Besides conservation, tourism is the key activity at Bandhavgarh National Park situated in the State of Madhya Pradesh in Central India. Before its notification and Wildlife Protection Act, the forests belonged to the erstwhile Maharajah's of Rewa State in MP. In hey days of the Raj, BTR was a hunting preserve, and except the rulers and British nobody could hunt here. This is one reason as to why this patch of forest is still preserved. Most of the neighboring forests have been denuded by loggers and large forest tracts have been turned into agriculture fields.
The park is divided into inviolate core zone and outer buffer zone which is subject to human interference. The tourism is conducted in four zones as of now. They are the Tala zone which is a premium zone here gate entry is much higher than other zones. Khitauli, Panpatha and Magdhi are other zones meant for tourists on tiger safari. The tiger sightings are good by all means and Bandhavgarh is the best place to see the tiger in India. The tiger population density is very high and the marshy grasslands and dense woods in the core zone attracts many tigers to the visitors delight.
The park safaris are conducted twice a day once at predawn to early noon and the other at evening hours to dusk. Morning rides are more fruitful as far as tiger sightings are concerned. For tiger safari a gate entry fee along with forest guide fee has to be paid which differs between Indian and Foreign Tourists. The jeep safari charge is separate and has to be paid to the owner of the jeep. Private vehicles are not allowed to enter the tourism zones. The forest guide is must while camera fee have to be paid in case of professional equipments. The gate entry should be booked in advance since there is vehicle restriction and prefrred zone might not be available. The booking can be done by the hotels or authorized MP Online Kiosks.
The jeep safari is conducted in a pre designated area for each party. In case if the big cat is not sighted on jeep safaris "Elephant Safari or Tiger Show" is another option. The elephants along with the mahout trek the tiger which is then held in same place by a cordon of tame elephants belonging to the forest department. The visitors are then taken on elephant back to the spot where the tiger is and after a brief sighting they are brought back to their jeep. Long Rides are possible in BTR if booked in advance.
Most preferred season for tiger safaris is the winters. During Diwali, Xmas and New Year there is a wild rush this time has to be avoided. The Holi festival in Jan/Feb also attracts large number of holiday makers in festive mood - stay away. Summers though hot are very much suited to wildlife photographers and film makers. Birders prefer winters but summer birding results in check listing a very large number of resident birds.
Animal watching is fun on open jeep safaris and one can see tigers, leopards, wild dogs, deer, monkeys and bears on a good day. The majestic bison has been reintroduced in the park which is an added attraction. Night Safaris are not allowed within the confines of the National Park but one can organize a trip on common roads to see nightlife on this magnificent preserve.