The ending of the monsoon season results in another great thing – Opening the doors of wildlife sanctuaries and parks in India! Yesssss, its October, ‘tis the season of festivals and holidays for us!!
In this post, I will tell you about the not-as-popular Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh that I visited in December 2014 with my over-enthu, wildlife loving parents! The park is said to be the setting for the famous Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’. It is easily accessible- at a distance of about 4 hours- from Nagpur which is well connected to all parts of the country.
Do not let me discourage you, but I somehow am a staunch believer of the fact that safaris’ should only be undertaken in the morning, evening one’s don’t hold much appeal for me.
So we set out at 5.30 am to reach the Turia Gate (main entry point for the Park) in our open jeep all ready to spot tigers! Visitors are allowed to enter at 6 am and the forest department charges about INR 1200 – INR 1500 (please check for updated prices) per safari and provides a naturalist for each jeep. During peak times, due to a regulated number of safaris permitted daily, it is advised to reach well before time.
Once inside the park, we all put our ears on the job. Our naturalist asked us to pay attention to ‘calls’ of animals to figure out the tiger’s location. For a while, we only viewed peacocks and deer along with many birds. Oh! Tigers AND birds is what the park is famous for. Remember not to get so carried away by trying to spot a tiger that you forget to view the countless offerings the park has!
Suddenly we heard – ‘rumble, rumble, rumble’. Looking around for a tiger and failing to see one, we realized it was about 8 am and though it wasn’t a call of the wild, it surely was a call of our hungry stomachs! The guide then took us to an open field with grass taller-than-me on one hand and neat man-made sitting area under a huge tree on the other. He then got a picnic basket out and we had a simple breakfast that was unlike any other.
After a quick photo-session, we started off again with an aim to spot at least one tiger. Alas! Wherever we went, a jeep informed us about how ‘the tiger just left’. We also spotted an owl in his hollow. Ended up viewing more birds, a pack of wild dogs and some wild boars before leaving the premises. After having not viewed a tiger, you might tend to feel disheartened.
Skipping the evening safari, next morning we set out again to spot a tiger. Luckily, within the first hour of us entering the park, our naturalist heard a call and we decided to follow it. We zipped and zoomed to where he thought the call was headed from and then nicely parked ourselves in the middle of the road, shutting of the engine to avoid making any noise that would cause the tiger to move away from us. After a while of turning our heads in all directions
, suddenly we spotted a tigress in the nearby trees! First, she did her business and then sauntered around. Oh what a sight! Click! Click! Click! Click! Our cameras just went on and on. Once she moved out of our sight we moved ahead, this time feeling satisfied. This time, WE were telling other jeeps about how ‘the tigress just left’!
While driving around the park I realized that not only is it great in terms of tiger sightings, it is also a beautiful park. Densely covered with teak and mahua trees, the fascinating kulu or ghost trees which are white in color and contrast and compliment the lush greenery exquisitely. The cool wind blowing and the rays of sun playing hide and seek due to the thick vegetation just add to its charm. The fresh air of the park added to the serenity of the park even after the excitement of having spotted a tiger!
We left the park earlier that day, feeling rejuvenated, exhilarated and pleased…
The park is open from 16th October to 30th June each year for all visitors as in the other months heavy rains render sightings impractical.
The morning safari during winters starts at 07.30 AM until 10.30 AM. During summers, 06.30 AM until 09.30 AM. The evening safari during winters starts at 03.00 PM until 05.30 PM and in summers, 04.00 PM until 06.30 PM.
There are multiple lodging operators offering varying types of accommodation with tents galore. The MP Tourism resort offers affordable and nice lodging as well.
- Check for availabilities of safaris, they are limited in order to preserve the sanctuary
- Book online in advance
- Check your accommodation first, some lodges provide rates inclusive of the safari charges
- Resorts usually provide all three meals which are inclusive in your package
- Carry sunglasses, sun hat and winter wear even if you go during summertime – It is cold during the morning safaris
- One forest guide (also driver) and naturalist per vehicle is a must
- Carry ample amount of water for the safaris
- Mobile service is slow in the entire park region
- Elephant safaris are discontinued as of now. Better to confirm before hand.