Winter in the Woodlands of Bandhavgarh

Ever since my jungle obsession set in, Bandhavgarh was always a place I wanted to visit. Known to have the highest density of Bengal tigers, the park is one of the most popular destinations for wildlife lovers across the globe. The habitat is a mixture of vast meadows, sal forests, and a touch of dry deciduous land. The meadows are especially beautiful in the misty winter months, as you can see here.

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Anyway, my trip to this place can only be described as a reality check of what was truly a tiger’s jungle.

About 13 hours in the jungle, spent over one and a half days; It slowly occurred to me that a winter trip to the jungle is always a gamble. In the past 3 game drives, we did see some lovely jungle residents, but as usual, the cats eluded us.

As I started out on the fourth and final short evening drive, I had come to terms with the fact that we may not see a big cat this time around. I kept my camera aside, zoned out into a thought bubble. The naturalist’s earlier statement echoed in my head “Come in the summer, you’ll see cats for so long that you’ll have to leave them and go”.

This obviously made sense, because tigers get out in search of water in the hot summer months, and in a place like Bandhavgarh, you’re sure to find one. I then thought about my decision to come here in the winter – I wanted to see a misty, magical forest, and believe you me, the enchanting meadows were ethereal. Sometimes, a jungle trip is more than just a tiger or a leopard. It’s about being away from the chaotic honking of the city, and just engulfing yourself with the beautiful forest environment.

The landscapes certainly made my trip worthwhile, and it was with this conclusion that I continued on with my last safari, still lost in my bubble; who would know that this bubble would be burst by the roar of a tigress!

We heard her persistently call out for her mate. We estimated her movements by her roar. After a couple of minutes, the roaring stopped; our naturalist positioned the jeep in front of a little clearing amidst the bushes. I peered in hard and hopeful.. and suddenly found her looking straight at me, through the foliage.

Gosh, what a beautiful moment.

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With a D mark on her forehead, she’s known as Dotty. A beautiful tigress in her prime, Dotty gave us a few beautiful moments before she vanished into the greens.

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This tigress’s last-minute cameo absolutely made my trip all the more special. We continued on the game drive a happy bunch. Spotting a tiger in winter is truly an earned sighting, and we were extremely delighted. As we concluded the safari, we were in for another surprise, we saw pug marks of an adult tigress and 3 cubs. Our naturalist casually tracked these marks and led us to another beautiful moment. The mother was identified to be the Mahaman female, and she, along with one of her cubs carefully watched us from way inside the bushes.

A bold young male cub dared to attempt crossing the road, but withdrew. In the process, he gave us this beautiful stare.

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He ran back into the bushes as one of his siblings playfully frolicked with him. Soon, the family moved back to the safety of the greens under their mother’s watchful eyes, and this is how my trip concluded! Some suspense indeed.

Bandhavgarh is a place that I’ll surely be visiting soon. If you want to catch a glimpse of what inspired Kipling’s Jungle Book, head to this Central Indian forest! Connectivity to this national park is limited, with Jabalpur being the only airport within 200kms. Jabalpur can be reached by flight from Hyderabad or Delhi.

Where I stayed: Greenwoods Resorts – A nice cozy cottage-style accomodation with homely food and friendly service. 

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