Bandhavgarh National Park, boasting the densest Bengal tiger (pantera tigris) population of all the Indian tiger reserves, is located quite in the heart of India in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The reserve is surrounded by the hills of the Vindhya range at an altitude ranging from 440 meters to 811 meters. The valleys comprise mainly of sal forest The park covers an area of 448 square kilometers (or 693 sq. kilometers including the Panpatha Sanctuary and 1161 sq. kilometers with the surrounding Reserve Forest functioning as a buffer zone) comprising of five ranges. Approximately half of the 105 sq. kilometer Tala range is open to the general public throughout the year barring the monsoon season (July till the end of October).
The Tala range is devoid of any human habitation (except for some forest staff and a priest) making it a natural habitat for the tiger and other wildlife.
While the Royal Bengal Tiger tops the food chain, a variety a other animal species are to be found in Bandhavgarh. The leopard and jungle cat are the other felines to habitate Bandhavgarh. Canine predators include the rare Indian wolf, the dhole (or Indian wild dog) and the more ubiquitous jackal. Other mammals to be spotted include the Bengal fox, the striped hyena, Indian civets, sloth bears and pangolins.
Two species of primates are abundant in Bandhavgarh: The rhesus macaque, here more elusive than their urban counterparts, and the common Hanuman langurs. Three species of deer make Bandhavgarh their home. Chitals (or spotted deer) are normal prey for the tiger. Sambar and muntjac also inhabit the park. Antelopes include the nilgai (or blue bull) and the smaller chowsingha (with four horns) and chinkara. Wild boar are very prominent and small mammals such as the mongoose.
A variety of reptiles and amphibians are also to be found. Flap-shell turtles, Indian monitor lizards, skinks, geckos and the Indian rock python are some to name a few. Avian life is rich in Bandhavgarh. As many as 270 bird species have been recorded within the park, including the red junglefowl, vulture, peacock and the flycatcher.
One of the tigers I had the luck and privilege of witnessing at near range in the Tala range in November 2003. Tigers are an endangered species due to their diminishing natural habitat and rampant poaching.
How To Reach Bandhavgarh
Reaching Bandhavgarh is possible via Umaria railhead on the Bilaspur - Katni rail line. Direct train service from both Bilaspur and Delhi is available. Bilaspur is well-connected with Kolkata-Howrah and Mumbai. Autorickshaws, hired jeeps and local bus service are available to travel the last section of 32 kilometers to the village of Tala. Entry into the park is also through the village of Tala. Tala is also reachable from Rewa and Shadol by bus. Both private and government run accomodation is available at Tala.
Jabalpur airport, located approx. 120 km southwest of Bandhavgarh NP as the crow flies, is undergoing expansion.
More on Bandhavgarh:
MPSTDC - Bandhavgarh Info >>
MP Forest Department Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve info >>
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