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WILDLIFE

Cradled amidst the picturesque hills of Central India, Bandhavgarh is one of the best places in the country to see Royal Bengal tigers.

by Thea Gillingham

Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve has the highest tiger density of any of India's reserves and a sighting is almost guaranteed.

Getting close to Royal Bengal tigers in their natural habitat in India is a truly magical moment. When you first spot the faint image of yellow and black stripes through the early morning mist, hear movement through the tall sal trees and bamboo bushes, or see a tiger emerge from a waterhole, you’ll no doubt have goosebumps.

Introduction to Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

A path through Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve has a healthy population of approximately 80 tigers which roam the sal and bamboo forests in search of prey. The park is also home to other wildlife including leopard, sloth bear, gaur, sambar, chital, jungle cat and wild pig, plus 150 species of birds.

The reserve is spread over 1161 sq. km. area. Initially, an area of 105 sq. km. was declared as the Bandhavgarh National Park in 1968, however this was extended in 1982 with the inclusion of adjoining forest area.

Panpatha Wildlife Sanctuary was included as part of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in 1983, and in 1993 Bandhavgarh National Park, Panpatha Wildlife Sanctuary and a Buffer Zone Area of the park were declared as the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve.

An area of about 207 sq. km. has been designated as a tourism zone within the park, and this area has been further divided into three zones. Tala zone is the premium zone which means that visitors have to pay a double entry-ticket fee if they wish to enjoy a safari in this area. Tala zone is known for its excellent tiger sightings. Magadhi zone is the most popular zone with visitors and it is also good for tiger sightings, plus sambar and spotted deer are frequently spotted. Khitauli zone is good for birding, plus sloth bear and blue-bull sightings.

When to visit Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

Tiger cubs in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

Bandhavgarh is open from 16th October until 30th June. It is closed during the monsoon months from July to September.

When the park re-opens in October after the monsoon season, the forest vegetation is lush and green and the waterholes are full. October to January can be a lovely time to visit Bandhavgarh as temperatures tend to remain below 30°C and you can enjoy the greenery of the forests. However, you should bear in mind that from October to January the grass is longer and the vegetation in the forest is more dense which can make spotting tigers more challenging, although it can also make for more exciting safari drives.

Late January to March is the ideal time to visit the park as the temperatures are likely to remain below 25°C which makes for more comfortable safaris. During February and March the bright orange flowers of the ‘Flame of Forest’ tree (also called the Palash Tree) blossom, making the forest extremely beautiful and photogenic. The flowers attract a variety of birds, and sloth bears.

By March and into the first half of April Bandhavgarh becomes very hot, with temperatures exceeding 25°C. During the second half of April and until June, temperatures are extremely high (between 30°C-40°C) and the sun is very strong, especially in the middle of the day.

The land becomes dustier, the forests have much less foliage and the waterholes dry up. If you can cope with the intense heat, the months of April to June are fantastic for wildlife sightings. The hot weather and lack of water means that animals tend to congregate around the remaining waterholes, which can make for excellent wildlife viewing opportunities.

You’ll have a greater chance of seeing tigers at this time as they are often seen cooling off in the waterholes and the thinning vegetation in the forests means that they’re more exposed. Tala zone is the best area to visit during these months with tiger sightings more likely.

If you’re interested in birdlife, October to December are the best months to visit. The forests in Bandhavgarh attract many migratory birds during these winter months, including birds of prey such as the steppe eagle, and a variety of wildfowl.

Accommodation

Luxury accommodation room in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

We generally use two wonderful properties within Bandhavgarh. For our ‘boutique’ option we use Kings Lodge, and for clients who have selected our ‘luxury’ option we use Tree House Hideaway. We can also book other properties in Bandhavgarh and our specialists will match you to the most suitable accommodation for your requirements and sense of style.

During December it can get very chilly in Bandhavgarh and the night time temperatures can drop to less than 5°C, so it is essential that you pack warm clothes and we would recommend that you check that your accommodation has heating before you book. In contrast, if you plan to visit from March to June we highly recommend that you choose accommodation with air conditioning.

During the festival months of November and December the park is very popular with domestic tourists as schools are on holiday, therefore if you wish to visit at this time we recommend booking well in advance to ensure availability at your preferred accommodation. Please note that the park is closed for the full day on Diwali.

Itinerary Ideas

If you’re keen to spot tigers in India we would recommend visiting two or more parks as this will increase your chances of seeing them, plus you’ll have the opportunity to experience a variety of wildlife and scenery. We recommend combining the national parks of Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Panna.

On our Wild India, The Land of the Tiger tailor-made holiday you’ll visit the magnificent palaces and temples of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, before enjoying jeep safaris in Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Panna National Parks which are teeming with rare wildlife.

Please note that this itinerary is just an example of a holiday which we can arrange and it can be tailored to suit your personal preference. When we create your personal itinerary we will ensure that we maximise your safari time in each of the parks to ensure that you have the best possible chances of spotting the extraordinary wildlife, including the elusive Royal Bengal tiger.

If you’d like to plan a wildlife holiday to India, call our Luxury Travel Specialists on 0203 143 4293 or send an online enquiry to start your journey.

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