A friend once told to me that “jungles are an addiction” and I thought to myself, “that is just impossible”. Many material things can be an addiction, but jungles – no way. Little did I know then that one trip to Kanha would prove me completely wrong. And if you also think like I did, then its time you plan a trip to this amazing jungle. Below is a quick planning guide to help you find your way –
Introduction to Kanha National Park –
Kanha is one of the biggest national parks and a tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh, India. By definition, a national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns and uses for conservation purposes. Although each country has their own ways of classifying parks as national parks, the common idea always is – conservation of wild nature for posterity and as a symbol of national pride. Per wikipedia, we have a total of 166 authorised national parks in India and there are quite a few more national parks that have been proposed by the state governments and awaiting approval.
Kanha is located in the Maikal Hills of the Satpuras spreading over two districts – Mandla and Balaghat.Kanha was declared a reserve forest in 1879 then notified as a wildlife sanctuary in 1933 and upgraded to a national park in 1955. It is one of the largest national parks in central India with a core zone of over 940 km and a surrounding buffer zone of 1,067 km. This habitat has an excellent mix of geographical attributes i.e. lush sal (more than 60%+) and bamboo forests, grassy meadows, numerous lakes, hills in the background and ravines that foster a rich population of wildlife. Kanha has also inspired Rudyard Kipling who used this as a backdrop for his famous novel “The Jungle Book”.
Kanha is known for its tiger population and the Central Indian (hard ground subspecies) Barasingha. This Swamp deer subspecies can now only be found in Kanha and a while ago were very nearly extinct. Other common animals found here are leopard, spotted deer, sambar, wild pigs, langurs, sloth bear, bisons, and many species of birds.
The core zone in the park is divided into five separate sections: Kisli, Kanha, Mukki, Bhaisanghat and Supkar but the main zones are Kisli, Kanha and Mukki.The Sarahi zone has recently been opened up but is still not that popular.
When to visit
All parks in central India are open from – October through June and closed during monsoon season from July to Mid October. However the best time to visit is during the summer months of May and June when it’s very hot and animals come out to the limited water sources.
During open season, park hours are as follows:
- 15 November to 15 February – Sunrise to 12:00 noon and 3:00 pm to Sunset
- 16 February to 30 April – Sunrise to 12:00 noon and 4:00 pm to Sunset
- 1 May to 30 June – Sunrise to 11:00 am and 4:00 pm to Sunset
Number of days for the trip –
You should plan a trip for a minimum of 2 days and at least 3 safaris as you might not see everything in just 1 – 2 safaris. You can do 2 safaris in 1 day. The length of each safari tour is between 3 and 5 hours.
How to plan a trip –
You can plan a trip by yourself, book a resort here and then safaris through the resorts. However for jungle safaris, I personally like to travel with wildlife specialists / groups. The benefit is that they have a genuine passion for the jungles and help you understand the ecosystem, its inter dependence, importance of conservation, help identify many birds, plants, animals and share interesting anecdotes. This really helps you appreciate the jungles and its inhabitants even more and not just be on the lookout for the tiger. The added advantage is you also meet many new & interesting like-minded people outside your own friend circle. 🙂
How to reach Kanha –
By Air – Nearest airports are Jabalpur and Nagpur. You can drive from here to Kanha.
By Rail – Depending on where you are, the closest stations are at Jabalpur, Bilaspur and Gondhia. For our trip, we took the Vidharbha Superfast Express from Mumbai CST to Gondhia. It’s an overnight journey and then there is a 2 – 3 hour drive (110 km) from Gondhia to Kanha. Be sure to bring packed food for the train.
By Road – There is a daily bus service available for Kisli and Mukki from Jabalpur and back. Taxis are available for hire from Jabalpur, Bilaspur and Raipur. Vehicles are not permitted within the park after dark.
Where to Stay –
There are quite a few options for stay here in the buffer zone of the Kanha National Park including properties by MP Tourism. You can check these out at – MP Tourism accommodation, Kanha.
For my own trip, I stayed in a wildlife resort called The Baagh. This is a beautiful property in the buffer zone amidst a mini forest, numerous birds and butterflies and even a lake. Each room is a cottage with spacious and tastefully done interiors and views of the forest. The resort was designed to harmonize with the centuries-old rural architecture of the villages while incorporating comfortable and modern amenities. The residential complexes are a new construction with impeccable design that blend seamlessly with the natural countryside. The reception area and library lounge are original farm-house structures painted in the same brilliant turquoise color of village homes. You can check more on this at – http://thebaagh.com/
How does a safari work –
Each resort / lodge / hotel has their own driver and jeeps for a safari. Each jeep has a capacity of about 5 – 6 people and one seat in the last row is mandatory for guide. At the beginning of each safari, you reach the gate and queue up. Here each passengers identity is checked (carry the same id card that you had given at the time of booking) and a guide is assigned. After this, you enter the jungle and the fun begins!! Each safari lasts for the designated number of hours and then you have to leave before the parks shut for the afternoon or evening.
Etiquettes / Rules for a safari –
- Jungles are domains of the animals and you are on their turf, thus respect them and please do not – litter, make loud noises, step out of your jeep, carry / play any kind of radio or musical item, eat during the safari or offer food to animals / birds, trouble or tease the animals / birds or smoke.
- Mobile phones are not allowed inside the park, so please leave it in your room itself.
- Please do not use flash while photographing animals and birds.
What to wear –
- Light colored cotton clothes (for the heat)
- Early morning safaris and winters are quite cold and chilly. So bring a light jacket
- Scarf to cover your face from the sun and the dust
- Comfortable footwear
What to take?
- Camera with extra batteries and memory cards
- Binoculars, specially if you like bird watching
- Water bottle
- Sunglasses / Shades / Glares
- ID proof – the same as was submitted while booking
During the long morning safari, packed breakfast is served in a small building inside the park. There is a gift shop here that has themed tiger T shirts, mugs, hats, key chains and books. If you would like to buy anything, then keep some cash handy.
So the next time you have a 3 – 4 day long weekend and want to do a quick-short but a meaningful holiday, then leave that beach destination for once and instead visit a national park for a jungle safari. And trust me, you wont be disappointed.