237km (147 miles) S of Khajuraho
Known as "Kipling Country," despite the fact that the writer never set foot here, the nature reserves of Madhya Pradesh are archetypal India, with vast tracts of jungle, open grassy plains, and, of course, tigers. Bandhavgarh National Park occupies 437 sq. km (168 sq. miles), making it a great deal smaller than its more famous cousin, Kahna National Park. But despite its relatively diminutive size, the park is home to some 50 to 70 tigers; around 25 of these are in the tourist zone, and at press time there are several new litters on their way contributing to what is probably the highest density of tigers in any park on earth. Once the personal hunting grounds of local maharajas who almost wiped out the tiger population, Bandhavgarh continues to experience problems with wayward poachers, usually suppliers for China's lucrative traditional medicine industry. But, as locals will assure you, your chances of seeing a wild tiger (those at Ranthambhore are almost tame) are still unmatched anywhere else in India. Best of all, you will approach your predator on elephant-back, giving the entire experience a totally unreal air. Besides the sought-after tiger, the sanctuary is home to spotted deer, sambar, nilgai antelope, barking deer, shy chinkara (Indian gazelle), and wild boar; leopards and sloth bears are far more elusive. The varied topography includes dramatic cliffs that proved a natural location for the 14th-century Bandhavgarh Fort. If you give enough notice, you can arrange to visit the reserve's rock-cut caves, with inscriptions dating as far back as the 2nd century B.C.
The White Tiger of Rewa
The last elusive white tiger ever to roam free was a Bandhavgarh cub that was snared by Martand Singh, who bred the animal in captivity in order to exploit its deviant genes and so produce a new "genus" -- the "White Tiger of Rewa." Today, the only places you'll see white tigers are zoos.
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