by Marcus Leach
There was time when the majestic tiger ranged widely across Asia, but those days are sadly gone, thanks to poaching and the destruction of their natural habitat. There are however several remaining places in the world where these elegant animals roam free, offering the public a rare chance to see them in their natural habitat. One such place is Bandhavgarh National Park in the central Indian state of Madyha Pradesh, which boasts the highest concentration of wild tigers in all of India.
Bandhavgarh derives its name from the most prominent hillock in the park and is a hugely popular tourist attraction due to its high number of tigers and beautiful Indian jungle landscape. Whilst tiger sightings here are not guaranteed if you stay for long enough your chances are pretty high. Whether you are a wildlife fanatic, or simply want to see one of the world's most beautiful animals, a trip to India and Bandhavgarh should be high on your list.
Many people head here to see the famed tigers, but don't be fooled into thinking that that is all there is to see there. The park offers so much more with over forty leopards, the sloth bear (think Baloo from Kipling's Jungle Book), as well as sambar and barking deer, and over a hundred different species of birds.
How to Get There: Air India operate daily flights from London Heathrow direct to Mumbai, where you will need a connecting flight to Jabalpur. From here you have two options, a private car to the lodge you are staying in, or a train to the nearest town, which is Umaria (32km from the Tala - the entrance village for the park). Nearly all lodges offer a pick-up service from both Jabalpur (4 hours and around £50) and Umaria (1 hour and around £20). If travelling by train you will need to book tickets in advance, with the safest and most secure method being www.cleartrip.com.
Where to Stay: One of the appeals of Bandhavgarh, other than the tigers, is that it has a wide range of accommodation to suit all budgets. So whether you are living our of your rucksack, or looking for a little luxury there is something for everyone. All lodges will offer accommodation and tiger drive packages, so don't worry about booking your drives seperately.
Tree House Hideaway - One of the most beautiful lodges in the area, and with just five luxury tree houses, each set in a secluded spot of the jungle, there is a real sense of exclusivity. With the lodge's setting merging into the jungles of the national park it is not uncommon to spot animals from the privacy of your own tree house balcony.
Taj Mahu Kothi - Whenever the name 'Taj' is used one instantly expects exceptionally high standards, and the Mahu Kothi does not disappoint. Set in forty acres of land this luxury lodge offers 12 beautifully decorated huts (known locally as Kutiyas) and is one of the areas premier resorts.
Bagh Sarai Resort - If you are after the natural feel then look no further than this lovely resort, set in the Parasi village. Spread of twenty acres of lush forest the resort utilises ancient methods and local materials and offers both cottages and tents for accommodation.
Jungle Inn - Located in the gate town of Tala Jungle Inn is less glamorous than other lodges but nonetheless offers a good range of standard and deluxe rooms, all with en-suite bathrooms.
Important Information: All visitors to India will need a standard tourist visa (£92) which must be obtained before departing the UK. For more information on visas click here. It is worth noting that Bandhavgarh is in an area of India with a risk of malaria, so you will also need anti-malarias.
Top Tip: Take plenty of warm clothing as the early morning safari drives can be bitterly cold before the sun rises.
Image © Kim Liu Leach