The next two days seemed to fall into a familiar pattern of an early morning call at 4.45am, followed by coffee and biscuits. Then we got into the jeeps, collected the park guides and presented passports at the gate. Over the two days we used either the Tala or Madhgi areas. The focus of the early part of the drive was to try and locate where the tigers had moved over night. The guides, Sim & Ayaan, were constantly looking for pug marks on the dirt tracks, which seemed to be a good indicator of the time and the direction the tiger was moving. Tigers tend to move early in the day before the it gets too hot. In the heat of the day they settled down in the shade of the vegetation and become very difficult to locate.
As the drives progressed alarm calls from both spotted deer and langur often interrupted the morning bird calls. As the guides located possible tiger locations the jeeps would position themselves along the tracks at distances were they could still communicate with each other.
The guides are not allowed to use radios or mobiles in the park. This is an effort to stop all the jeeps in the area descending on a single animal. We all waited in anticipation of a Tiger appearing from the vegetation.
After a time, when the forest again fell silent the jeeps moved on to try a new site. As the guides and drivers met up there would be conversation, accompanied by much head nodding. Occasionally you’d meet a jeep that had been lucky enough to come across a tiger.
The afternoon drives were the reverse of the morning, the first hour spent looking at the varied wildlife that inhabits Bandhavgarh and as the day cooled focusing on tiger sightings.
Eddie (our naturalist tour guide) had predicted that at this time of the year tiger sightings work out about one in five drives. We’ve had our five game drives and still no sign of a tiger. pugs mark, alarm calls and even some droppings. So no pressure. Despite the lack of tiger there were lots of interesting animals and birds, including good views of Indian Vultures warming up before soaring into the thermals above Bandhavgarh fort. Plus good views of a Golden Jackal, Spotted Owlet, White throated kingfisher, Samba and the Indian Gaur.
Back at the Lodge
As we headed back to the lodge each time the drivers and guides were quiet, and disappointed. We were still optimistic about seeing a tiger, as there had been lots of evidence of tiger activity. Back at the lodge before dinner we completed the checklists for the day. After which on one evening Eddie showed us a presentation on Tiger Conservation which was very interesting. It raised many questions, and was very thought provoking. During a delicious four course dinner he answered many of the questions about Tiger Conservation, the park and India in general. With 4.45am morning calls we all headed back for some early nights.