I was in Bandhavgarh National Park in October 2017 and had some really brilliant Tiger sightings there. It was then that I thought of taking out some time and driving two hours for a safari in Sanjay Dubri National Park. This is one of the six national parks of Madhya Pradesh, but the least known. So, I thought of discovering it for myself and doing a safari in Sanjay Dubri National Park.
I left Bandhavgarh National Park at 4 am for this 110kms drive to Badkadol gate of Sanjay Dubri National Park. We were met by Mr Subhash Singh the senior-most guide in the area. I had heard a lot about him and was totally enamoured by his smiling and welcoming persona. He was to accompany us for this sojourn in his park, but due to some last-minute arrival of the Forest officials, he excused himself. A Jeep was waiting for us, we got on with our breakfast, and camera equipment.
Land of White Tigers
Everyone talks of Bandhavgarh being the land of the white Tigers, but little is known that Mohan, the famous white Tiger was caught from the Bastua range in Sanjay Dubri National Park. Surprised? we were also. On 4th June 1951 Maharaja Rewa, Shri Martand Singh caught Mohan during his Shikar. The importance of Maharaja of Rewa in giving protection to the Jungles in the area is commendable. No one else was allowed to hunt in this area except the Maharaja. Hence this prevented a lot of hunting in these forests.
The first question to the guide was the obvious one, “How many Tigers in the park”? He was shy, but honest, and answered about 8. On being asked has he seen Tigers, he quickly said, yes. When? was the obvious next question? He said, in May 2017, I believe him. We were doing a safari on 7th October, the park had opened only on 1st October. But the guide followed up with a brilliant reply, Sir, Tigers you can see in almost all the parks, but if you want to see Sloth Bears then this is the park.
Sanjay Dubri National Park
The area of the park is about 1650 sq km including a buffer. Primarily a Sal forest but there are ranges where a high quality of Bamboo is prevalent. I heard that a small herd of wild elephants also made their way to this park from Chattisgarh which is on the South boundary of this park. Apparently the Tiger density in this park has never been high. But lately due to better conservation the density has improved. Apparently a Tiger which moved out of Panna National Park and was lurking around found a home in Sanjay Dubri National Park. He fought with male Tigers of the park, became popular with the females, and then made his own territory here, he is named S P 212 now.
The Sal Forest of Sanjay Dubri
Few minutes into the safari, and I could not resist lifting my camera to capture some amazing landscapes which were covered with mist. A typical peaceful Sal forest, but surprisingly a bit warm compared to Bandhavgarh or Kanha.
After a couple of hours of safari, the guide got us to Bidkuri camp, a watchtower. We climbed up for breakfast, and what I saw left me completely mesmerized. I share a few seconds of the same in the video below.
Historical facets of Sanjay Dubri
Having had one of the best breakfast four floors above the ground surrounded by a virgin forest, seeing only Sal, and nothing else, hearing only birds and nothing else. This was a perfect meditative spot. No wonder this park has also attracted many enlightened souls in the past centuries. Nemisharan temple is not too far from here. It is said that Birbal the Hindu Advisor in the court of Emperor Ashok was from this area. It is quite a coincidence that this Rewa belt has produced quite a few gems. Tansen and Birbal found prominent space in the court of Emperor Akbar.
It is said that Saint Agastaya along-with some other saints from South India had stopped over at the Chandradeh Temple, which is about an hours drive from here. The local King Ulkamukh (he finds an eminent place in the Satya Narayan Katha of Hindus) served the Saints and in a blessing got two sons. One son was named Chandradeh, hence the Chandradeh temple.
Did not feel like coming down from the watchtower such was the peace that unfolded there. But we had to move on with our safari. We reached the Lajhori Talab, close to an Elephant camp. Apparently, there is a Tigress in the area with three cubs in this area.
Tiger sighting during a safari in Sanjay Dubri National Park
Without much delay, we reached the spot where the Elephants were waiting for us. We climbed atop one of them. The Mahout looked a tad familiar, on being asked where was he from, he said Kanha. And that broke the ice. He shared some amazing things about the park. And in a matter of minutes, he tracked the Tigress with cubs in the lantana. The place was totally covered with lantana, but being an experienced Mahout from Kanha, then Panna, and now Sanjay he knows his job very well.
Tigress in Lantana
Her cubs were around, I am told about 3 months only, I could hear them, but could not see them unfortunately due to the dense lantana. But it did not bother me, neither was I wanting to disturb the Tigress, she was resting and we let her be.
Left the area with a promise to myself that I am coming back soon and for a much longer duration. And yes, you will hear more about Sanjay Dubri in my future posts soon.
How to get to Sanjay Dubri National Park and where to stay
For people keen to visit Sanjay Dubri National Park, the best access is from Bandhavgarh about 2 hours drive, and Varanasi about 5-6 hours drive. The only accommodation available as of now is at Parsili Guest House which is of M.P. Tourism, beautifully located on the banks of Banas river. It is about 9kms from Badkadol gate. You can book your Jeep safari permits online, and the vehicles not many currently but can be made available by MP Tourism.
Hope you take out some time to visit this beautiful haven. It is time we move away from the celebrity parks into some lesser-known areas for obvious reasons. One, even these unknown parks will do well with tourism revenue, and I firmly believe that tourism is a good conservation tool. And secondly, the rush in the big parks like Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Ranthambhore, Tadoba, etc will also lessen for the benefit of the first-timers.
– Sharad Vats