History, culture, and arts aside, Madhya Pradesh’s major draw is its many national parks rich in flora and fauna. Each of them is different in terrain and character, they all offer abundant opportunities for the most coveted of all animal sightings—the tiger. The jungles are also home to tribal communities indigenous to these parts. A visit to the national parks of M.P. is a window into how man and nature have coexisted in harmony over decades.
Steeped in history, Bandhavgarh is prime tiger country. With the largest density of royal Bengal tigers in the world, there’s no better place to see the big cat in the wild. But tiger sighting apart, the national park has some stunning sites including an abandoned fort, ancient caves and a reclining moss covered statue of Lord Vishnu. According to local lore, Bandhavgarh fort, which is located in the park, is said to have been gifted by Lord Rama to his younger brother Lakshmana. Once the hunting ground of the erstwhile maharajas of Rewa, the area was declared a national park in 1968. The four zones of the park, namely, Tala, Maghdi, Panpatha and Khitauli each offer something special. While Tala and Maghdi are known for tigers, Panpatha is known for dhole (wild dog) sightings and Khitauli for spotting leopards and sloth bears. The national park is also known as the abode of white tigers. While no wild white tiger sightings have been reported over the last 50 years, the only ones before that were seen in Bandhavgarh.
In Panna the spotlight shifts from the tiger to the gharial, an enormous crocodile found in abundance at the Ken Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary, part of the national park. On a relaxing boat ride down the Ken river spot gharials as well as myriad other resident and migratory birds.
Chaitali Patel is the former Associate Editor, Special Projects at National Geographic Traveller India. She's partial to nature, history and the arts. She believes that every trip is as much a journey within as it is one outside.