We have been visiting the Bandhavgarh National Park for game drives each day. There are three “zones” in the park and each vehicle that enters the gate is assigned to a zone and also to two routes. For instance, this morning we were assigned to Zone 2, driving into the park on Route B and leaving the park on Route C. The gates open at 6:30 a.m. and you HAVE to be out at 11:00 a.m. for the first drive of the day. If your jeep is even one minute late leaving the park, that car is banned for one month. This can be quite detrimental to the lodge because they have allotted the correct amount of vehicles for the guests that they have. The clearances for each guest and vehicles are planned weeks in advance and no one wants to be late. That’s how it works here – very different from African safaris.
This morning’s game drive was sort of a “bust” but that can certainly happen. It is best to just shake it off and get ready for the afternoon drive. We didn’t have to get up as early today and started out around 5:45 a.m. We were in the park at 6:30 sharp (that’s when they open the gate) but didn’t see any tigers. Another jeep in our group watched a sloth bear come to a water hole and drink. We drove by too late but saw it in the distance. It is much larger than I imagined (about the size of a North American black bear) but it was a bummer that we couldn’t get a photo. Seriously - does the sighting really count if you’re not able to take a picture of it to show to your friends on Facebook?
Some interesting sightings included the kingfisher bird (one of my favorites). In India they have the White-throated Kingfisher (shown above) as well as the Common or Eurasian Kingfisher. If you’ve even seen the label on the Kingfisher beer, it includes a beautiful artistic rendition of the Common Kingfisher.
We were able to watch the Langur Monkey for quite some time with the Spotted Deer nearby. They have an interesting symbiotic relationship of sorts that I enjoyed learning about - so you’re stuck with the information too. :) The Langur Monkey is a messy eater. They chow down on the leaves of the Sal tree. They only manage to get one in about 10 leaves into their mouths so the rest fall to the ground.
The Spotted Deer are “browsers” and “grazers” so they eat both leaves and grass and since the monkeys make it so easy for them, they are quite happy to stand under the trees and eat the leftovers. The monkeys also watch over the territory from the trees and will sound an alarm call when they see predators. Then the deer know to be on alert.
So what do the monkeys get out of it? The deer have an excellent sense of hearing as well as smell so they will listen for predators and sound an alarm call. The Spotted Deer sort of “scream” and the Barking Deer – you guessed it – sound like a dog barking when they see a tiger. When the deer are nearby, the monkeys come out of the trees and eat the ripe berries that have fallen because if a predator is around their buddies will let them know.