Pench National Park in central India is one of the premier tiger reserves in the country. The deciduous forests of Central India are perfect habitats for Tigers. A safari in Pench tiger reserve not only give you a chance to see tiger but a lovely overall jungle experience.
We planned to visit Pench on our way back from Bandhavgarh in Christmas week of 2013. We flew into Nagpur and hired a taxi to Bandhavgarh. On the way we stopped over for a Cruise in the Marble canyons of Bhedaghat. We were not lucky to spot a tiger in three safaris in Bandhavgarh which is a lovely forest too. The saying in wildlife circles is that if you don’t see a tiger in Bandhavgarh you can’t see it anywhere else!
We know that spotting Tiger is always a matter of luck. We have spotted them twice in one safari in Ranthambore and had a hair rising experience there! We also believe that tiger is only an excuse to explore the forests. Spending 3 hours in safari in pristine jungles is a liberating experience.
We had booked an afternoon safari starting at 3.30 PM and a safari on the next day in Pench National park. We left Bandhavgarh early in the morning hoping to reach Pench Tiger reserve by lunch. Unfortunately, thirty KMs from Pench, a huge truck had broken down blocking the highway in the ghats completely. Those days it was a single lane highway in the ghats and we were stuck.
We kept our fingers crossed as time ticked away. The deadline to enter the park is 4 PM and Bablu – our guide cum driver – was calling us and checking our location. Finally, when the road got cleared, we were at the gate in nick of time, 5 minute before 4 PM.
Bablu hurried us up and after formal entries in the gate – you need to show your ID and permit which is taken online – we entered the park.
The deciduous forests of Central India looks barren in winter when trees shed their leaves. Pench National park is a lovely wilderness and Rudyard Kipling was inspired to write his Jungle book after visiting this place. We are now in search of Sher Khan, Mowgli and his friends.
Bablu our driver picks up Jeevan – our naturalist – and we enter the park. The grass is dry and leaves have fallen on barren around. Some trees like flame of the forest still sport green leaves. It is hot in the afternoon as we enter the park after identification formalities.
Join us on Tiger Safari in Pench National Park as we go in search of Sher Khan!
This is famous sign you see in Pench National Park! We are in Mowgli’s Land!
We drive through the jeep tracks in the forest. It is dusty and hot. But the excitement of seeing the tiger keeps us glued to the forest!
This guy is the first one to be spotted. Jackals which are generally shy are found in good numbers in Pench.
Bablu drives uphill and we pass through a small water body. He stops there and looks around to see if there is any indication of the big cat. We wait and hear sounds in the jungle. Bablu says this is a spot where he has seen tiger many times. We are not lucky today. Never mind, we are greeted by these lovely birds!
We crisscross the forest. Bablu stops the vehicle in the middle of nowhere and notice pug marks on the dirt track. He follows it. After sometime, the pug marks vanish and he says the tiger has gone into the forest and must be somewhere nearby. We can also hear animal calls at a distance. But we can not see anything in the thick jungle. Bablu says let us wait for few minutes. Again, luck is not favouring us today and we drive on.
Pench national park spreads across 758 sq Kms in the state Madhya Pradesh very close to Nagpur.The park is sustained by the backwaters of Totladoh reservoir built on Pench river.
We arrive at the lovely water body of backwaters of the reservoir. This is also a place for tiger spotting especially in summers. We wait for few minutes enjoying the landscape. Pench National Park is a bird watchers paradise! We could see many water birds.
We drive on. Bablu is feeling bad that he has not been able to make us see tiger. He is full of stories of tiger spotting. He even mentions how he saw a family of tigers near the water body a week ago. We are envious of him now!
We stop to see a herd of bison watched by a peacock!
And some Parakeets…..
And a lovely peacock….
Then the regulars……deer
Bablu stopped and asked us to look at the tree. At first go, we couldn’t see anything. Then Bablu pointed at the Owl which had camouflaged so nicely with the colour of the tree!!
Bijamatta is a large waterhole. This is a sure shot place to see tigers…..especially in afternoons. Bablu said ” Let us wait for few minutes”. We waited for 15 minutes and could not see anything except for deer grazing on the grass.
It was getting darker and Bablu was the most disappointed man. We could feel his frustration after having been on three safaris in Bandhavgarh without spotting a tiger on previous days!
Next day, we get up early and Bablu is there at the hotel to pick us up for Morning safari. It is quite chilly in the morning and we have covered ourselves well. We enter the park and drive straight to the backwaters. The idea is to see if we could spot some cats early in the morning.
The place is lovely. Vast stretches of grass lands with trees in between with waterbody in the middle. We could see deer grazing heartily. Where is the tiger? The elusive Sher Khan???
We drive around the park with no luck. We again go to Bijjamatta waterhole to see if we could spot one. Alas, no luck either.
As we prepare to return disappointed, Bablu meets another gypsy driver. The other guy gives him some hint. Bablu drives in the direction suggested by his friend. After few minutes, he stops. He is excited and our hearts skips a beat!
Voila! There on the track, is Sher Khan! Majestically walking down the track. Bablu says it is Collarwali, the famous tigress of Pench!
We wait from a distance without disturbing the big cat. We expect it to walk towards us like we experienced in BR Hills. We are greedy! But the tiger turns and vanishes into the thick bushes. It all happens in few minutes!
We are overjoyed! More than us, it is bablu who is bubbling with joy! He was very disappointed and feeling bad for having not spotted tiger on the previous day. Spotting a tiger is always a memorable experience. This was a more memorable for us after having missed the big cat in Bandhavgarh even after going on three safaris.
We return back to the hotel and bid good bye to Bablu and Jeevan who are just too good. They are passionate and wanted us to have best of jungle experience irrespective of whether we saw the tiger or not.
- By Air – Nagpur is most convenient airport to explore Pench National Park. You can hire a cab from there or many resorts arrange for airport pick up and drop.
- By Train – Though Seoni is closest Train station, we recommend Nagpur as a better choice as it has connectivity to all places in the country.
- By Road – Pench Tiger reserve is very close to Hyderabad – Delhi highway. You can follow the maps and reach it after Nagpur.
There are many stay options from luxurious Baghvan of Taj Safaris and Pench Tree Lodge by Pugdandee Safaris, Pench Jungle camp to basic resorts and Forest guest houses.
- It is most important to book Pench National Park safari booking online before booking the hotel. Only permits booked online is acceptable and no tickets are sold. Book well in advance as it is difficult get it in season – summer months – and on weekends. Please check this link for booking the permit. https://forest.mponline.gov.in/Search.aspx?park=4
- There are three gates of entry to the Pench National park. Turiya gate is most popular and has many resorts/hotels next to hit. Opt for Turiya gate when you book online. The other gates are Karmajhiri & Jhamtara
- Once you book permit, you have to hire a Gypsy from a list of Registered Gypsies/Jeeps as per the list published by MP Tourism. Gypsy/Jeep charges are extra. Many good resorts have their own gypsies/jeeps and they will charge you extra for that.
- Make sure you book hotel only after booking permit. Also make sure to book a hotel which is close to the gate where you have booked the permit. Otherwise you may have to travel 30 – 40 Kms to the gate from the hotel!
- The Pench National park weather is at its beautiful best immediately after rains and when it opens in October. However summer months are best for tiger spotting. But summer months of May – June are scorching. We feel the winter months November to March are best time when weather is mild.
- Follow the guidelines given in this link. The Park authorities are very strict and naturalist and drivers are very strict. http://www.penchtiger.co.in/park_rulse.html
- The Pench National Park safari timings safari can be seen here. There are no afternoon safaris on Wednesday http://www.penchtiger.co.in/visiting_time.html
- Wear a good hat and carry water bottles. This is a must especially in afternoon safaris when weather is hot even in winters.
- Cover yourself well when you go for morning safari in winter as it will be cold in the mornings.
- Carry a good binocular and a camera.
- Keep your eyes and ears open! The experience in jungle is just awesome even if you don’t see tiger!
- More details on the park can be seen here – https://forest.mponline.gov.in/eBrochure/eBrochureDetails.aspx?parkid=4
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