My delusion of a Tiger: Kanha National Park

I felt exhausted and disoriented due to intense penetration of sun rays in that half remembered landscape… landscape which was quite diverse and alluring… Low rising dry hills were surrounding the long stretch meadows and Sal forest…. Long summers had killed the long grass and formed a barren flat land…. I could also see small patches of natural water bodies those were completely dried out after the summers… I can imagine how rich landscape would it have been during monsoon and winters… tired of negotiating with bushes, I sat down to take out a prickle from my feet…. I was descending down the hill and was heading towards the only remaining water body of the forest… Suddenly there was a change in the eco-system…monkeys started chattering loudly and was jumping here and there on the branches of Sal trees… Birds were chirping but not the usual way…. Herds of spotted dears disintegrated and they were running in the meadows…Supreme silence of the forest was swallowed by restlessness of these animals… Unable to comprehend the situation, I followed further on the narrow trail thinking the cause of that disturbance… It was continued and occurring very near to me…fumbling along the slope, I rested my arm on a rock and then I was stunned…. My eyes were wide open and senses were trembled when those white stripes on yellow body passed my vision… I had never seen anything so beautiful before in the wild… I was mesmerized and frightened at the same time… He was heading towards me following the same trail in reverse…. We passed glances… finding me scared, he smirked and passed me before disappearing again in the Wild… I turned my head and open my eyelids… found myself on the extreme end of my bed…. What a disappointment…

For how long will I just dream about sighting a tiger in the wild….
Narmada river near Mandla Madhya Pradesh
                          
Narmada river at Mandla near Kanha National Park

To realize my half remembered dream, I stuffed my backpack and caught the evening train to Jabalpur…. to the destination Kanha National Park, One of your best chances for sighting tigers in the wild... Summers (April, May) are the best time to sight tigers in the high lands of central India (Satpura hills)… passing the serene landscape of Madhya Pradesh, I touched down to Jabalpur in the morning and soon after I caught a connecting bus to Mandla. You can catch one of the private busses to Mandla either from Jabalpur bus stand or from Empire talkies which is closer to railway station. Mandla is some 92 km from Jabalpur and takes around 3 hours.  From Mandla, there are not many direct busses to Kanha (Khatia gate) but you can get busses to Mocha which is 4 km from Khatia gate. Mandla to Mocha will again take 3 hours (60 km) because bus will stop almost everywhere. From Mocha, you can either hitchhike or walk till Khatia Gate. Most of the high end accommodation options are near Mocha.
On the way to Kanha
                                              On the way to Kanha

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* Jabalpur to Mandla (92 km, 3 hours), Mandla to Mocha (60 km, 3 hours), Mocha to Kanha, Khatia gate(4 km)
* Jabalpur to Kanha bus fare: 100 INR
* Direct busses from Kanha to Jabalpur (06:00 AM, 08:30 AM, 01:00 PM)
* Last bus to Mandla from Mocha/Kanha: 06:00 PM, After this bus, there is a possibility of catching connecting bus to Jabalpur from Mandla (08:30 PM).
* During day time, there are many busses (1 each hour) from Mocha to Mandla. Mandla is having good connectivity to Jabalpur so you will find busses on this route all the time.
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Villages around the Park
                                           Villages around the Park

 

After enjoying 6 hours on the window seat of fully packed busses, I reached Mocha in the afternoon. It was raining which was certainly not a good sign for me. As we all know that during monsoon when water is in surplus, chances of sighting wild life are bare minimum. From Mocha, there was no transport to Kanha (Khatia gate) so I paid 50 bucks to a biker to drop me to the entrance gate of the national park. There are many resorts between Mocha and Khatia gate but I preferred to first check the safari timings at park entrance. Evening Safari was available to I rushed towards a cheaper resort which was very close to park boundaries and offered me a decent price (300 INR per night).
In the meadows of Kanha
                                          In the meadows of Kanha

Quick shower rejuvenated me and here I was hunting a seat in sharing in one of gypsies getting inside the national park. If you are traveling alone then hiring a private vehicle inside a national park can be really expensive so I was looking for someone who has a free seat and ready to accommodate me. In return I was fine to pay my share. In most of the national parks in Madhya Pradesh, I generally paid 600 INR for single seat and most of the time I was able to get one. I was lucky once again; a group was ready to accommodate me in 600 INR.
Bird at Kanha
                                               Bird at Kanha

Golden Tip: If you are alone, Don’t disappoint.. Keep hunting..  you will definitely get a seat in just 600 INR.

Nearest ATM: There is one ATM at Khatia gate, other ATMs are at Bamhani (32 km), Nainpur (50 km)

Important Notes:
* Current booking counter opens 30 minutes before the park time.
* Advance booking counter opening time (10:30 A.M to 12:00 PM & 06:30 PM to 08:00 PM)
* none can enter the tiger reserve after 2 hours of opening the park.

Tourist Trail in Kanha
                                               Tourist Trail in Kanha

Booking a Safari at Kanha National Park:

Getting inside the forest is generally an expensive affair in all the National parks of Madhya Pradesh/India. If you are a solo-traveler or a couple then you must find a company to cut down the safari expenses.  It’s generally easy to find fellow travelers at Forest entrance gate/Ticket counter at Khatia Gate. Sometimes Gypsy’s drivers can also help you connecting with others those are looking for someone to share expenses. A gypsy can generally accommodate 4-6 visitors excluding driver and a Guide.

Once your group is formed then you can either use the link below for booking your safari or contact any gypsy guy (ticket counter) directly to get the booking done. Charges vary with each of the national park and with their zones.

http://www.mponline.gov.in/Portal/Services/Forest/Search.aspx

Kanha Zone is recently upgraded to premium zone hence the entrance fee is double than any other zone of Kanha Park. Here are the relevant links about entrance fee of various national parks of Madhya Pradesh.

Entree Fee of Various Forest reserves and sanctuaries of Madhya Pradesh

 

Notification for the revised rates of Kanha Zone

Gypsies taking their own route
                                               Gypsies taking their own route
Park Timings:

 

 

Morning

Evening

16th Oct to 31st Oct

06:00 AM to 12:00 AM

03:00 PM to 05:45 PM

1st Nov to 15th Nov

06:10 AM to 12:00 AM

03:00 PM to 05:45 PM

16th Nov to 30th Nov

06:15 AM to 12:00 AM

03:00 PM to 05:30 PM

1st Dec to 15th Dec

 

06:30 AM to 12:00 AM

03:00 PM to 05:30 PM

16th Dec to 31st Dec

06:40 AM to 12:00 AM

03:00 PM to 05:30 PM

1st Jan to 15th Jan

06:45 AM to 12:00 AM

03:00 PM to 05:45 PM

16th Jan to 31st Jan

06:45 AM to 12:00 AM

03:00 PM to 05:45 PM

1st Feb to 15th Feb

06:45 AM to 12:00 AM

03:00 PM to 06:00 PM

16th Feb to 28th Feb

06:30 AM to 12:00 AM

03:00 PM to 06:15 PM

1st Mar to 15th Mar

06:15 AM to 12:00 AM

03:00 PM to 06:15 PM

16th Mar to 31st Mar

06:00 AM to 12:00 AM

03:00 PM to 06:30 PM

1st April to 15th April

06:00 AM to 11:00 AM

04:00 PM to 06:30 PM

16th April to 30th April

05:45 AM to 11:00 AM

04:00 PM to 06:30 PM

1st May to 15th May

05:30 AM to 11:00 AM

04:00 PM to 06:45 PM

16th May to 31th May

05:30 AM to 11:00 AM

04:00 PM to 06:45 PM

1st June to 15th June

05:25 AM to 11:00 AM

04:00 PM to 06:45 PM

16th June to 30th June

05:25 AM to 11:00 AM

04:00 PM to 07:00

Meadows and Sal forest of Kanha
                                            Meadows and Sal forest of Kanha
Evening safari is shorter but certainly offers a chance for sighting big cat in the wild. Like everyone, we entered into the park with a hope. Kanha is famous for being a national park where at least one gypsy gets to see a Tiger during entire season. Kanha is much bigger than other national parks hence allowed more number of tourists.  Due to its vast and varied landscape, every gypsy follows their own route. All the drivers and guide follows best of their senses and wisdom to entertain their visitors. We reached to the core area of the park and our gypsy was plying through a steep route. Suddenly gypsy broke and out of coolant. All of us poured our water bottles but no help. Our guide was meticulously listening to the sound of the jungle and he recommended us to wait on the very place where our vehicle was broke. There was chattering of monkeys at some distance.  Chattering of monkeys is one of the sign of Tiger’s presence in the vicinity. Our guide mentioned that Tiger follows the same trail every day to reach the water stream.  We are in the territory of the Tiger called Munna.
Beer at a distance in Kanha
                                       
Beer at a distance in Kanha
We waited there for almost an hour till our patience faltered. All of us was disappointed as if we missed the tiger by brisk. Later we drove towards relatively flat terrain of Kanha National Park which is often referred as meadows. On the way we sighted a bear, bison, Barasingha (Swamp deer) and some rare species of birds.
An evening at Kanha National Park
                                      
An evening at Kanha National Park
Despite the absence of prime attraction, transformation of the landscape was extremely overwhelming when sun was setting down at distant horizon. Long shadows of evening were becoming night and Sal forest of Kanha was turning heaven…. So serene and gorgeous landscape with absolute wilderness..…. broken hearted, we were returning back to the main gate but still hoping to get a glimpse of big cat…. I headed back to my hotel room and enquired other guides whether they have seen a tiger… Some of them were lucky…
Night at Khatia Village near Kanha
                                     
Night at Khatia Village near Kanha
Very few travelers stay close to the Khatia gate in those low end accommodations… There are just couple of Dabbas and Souvenir shops in Khatia village. In the midst of Sal forest, cool breeze and full moon made my evening wonderful….
Good morning Kanha
                                       
Good morning Kanha
Next morning, I woke up early to prepare myself for morning Safari. After reaching Khatia gate, I started my hunt again to get occupancy in sharing. Unlike last evening, I had to struggle a lot to get a seat. In the morning, there were more vehicles so it was kind of traffic jam at the entrance of the park. Once again we were entering to core area of Kanha National Park and I kept my fingers crossed with high hopes of sighting tiger.
Meadows and the Forest
                                         
Meadows and the Forest
Pristine wilderness of the park was at its best of exhibitions with colorful meadows and patches of Sal forest however there was no sign of big cat at all. Our guide took us to all the possible sites where sighting was done most of time and finally dropped us at Kanha Museum to relax, to chitchat with other guides…
Swamp deer Barasingha at Kanha National Park
                           
Swamp deer Barasingha at Kanha National Park
While taking our breakfast at Kanha Museum we got to know that Tiger show (Tiger sighting on elephant) is going on in Kanha zone so we registered ourselves in the long queue.  There were 23 vehicles before us so chances of sighting tiger through tiger show were very bleak.  We preferred to take our chances independently in the wild rather than waiting in the queue. One more ride to the National Park offered us a closer view of Swamp deers and wild hog but there was no sign of big cat anywhere. I reconciled myself with an idea of enjoying spectacular landscape of Kanha rather than getting disappointed of not able to see Tiger again. While receding back to the Khatia Gate, We were fortunate to see a large herd of Bisons very close to main road.
Bisons at Kanha National Park
                                         
Bisons at Kanha National Park
Forlorn and disappointed, I returned back to my hotel room..  took shower and weighed my other options…. Instead of trying for tiger once again, I decided to take the bus back to Jabalpur… Tigers are on the verge of extinction yet few fortunate souls are able to sight this magnificent creature in the wild… so far for me fortune always hiding… I looked everywhere…
Spotted Deer Chital Kanha National Park
                                  
Spotted Deer Chital Kanha National Park

Travel Tips:
* Most of the budget accommodations are close to Khatia gate (300 INR per night).
* If you are an Indian solo traveler, you can easily get a seat in one of the gypsy in 600 INR.
* Fossil national park at Dhudhuwa (150 km) is another major attraction around Kanha for field researchers. While coming from Jabalpur, you can come to Kanha via Dhudhuwa.
* Nature Trail at Kanha is another opportunity to nature enthusiasts for bird watching and closer experience to the flora of the park. Nature trail is open from sunrise to sunset and you can hire a bicyle from the park gate. Nature trail is only permitted along with a guide.

Comprehensive Map of Kanha National Park

Tourism road of Kanha National Park

Tourism road in Kanha Zone

Tourism road in Kisli Zone

Tourism road in Sarhi Zone

Tourism road in Mukki Zone

Good write up Vishnu. There's

Good write up Vishnu. There's always a next time.  On your next trip I think you will get lucky.

Thanks Jose.. Keep droppinng

Thanks Jose.. Keep droppinng by..

really a perfect place if

really a perfect place if you want your holiday with wildlife thrill.thanks for sharing this with nice pics and story.

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