After a short night in Delhi we were on the move again. We met in the lobby at 3:45 (am) for our flight south to the city of Bhopal.
By 8 am we were out of the airport (a relatively new and very clean airport by the way), loaded into the vehicles and off on the next part of our adventure. First we had to drive through the city of Bhopal, best known as the home to the world’s worst industrial disaster (the 1984 toxic gas leak). It’s one of the greenest cities in India – as we drove we saw a remarkable amount of green space and a lot of new construction.
Our hotel for this leg of the trip, Denwa Backwater Escape, was 148 km from the airport in Bhopal. Despite the relatively short distance, the drive took us just over 3 1/2 hours. A good part of that time was spent navigating our way through the city – why is the airport always on the opposite side?
On arrival we were greeted by the heat and the friendly hotel staff. We were given leis, cold towels, lemongrass juice and a reusable water bottle. Then we were shown to our rooms. Words can’t describe how amazing the rooms are – so…
And outside the room, just in case you needed more space, there was a beautiful deck. It was so hot that I never actually sat out there – such a waste!
There was also an upper space to sit and relax, you can see those in this picture.
This was the pool deck – if you look up you can see the monkeys sitting in the rafters.
This was my favourite of all the places we stayed – the room, the food, the property and the staff were all amazing. The only down side was that the wildlife sightings weren’t as good here, but the park is beautiful and I still managed to find things to take photos of!
Satpura Tiger Reserve is named for the Satpura (sanskrit for Seven Mountains) Range that runs through it. It was formed in 1981 by combining Satpura National Park with the Bori and Pachmarhi Sanctuaries and is over 1,400 square km in size. The Denwa Backwater Escape is located in the buffer zone just to the north of the Madhai sector.
After a lovely lunch, we headed out on our first game drive…
We made it back to the lodge around 7 pm (the park closes at 6:45), drinks and appetizers at 7:30, dinner at 8 and then back to the room for some much needed sleep.
The next morning we assembled at the departure point at 5:15 where they had bananas, cereal, cookies, coffee/tea and orange juice for us. At 5:30 we loaded into the vehicles and drove to the river where had to get out of the lodge vehicles and walk across a floating bridge to reach the park vehicles. When the water is high, this river fills the entire low area. At that time of year, you cross by boat.
For our efforts, we were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise.
As we entered the park, there was a herd of Spotted Deer grazing near a very still pond. So who could resist stopping for a few reflection pictures?
Then we given a special treat as two stags put on a show for us…
It’s one of those things you need to hear to understand…
Gaur (also known as Indian Bison) are the largest wild cattle in the world and they are massive!
Langurs have an extremely long tail, which apparently helps with their balance.
They are mainly grey, but in the early morning light they appear more brown than grey.
This one was taking her baby away from the crazy tourists…
The Indian Roller is one of my favourite birds. They are beautiful when sitting and even more beautiful when flying, but you’ll have to take my word for that!
Around 8 in the morning we would head to the Elephant Camp where we’d have our breakfast and stretch our legs.
That is where we found this little guy, sunning himself on a log.
As hot as it was, the elephant camp was like a little oasis in the dessert.
Back on the trail we were on the hunt for the elusive Sloth Bear or Indian Leopard. The guides had seen tracks for both but still no luck.
I love the expressions on the faces of the monkeys!
The physical landscape of this park was beautiful, with little pops of green everywhere.
There wasn’t much going on so we were back at the lodge by 10. A good opportunity for a swim and a beer by the pool!
This photo of a green bee-eater was taken from my patio. Another beautiful bird…
The afternoon drive was pretty quiet, it was too hot to be out!
The next morning we were up and out early again. It was still very quiet and there are only a few photos to share.
It was so quiet that they took us up to this centuries old Hindu temple.
There were signs that the bears had been here, using it as shelter.
On the way back to the Lodge we passed the home of this Spotted Owlet.
After lunch we’d head back to the park around 4. It was our last afternoon in Satpura and we were really hoping to see something special!
And then, finally, we caught up with a sloth bear and her silly, tree climbing cub.
The cub was up and down several trees and mom stayed on the ground, seemingly unconcerned with our presence.
Mom started heading home and the little one followed. Sloth bear are the only species that carry their young on their back, and as soon as he caught up with mom he launched himself onto her back for the ride home!
Happy that we’d finally seen a sloth bear, we started heading back to the park entrance. As we were driving an Indian Leopard ran across the road in front of us. With all the dust in the air from the vehicles it was difficult to see. I can tell you that the very skittish leopard is somewhere in this picture, but I can’t find it!
The next morning we chose to hit the road early (7 am) and possibly stop along the way at a market to take some photos. In the end, that didn’t happen but we did make a brief stop along the way so the drivers could get some tea.
These parts of India don’t see a lot of tourists from other countries, much less white ones, so they were very curious…
The 398 km drive from Satpura from Bandhavgarh took us through the heart of the state’s grain belt.
Wheat is an important crop in this part of Madhya Pradesh. But the farms are small and many of them cut their wheat by hand and put it into small bundles to send to the grain depot where it is ground (by machine) and bagged by hand.
We didn’t actually stop in the market town, but we were going slow enough to take a few photos…
Crossing the train tracks in India can be a bit of a challenge. If there’s a train coming, the arms come down well before the train comes and cars have to sit and wait. The people on motorbikes, on the other hand, don’t.
At least we had entertainment while we waited!
After 9 hours on the road we arrived around 4 pm at our home for the next 5 nights, King’s Lodge at Bandhavgarh.
Up next – Tigers!