Though there are flat grassy maidans in the south of the park, Bandhavgarh is predominantly rugged and hilly, with sal trees in the valleys, and mixed forest in the upper reaches, which shelter a diverse avian population. Bandhavgarh’s headquarters and main gate are in the village of Tala, connected to Umaria, 32km southwest, by a road slicing through the park’s narrow midriff.

On the whole, jeep safaris tend to stick to the core area where the chances of spotting a tiger (there are estimated to be around 35–45) are high. Deer species include gazelle, barking deer, nilgai (bluebull) and chital (spotted deer). Sloth bears, porcupines, sambar and muntjac also hide away in the forest, while hyenas, foxes and jackals appear occasionally in the open country. If you’re very fortunate, you may catch sight of an elusive leopard. Look out too for some very exotic birds, including red jungle fowl, white-naped woodpecker, painted spurfowl and long-billed vultures. Perhaps the most enjoyable way of viewing game is to take an elephant ride in the misty dawn.

The crumbling ramparts of the fort crown a hill in the centre of the park, 300m above the surrounding terrain. Its ramparts offer spectacular views and the best birdwatching in the park. Beneath the fort are a few modest temples, the rock-cut cells of monks and soldiers, and a massive stone Vishnu reclining on his cobra near a pool that dates from the tenth century. Tigers may be found in the area; they’re more likely to stick to the lower levels, and there are no instances of people actually being harmed by tigers here or even suddenly coming across them – but the risks are
real nonetheless.

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