After an over night flight from Heathrow to Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi we were greeted by our guide Aditya Panda (Eddie). We then met up with the other five members of the group (Wendy & Mark, Roy, Dave and Tim) and boarded our mini bus for a brief visit to the Holiday Inn hotel. After a quick shower and an excellent breakfast/brunch we were ready for the next stage, a drive to the railway station en-route to Bandhavgarh National Park. For first time visitors the drive through Delhi, the crowds, noise, chaotic traffic and pollution, so thick you can taste and smell it, comes as a shock.
Next the overnight train to Katni. Following our porters, we picked our way over an obstacle course of prone bodies lying on the station platform. The long train arrived, packed with humanity, carriage after carriage flew past until ours arrived.
Bags were loaded and we were directed to our sleeper compartment. Four beds in a small enclosed space, glass windows, curtains, lights and ac fans on the ceiling. This time we had a confirmed ticket so no sitting with convicts and riding without a ticket. The attendant provided clean sheets, pillow and a blanket and we were on our way. The toilet facilities were basic but fairly clean and not too smelly. After a packed evening meal we settled down for the night. Sleep was interrupted by the arrival at numerous stations but on the whole was not too bad.
Early morning arrival at Katni, where passengers were again sleeping on the platform amongst their luggage. We hurriedly disembarked and followed our bags, carried on the heads of the porters, to the area where our vehicles were parked. Two vehicles were waiting, luggage and passengers were piled in and then we were off. A two hour drive to our accommodation at Bandhavgarh. The Jungle Lodge was to be our base for the next week. We had thirteen game drives booked so hopefully we would see and photograph a variety of wildlife.
We settled into our cottages and then wandered around the gardens. An attractive Tickells Blue Flycatcher was feeding right outside our accommodation as we made our way to the dinning area. After meeting the group for a leisurely lunch we headed off on the five minute drive to the Tala gate. The seven of us were placed in three jeeps, accompanied by the two naturalistsfrom the lodge and Eddie. The formalities of checking our passports and dealing with the paper work took only a short time and the park gates were opened.
Bandhavgarh National Park
There had been reports of tiger sightings in the park earlier so the jeeps headed off to that area. Seeing tigers at this time of the year (Oct-Nov) is very different to the spring. Then the area is much drier and the tigers spend much of their time very close to the water. The bright sun of the morning had now become overcast but it was still very warm. Getting good images would prove to be a challenge this afternoon due to the overcast skies, the onset of dusk and the thick vegetation.
Unfortunately we had no luck in locating a tiger, although we heard a number of alarm calls from the Spotted Deer and the Langurs, Also there were fresh pug marks indicating that a female was moving around the area, using the dirt tracks as highways.
Despite no tiger our species list for the afternoon included Red Spurfowl, Red Junglefowl, the ever present Peafowl, and all three parakeets that are found in the reserve. We were delighted to see our first Scops Owl sitting in a hollow tree and Spotted Owlets. Around every corner there seemed to be groups of Jungle Babblers, whilst the Rufous Treepie and Greater Racket-tailed Drongos were pointed out by the naturalist. Mammal species spotted in the afternoon included groups of Rhesus Monkeys, Common Langur, Spotted Deer, a single Sambarand Wild Pig.
Back to the lodge
There was a 6.00pm curfew imposed by the authorities on the reserve so we sped through the dust as the daylight faded to get through the gate on time. Back at the lodge we were greeted by the staff with hot towels, drinks and biscuits. After exchanging sightings with the rest of the group and checking if any tigers had been seen, we showered and changed out of our very dusty safari clothing. We arranged to meet up later to complete the checklists, have drinks and a delicious four course Indian meal before an early night. We set the alarm for the morning at 4.45am.