Home base-KumKum Lodge Suki 4×4-India made!
We arrived in Umaria the nearest train station at on to Bandanvargh National park at 1am in the morning as the train was late, quickly negotiated the taxi down from 750R to 300R, we almost went with a tuk-tuk at 400R but as it turned out the taxi was a blessing. It was 32km’s and the road was very rough and would have taken 3 times as long in a tuk-tuk as they do not do well on bumpy roads, not long after leaving Umaria you enter the Park and we had to wake up the sleeping night guard to open the gate. Tigers roam this road and you are not supposed to get out of the vehicle at anytime.
By the time we get to the village of Tala it is almost 2am and our chosen Hotel Kum-Kum was dark and although the taxi driver banged on every door and yelled no one answered, apparently everyone gets up at 5am for Tiger Safaris so they are very soundly asleep. “Bridges” our taxi driver is at aloss of what to do wuth to homeless foreigners and he says we are to sleep in the taxi (no one sleeps outside in Tiger country), so we crash for 4 hrs in his taxi. I woke several times in the night and swear I could hear a Tiger growling nearby! Turns out later I was probably correct as a Tiger had killed a pig a few days before next door just over a rickety wood fence next to our car.
Checking in to our cabin we met the owners of a 500cc Enfield motorbike, a young Irish couple, Laura and Steve bravely riding the highways of India, tigers will be easy for them.
They had booked a Tiger tour in the eve and we shared the cost about 3,000R ($65.00) per jeep split between us. We had a bumpy ride into the park and drove through lovely forests and bamboo groves, saw lots of deer, monkeys, eagles, mongoose, but no Tiger.
Tiger pug mark Thirsty in Jungle
We booked another tour for the 4 of us this time at 5am, nice sunset and saw a very different area of the park more rocky and also lovely waterholes, but still no TIGERS!! By this time we are begining to work out that booking tours should have been done months ago and can be done online. meanwhile we are struggling to get booking and and only 50 jeeps are allowed in at one time, the high end hotels are sending in jeeps that hold 6 people with only 2 people in them thus depriving us of the chance to get in to the park. At breakfast we hear that a young Indian girl was killed just outside the village when she accidentally got to close to a Tigers fresh kill (local cow).
We met Simon and Lisa from UK who are on stunning BMW bikes and wear what locals must think are space suits, they are in the 7th year of living there dream to ride through every country in the world, along the way they have camped in the wilderness of many countries and had there share of really bad crashes (broken, bones, necks), needed more money so they sold there home and have 4 years to go, then what? (www.toridetheworld.com), last night a Tiger wanderd through the Hotel grounds next door.
We manage to get in on a 5am cancellation on the 3rd day but still no luck, Steve and Laura we very disappointed and headed out towards Agra and Nepal.
That eve we begged at the gate and got lucky a Indian couple agreed to share there Jeep, after 3 hours bumping through the forest and up over hills and down past the water holes filled with deer and vultures we still had yet to see a Tiger in the wild, the sun was low and as the park closes at sunset the Jeeps had to head for home, hot, dusty and thirsty it all seemed over and yet around a bend in the bamboo was a Tiger! huge and powerfully and way to close! suddenly Tiger hunting was very real,
Eye contact at 20ft.
she wandered past us only 20ft away clearly ignoring us as and we were not worthy of her attention. in a few precious seconds she padded quietly along the edge of the bamboo bushes and then flopped down in the middle of the red sand road, yawned and pretended the humans were not there at all.
So know we new what a powerfully and unsettling thing it is to meet a Tiger up close and we wanted more! After several days of trying to get a booking we gave up and head south to Kana in the hope that there we would be able to see more Tigers.