India (12) – Bandhavgarh
After a hot and muggy night, of tossing and turning and getting tangled in the mosquito nets, we were up at 5 o’ clock this morning for our second safari. Leaving at 5.30, it was blissfully cool for the first couple of hours.
Varied sightings on the safari, but no tigers. We did hear the characteristic monkey alarm calls, but they didn’t lead us to a tiger. Instead, a far rarer sighting, that of the sloth bear (Bahlu in Hindi, and I think Baloo in the Jungle Book). We didn’t manage to get any good photos of the bear, as it was running full tilt away from us, but still it was exciting to see.
We also saw a large number of sambar deer, spotted deer, wild boar and monkeys, and stopped for quite a few birds, including a crested serpent eagle, ibis, storks and Indian rollers. The last are beautifully coloured, especially in flight.
Back at the resort, the temperature had risen sky high, so we took things easy. Walking around to photograph the many birds, including a cattle egret colony of about 30 birds, and some colourful song birds.
In the afternoon we had our second safari of the day. This began very quietly, with very little sign of any wildlife, not even birds. Finally, one of the naturalists heard an alarm call and we headed over in that direction. Before too long we came across two jeeps stopped in the road, and a tigress walking across between them. She jumped up on some rocks about 10-15 yards away from us, and proceeded to wash herself thoroughly. By the time the show was over and she’d fallen asleep, there were 20 jeeps lined up, though we undoubtedly had the best spot. Certainly a great way to finish our last tiger safari.
Back at the lodge, dinner was a huge disappointment. When the waiter lifted the lid off the chapati container, it was filled not with chapati, but slices of bread. The rest of the selection followed the theme – not a single Indian dish amongst them. This ended up being the first meal in India where I didn’t eat Indian food, and I really missed it. After dinner we were shown a documentary about the park. Interesting, but I for one could hardly keep my eyes open, and was relieved when it was over and we could go to bed.