Once the private hunting grounds of the local royalty, Bandhavgarh National Park is one of the most popular wildlife parks in India. This jungle, teeming with wildlife was donated by Maharaja Martand Singh of Rewa to the government of India in 1968. The protected region was gradually increased to the current area of about 1598 kilometres square. The jungle lies on the Vindhya mountain range, with steep ravines, thick forest patches and grasslands. Bandhavgarh gets its name from the 2000 year old Bandhavgarh fort that sits atop a table top mountain in the centre of the park. A32 foot statue of a reclining Lord Vishnu lies halfway up a hill in a thick grove. From the feet of this statue springs a perennial stream known as Charan Ganga which flows down to the grassland below, creating a pool and a much needed watering hole for animals. Undeciphered inscriptions in ancient caves add to the thrill and mystique of a tiger safari. Bandhavgarh is also called the ‘Land of the White Tiger’; as the first white tiger in the wild was spotted by the Maharaja of Rewa when out on a hunt. White tigers are not a separate specie, but are born to regular tawny coloured parents. A white cub is an extremely rare occurrence fuelling the legends surrounding them
The Bandhavgarh landscape is undulating with large rocky outcrops interspersed with water holes, huge grasslands and tree thickets. Towering Sal trees dominate the forest, making the jungle appear lush and cool year round. This mixed forest is home to various species of trees. The most charismatic among them being the Mahua or Butter tree. This tall tree with wide branching boughs has multiple uses for animals and humans alike. While birds and animals flock to eat the sweet fleshy flowers, the humans brew it into potent liquor simply called ‘Mahua”. The fruit is pressed for oil that is butter-like in consistency. Red and Yellow Silk cotton trees with spiny trunks, Indian ebony, Flame of the forest with bright flaming flowers, wild mango and several species of figs are the other trees commonly seen. Several creepers like Butea and the Strangler vine are found in large numbers in the forest. It is interesting to see the knotty tentacle like branches of the Strangler vines as they drape themselves around a host tree for support. The grasslands are dominated by the Sacchrum spontaneum grasses about three feet in height that provide excellent cover for tigers to ambush prey. Bandhavgarh has enjoyed a long history in conservation; from royal patronage of yore to strict tiger protection laws of recent times. These factors have led to the park having one of the highest wild tiger densities in the world.
Bandhavgarh National Park is a top favourite destination for tiger spotting and photography. The jungle has one of the healthiest, most visible populations of tigers in the world. The park is teeming with mammalslike leopard, wild dogs, jackals, jungle cat, fox , hyena and Indian wolf to name a few. The herbivore population consists of Blue bulls, Gaur, spotted deer, barking deer, sambar and the shy four horned antelope. The most prominent omnivores of the forest are Wild Pigs and Sloth bears with their shaggy black coat and a white ‘V’ mark on the chest. Of course, no safari in the Indian jungles is complete without observing the antics of the nimble Grey Langur monkeys and the red faced Rhesus Macaques. The combination of various habitats means Bandhavgarh has a wide variety of birds. Supporting over 250 bird species, bird watching is a delight here. The Malabar pied hornbill, Emerald dove, golden Oriole and the very colourful Peafowl and Red jungle fowl are a few that are spotted year round. The park resounds to the calls of the Common Hawk Cuckoo and the Indian cuckoo heralding the onset of summer.