From Kolkata to Bandhavgarh in 5days
How to reach there
There is good transport system from all over India to Bandhavgarh, this includes rail, road and air as well. For the people coming from Delhi, there is a direct train(Utkal Express) which gets you to the nearest railway station, Umaria(30km from Tala, the main forest gate of Bandhavgarh) early in the morning. The journey is 19 hours. There is good Bus transport from Umaria to Tala, taking about 1hr 30mins, the road is not in a very good condition and they do not usually take care of it. The reason behind is if roads are smooth, the vehicle will not obey the speed limit which is 20kms per hr, and some animals might be crossed over accidentally. Jeeps/autos are also available from the station. There are also other connections available from various parts of the country to Satna, which is 120 kilometers away, Jabalpur(164km) and Katni(92km). If you are coming from Kolkata, the best option is go by train(Mumbai mail via Nagpur and via Patna/Upasana Express) to Katni, and take a jeep to Tala. You can also first visit Jabalpur, reach there by the same train, stay at Bedhaghat, MPTourism's Motel Marble rock is the best option for night stay there. Take a boatride on narmada river through the famous marble rocks. Next day early morning start for bandhavgarh. You can also go by train from Jabalpur to Umaria. The same train Utkal Express that reaches Umaria in the noon, take a jeep/auto to Tala, take lunch, some rest and go for the first forest trip in the afternoon.
The nearest airports are Khajuraho (237km) and Jabalpur (164 km). There are regular bus connections available from both these cities other than the Jeep rides. The park entrance and accommodations all are located at Tala.
If the resort you are staying at is informed of your arrival, they surely arrange for a pick from station. There is also a helicopter transfer facility from Nagpur to Bandhavgarh and the charges are approximately US$200 per passenger.
Entry to the park
Park entry times vary according to season, depending mainly on the time of sunrise and sunset. You can visit with your own vehicle, which must be a 4-wheel petrol vehicle. It is mandatory to take along an authorized guide. Another option is to take an authorised 4-wheel drives run by the locals, which are available from the hotels and rest houses. The third is an elephant ride, available only in the morning. These should be booked in advance to avoid disappointments.
Early morning jeep rides are excellent opportunities for tiger spotting. The elephant rides in most parks of Madhya Pradesh differ from those of the rest of the country. There are two distinct types of rides possible. The first is the same procedure as is followed across the rest of the country. You pay for a ride into the forest and all wildlife spotting is dependent on the tracking skills of the mahout and obviously your luck. The second, and slightly controvercial method, is what are called "Tiger Shows". For these shows, the mahouts head out in the wee hours of the morning and track down a tiger. Once the tiger settles down in a spot, all visitors are taken for short rides from the nearest point on a jungle track. This, although it ensures that almost all visitors to the park go back with happy memories of a "sighting", is never as exciting as a sudden glimpse of the tiger. Fortunately or unfortunately, now a days in the park the elephant rides are meant to be for the tiger shows only.
The best time to visit
The climatic changes in Bandhavgarh varies to the extremes. In winters, it goes down as low as 0-2 degrees, in the early morning safaris the biting cold will chill you. In the summar the temperature rises as high as 42degrees centigrades.
The best time to visit the park, keeping all aspects in mind, is between December and February but it is the warmer months of April, May and June that are best for tiger and leopard sightings. During the summer months, most of the animals are seen around the few precious water bodies not yet vapourised by the intense heat.
Earlier, those interested in seeing the gaur (Indian Bison) used to plan their trips in March/April, when these animals move down from the hills. The gaur used to move across the southern regions of the park, before reaching the grasslands of the central area for grazing. However, it has now been some years since the awesome sight of a huge Gaur has been witnessed by anyone at Bandhavgarh. The park is closed during the monsoon season, which also coincides with the breeding season, from June till November. Another reason for closure during this season is the torrential rainfall washing away most of the jungle tracks.
There are four zones or entrances to the forest of Bandhavgarh, namely,
Tala zone is the best for spotting a tiger, you will have better chance to photograph wild animals in this zone, as they r more used to with cars and humans but if you find a tiger in the other 3 zones, you can have a better and prolonged sighting, as there is only a few car, no disturbance for the tiger. A big problem is the last three zones has less number of chitals, in a whole morning I heard alarm only once, so locating a tiger is very difficult there. The guides mainly track a tiger by the alarm calls chitals make when they find a tiger.
I suggest 1 morning trip to magdhi and others in tala. Also for magdhi you hav to cross distance, it is located few kms from the Tala gate. So starting early in the morning is always suggested.
Now the charges, for foreigners is 2180/- per trip for forest entry, for Indians the entry fees are 680/-, the car hire is 1000 for tala zone, and 1500 for remaining three zones. These entry fees are however for 6 persons in a jeep. That is if there is a single person in a jeep you have to pay the amount same as there are 6persons in the jeep.
The fees include the camera fees, guide charges everything.
Elephant rides can be booked at your resort or at the office personally. Advance bookings are advised.
When "Tiger Shows" are being conducted during the mornings, the rates vary from year to year. During the above mentioned time the rates were Rs. 60/- per trip which lasted approximately 5 minutes. Not too high a price to pay however for a definite tiger sighting!
Bandhavgarh has got a huge variety of wildlife - both animals and birds. There are tigers, the main attraction of the forest, leopards, gaur (Indian Bison-although some say this is no longer seen), chital (spotted deer), Sambar deer, Barking deers(quite rare, but I manage to find and photograph one), Dholes, nilgais, wild boars, chinkaras, sloth bears, rhesus macaques, black faced langurs, jungle cats, hyenas(very rare), porcupines, jackals, foxes, chausinghas and ratels, among others. It is the density of it's big cat population that has made Bandhavgarh really famous across the globe.
Among birds white browed fantails, steppe eagles, green pigeons, grey malabar hornbills, black and white malabar hornbills, blossom headed parakeets, parakeets, blue bearded bee eaters, green bee eaters, white bellied drongos, owls, Jerdon's and gold fronted leaf birds, minivets, woodshrikes, lovely paradise flycatchers and many varities of colorful kingfishers are present.
Around a hundred and fifty species already logged officially, Bandhavgarh can be truely said a bird lover's paradise.
The Bandhavgarh park is a jungle of sal trees. It is only in the slightly higher reaches that it changes to a more mixed vegetation of sali, saj, saja, dhobin etc. In the northern region of the park, there are vast stretches of grasslands and bamboo forests, the main resting places for tigers.
At Bandhavgarh, there are accommodation facilities to suit almost all budgets. Ranging from lavish hotels and luxury camps to budget hotels to rooms let out by locals - all can be found at Tala. The quality of hotels and the facilities provided by them are of a generally good standard. Some of the camps offer tented accommodation with excellent facilities.
All in all, accommodation facilities are not a problem at Bandhavgarh but to avoid possible disappointments, always book in advance before reaching there.
The following is a list of resorts at Tala. All are within a ten minute walk from the park's entrance:
White Tiger Forest Lodge
Bandhavgarh Jungle Camp
Royal Tiger Resort
Bandhavgarh Jungle Lodge
Maharaja Royal Retreat
Nature Heritage (Agra Lodge)
Tiger Trail (Bombay Lodge)
Allahabad Lodge (Jungle Huts)
Getting bottled water is not a problem. All the resorts are well stocked and it is easily available at even the small shops. However ensure that you check the bottle seal before buying one.
During winters, go well prepared with a warm jacket and if possible a pair of light woolen gloves. The winds during the early morning rides can get extremely chilly. For summer, extremely light clothes and sun shades. For those with sensitive skin, a sun screen lotion is advisable too.
Almost all the resorts at Tala has a small shop where you can buy various memntos. Beside those shops there is a shop at the main entrance to the park. This shop sells all kinds of stuff from T-shirts to key chains, from mouse pad to ashtrays, all consisting a symbol of tiger or forest. Also available at this shop are interesting maps and books dealing with wildlife of the park. There are also mounted pictures of tigers photographed at the park.
A detailed list of all the rules and regulations in the park can be found at the park office near the entrance. However, some of the main ones to keep in mind before entering are:
1. Carrying of firearms of any kind is not permitted within the park
2. Walking or trekking within the park is strictly prohibitted
3. Driving outside of the specified timings is illegal and attracts heavy penalties
4. Littering of any kind within the park also attracts heavy penalties
5. Smoking is not permitted within the park
6. Playing of transistors or recorders within the park is strictly prohibitted
7. Vehicles are not under any circumstances to be driven off the designated tracks
8. Blowing of horns is strictly prohibited
9. Driving above the specified speed limit attracts heavy penalties
10. Talking is to be kept to the bare minimum and shouting is totally prohibited
11. Chucking stones or disturbing the birds and animals in any way is prohibited
12. It is advisable to wear clothes of earthy colours when inside (browns and greens)
13. All visitors to the park are governed by the Wildlife Protection Act
14. Travel within the park is at the visitor's own risk and the authorities are not responsible for any damages caused, if any.
For those interested in photography, take along as many film rolls as you can because the number of photo opportunities this park offers is enumerable. Remember to arrange the film before hand as you just might have to make the long trip to Umaria if you do not do so. Enjoy your stay at Bandhavgarh.
A short tour in the land of tiger from Kolkata
Day1: Train(both the trains Upasana express and Mumbai mail departs from Howrah in the evening, so you can take this as )
Day2: Reach Katni in the afternoon and go to the resort(my preference, White Tiger Forest Lodge, the forest jeep driver Yadavji is very good)
Day3: Early morning forest trip->return to resort and take lunch, after some rest the afternoon forest trip
Day4: Early morning forest trip-> Katni railway station
Day5: Reach Kolkata in the noon.
Since Day1 you will start in the evening and Day5 you reach kolkata in the noon, you can well think of the tour as 4.5 days journey. If you get time, you can alter the tour and add bedhaghat, the boatride thorugh the marble rock is fabulous.
Hey thanx yaar for the info.