Tigers of Bandhavgarh National Park, India

In the two days at Kanha, we saw three tigers. A very good start and time to drive to Bandhavgarh National Park on one of the worst roads ever. Six hours of agonizing, jolting and swerving over pot holes to go maybe 70 miles from Kanha to Bandhavgarh…less than 10 mph. This also happened to be the only filthy, dirty car with a “guide” (who barely spoke English) riding “shotgun”! The driver was good though.

Once at Banhavgarh, we spent two nights at Tiger Den. The food was good, lots of people staying there, and a beautiful bonfire at night. I have no way of knowing if Tiger Den was “best available” there…it was certainly a nice resort, but there were many, many other places to stay that we passed going to and from the park. FYI, the sign for “Royal Den” touted it as a luxury resort…don’t know if it really was.

Bandhavgarh National Park was more mountainous than Kanha. There are also caves in the park with inscriptions dating back to 1BC. This park was created in 1968 and has a wide variety of habitats: sal forests, bamboo grazing land, ridges and streams. It is most famous for its tigers and had the same routine as Kanha.

Bandhavgarh map

We saw EIGHT TIGERS in the two days there. Some people never see one!!

This is where we had our major and most nerve-wracking Tiger sighting. Word went out on the walkie-talkies that the Rangers had spotted a family of four, year-old tigers, a brother with his three sisters. All the jeeps raced to the central staging area and the rangers handed out a NUMBERED TICKET to each jeep!

There were 25 jeeps ahead of us…and our number was second to last for the “tiger show” …which is actually getting on the elephant and heading into the grass to see the tigers.

The big rule of tiger-viewing is: You can only mount the elephant to see the tigers when the tigers are still…not on the move (so as not to disturb them). If they move at all, the Mahouts follow them until they lie down again…if they lie down again. And only then, does the viewing restart. And all viewing stops at 1:30pm SHARP.

park rangers scouting tigers in Bandhavgarh National Park, India


Off went all the jeeps, down the road to where several elephants were loading up … two persons on an elephant at a time…to see the tigers. When the tigers moved, the jeeps moved. It was a constant procession of the Mahout prodding the elephant to the next jeep in line…persons then stood on the top of the jeep…scrambled up a ladder to the elephant’s back…and lumbered off to see the tigers.
not our turn yet in Bandhavgarh National Park, India


This took hours, and the tigers moved and separated several times. By now, our guides and we were nervous wrecks figuring that we’d never get our chance because there was only 15 minutes left until the Park Service called it a day. FINALLY, only two jeeps left and the tigers settled down in the grass. ex-Marine and I got up on this huge elephant, lurching through the grass and its slightly rolling hills, the elephant tearing up small trees and eating them on the way, and there they were!! Still two of the cubs together and the other two a small distance apart.



Tigers in Banhavgarh National Park, India

This had to be one of the most exciting experiences of our lives seeing those four, year-old cubs, perfectly camouflaged in the grass and not behind bars in a zoo. I was shaking like a leaf, positive that the camera was going to fall out of my hands. Even when the elephant got right on top of where they were hidden, I had trouble picking them out – their camouflage is so incredible. The elephant circled and we snapped…View image…and snapped…and snapped. …View image
I’m no professional photographer but got my own National Geographic shots and will always remember the anticipation, palpitations and emotions when we first saw those tigers.
isn’t this elephant big? Bandhavgarh National Park, India

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