Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve
Coordinates: 23.6994° N, 80.9619° E
Location: Umaria District in Madhya Pradesh.
Cradled among the Vindhya Ranges in MP, Bandhavgarh is tiger heaven and a paradise on Earth. The reserve was the favorite hunting ground of erstwhile Maharajahs of Rewa. The white tiger was found in the nearby forests of Sidhi which brought fame to this region. This little reserve is bustling with tigers in its wilderness.
The park is a major conservation center under the aegis of the Project Tiger Program. There are more than forty big cats in the picturesque preserve. Breeding is highly successful with many cubs born every year. Steps are being taken to conserve the Indian bison here which had become locally extinct due to diseases transmitted by local livestock.
(During the year 2015, 50 bison were successfully trans-located from Kanha National Park. They were kept in a large pen for some months and then released into the wild. As of now, they are breeding successfully and the population has grown to eighty. They have now spread to areas frequented by bison before extinction at BTR.)
The park is named after the highest hillock that rises to 810 meters. Ancient Fort and reclining Vishnu are the highlights of the hillock. Many zoomorphic statues lie scattered all along the hillside. A popular Laxman Temple resides at one end of the hill overlooking the reserve. The Fort was gifted by Lord Rama to his brother hence the name. The reserve is full of man-made caves, stables, ancient temples, and pools. There are the architectural ruins of structures built by the dynasties that came to rule over the Fort.
Bandhavgarh National Park is small compared to Kanha but offers the best opportunity to see the tiger in the wild. The park has an area of 1516 plus sq. km under the project tiger, the core zone is approximately 710 sq. km the rest is a buffer.
Adjacent to the park is the Panpatha Wildlife Sanctuary which is equally rich in biodiversity and is also a good habitat. Panpantha WLS is now a part of this wildlife refuge in Central India.
Tiger at Bandhavgarh
Attractions - Mammals & Reptiles & Insects
The megafauna of Bandhavgarh attracts thousands of visitors from India and abroad. Tourists come to see the tiger but they are also enthralled by other wild animals. Some of the star attractions besides the tiger are:
- Wild Dog
- Sloth Bear
- Sambar Deer
- Chital Deer
- Four Horned Deer
- Barking Deer
- Wild Boar
- Rhesus Macaque
- Rusty Spotted Cat
- Jungle Cat
- Civet Cat
- Common Krait
- Russel's Viper
- Indian Wolf
- Mouse Deer?
Snakes are nocturnal but with luck, some species can be seen in the daytime. There are twenty-two species of reptiles in the park including the monitor lizard which is diurnal by habit. The three mentions in the list along with the green pit viper are venomous while the rest are harmless or less venomous.
Insects abound and butterflies are commonly seen near puddles, understories of the forests, wildflowers, and grasslands. Some of the common species are listed below:
- Common Crow
- Slate Flash
- Lime Butterfly
- Spot Swordtail
- Common Leopard
- Egg Butterfly
- Danaid Egg Fly
- Striped Tiger
- Plain Tiger
- Common Baron
- Common Jezebel
- Gram Blue
- Red Preriot
The list is endless and the destination is a lepidopterist's delight. You can watch these dainty-winged creatures in the vicinity of the resorts you are staying at or outside the reserve as well. Like birds, they are everywhere. Moths, spiders, and scorpions, all abound in this wonderful realm of the tiger.
Bird Check List
This little paradise is home to more than 250 species of avian of which many are winter migrants to Central India. The best place to see the forest birds, hence the tiger reserve is much visited by professional birders.
The park has dense forest canopies and marshy grasslands. Hence it is a good place to enjoy bird watching here. The major attractions are:
- Indian Pitta
- Paradise Flycatcher
- Malabar Pied Horn Bill
- Black Naped Monarch
- White Rumped Shama
- Indian Scimitar Babbler
- Gold Mantled Chloropsis
- Jerdon's Leaf Bird
- Ultramarine Flycatcher
- Red Throated Flycatcher
- Painted Francolin
- Grey Francolin
- Grey Hornbill
- Alexandrine Parakeet
- Golden Oriole
- Black Hooded Oriole
- White Eyed Buzzard
- Bonelli's Eagle
- Honey Buzzard
- Spangled Drongo
- Racket Tailed Drongo
- White Bellied Drongo
- Plum Headed Parakeet
- Changeable Hawk Eagle
- Crested Serpent Eagle
- Long Billed Vulture
- White Backed Vulture
- Red Headed Vulture
- Egyptian Vulture
- Pallas Fish Eagle
- Grey-Headed Fish Eagle
Tourists and birding enthusiasts prefer winters for bird watching since Palearctic migrants arrive. However avian trips are quite successful in hot summers whence the resident species can be easily seen and photographed.
Bandhavgarh is very popular for tiger safaris and birding. The park is home to many Central Indian Mammals, reptiles, and birds. On a safari one can see a tiger, leopard, sloth bear, wild dog or dhole, sambar deer, spotted deer, barking deer, wild boar, and langurs. Nilgai is seen at Bathan, while wolves and hyenas are often seen outside the park.
It is possible to see small mammals that are shy and nocturnal on night safaris outside the park confines. Birding is done alongside tiger tracking, and it can be conducted outside the park in a buffer zone.
Tiger is usually met during the jeep safaris but if not then one can see the big cat on the elephant's back. This is known as the tiger show* and tourists are taken on elephants back to the spot where the animal has been cordoned off by elephants. The ride is short, from jeep to the tiger, but offers a view of the animal from close.
The park has a wildlife interpretation center for more information on the biodiversity that prevails. The safaris are conducted in the morning and evening. One has to pay vehicle and guide fees, a camera fee is also charged in the case of professional equipment. A guide from the forest department accompanies the tourists on jeep safaris - this is compulsory.
For tourism, the park has been divided into three zones in twenty percent of the core. These are:
- Tala Zone
- Magadhi Zone
- Khitauli Zone
There are five zones in the buffer which have been opened for the tourism Year 2014 onward.
Since October 2016 the premium zone status has been abolished hence all zones are equal the fee applicable is the same. You can book tiger safaris at the MP Online Website or request your hotel to do it for you.
The opening of the buffer zone for tourism will increase the number of vehicles that will be able to go on tiger safari hence the number of tourists will increase.
The option to book tiger safari permits is on the MP ONLINE Website. Current bookings are also available at the respective gates. There can be a long waiting list hence it is better to book online before your arrival at the park.
Note* Evening safari on Wednesdays is closed throughout the season.
Note* Tiger Shows are not organized at the moment.
Forest at Bandhavgarh
The only white tiger to be found in the wild was Mohun near the jungles of Bandhavgarh in India in the Siddhi Forests which is now Sanjay National Park. No white specimen has been found ever in the wild. All the white tigers in the zoo are Mohan's progeny.
Blue Eyed Tiger
As is believed the white tiger was not found in the forests of Bandhavgarh. It was discovered somewhere near these forests by the then Maharajah of Rewa in what is now known as Sanjay Dubri National Park. The distance from Bandhavgarh is just one hour of drive. Named Mohan it is the only specimen that has been found in the wild ever, and all others in various zoos are descendants of this big white cat.
The white tiger is not a different species nor it is an albino. The animal is due to the domination of a recessive gene. One among ten thousand births could lead to a white tiger in the World.
The reserve derives its name from a two-thousand-year tribal fort called Bandhavgarh atop the hill with the same name at 800 plus MSL. This is a fort complex but the edifice is in ruins. What remains in this time-frozen land is a series of zoomorphic idols of Lord Vishnu besides a number of small temples and artifacts. The complex also contains 12 reservoirs made by the tribal, and the subsequent rulers who belonged to other dynasties.
On the edge of the temple stands a temple dedicated to Lord Ram his consort Sita and Brother Laxman. This fort was gifted to Laxman by Lord Ram and hence the name Bandhavgarh (bandhav=brother garh=fort).
The fort complex is out of bounds now but you can still visit Sesh Shaiyya the reclining Vishnu. The statue lies reclining beside an ancient pond filled with algae. The surroundings are walled with trickles flowing down the mountain into the pond. The idols and walls are extensively covered by lichens and moss according to a quaint ancient look. The looming trees create a perfect setting for shade and thus the cool place carries a fairy tale look and feel.
Baghels were last to rule over this fort before it became the property of the Government.
Accommodations at Bandhavgarh
It is essential to stay overnight for tiger safaris in the park. There are a few rest houses at Tala Gate in Bandhavgarh but they are reserved for officials and VIPs. All services for park safaris are available from Tala Village - jeeps, taxis, transportation, boarding, and lodging.
The safari accommodation can be booked online since many resorts have their sites. There are various packages available for a stay in the resorts in the destination. Most popular among tourists is the Jungle Plan which includes jeep safaris, accommodation, and food. There are no homestays and day centers available. But there are many budget hotels for a short stay. At Tala Gate, a number of joints offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The tourism infrastructure is well-developed for tiger tours. There are many hotels and wildlife resorts outside the park for luxury accommodation. The prices range from budget to 3-star and even 5-star hotels. Most of the hotels are well equipped for safaris and birding with experienced nature guides at their disposal. The luxury resorts have wildlife interpretation centers which are good for understanding the park ecosystem and diversity.
During the holiday season and weekends, the park is full of visitors hence booking has to be done in advance. It is better to visit during the lean period as the number of visitors becomes less and one can bargain. A large number of hotels in Bandhavgarh offer affordable prices for a stay during the off-season.
The number of tourists is high during the winter months, hence those on a budget should visit the reserve in the summer months. Wildlife sightings increase during this period for a number of reasons. This is the best time to avail discounts from luxury accommodations in the wildlife refuge.
Meadow in the Park
Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve
- Indian Wildlife Resort Lodges
Blog about wildlife safaris National Parks Bandhavgarh and Kanha. Find articles on tiger conservation in India.
Tiger At Bandhavgarh
MPONLINE - Bandhavgarh Permit Booking
Tiger & Elephant Safari Photo
The park is open from 1st October to 30th June every year. It gets very cold during the months of November to January. During this period the temperature can go down to 1-degree centigrade. The cold starts decreasing from February onward and then gradually hot season takes over.
The park is intensely hot during the months of April, May, and June. It can reach 42-degree centigrade during the summer. The park is closed during the monsoons.
How to Reach?
An overnight train Utkal Express connects with Umaria Station which is thirty-two km from Bandhavgarh.
The nearest airport Jabalpur is connected by air with Mumbai and New Delhi. A large number of rails connect Jabalpur with major cities. it is approximately 175 km from the tiger reserve.
Khajuraho is also connected to the park by the road and so are Satna and Katni. The latter is a big railway junction.
The distance between Sanjay Dubri National Park to Bandhavgarh is 110 km.
Bandhavgarh Forests Conservation History
Being the personal hunting preserve of the Maharajahs of Rewa State in colonial India the forest received protection. The rulers prevented the destruction of forests and hunting without permission.
Majestic Male Tiger
Map Photo of Bandhavgarh Zones
Bandhavgarh Road Map
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© 2010 Uday Patel
Uday Patel (author) from Jabalpur, MP, India on August 29, 2014:
Thanks Sanjay for the positive comment.
Sanjay Sharma from Mandi (HP) India on August 29, 2014:
Beautiful hub. It was like a journey through the National Park. Well done.
Predator on October 27, 2010: