About Pench National Park –
Said to be the setting of The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling who apparently never actually visited the area but gleaned his information from various writings of the British, this park is also popularly referred to as Mowgli Land.
Straddling the 2 districts of Southern Madhya Pradesh namely Seoni and Chhindwara, this park is named after the river Pench which runs through it.
The total extent of the park is a sprawling 758 sq km within which the core area of 299 sq km goes by the name Indira Priyadarshini Pench national park and Mowgli Pench Sanctuary. This was declared as a National park in 1975 and then later was also notified as a tiger reserve in 1992.
Interestingly the National park also straddles the 2 states of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and the portion in the latter has its own gates and safaris.
What we are going to be focusing on here is the part that lies in MP.
The Safari trails –
Pench National Park, unlike many other parks, does not have a zone system. A fixed number of jeeps around 50-60 are permitted inside everyday.
The park has 3 gates and each gate is also allotted a fixed number of jeeps.
The Turia gate is closer to Nagpur and is close to several lodges and hotels. Hence this is a popular gate though quite crowded.
The Karmajhri gate is more exclusive and has only 6-8 jeeps entering.
The Jamtara gate is across the river Pench.
There is also the facility of a walking safari and trek.
Since there are no distinct zones, the jeeps can go anywhere on the permitted trails through the park and the point of entry does not really matter.
Rest area –
The park is quite well organised in terms of rest areas. A large clearing called Alikatta, is designated for visitors to have their meals. There is also a very clean washroom.
This is also where Mowgli stands in wait to smile at the visitors who are fascinated by him. A brief write up about the story is also available.
Apart from the majestic Sher Khans (tigers), the sanctuary also teems with several species of mammals like leopard, chital (deer), sambhar deer, nilgai, wild dogs (dholes), langurs, jackals etc. It also flies high with birdlife and over 200 species can be sighted here including serpent eagles, flame backed woodpeckers, racket tail drongos, Indian rollers, hoopoes, owls etc.
The park is also home to several species of flora, including several medicinal plants. This dry deciduous forest is dominated by teak and also features mahua, tendu, crocodile tree, ghost tree etc.
Safari timings of the park vary according to the season and are related to the sunrise and sunset. Starting time of the morning safaris range between 6.30 am – 7.30 am and go on for 3-4 hours and evening safaris range from 2.30 pm to 3 pm as per season and close by sunset.
Mornings are a bit more relaxed because the evening safaris have to maintain the closing deadline and sometimes the drive is cut short despite having information of possible sightings.
Park Rules –
The tickets for the park have to be preferably pre booked to guarantee a safari. Bookings open 120 days prior.
Resorts usually perform that activity for their guests at the time of reservation.
One can also book the tickets online via the MP Tourism website but remember that the jeep and guide charges will be extra at the gate.
Booking the tickets directly at the gate may not be a smart thing to do because the safaris are usually sold out and the chances of getting a ticket are not high.
There is also a Tatkal (last minute booking) facility online which is again a gamble based on cancellations.
Park Season –
The park is open for 9 months of the year. July 1st to Sep 30th is the monsoon and breeding season during which it remains closed. For exact opening and closing dates, one should refer their website.
October sees a lot of visitors due to school holidays and November and December are also good months to visit. January is a bit lean due to temperatures that drop as low as 4 deg c. Feb and March are very pleasant and also produce good sightings of mammals and also birds.
April and May see temperatures of around 45 deg c but are still popular months among hardcore wildlife lovers and photographers since this is the optimal time for wonderful sightings because the animals come out to the watering holes. Also, the dry deciduous forest is rather barren and offers hindrance free views.
Keep in mind that the park is closed for evening safaris every Wednesday.
Where to stay –
There are several budget, mid range and luxury options around the park. I stayed at the Pench Tree Lodge by Pugdundee Safaris. The advantage of staying with a lodge like this, is that the guests are accompanied by their in-house naturalists and therefore have a more enlightening and intimate experience. You can read about my experiences in these posts here and here.
Address – Pench Tiger Reserve, Seoni, Madhya Pradesh 480881
Phone – +91 7692223794
Mail – email@example.com
Getting there –
Pench National Park is accessed quite easily via Nagpur which is an important city 80 km to its south. This is well connected by air, rail and road to many major parts of India. The airport also has direct flights to some middle eastern countries.
Jabalpur which is around 200 km to the North, is also another option. It is also connected by air, rail and road but not as well as Nagpur.
From Nagpur and Jabalpur, the most convenient way to get to Pench is by cab or private vehicle.
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