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Bandhavgarh National Park

Bandhavgarh, in northeast Madhya Pradesh, has an old saying, "In any other park, you are lucky if you see a tiger. In Bandhavgarh, you are unlucky if you don't see at least one.Tucked between the grassy maidans, the Vindhyan ranges and the eastern flank of the Satpura hills, Bandhavgarh is one of India’s top national parks and is home to one of the highest tiger densities despite being relatively small. It was the former hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Rewa and was officially declared a national park in 1968. Home to the royal Bengal tigers, it shelters a wide range of fantastic Indian fauna; the elusive Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca), sloth bear (Melursus ursinus), chinkara (Gazella bennettii). The human history here goes back thousands of years as there are fascinating ruins scattered throughout the park like the hill fort with inscriptions from the first century BC and shrines of Hindu gods by Chandela Kings who also built Khajuraho temples. 

Drive through the gates of Bandhavgarh and a great flat vista opens up, sweeping up to a dramatic red sandstone escarpment. The grasslands and thick sal trees harbor a healthy population of mammals like dhole, the small Indian civet, palm squirrel and lesser bandicoot rat, as well as artiodactyls like wild pig, spotted deer, samber, chausingha and nilgai and wonderful bird and reptilian species. The higher slopes of the reserve are masked with a forest of Sai, Dhobin, Saja and Sal trees. On top of the escarpment is a temple with its own priest, whose approach is guarded by a beautiful, sleeping Vishnu at the base of the cliff, which dates back to the 10th Century. 

Early morning and afternoon game drives are by jeep, but when tigers are positively sighted in the forest, elephant-back is the best way to get as close to them as possible. Tiger-lovers can expect a sighting within two to three days, which is roughly the same as the more famous Ranthambore National Park, and there are also more than 40 leopards at Bandhavgarh. The best time to visit Bandhavgarh for tiger sightings is from February to June.

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