Our next stop were the two most famous tiger reserves in Central India – Bandhavgarh and Kanha. The areas that Kipling apparently based The Jungle Book on.
Indian safaris are very different from African safaris. Firstly, in some heavily touristed parks such as Bandavgarh, you need to book your actual jeep rides way in advance as the numbers are limited. Secondly, new regulations tell you where you may drive, in order to destress the animals by limiting the numbers of people in particular regions. It sounds good on paper, but in practise it means that some of the time you are driving in areas with very little chance of seeing tigers.
A safari is a magnificent experience in so many ways. You’re up early in the morning and depart with other jeeps from your hotel to the Park gate, where everyone lines up waiting for the gates to open. You collect a national park guide who has to join you, and then you’re off, driving deep into the jungle and hoping against hope that your guides will strike gold for you. Being in the jungle is much more than tigers – the various antelopes, the magnificent gaur (a cousin of the buffalo), peacocks and all kinds of exotic birds, and perhaps, if one is really lucky, a glimpse of a leopard or a sighting of a bear.
It does require lots of patience, so for kids 5 and under it can be difficult. It really depends on the child. For kids older than 5, it is a real adventure. We probably had too many drives – I’d say 4 is a good number for most families, but like all things, the more opportunities you have, the higher your chances at getting lucky.
We had a great time, and Eitan became firm friends with Jay, the son of the lodge owner, who at age 9 seemed to know more about wildlife than any of the adults!
Bandhavgarh and Kanha are very different.. The first is a small park – you will see fences and tilled fields on the other side of the fence, while Kanha is much much bigger. On the other hand, the smaller the park, the better your chances at seeing the hard to spot animals.
I’d say if you can, don’t go to India and not go on safari. It is truly a special feeling, and one really can imagine that you are back in the land of the Jungle Book.