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Trip Report Bruce and Marija, accompanied by 450 Indian school children, search for tigers in Bandhavgarh

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As part of our India trip, Bruce and I wanted to try our luck at seeing the endangered tiger. Based on so many negative comments about Ranthambore, we decided to head to the more remote and better managed Bandhavgarh which supposedly has the largest number of tigers per unit area. We stayed for three nights at the year-old CC Africa/Taj hotels lodge Mahua Kothi.

The road to Bandhavgarh

There's no easy way to get to Bandhavgarh . These are the possibilities enumerated on the Mahua Kothi website:
From Delhi to Mahua Kothi--
Fly to Khajuraho; the drive from Khajuraho to the Lodge is approximately 6 hours - 230 km (via Satna)
Fly to Gwalior; Gwalior to Umaria by train (approximately 12 hours*); and the drive from Umaria to the Lodge is approximately 40 minutes - 30 Km
Fly to Gwalior; Gwalior to Katni by train (approximately 10 hours*); and the drive from Katni to the Lodge is approximately 2.5 hrs - 75 km
Fly to Jabalpur; the drive from Jabalpur to the Lodge is approximately 4 hours - 190 km
By train to Katni (approximately 13 to 14 hours); the drive from Katni to the Lodge is approximately 2.5 hrs - 75 km
*All trains from Delhi stop at Gwalior

From Mumbai to Mahua Kothi--
Fly to Bhopal; connecting flight from Bhopal to Jabalpur; and the drive from Jabalpur to the Lodge is approximately 4 hours - 190 km

The famous erotic stone carvings on the temples of Khajuraho beckoned, so we decided to fly to Khajuraho, spend some time admiring the temples and then drive from there to Mahua Kothi. We were not looking forward to the long and bumpy road there and back and even considered substituting an easier-to-reach park but we wanted to maximize our chances of seeing tigers and stuck with the decision to go to Bandhavgarh.

To ensure that we arrived in time for the afternoon game drive at 2:30, we asked for a 5:30 AM start. The local arrangements agent suggested that we could leave later and still make it in time but we didn't want to take any chances, especially since he said the road was perfectly safe in terms of driving at the early hour. We also declined a breakfast stop en route and munched on granola bars and nuts, though we did encourage the driver to take as many breaks as he needed.

Our concerns about the road were unwarranted. There were two stretches, about 15 minutes each, where the road was bad. Otherwise the road was in decent shape and the time flew by as we watched the fascinating activities that take place on rural Indian roads. By 10:30 we were contentedly seating at a table in Mahua Kothi feasting on a specially prepared hot breakfast and being congratulated for our early arrival which allowed for leisurely exploration of the camp and a great lunch before the game drive.

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