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Bandhavgarh National Park: A historical tiger reserve

Sunday, March 18, 2018 posted by Bruce 10:01 PM

Bandhavgarh National Park is situated in central India in the State of Madhya Pradesh, and has delighted tiger enthusiasts for many years now. Tigers like ‘Charger’, ‘Vijaya’, ‘Spotty’, ‘Dotty’ and ‘Solo’ to name a few have made a name for themselves as real world stars of ‘Mother Nature’ showing off a beauty and charisma found only in a few other places in India.

One of Spotty’s cubs lounging at a waterhole in the interior…!

I have made four trips to Bandhavgarh since November 2014, and have been able to get some very nice tiger photographs including the famous sisters named ‘Dotty and Spotty’. The park is made-up of three zones (1, 2 & 3) and tigers are found in all three. However, one cannot be absolutely sure to get the striped cat and at times, it can be frustrating to say the least, especially when the Forest Department is burning leaves along the side of the road in March. The best time to come is during the hot season (April-May) when water resources are low, and prey and predator are not very far away from the waterholes. My first trip here came-up dry with just a few pug-marks here and there.

Spotty (in the foreground) leading her two cubs close by the road…!

Being very spiritual, I have come to believe in two mystical beings that are found here. There is a shrine by the side of the main road and another one inside the park in ‘Zone One’ where ‘Siddh Baba’ lives. The other spiritual being is ‘Siddi Mama’ who lives in all ‘Banyon’ trees found throughout India. One day in 2015 as I was motoring around in ‘Zone Two’ after three consecutive days of no tiger sightings in ‘Zone One’, I bumped into a remarkable Indian lady, her husband and their daughter in another jeep. As usual, the drivers stopped to exchange ‘tiger information’.

One of ‘Spotty’s cubs scent marking by the road…!

The lady asked me where I was from; I said Thailand and then mentioned that I had not seen any tigers yet…she then said, “maybe your luck will change as you (me) are under a banyon tree” and “you need to go into town and buy a coconut, some incense and then make an offering to the small roadside shrine where ‘Siddh Baba’ lives out on the main highway. 

My first tiger in Bandhavgarh: A sub-adult male in ‘Zone Two’…!

We parted company and said our goodbyes. A few minutes later and around the corner like magic, a juvenile male tiger stepped out onto the road and I got some amazing shots of the young striped cat. Boy, my luck changed immediately. My driver and I then went into town for lunch, and we got a coconut and some incense. We were going to pray on the way back but time was limited so we decided to stop by the shrine after the evening safari.

‘Dottie’ on the road in the interior of ‘Zone Two’: My second tiger that lucky day…!

We got to the gate and waited for the 3pm opening. After a half hour, we split up from the other vehicles and proceeded into the park by ourselves. Around a corner, we mystically bumped into ‘Dotty’, a mature female tiger standing in the middle of the road. I was elated to say the least but it did not take long for a bunch of other jeeps to show up and then the free-for-all mayhem began. But I was lucky to get her with no commotion and undisturbed. She then slipped into the forest after all the noisy drivers started shouting and crashing into each other tying to get a glimpse of her. We departed and I felt great. We stopped by ‘Siddh Baba’s shrine on the way back in darkness and payed our respects for my good fortune. I now stop by every time I visit Bandhavgarh. There is also another ‘Siddh Baba’  shrine in ‘Zone One’ several kilometers in by the side of the road.

My first tiger in ‘Zone Three’ in 2017: A sub-adult male in late afternoon…!

I have just returned from Bandhavgarh and got ‘Spotty’ and her two cubs in ‘Zone One’ in the afternoon of the third day shown above. News quickly spread that the three were next to the road. When we got there, some 20 jeeps were packed into a small section following every move they made. The going’s-on was almost deafening all trying to get the best position.

My second tiger in ‘Zone Two’ in 2017: Her name is ‘Solo’ and she was out hunting in the morning sun…!

Funny enough, ‘Spotty’ and her cubs do not pay much attention to the din. I did however get a few shots but it was difficult to say the least. So that makes 49 tigers photographed in India. I did however, get a fresh pile of tiger scat on the rode in the interior of ‘Zone Two’.

‘Spotty’ in ‘Zone One’ in 2017: She is a very popular tiger and very photogenic…!

I also got a leopard on a rocky outcrop shown here just past the ‘Siddh Baba’ shrine not far from the gate at ‘Zone One’. That was just after my guide told me that the ‘ghost of the forest’ are occasionally seen in this patch of forest. Now that’s what I call ‘extreme luck’…!

A leopard spotted in a rocky outcrop note far from the ‘Siddh Baba’ shrine in ‘Zone One’…!

So with that in mind, I recommend giving Bandhavgarh a try but be prepared for some unpleasant mix-ups when a tiger is spotted. The Forest Department here really needs to fix this problem for the future and maybe take-up the new regulations and rules that are now in place in Kanha Tiger Reserve. See my story on my recent trip to Kanha…! (: 

Long live the tigers in Bandhavgarh…!!




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Kanha National Park: The best run protected area in India

Tuesday, March 13, 2018 posted by Bruce 10:07 AM

A tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh

‘Jamun Tola Male’ or T-24 drinking at a small natural waterhole early in the morning…!

If someone ever has an urge to visit one of the best ‘tiger reserves/national parks’ in India, pick Kanha in the southeast of Madhya Pradesh State. The forest department is commended for improving the visitation to the park by both local and international tourists, and my hat is off to them for implementing some great new measures.

‘Naina Female’ or T-76 coming straight at us…!

They have made it a regulation that all forest guides be equipped with a GPS (actually a smart phone with a GPS App.) The authorities can now check the speed limit which is 20 kms per hour and is strictly enforced. If a jeep goes off track or goes too fast, a tough lesson will be learned by both the driver and the guide. It is now very well organized and they pay attention as some have already been red-carded for excessive speed and other infringements. That means anywhere from a seven to fifteen-day suspension, or even longer. The drivers/guides now pretty well toe the line which keeps the dust down, and is much safer and more enjoyable then previously…!

T-24 crossing the road…!

While I was there this past February, sightings were down a bit but the department is creating fire lines by burning fallen leaves on the side of the road that somehow effects tiger sightings. I experienced this same thing in Pench National Park last year where they were doing the same thing burning leaves but now I realized for a good reason. I did not really think about it at the time and did not get any tiger sightings, but did hear several tigers roaring in the dense forest. The big cat just moved away from the road temporally. March is when they expedite this safety program to keep forest fire down to a minimum.

T-76 in the late afternoon just before closing time..!

However, I did get two tigers this time shown here; a female known as T-76 or ‘Naina’ in the afternoon as we were heading back to the gate. We stopped at a T-junction for few minutes and she popped out of the grasslands in front of us for some really great head-on shots. Then the next morning as we were motoring around, we bumped into a bunch of jeeps parked along one side of the road. We slipped into a space and were there for 10 minutes when a male tiger was seen rustling in the bushes directly across from us. He then sauntered down to a natural spring and stayed at the waterhole for more than 10 minutes slurping up a needed drink. I kept on shooting until he moved and in a few minutes, he popped out on the road and as he crossed, I got some good flanking shots of ‘T-24’ known locally as the ’Jamun Tola Male’…I was elated to say the least…!

So, my recommendation is: if you want a great visit with the possibility of seeing a tiger, go to Kanha as it is well worth the trip. Again, well done Forest Department Director and staff, and I look forward to future visits to India’s best run tiger reserve and national park. Every park in the country should now take note and follow suit, as most of the other ones continue to have serious problems with jeeps racing for position, and absolute mayhem when tigers are spotted. This will be tough to implement but given time, I’m hoping things will get better in the other tiger reserves scattered throughout India.





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