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Published: March 1st 2016
We arrived back into Delhi mid-day and once we'd found our taxi (which is not an easy feat at Delhi airport!) were whisked away to the hotel. This was different from the one we had previously stayed in, closer to the airport and in a completely different part of the city which actually felt like a different city as it was much calmer and quieter.
The hotel was quite pleasant and strangely owned and run by French people. We spent our couple of days there largely catching up on admin and washing but we did pop out to Qutb Minar, an old Islamic complex south of the city which has a very beautiful brick minaret. The second evening there we met the other couple that were also going on our big cats trip - Rick and Audrey.
Rather unfortunately both of us woke up feeling lousy on the first morning of the trip and struggled to get our things together and get to the airport for our flight to Jabalpur in Madya Pradesh. It was a 70 seater twin prop plane - I'm not keen on small planes but I felt too rough to even think about it but we
did pay for legroom seats and dozed for most of the flight. On arrival at the tiny airport we were eventually met by the bus to take us to Bandhavgarh and the start of 12 days of safaris. It was a 4 hour drive, luckily on a reasonably comfortable bus, and both of us slept quite a lot but felt no better when we arrived at Monsoon Forest Lodge where we were to stay for 3 nights. It's a small place with posh tents and cottages dotted around an area full of trees and a small central building with a lounge, outside area and dining room. The people were incredibly welcoming but H and I just wanted to lie down. We did attend dinner but couldn't manage to eat anything and were both asleep by 9pm.
Much of the trip was passed in the same way, early starts for a long safari, sometimes breakfast on the way, sometimes when we got back, a break for a rest, lunch and then back out for more safari.
At Bandhavgarh we were accompanied on all the drives by Sid, a naturalist. You are also required to take a park
guide who ranged from being very good to just along for the ride it seemed. The park is quite small and has a good population of tigers which is the main reason for visiting but there are plenty of other things to see. I was not well enough to go on the first morning ride but H fought his way out of bed and got some lovely pics, if not of tigers!
Over 5 drives we saw a great range of birds including eagles and owls, spotted deer, sambar deer, a few jackal, a mongoose, a very far away sloth bear and lots of black faced langurs. And yes, late on in our 4th drive we did see a tiger - a male cub about 11 months old, rustling his way through the grass just beyond the road. It was so exciting with the driver bouncing us across the bumpy road to get to where another jeep had spotted him and then he was there - majestic and striking, slowly padding his way past. We were oohing and aahing and could have watched for ever, but sadly there are strict rules on park times and all jeeps have
to be out by 6pm. We were running really late so had a wild drive back to the park gates to make it with one minute to spare but elated that we had finally seen our tiger. At the end of that drive, Sid, our naturalist invited us to his house for tea so we got to meet his wife, sons, nephew, brother, father and cows!
As days went on we both improved and started to manage to eat more and we didn't miss any more drives. The people at the lodge really went out of their way to look after us and particularly to help us when we were feeling unwell and we were sad to leave after our 3 nights.
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