Bandhavgarh; not one but many!
There is not one, but many reason why Bandhavgarh National Park is a unique territory for the tiger.
I : The Park
It’s a 105 square km expanse of dry deciduous forest around its namesake hilltop fort, and expands to 437 square km when including the buffer zone.
It is considered by the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department as the having the most varied vegetation in the district, with areas of dense bamboo creating impenetrable viewing walls...
...and open meadows, interspersed in the forest.
We start our day early, arriving in the park at sunrise.
Sitting, listening to the forest, and hearing what it has to say, hoping for the calls that a tiger is near.
II : A diverse ecosystem
Monkeys play and socialize in the meadow areas, but never straying too far from the safety of a tree.
But when they have to bridge the gaps in the trees, they do so as quickly as possible, leaping from the tree and sprinting...
...to the next safe haven.
The grassy meadows add a different dimension to the ecosystem, providing grazing land, and hunting land alike.
Birds are always present here, and the health of the forest is evident by the large numbers of raptors. The more raptors, the more prey, and the healthier the forest must be to sustain them.
The roads that wind through the park are very sandy…
…and with every gust of wind or passing vehicles, dust is thrown into the air, creating sun beams and a mystical feel to the forest.
But these dusty tracks give us the best insight into tiger movements; pug marks! We're getting close.
It is not only the tiger that enjoys these roads. Here a pack of four Jackals roams the road before disappearing off in search of their next meal.
Venturing for closer look at us, the invaders.
III : Sustaining tigers
Bandhavgarh has a high density of tigers, and the evidence is everywhere. The excitement builds as we find more and more markings.
The high density of tigers here is only possible by the large number of prey species within the park. Chital, or spotted deer, are found in abundance in the open meadows in herds…
The Gaur, or Indian Bison, was re-introduced to the park when 50 individuals were moved here from Khana national park in 2012, and have since flourished. More tiger food; one could sustain a tiger for over a week.
Nilgai are also present and breeding well in Bandhavgarh providing the tigers another option on the buffet menu
And of course, there are Sambar deer, which are prime targets for the tigers.
IV : The apex predator
With such dense and varied habitats, the tigers are very well camouflaged, only offering fleeting glances between bamboo thickets or gaps in the trees.
A tigress and her four cubs lay hidden in the grass, invisible to all except those who see her enter and leave, and the Bulbuls who feed in this meadow.
There are 32 hills in the park, and all combined makes it an excellent landscape for ambush predators like the tigers to raise a litter of cubs.
Tigers crossing the roads is often the most common sighting, albeit brief, emerging from the cover on one side and soon disappearing into the undergrowth of the other. This cub watches as his mother as she crosses the road…
… and when she arrives safely…
..he follows in her footsteps, literally.
However, tigers like walking along dust roads too with their padded paws enjoying the smooth and soft feel, and it is often a nice spot to rest.
And if you are lucky, and a tiger emerges behind you....
You might well have a tiger follow you along a road...
Giving you an amazing opportunity to see a tigress up close...
While taking a sunset stroll!
There is a lot of life everywhere you look here, and people overlook that by saving tigers, we are actually saving the forest, and all of its inhabitants. A cause worth fighting for, so that one day, when my son is old enough, I too can show him the beauty of Indian forests, tigers included. But until then, I hope this is not the last we will see of them.
This is the last in my series called "From start to finish" where I go through everything that I do to get my images, step-by-step. This is the end point, and this is probably the most important part of the process, do something with your images... Print them, up-load them to social media, share them, make them your desktop wall papers, or, as I did , use them to tell a story. A photo is worth nothing if it is not shown the light of day. :)
So here is my photo story: I have tried to tell the story of the park as I experienced it, and to give any and all readers a feel of what it was like there. You can see the high res images if you click on them, and please let me know what you think of it in comments at the end. I hope you enjoyed!