3/20/2009 to 3/21/2009 | India , Madhya Pradesh

Bandhavgarh: Tigers in the wild, at last

I’ve never had good experiences with Indian wildlife parks.  For the most part my experience has been that I pay too much and see too little, at Ranthambore I road around in a jeep seeing little more than deer while Indian tourists who paid a quarter of the price I did talk loudly the whole time.  Nevertheless, I did want to see a tiger in the wild, so I decided to make one last try visiting Bandhavgarh National Park which claims one of the highest densities of Tigers in the world, reputedly one of the best places to attempt to see the big cats.

I met a couple of British guys at the train station and we took a bus to the park.  On the way to the village at entrance to the park our bus got a flat tire.  The bus coming in the opposite direction said there was a tiger on the road 1 km ahead.  By the time our bus got going post tire change the tiger was gone.  That gave us hope that there were tigers all over the place.  I arranged a jeep ride into the park with a couple from Australia we met at our guesthouse.  The Australian couple was trying one last time to see a Tiger, they had been at the park for two days taking 4 jeep trips into the park.  This tempered the optimism I had gained during the bus ride in.  While we saw a pair of jackals with a deer they had just killed, we didn’t see any Tigers, and that was really my reason for being here.  There was only one tiger spotted briefly in the park that morning by any of the jeeps. It appeared my jinx and the streak poor luck would continue.  The Australian couple left that afternoon and one of the British guys was very short on money leaving just two of us to try our luck in the afternoon.  But this presented us with a problem, neither of us wanted to spring for a whole jeep for the two of us.  We decided to try our luck by going down to the park gate and pay our way into a jeep with room.  It costs the a fixed 3180 ruppees for a jeep  (if you are white) no matter how many people are in it.  So we just went up to people in jeeps that were not full and asked to split it with them.  We ended up getting in with a British couple and Australian guy, the jeeps all seemed to know where a tiger had been hanging out and we all drove to this over look of a meadow.  Shortly after we got there, the tiger moved quickly across the clearing.  Only two of us in our jeep caught it, and I even managed to squeeze off one picture.  The Tiger was probably 100 yards off, maybe a bit more.  But I had seen a tiger so I was happy.  We waited there for maybe 45 minutes staring at the area the tiger had disappeared into the grass.  A few deer even wandered very close to the spot, and we were hoping maybe we would see an attack, but no attack.  It did finally emerge from the brush walking across the meadow disappearing into the forest.  This time I saw it clearly and got pictures again, very far away but at least you can tell it was a tiger.  According to the guide said it was a male, tiger 10-12 feet long.  High off our sighting we decided to go again the next morning to see if we could get a better look.  Our luck continued to hold as we saw a female tiger only 5 minutes into the park but it was fairly obscured and dark so the only photo I was able to get was blurry and bad.  We then saw another male tiger this one only 25 yards away in the brush, and I got my best picture from that sighting, of the head through the brush, still not likely to be gracing the pages of National Geographic but it’s clearly a tiger.  At Bandhavgarh once they find a tiger then they have elephants that take the tourists to get a closer look.  But first you have to go a central point within the park to get a number, in line.  So we left the tiger to get a number and try to see it close which would cost another 600 rupees ($12).  Not a bad way to squeeze a bit more monny out of the tourists since of course you are going to pay to see a tiger up close from the back of an elephant, especially after spending so much money for the jeep already.   We got a number then headed back towards the first tiger we saw, which was the one the elephants were taking people to.  On the way we saw another tiger (female) laying in a cave on the cliff about 50 yards away.  While watching that tiger we learned that the first Tiger (the one the elephants were going to) had wandered into the hills.  We would not be able to see it close on elephants, but on the bright side I saved 600 rupees.  Of course I would have rather seen the tiger up close, but I can’t complain.  I was happy I saw 4 tigers in the wild, costing me an average of 600 rupees ($12) per tiger, but I won’t be trying again so money well spent.  My luck had finally turned, four tigers in two days, so now I don’t need to go to anymore parks in India, a thought I was pretty happy about.

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