In the seventies, I made my first visit to Bandhavgarh National Park in Central India. It was a small park barely visited by the tourists except by one or two photographers from overseas, and some drop ins who had heard about the destination from friends.
Desolate and untended, the sparks of tourism were barely seen but nevertheless gauging the potential MPTDC had set up a property consisting of four rooms and a small bar cum dining. The place was aptly known as White Tiger Lodge, for the famous white tiger Mohun was discovered nearby by then Maharajah of Rewa.
A lone rest house belonging to the forest department with office at Umaria the district head quarters was available for accommodation at preposterously cheaper rates. The food was cooked at the kitchen if you carried ration with you. The rest house was well maintained along with a dormitory nearby.
There was no wildlife resort in picture and you had to rely on the FRH being available for accommodation. The Maharani Kothi was private property of Maharani of Rewa and out of bounds to most.
Umaria to Manpur Highway, the entrance to Bandhavgarh at Tala Village was accessible by bus service connected with Katni and Umaria. These townships were well connected with Jabalpur a major railhead and now an airport connected with New Delhi. A railway station at Umaria at distance of thirty two kilometres was connected with New Delhi.
Even though the connectivity was good the trickle of tourists was small. The reason was that ecotourism in India had not take off at that time and global reckoning was absent.
It was in the late eighties onwards that films on Indian Wildlife were becoming popular thanks to the major film companies. The gradually increasing tourist flow peaked in the nineties and tour operators/investors were quick to grab the opportunity and they started leasing or building properties here with limited facilities.
Till this day Bandhavgarh Reserve is one of the most popular safari destination in India. With plethora of avian species it is slowly becoming a hot spot for birders from all over th World. The National Park is one of the most frequented destination for wildlife and tiger photography in India.
On my consequent visits, I realized that the rising popularity of the park, and the commercialization of the destination. Bandhavgarh the land of the tiger was in the public eye now and had become part of the hospitality industry in India.
This brought financial benefits to the local population empowering the communities which still goes on. The popularity of the tiger reserve has enhanced conservation efforts as well. The tourist infrastructure has greatly improved with good roads, better connectivity and large number of wildlife resorts.
From the list of resorts at Bandhavgarh on the Internet you can choose your stay. The resorts offer diverse services at budget or luxury tariff. There are few hotels with star rating but for budget travelers most of the cheap resorts are situated on the main road at Tala Village.
Jabalpur provides the best connectivity, but the park is also connected with Kanha National Park and Siddhi Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.