The heart of India is covered with beautiful and vast forest ranges that are home to some of India’s most treasured wildlife, including the Royal Bengal Tiger. Jared sets out on a ‘Drive to Discover’ Madhya Pradesh.
The first rays of the sun haven’t lit up the sky as yet, and the early morning chill bites hard. The air is so fresh that I can taste the earthiness of the forest – and the chirping birds are the only sounds I hear. It must be nearly 5am, as I whimper out of my room in my camo gear – armed with my camera. I make my way towards the reception of the hotel where I’ll get into an open Gypsy and head out on a safari in Bandhavgarh National Park – hopefully, to spot another Tiger.
My journey to Bandhavgarh started two days prior. I flew into Nagpur and joined a bunch of auto journalists from around the country for what has now become an annual gathering organized by Honda Cars India – known as the ‘Drive to Discover’. This year, I was eager to join the drive because it would cover the entire state of Madhya Pradesh. I’ve always been a huge wildlife enthusiast, and when I heard that we would be visiting the Pench National Park, Kanha National Park and Bandhavgarh National Park, I jumped at the opportunity.
We headed out from Nagpur and made our way to the Pench National Park, which is not a very long drive – but a tough one indeed because of the terrible road conditions. The scenery, fortunately, was welcoming. We arrived just in time for lunch at our resort, and then headed out for our first Safari. The forests are actually quite dense at this time of the year, making it hard to spot the animals. We were assured by our guide that we would, if nothing else, get to see a wide range of flora and fauna. We saw plenty of Chital, Sambar, as well as a few Jackals – plus a wide variety of birds. But, obviously, we were all more interested in spotting a Tiger. Luckily though, after covering a lot of ground, right towards the end of our safari we were able to spot a beautiful Tigress calmly and gallantly strolling down a dirt road. We weren’t the only ones though, as there were around ten other jeeps that had been following her. It certainly seemed like the Tigress was very comfortable with people around her and she didn’t have a care in the world – despite all the commotion taking place behind her.
Our next destination was the Kanha National Park, which we were going to visit briefly for lunch and then head straight up to Bandhavgarh. The road conditions were varied – in some areas they really are a nightmare for any vehicle, and, in some places, they’re pretty well laid out. But the one constant was the breathtaking views of the forests and the hilly terrain of Madhya Pradesh. All the national parks are somewhat interconnected, and the entire drive from Pench, to Kanha, and then onto Bandhavgarh was beautiful. We had the entire Honda line-up with us, except for the Accord, and every car from the Brio to the CR-V was easily up to the task.
Bandhavgarh was meant to be a sure shot for us to spot a Tiger, as it’s claimed to have the highest Tiger density in India. So, there I was, walking toward my Gypsy very confident that we would spot another majestic Tiger. But the forests in Bandhavgarh are even denser, and it was much harder to spot any animals at all. As the morning safari continued, we didn’t see much and soon it was over. We ended up having a hearty breakfast in the forest and then made our way to our final destination – Khajuraho.
It was another long drive to the ancient temple city, but, again, the scenery kept our spirits alive. Madhya Pradesh certainly is a beautiful place. And while the road network isn’t the best, it’s certainly a place that I would highly recommend to anyone searching for destinations that are well off the beaten path. And if that’s what you crave, MP will certainly leave a lasting impression.