A Typical Day Out in Bandhavgarh National Park
National Parks in India
Despite the regularly spaced alarm calls of the barking deer that echo around the cliffs of the Fort, an uncanny, breathless stillness envelopes the jungle as the Sun sinks behind the line of hills. The alarm calls are far away, too far to see whatever is being alarmed at even if it chooses to break cover. But from our vantage point on the crest of a hill, we savor this special moment at the dying of the day as the golden light pooling in the valley below us drains slowly away. For the past 2½ hours, we have stayed in the hill country away from the other jeeps enjoying the solitude and the sense of wildness that envelope these remote, scenic corners of Bandhavgarh.
It has been an exciting day. The park elephants had tracked and found a young male tiger early in the morning and as we scrambled untidily into the elephant howdahs to go and have a look, the persistent alarm calls of langur monkeys alerted us to the fact this was no somnolent cat content to roll over on its back but a tiger on the move.
For half an hour we were treated to the exhilarating experience of attempting to keep in sight of a tiger sliding effortlessly through the dense jungle over broken ground, ducking and weaving from slashing branches and whipping bamboo as our elephant, urged on by sharp cries and prods of the stick and good, crashed through the dense growth. Every now and again the tiger would appear ahead of US and for a few wonderful moments right beside us in a clearing, with-it and marvelously photogenic and then it was gone! The elephants crashed about quartering the ground but tigers that want to disappear, disappear.
Tingling with excitement we returned to the jeep avoiding the looks of other tourists who eye us with disgruntled envy. The park gets its name from the Fort that sits atop the plateau, afforded formidable protection by the sheer cliffs that are the haunt of vultures, falcons and occasional troops of daredevil langurs. After our morning drive, we park at the base of the fort and accompanied by an employee of the Maharaja of Rewa (who still owns the fort) we climb the steep track to the top with packed breakfast and lunch. The views from the top of the cliffs are fantastic forested hills stretching to the horizon. But the tort itself is incredible Indiana Jones country. Temples, statues, water tanks, carved rock-taces, and ruined palaces spill across the 95 hectares of plateau an index in stone of the 2000-year-old history of this place. We could have spent a week exploring the place but have to be content with half a day.
The valley has sunk into complete shadow as last light stipples the thin clouds with pink and purple. The mynas in the silk cotton have fallen silent. Reluctantly we settle back in the jeep. It’s time to head home.