Covering 448 sq. km., Bandhavgarh is situated in Shahdol district among the outlying hills of the Vindhya range. At tbandhavgarhhe centre of the park is Bandhavgarh hill, rising 811 mt above MSL. Surrounding it are a large number of smaller hills separated by gently sloping valleys. These valleys end in small, swampy meadows, locally known as 'Bohera'. The lowest point in the park is at Tala (440 mt above MSL). The vegetation is chiefly of Sal forest in the valleys and on the lower slopes, gradually changing to mixed deciduous forest on the hills and in the hotter, drier areas of the park in the south and west. Bamboo is found throughout.
No records remain to show when Bandhavgarh Fort was constructed. It is thought, however, to be some 2,000 years old, and there are references to it in the ancient books, the Narad-Panch Ratra and the Siva Purana. Various dynasties have ruled this fort: for example, the Maghas from the 1st century AD, the Vakatakas from the 3rd century; the Sengars from the 5th century and the Kalchuris from the 10th century. In the 13th century AD, the Baghels took over, ruling from Bandhavgarh until 1617, when Maharajah Vikramaditya Singh moved his capital to Rewa. The last inhabitants deserted the fort in 1935.
The forest of Bandhavgarh can be classified as moist deciduous, and the National Park holds all those animal species which are typical of this habitat in Central India. Certain areas of the park (particularly the south and the west) are drier in character, and hold such species as the Nilgai and the Chinkara.
Sal forest occurs throughout the valleys, giving way to mixed forest which occurs where the soil is of relatively poor quality on the upper hill slopes, on rocky outcrops and in the South and West. Grassy meadow patches occur in the valley and along the nalas.
Bandhavgarh is densely populated with tiger and other wildlife species. The great Gaur, or Indian Bison, can be seen with ease, as they come onto the meadows to graze at dusk; Sambar and Barking Deer are a common sight, and Nilgai are to be seen in the more open areas of the park.
There are more than 22 species of mammals and 250 species of birds. Common Langurs and Rhesus Macaque represent the primate group. Carnivores include the Asiatic Jackal, Bengal Fox, Sloth Bear, Ratel, Gray Mongoose, Striped Hyena, Jungle Cat, Leopard and Tiger. The artiodactyls frequently sighted are Wild Pigs, Spotted Deer, Sambar, Chausingha, Nilgai, Chinkara and Gaur. Mammals such as Dhole, the small Indian Civet, Palm Squirrel and Lesser Bandicoot Rat are seen occasionally. Among the herbivores, Gaur is the only coarse feeder.
The vegetation along streams and marshes is rich in bird life. The common ones are Little Grebe, Egret, lesser Adjutant, Sarus Crane, Black Ibis, Lesser Whistling Teal, White-eyed Buzzard, Black Kite, Crested Serpent Eagle, Black Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Common Peafowl, Red Jungle Fowl, Dove, Parakeets, Kingfishers and Indian Rollers. Reptilian Fauna include Cobra, Krait, Viper, Rat-snake, Python, Turtle and a number of lizard varieties, including Varanus.
There are two main ways of getting about in the park- in a motor vehicle or on elephant back. Many of the animals are now accustomed to both; even so, it is best to talk quietly and not make rapid movements.
Jeep safaris are best undertaken from dawn until about 10am and from about 4pm until dusk, as the animals are most active during these periods. A Forest Department guide must always accompany you. This guide will be able to direct you and point out wildlife.
Elephants are used every morning by the Forest Department for Tiger- tracking. If a Tiger is found, then the elephant will take you directly to the Tiger either from the lodge or from a nearby point reached by jeep/car.