A visit to Pench National Park

I visited Pench National Park a couple of weekends ago along with a few friends. It was my first pure National Park trip after 10 years and something I was eagerly looking forward to.

My first impressions of Nagpur were positive – clean, peaceful airport, good roads, metro construction happening apace.

Pench straddles Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. And on the absolutely wonderful road from Nagpur, we were at our resort in about a couple of hours. The National Highway has regular elevated stretches so wildlife can cross underneath, avoiding unfortunate accidents. I wonder if any studies have been done to understand the impact of this on wildlife – do they use the tunnels or still attempt to cross the road?

The resort was small, with A/C tented accommodation. It is located a few minutes away from Kharsapar, the entrance to Pench National Park from the Maharashtra side. We left for our first safari immediately after lunch.

We quickly settled into a routine – wake up early (around 4:30), leave for the morning safari that starts at 6:15, end the safari by 10:30, come back to the resort to rest and refresh, have lunch, leave for the afternoon safari around 2 pm, come back around 7 pm, refresh, relax and have dinner.

We did 8 safaris in total, which in the end, proved one too many for me. The hectic itinerary, heat and cold, oily food meant that I fell ill by the last day and took a couple of days to recover after reaching home.

But it was a very fulfilling trip. I spotted over 75 species of birds (full list in the next post), a tigress, two one year old tiger cubs, a jungle cat, mongooses, sambar and chital deer, herds of gaur and some nilgai.

It was interesting to view the difference in landscape between the Maharastra and Madhya Pradesh sides of Pench. While the Maharashtra side is dryer and rockier, the Madhya Pradesh side is visibly greener. The wide open patches along the Pench river were especially scenic.

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The other interesting thing for me was to see that most of the guides were locals who were earlier living in or near the National Park. It was also heartening to see many women guides. I would definitely recommend Pench for anyone wanting to visit a typical Central Indian jungle – the setting of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’

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