For most people, hill stations, snow-clad mountains or beaches – these are places on every vacationer’s bucket list. But ever thought of adding a safari trip to your travel wish list? It’s a given fact that you need to be an animal and nature lover to embark on a safari but for those who are not very enthusiastic it’s definitely an experience of a lifetime! In this post I will be narrating all the tales about my recent discoveries and explores when I visited the Pench National Park- A wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, India
The third of Madhya Pradesh’s trio of best-known tiger parks, Pench National Park is considered one of those places that inspired Rudyard Kipling to write the Jungle Book. While the Sher Khan of the Jungle Book roars in the pages, the tiger of Pench roars in the real woods. Be it Baloo (Bear) Bagheera (Black Panther), Kaa (Python), Haathi (Elephant) or Sher Khan (Bengal Tiger), every character of the best seller is inspired from the wildlife of this park.
One of the reasons that make it one of the best places in India for wildlife safaris is that despite having a good tiger population, abundant wildlife and amazing natural setting, it is one of the lesser visited wildlife sanctuaries in India. As you’re driving around the park you’ll often feel like you have the whole forest to yourself. Though tigers are fewer as compared to Bandavgarh, they are generally spotted every few days. When I was here, most people who were out in jeeps that morning had seen a tiger during their stay.
When to go
Most Indian parks close during the monsoon season. So from June to Mid October the parks are shut.
The best time for tiger spotting is March to May during the summer thanks to sparse foliage and crowded water holes but beware, the temperature can touch up to 40 degrees during peak summer! Winters are relatively much better to visit weather wise but tiger spotting may become difficult.
How to get there
The closest airport to Pench National Park is in Nagpur. It is a 2-hour drive from the airport till the gates of the park. The roads are well maintained and the drive is beautiful and scenic
Where to stay
One of the best places to stay around Pench National Park is the Baghvan. Its a luxury jungle lodge by the renowned Taj Group which boasts 12 standalone bungalows with rooftop sleep outs called ‘Macchan’ that take you as close to nature as you could wish to. Each bungalow is nestled amidst the dense forest giving complete privacy to the guests and are all situated on the edge of a perennial water stream (Nullah- dry river bed in the local language), which is a frequent place where the animals visit. The spacious suites have a distinctive contemporary feel whose ambience reminds you of a vintage 1950’s home complete with ethnic wooden furniture, cream cement floors, delicate Parsi tiles, high ceilings, old black telephone, welcoming sofas and giant ebony chests, outdoor shower area, sit out in the balcony with a large swing grace the elegant guest areas.
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners are served on a shaded deck near the swimming pool overlooking the nullah, a favoured route of the Pench tigers. You also have the option of dining indoors in the main living room of the property by sitting on a community table encouraging interactions with fellow guests.
Since there are only 12 rooms in the whole property and limited number of people each day there is no concept of al a carte ordering or different cuisines to choose from. The chef prepares a feast for each guest based on a thali system. If a guest wishes to eat something else then a request has to be made well in advance for the chef to procure the necessary ingredients to meet your requirements. The food is fantastic! Every dish was exceptional. My stay was for 2 nights and every meal was different, satisfying, wholesome and delicious. However on the second night I needed a change in cuisine. I was a little tired of the Indian food and requested a pasta instead. To my surprise it was exceptional!
One thing that can be avoided at the property is the Spa. The massage was great but the TV room is located right next to the spa room and can get very disturbing if you are wanting to relax and distress while your massage.
Also what completely took me by surprise was that there was no TV, cellular network or Wifi in the room. For a Wi-fi freak like me it was very difficult the first day. We are all so used to our smart phones and 3G that I almost suffered from a Network/WIFI Withdrawal! Wifi and cellular network is only available in the outer section of the main lobby area. So be prepared for being completely detached from the outside world.
My stay at Taj Baghvan Jungle Safari Lodge was an experience of a lifetime. This lodge offers luxurious accommodation, sumptuous cuisines and impeccable service in the lap of complete wilderness that makes your wildlife safari experience like a home away from home.
The holy grail of any safari is seeing the big cats, and in India that means the elusive wild tiger.During my stay I had the opportunity to go on two separate safaris. At the entrance, the park authorities supply you with a guide, they are allocated randomly, meaning that, on busy days, there is a chance you may get stuck with a teenager who has very little interest in nature. It’s always better to ask your hotel or travel agent if they have nature experts on hand to join you. You can fit two jeep safaris a day. Typically one at the break of dawn – get ready for a 5 a.m. wake up call (Safari starts at 6 am – 11 am) and one in the afternoon (2:30 pm – 6 pm). Safaris cost around 4,600 rupees ($90) per jeep. During the afternoons the park is shut.
Our journey of riding in the back of a safari jeep, yielded a wonderful adventure, but no tiger sightings. We did get to see beautiful and exotic wildlife, which comprised of the spotted deer, sambar deer, jackals, gaur, neelgai, lizards, peacocks, wild boar, monkeys, langurs and a mongoose. More than 100 bird species are also found within the park making it a good place for birding watching.
Although tiger spottings are rare and requires more than one jeep safari in the wild, the thrill of the hunt was fun. With our naturalist, we spied animal tracks, listened for warning calls of other animals and sought out known hiding spots for the Royal Bengal Tiger.
Things to pack
Hat, Sports Shoes, Sanitizer, Sunglasses, Camera, Mosquito repellent spray, bagpack, a warm jacket because the morning safaris can get quite chilly and the most important – Just don’t forget your binoculars.
Book everything in advance, either through your hotel or a travel agent. If you don’t, you may not be allowed in the park at all. A limited number of jeeps per day are allowed in the park.
And if it’s a tiger you’re after, keep your fingers crossed (and your eyes peeled): They’re hard to find, but the experience is unforgettable
Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on my side this time, but the thrill of going on a safari in India will never subside. It’s a shame that tiger numbers are still on the decline, with poaching being the number one threat. Honestly, we could be one of the last remaining generations on Earth that get the chance to see this incredible creature in the wild.
The best place for seeing tigers is still India, with almost half the world’s wild tigers. We must try our level best and spread the word for the “SAVE THE TIGER” campaign!
Until Next Time
Tags: Holiday, Hotel, Incredible India, India, Jungle, Madhya pradesh, Mumbai, National Park, Nature, Nature Lover, Pench, Safari, Taj Safari, Tiger Safari, Travel, TravelAddict, TravelBlogger, TravelLover, Vacation, Wildlife