The Tiger Reserves
Bandhavbarg Tiger Reserve
We went on to Bandhavbarg Game Reserve and had time for two game drives, morning and afternoon and saw a tiger both times.
We had the best chance on the first game drive, they only use the elephants in the mornings. The elephants go out early in the morning to find the tigers. If they find the tigers, then the visitors load on the elephants and they go to where the tiger is located. Signs are everywhere saying, we cant promise tigers, don't be disappointed, enjoy the beauty of the reserve. Don't be disappointed if you don't see the tiger because the tiger saw you.
The process was quite different from Africa. If a tiger is sighted, it is a mad dash to first get the route to where the meeting point is to get a ticket to ride the elephant. The first to arrive, get the shortest route to this point. Lots of yelling going on amongst the guides and the government officials who assign the routes. Then, when you get your route and get to the next meeting place you get the ticket to ride the elephant.
We were in the one of the first jeeps and we were lucky. The guide did not tell us what was happening and we were so excited when we saw the elephants with people on as we knew that meant the tiger was in the jungle. The first group were getting off their elephants when we got on. That was a trick too, as you climbed on the elephant from the jeep. Big stretch for someone as small as I am. Once I was on the elephant, it was really quite comfortable as there was a big cushion pad that was easy to move around on. Normally an elephant carries four people, however this time, it was just Ken and I, why I am not sure, but we were delighted.
There was a 13 month old female tiger very close and only about 150 feet from the jeeps but you could not have seen her without going into the bush area. She was stunningly beautiful. We were probably about 25 feet from the tiger. She was looking right at us. Such a huge animal and she was young!! The tigers do not attack humans and the noise and people walking around so close would never happen with lions in Africa. The guide said that unless the tiger was highly provoked there was nothing to worry about. We had a great "elephant driver" that obviously enjoyed what he was doing. He kept moving the elephant so Ken could get better pictures. We went down into some dips in the terrain the other elephants did not go. I really loved the elephant ride too. While we were watching the tiger, it got up and started moving. We followed and then it stopped again. Just as we left it got up and walk up the hill behind us. The guide said the next group may not get to see her as she was headed in an area that the elephants cannot go. Thank goodness we got up extra early to be one of the first jeeps.
The rest of the morning we drove the game reserve. Once the rush of the elephant rides was over, the jeeps went out on their own. It is a big park so we did not see the other jeeps. They do not use any communication between the jeeps and co-operate with each other like they do in Africa. So that highly limits your chance of seeing more tigers. We did encounter a beautiful area teeming with monkeys and some spotted deer that had some had really big racks. Peacocks are wild here, they sure are a beautiful bird, and we saw a lot of those. Nothing else really exciting and you cannot compare a game drive here to those in Africa. The diversity of the animals and the rangers who share so much information with you make Africa a completely different experience. However, the land had its own beauty and you cannot see tigers in Africa.
Back to the camp for a well needed rest for two hours and then we had lunch which was excellent. The camp was better than I had expected. It exceeded in comfort and amenities than many of the camps I saw in Botswana and was superior to anything I had seen in Kenya. Probably of the same caliber that the less expensive camps in South Africa would be. It was a permanent structured huge room, with a large bathroom, tiled floor, antique furniture and was very clean.
We left to go on a game drive in the afternoon at 3:30 pm. It was hot when we started out but driving in the jeep cooled it down. We saw more deer, monkeys and peacocks and were heading back thinking we would not see another tiger. The park closes at 6:30 pm. On the way out at about 6:20 pm and almost dark when we saw the tiger. She was an adult female that had two cubs, however, we could not see the cubs. She was sitting above the road on a ledge about 12 feet high. So close to the jeeps. There were many jeeps there ahead of us as all the jeeps had to leave from this road, and all the drivers were yelling at each other while jockeying for a position to get their passengers a view of the tiger. How that tiger sat there with all that commotion is a mystery to me. Ken's camera would not focus as it was too dark. The other jeeps left and our wonderful driver let us stay when all the others were gone but said "hurry". I guess if they are late out of the park they get fined. It was already after 6:30.pm. Ken adjusted his camera to iso 1600, the driver got in the perfect position and Ken could take just one shot then the driver gunned the jeep to leave the park. I got a wonderful views of the tiger and with all this going on I was just focused on the tiger. One of the blessings of not taking pictures.
CCA from Africa is building three new luxury camps here and building an air strip. Once that is in this will be a great place to come for those with a desire to see Tigers in the wild. Right now the effort to get here on a very bumpy road for 7 hours plus a 3 hour flight from Delhi is a only for those with a strong desire to see tigers.
Ranthambore National Park
There is another park closer to Delhi called Ranthambore National Park with an Oberoi camp with VERY luxurious tents and about a 3 hour transfer from Jaipur. That would probably be a much better choice right now. The only thing about this area is they don't use elephants, put many people in a vehicle at a time, almost a bus like situation, and the number of tigers in the park is not as great. However, I have talked to many who have been there and most have seen tigers. In both camps, you cannot go "off road" so the tiger has to be close to the road to be sighted.
Since this original write-up of the Tiger Reserves, a new luxury tented camp has become available. Although we do not have personal experience with this property, we do have experience with the sister properties in Africa. An &Beyond Property, Banjaar Tola Tented Camp.