Bandhavgarh National Park: The Complete Guide

Tiger at Bandhavgarh National Park.

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Khitauli Gate (Bandhavgarh National Park)

Address
Vijayraghavgarh - Barhi - Bandhavgarh Rd, Garhpuri, Madhya Pradesh 484661, India

There are few places in the world to see tigers in their natural habitat, and Bandhavgarh National Park in central India is one of those special places. The remote park isn't easy to get to, but those who make the journey are rewarded with a great chance of seeing a Bengal tiger. The rolling green valleys, rocky hills, and lush rainforest landscapes add to the park's magic while you keep a lookout for some of the planet's most legendary animals.

Things to Do

Bandhavgarh National Park is best known for being a sanctuary for Bengal tigers, and most visitors make the journey to see one of these majestic big cats. The tiger population is so dense that the park's unofficial tagline claims you're lucky to see a tiger at most places, but you're unlucky not to see a tiger at Bandhavgarh.

For a safari from a different point of view, you can also book a hot air balloon ride over the park. You'll not only get a full panoramic view of the forest canopy, but it's also a less intrusive way to spot wildlife. Tigers are the main draw, but other mammals you may come across include leopards, deer, sloth bears, boars, jackals, Bengal foxes, gaur, and many others. Avid birders may be just as excited about the rich diversity of avian wildlife as they are about the tigers.

Apart from safari adventures, there are important cultural attractions to see as well. Shesh-Saiya is a reclining 35 foot-long stone statue of Lord Vishnu dating back to the 10th century with a stream known as Charan Ganga flowing from the statue's feet. The Baghel Museum lets visitors explore the royal belongings of the past Maharaja of Rewa, including a taxidermied white tiger that was the first to ever be seen by humans. The centuries-old Bandhavgarh Fort is no longer open to tourists, but you can learn about this important cultural and historical site while visiting the museum.

Safari

Safaris through the forest are the number one attraction in the park, but the government sets strict limits on who can enter and when. Safaris depart twice a day—once in the early morning and once in the late afternoon—and only a limited number of vehicles are allowed at each time, so it's important you make advance reservations to secure your place. The reservation fee covers your permit to enter the park, but you'll need to pay for your vehicle and guide separately when you arrive. Visitors must enter the park with a guide and authorized vehicle, as entering on your own is not allowed.

Bandhavgarh is divided into three core zones and you'll have to choose which one you want to explore when you make your reservation. Tala is the main zone and the most popular option for safaris because tigers are frequently spotted here. Nearby is Magdhi, located on the fringe of the park but also with excellent tiger sightings. The last one is Khitauli, which is more scenic and great for bird watching, but tigers are seen less frequently here.

For those who want a real adventure but to leave the planning to someone else, the park organizes multi-day tours that last from a few nights and up to three weeks. These tours start in a major city like Delhi and include transport to the park plus stops in other destinations along the way.

Where to Stay Nearby

Most accommodations are located in the village of Tala, the gateway into the national park. You can find cheap budget accommodations as well as luxury safari lodges, depending on how much you want to spend. Most of the mid-range and high-end lodges offer their own safari tours to guests, but they're generally more expensive than booking directly through the park.

  • The Sun Resort: One of the budget options close to the park, the Sun Resort offers private rooms and shared dorm rooms. For even more savings, you can choose a room without air conditioning—although it may be worth the extra expense in summer.
  • Tiger's Den Resort: This mid-range hotel is a step between the budget hostel option and the luxury getaways. The rooms are comfortable and modern and you'll also find amenities like broadband internet and a pool.
  • Pugdundee Safaris King’s Lodge: In the luxury category, Pugdundee Safaris King’s Lodge is about 10 minutes from the park's Tala gate on a sprawling estate surrounded by forested hills. They specialize in providing private safaris for couples or families, and each comes with a trained naturalist.

How to Get There

The national park is in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, an area that is known for its tiger sanctuaries. The nearest village is Tala, which is also the main entry point for getting into the park. The nearest big city is Jabalpur, which is about 124 miles (200 kilometers) away. Because of the road conditions and mountainous terrain, plan for at least four to five hours of travel by car by Jabalpur. Most visitors arrive first in Jabalpur, which has an airport with direct connections to major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Hyderabad.

Alternatively, you can get close to Bandhavgarh by rail from all major cities. The nearest train station is in Umaria, about 45 minutes away by car.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Bandhavgarh is only open from mid-October to mid-June since it closes for the rainy monsoon season (which is also when the tigers are breeding).
  • The peak months for visiting are December and January when the weather is coolest, so be sure to book your trip as early as possible for these months. Reservations open up 90 days before your planned safari date.
  • The weather starts to heat up in March and April, which means the tigers are more likely to come out to cool themselves in the long grass or to look for water. May and June are also good for sightings, but summer is in full force and the days are sweltering.
  • Even though most visitors hope to see a tiger, Bandhavgarh isn't a zoo and a sighting isn't guaranteed. Set your expectations before you head out and remember that there is much more to see within the park than just tigers.
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Bandhavgarh National Park: The Complete Guide