Saturday 23rd October
Up early again and off this morning to zone 2 for our very expensive elephant safari. After a short safari in the jeep we return to where the mahouts have brought their elephants. We are told that the mahouts have found a fresh tiger kill and they expect the tigers (they think a mother and three cubs) to be still in the area.
We climb from the Gypsy roll bar up onto the howdah on the elephant’s back and head off into the early morning jungle. The ride is a once in a lifetime experience. A totally unique way to see the jungle. Total silence apart from the elephant periodically tearing off chunks of bamboo to eat on the move.
White spotted deer no longer run away from us as we approach and we get a much better view of both the wildlife and the countryside.
We reach the approximate site of the kill and the mahout urges his elephant into the undergrowth to locate both the kill and the tigers. Excitement turns to disappointment as we discover the kill, a domestic cow, but not tigers.
The ride back gives us an impression of the elephant’s great suitability to traversing the jungle terrain as we crash through heavy undergrowth and splash through deep swamps that no 4WD could hope to cope with.
We say goodbye to our elephant and have a final hour safari in the jeep.
Our evening safari adds a rare red headed vulture to our list and a second sighting of the elusive barking deer; as well as the best sighting yet of sambar, wild boar and chital.
Then another jeep informs us that they have just seen a tiger lying in undergrowth next to a track. We drive to the scene to find some seven or so jeeps jostling for position next to a juvenile male lying about 5 metres off the track in undergrowth. The jeep drivers show all the discipline of their compatriots on the road i.e. none; as one gets bogged down in a desperate attempt to get closer to the action and another reverses into our car
As we watch the tiger, suddenly one and then two and finally three of his siblings emerge from the forest. It’s so exiting to see four tigers in the wild that the jostling almost doesn’t matter.
We have to finish our safari at breakneck pace to make the exit on time. What a way to finish our time at Bandhavgarh.
In the evening our hotel has laid on a dance by local tribal people. These things usually feel horribly contrived, but in this case the dancers seem to be full of enthusiasm and energy as the play drums and bang sticks in a manner reminiscent of English morris dancers, but with about twice the energy.
This brings to an end a memorable stay at Tiger’s Den, except for the inevitable Delhi belly which strikes us all that night. Luckily only mild.