Hi once again.
From Wednesday 11th afternoon till Monday 16th I spent time in the park with Satyendra and guests. The new route system is interesting. There are two routes that go out on the Eastern side of the park via Chakradhara or Banbehi to Milchaini and then on to Hardia and registration point and two that go out via Chorbehra or Badhaini through Rajbehra by the the Western section. If you go out via the Eastern half you come back via the Western half. Also if late entering the park or if you desire just to amble and bird watch or do photography you can take just one route in and come back via the same. In this case you need not go all the way to Hardia for registration but you must say you are doing this at the gate on entry. You are not allowed to deviate off routes and various roads are closed completely. These include Silveria and Amma Nallah, Ghorademon Gorge and Debrua. Also old A route is not a route though you can at Hardia choose to use it to exit though I am not sure if you can request to go via it. Sehra meadow is now in Magdhi Range as is Dubra too but Mahaman is back in Tala Range. All in all this is interesting and certainly one does not see so many vehicles. However there still remains too hot spots namely Milchaini corner and Sidh Baba! At present one is allowed to change routes back at Hardia but this is fairly random and sometimes its allowed and other times not. All in all these are interesting changes indeed!
The biggest issue as I see it is the areas that are closed and the fact that one can get the same routes day after day but in opposite directions. As a driver or guide its all hit and miss and a little monotomous. A naturalists skill is hardly applicable now but for information when seeing things or wildlife of interest. Tracking is a thing of the past because one is not allowed off route. Ones only choice now is playing the system and attempting to negotiate a route that offers more probable reward. This can be difficult. Certainly without that degree of freedom that has been allowed up till now everyones sightings but the priviledged few will go down.
However in this new system when there is a sighting there are less vehicles present and therefore the experience better in one way. This is of course until the Forest Department intervene and move people on after there alocated two to five minute viewing time! The most frustrating area of the park in the future, if this system remains will be Climber Point and Rajbehra Dam. Those on Route A are on Climber Point and not allowed on Rajbehra Dam and those on Rajbehra are on Route C and not allowed on Climber Point. So if you happen to be on one route and the tigers are on the other even though you will be yards away and aware of this you will not be allowed to go! Now in this scenario I am sure people will break rules and cross boundaries and even if the Forest Department try and police this the situation could be interesting. Will they allow people to cross routes for a few minutes or will they try and be strict? It will be interesting so watch this space as summer progresses. All in all I see the only people benefiting at this point from the new system are those who come for a long term stay who do not mind seeing less but without the crowds, the VIP's and the priviledged few who can cleverly play the system, and of course those who pay for special permission! At present there have been people here who have been on 8 or more drives and even 14 who have seen nothing and others who have had several sightings in less drives. I do however believe sightings could improve as the season progresses though the park is bound to loose the two year old plus youngsters before the summer months that are at present seen.
These are the cubs in Badhaini and the Milchaini males. Recently the tigress in Badhaini began bullying her daughters and B2 has begun pushing the boys in Milchaini. Where they will move too will be anyones guess or if once they leave Tala Range they will ever be seen again? Here we must have faith that all the money and equipment presently being donated by Tiger Guard to the Management in Bandhavgarh for vehicles and equipment for anti poaching will solve the problems of disappearing tigers and result in the Ranges of Khitauli, Panpatha, Magdhi and Kulwah being haven for all the cubs born in Tala Range. If this kind of money ie. 35 lakh for motorbikes etc recently, cannot help then I hardly see what can other than decrease the population. And as the MP State Government has refused to sign papers making Director responsible for missing tigers in order to have money released for village translocation then what hope?? Money can solve some of the problems but personally it is committment that solves more and committment to make money is not committment to use it properly.
As to the actual time I spent in the park we had two sightings. Both interestingly of tigreses and cubs. One was in Chorbehra when the tigress had just bought a small chital fawn for her two wee ones and one was in Milchaini when the three cubs here were sitting amongst bamboo. The only problem here was the presence of four Forest Department vehicles showing family and friends and frantically trying to move all paying tourists on! Having had a difficult time with sightings everywhere because of the unseasonal weather and rain it was gauling to be moved on during only the second of two sighting during four days! On the fifth and sixth days it rained and heavily at times ruining all chances and even for those who had paid for special permission at CCA/taj, very unfortunate. What was lovely however during this period was the different atmospherics of the park. Cool misty mornings with hundreds of cobwebs and warm sunlit mornings with beans of silver light streaming through green foliage as opposed to heavy clouds broken by the sun or rain. Very interesting across so short a time. Thankfully the client was happy with his visit though always people crave more tiger sightings and chances. It was wonderful to be back in the park again but I do wonder where wildlife tourism is heading and long for days gone by before the rush began and Bandhavgarh became so popular.
More hopefully soon.