh, The Wildflower resort and Nature heritage.

Suggested itinerary:

Day 1: Reach Bandahvgarh, Check in, have lunch and take a jungle walk in the evening.

Day 2: Take 2 safaris one in morning and one at noon.

Day 3: Visit a tribal hamlet in the morning. Have your breakfast and leave for your next destination.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Wildlife in Central India – There is much more than the Big Cat

Planning a safari to Central India to see the majestic striped cat – Tiger is a great idea but do look beyond Tigers. Central Indian forests are wildlife lover’s paradise with 22 mammalian, more than 250 bird, 120 butterfly species and number of plants, trees, reptiles, etc. Mostly we plan our trip to spot the most famous big cat – Tiger and forget the others although all are important and integral part of the biodiversity and eco-system.
When going to Madhya Pradesh you can visit any one or two of Tiger reserves be it Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench, Panna or Satpuda. I personally suggest Kanha and Satpuda if you actually want to enjoy the natural heritage of Central India. At Kanha you stand a very good chance of spotting the striped cat along with the lesser known denizens of the forest. At Satpuda you may enjoy the bird life and take some walks in the wilderness. Kanha is also famous for Hard ground Barasingha (Swamp deer) so called because this particular species has adopted to the central plains instead of swamps where its brethren live.
Do ask your travel agent or hotel where you are staying to arrange a couple of jungle walks along with jeep safaris. Jungle walks are the best and most sustainable way of enjoying and understanding any wilderness area. If possible also plan a visit to local tribal hamlets to see their culture and simple way of living.
So, just do not stop at the Tiger, look beyond……..