From Agra we took a 12 hour overnight train ride to Bandhavgarh National Park. I slept surprisingly well on the moderately bumpy train. Bandhavgarh has the highest density tiger population in the world. There are about 55 tigers and 22 leopards in the 105 square kilometer park. It is the former hunting grounds of the maharajas of Rewa.
This was our first chance to get up very close to tigers. When tigers are found, they ride in specially trained elephants to take tourists to the tigers. The elephants have a platform strapped to them that holds 4 people and 1 ‘driver’. When it’s your jeep’s turn to go on the elephant, we climb from the tops of our jeeps onto the platform. The comfortable platform was padded and had a bar in front of you to hold on to if needed. It is a bit bumpy when the elephant is walking, but not bad. Most of the elephants that I rode had a bad habit of spraying snot on us with their trunks. The drivers would guide the elephant to usually within about 10-20 yards of the tiger. Since the elephants with the funny looking monkeys on their back were
too big to eat, the tigers pretty much ignored them. The drivers had great control over the elephants. Once we got close to the tiger, they would face the elephant so that people on one side of the platform could see. After a few minutes they would turn the elephant around allowing people on the other side of the platform to see. Each ride lasted about 15 minutes.
We spent 3 full days at the park and had several opportunities to ride the elephants. We didn’t see any of the leopards or sloth bears that are in the park. They are mostly active at night and are very rarely seen.
On one of our evening safari trips, we heard the baby deer yipping for its mom for a while. We were shocked to find out it was being carried around by a tiger cub when it walked across the road with the deer in its mouth. The cub took the deer into the bushes and played with it for at least half an hour until we had to leave the park because of sunset. It was a bit sad since the deer was still alive and still yipping.
It was just a like a domestic cat playing with a live mouse only on a much larger scale.
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