Published: March 30th 2009May 29th 2007
Kanha’s the best place to see the Bengal Tiger….it boasts the highest density of the predator in the country.
Just for your information, Kanha National park is located in Banjar and Halon valleys in the Mandla / Balaghat districts of the state of Madhya Pradesh. Kanha National Park is one of the India’s finest tiger reserves. It is spread more than 940 sq km in a horse shoe shaped valley bound by the spurs of the Mekal range the park presents a varies topography.
A google search will give you a lot of other websites to learn more ….
Here are my learnings, findings and experiences ……
Flora (vegetation and forest type)…..
The forest is mixed and given the high rainfall precipitation one finds extensive stretches of Sal (Shorea robusta), a tree of moist deciduous forest in central and north India. The Sal is good quality timber, the leaves are good fodder, fruits have nutritional & medicinal value and is valued greatly by tribals. The other common tree species belong to the Terminalia genus, the most numerous being what in India is popularly known as Crocodile bark, it is good timber, locals call it as Saja and in
Maharashtra it is called as Ain. Terminalia arjuna, locally called Arjun is distinct because of its pale bark and thick girth, is more common near water sources. Labernum or Amaltas (Cassia fistula) with lovely yellow blossoms in the dry season and Flame of the forest or Palas (Butea frondosa) a glorious sight in the drier season when it is flowering, are found sprinkled all over the forest. Huge trees of Baja (Pterocarpus marsupium) & Haldu (Adena cardifolia) along with host of other large & small trees comprise the thick forest.
Fauna (wild life and specialities) …….
The largest herbivore here is the Indian Wild Ox or Gaur (Bos gaurus) mistakenly called as Indian Bison. A magnificent animal, found in small herds more towards the Mukki region of the park. The Sambar (Cervus unicolor) is the largest Indian deer, usually found alone in wooded forest zones. The most commonly seen deer is the Chital or Spotted deer (Axis axis) in large herds. The Muntjac or Barking deer (Munitiacus muntjac) a small plain solitary deer is seen quite regularly. Blackbuck (Antilope cericapra) and the elusive Chowsingha (Tetracerus quadricornus) - only fourhorned antelope in the world, are also seen. The Blackbuck, not
typically an animal of the moist deciduous forest saw its number dropping to around 10 in 1986 and is a part of captive breeding program and the numbers are rising. Chital or Spotted deer (Axis axis)
The most significant deer species in this forest is the sub species of the Swamp deer - the Barasingha (Cervus durauceli branderi), often referred to as "The Jewel of Kanha", Kanha being the only remaining habitat in the World. It is distinct from the Swamp deer found in the swampy areas of the north in having a darker coat and well knit hooves instead of the splayed hooves of the other subspecies. This deer was pushed to the brink of extinction in the early 1970s with their number going down to around 66, now with conservation efforts it has gone up to around 500.
Among the large predators, the Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) takes pride of place. I have no wards to express the sheer majesty, grace and power which the tiger exudes. The Leopard (Panthera paradus), is the most ubiquitous of the large predators in India. Leopard, a agile tree climber, often carrying its prey up trees is a remarkable and
the most adaptable predator. The Dhole or Wild Dog (Cuon alpinus), referred to as whistling hunters are very interesting in terms of stories of their hunting prowess.
Wild life in the park:
The main attractions is of-course the Bengal Tiger , and also interestingly many other family members such as the Bison, Gaur, Sambar, Chital, the Hard-ground Barasingha, Barking Deer, Chousihgha, Nilgai, Mouse Deer, Sloth Bear, Jackal Fox, Porcupine, Hyaena, Jungle Cat, Python, Pea fowl, Hare, Monkey, Mongoose, the Leopard, and wild dogs or Dhole.
Birds species in the park:
Winters invite a lot of migratory birds such as Storks. Otherwise resident birds include Pintails, Pond Herons, Egrets, Peacock, Pea Fowl, Jungle Fowl, Spur Fowl, Patridges, Quails, Ring Doves, rose-ringed Parakeets, Green Pigeons, Rock Pigeons, Cuckoos, Roller birds, green and chestnut-headed Bee Eaters, Hoopes, Drongos, Warblers, a great variety of King Fishers, Wood Peckers, Finches, Orioles, Owls, Fly Catchers and raptors such as the Kind Vulture, white shouldered kites, long billed vultures, common kites, Kestrels etc
I have been to Kanha over 11 times and have experiences the best and the worst of Safaris. Have met people who had travelled the forest for over 8-9 years and
hadn’t still seen the Tiger !! Have also seen Nat-Geo photographers take special permissions for special routes and yet return empty handed…. ! Last time I met a group of oldies and retired grand-pas who actually saw 6 different Tigers are various locations…..and also a family of kiddos who witnessed a tigress and her 4 tiny cubs……
Sounds crazy !!
I remember the poster at the Kisli gate , showing a Tiger saying “Don’t feel bad if you haven’t seen me , I have seen you”…..
Its all a matter of luck and perfect timing.
I also think that it definitely the experience of rangers and trackers who can make your trip successful….
ALL my Kanha trips have always been with Foliage Outdoors, an eco-adventure-wild life group based in Pune (India) (www.foliageoutdoors.com). You can do that too.
A couple of things that we usually die and do :
1. Book Safari vehicles well in advance
2. Have Safari passes taken in advance from the Kisli Gate forest office
3. Make sure our vehicles reach the entrance gate 1 hour before the opening time (Summers, the gate opens at 6am, and we used to be there by
4.30am...just to make sure we r the first vehicles inside)
4. Most of the casual tourists stick to the Kanha-maidan (meadows) area….and rush out. Avoid this area during peak tourist hours…
And keep the patience…..
I have collected most of my winning pictures on off-beat tracks and odd hours of the day…and at most unexpected ways….
Heres a list of internal routes within Kanha …
1. Kisli gate area
2. Mukki Range
3. Shravan Taal
4. Sambar Road
5. Bamni Dadar
6. Kanha Maidan
8. Cizora Road
10. Sal Ghati
11. Nakti Ghati
12. Sheller Hide
13. Manhar Nala
14. Route No 9.
15. Route no 7.
16. Kanha ghat etc….
Each road leads to a forest range and is special in its own way…..
For eg: Manhar Nala is a small stream amidst the meadows, and a good place to see a Tiger drinking/ taking a dip, Bamni Dadar is the highest point of the forest and gives a top-view of the forest range, Route No 7 is famous for resident Dhole (wild dogs), Sheller hide is again a cooler green swamp area…etc……
The forest vehicle ( A Gypsy) will
ride you through these routes if you have a tailor made package and are keen on game viewing. If you at any of the high-end resorts, and expect luxury then forget seeing any wild life, coz’ their Safari begins only after 8am ..and is done by 10am, covering almost none of the forest tracks completely - neither the hills nor the meadows.
The Foliage camp is usually 7 days, and includes a forest walk, bird watching sessions, 4/5 forest rides to view game and evenings full of camp fires/songs/drama and forest tales from some learned experienced trackers.
Its great to hear stories of bravery and thrill as the moon rises…
One of my camps was a kids-special. We were 7 volunteers and a group of 40 kids (age 9 to 14)….
Notorious as they were, each had a specialty…a special way of annoying the volunteers (us!) and a special way of messing up things ….a real test of tolerance and endurance. But then, they are great company and extremely amusing…..and cute !! :)
One day we were at the base of Manhar Nala at 9am (a swampy place, around a small fresh water stream, a typical place
to see a Tiger lazying/bathing/ resting in shade - during day time). The tone of the air had changed indicating the presence of the beast - Our guide speaking to the rangers frantically and trying to locate it - a series of Chital alarm calls rose from the grassland behind and we could see them looking at one particular direction with raised tails and the tension rose. The guide expertly murmured that the predator was moving across and was not stable. We didn’t actually know where to look ….and so the driver decided to reverse our vehicles to a higher ground….and we waited for the scene to change.
An hour later with no sign of the King, most of the vehicles had gone. Just our vehicle at this end and another of our group’s vehicle waiting on the opposite bank of the stream - and a swampy mud path passing through the stream between us. Our driver and guide showed no sign of tiring and giving up.
The little ones in the jeep had started getting restless and bored. One little girl dozed off….and me sitting on the roof of the gypsy with my binocs and camera ready….
we heard a loud trumpet. The rangers on their elephants had finally traced it…..and the elephants trumpeted in fear. Out of the grass walked a huge male …followed by 3 equally heavy and healthy female tigers. We couldn’t believe our eyes and forgot clicking. Our guide told us that the 1st one was a 1.5 year old male cub and following him were his two sisters…..and the last tigress was the mom.
They walked past us - barely 5 feet left side from our vehicle …..across the stream - into the tall green grass on the other side …and disappeared like a needle in a hay stack.
4 full-size bulky royal personalities walked pass like they didn’t care …..and we were just 2 vehicles to witness the entire drama.
As news flew, other tourist vehicles crowded by, but in vain….they took pics of pug marks in the swamp mud. (I had this dirty sadistic smile on my face )…..
Definition of a “cub”…”baby” has changed for me since….a cub does not necessarily mean small-baby tiger. Heeee !!
(Look at the pics attached - you won’t be able to differentiate the cub and the mom. The mom was radio-collared)
is full of such drama…! And moments you would never never forget.
The next day we were at a place called Nakti Ghati. This place has a fairly bigger stream & a little water body. A concrete bridge runs over. Tigers are known to sleep under the bridge here in the cooling shade/water combination.
Again a series of Langoor and Chital alarm calls and nothing to be seen. Typically one would expect the Tiger to cross the road or make a kill or come for a drink. Nothing here. No movement and the thick woods around went silent. We were motionless and the tranquility was building up. This was 5pm and the sun was already behind the hills. For a lone jeep with 5 tourists, this was quite a scary moment in the dense woods connecting this zone to a more woody area - Indri. Parked on the bridge, I don’t know what the guide heard - he suddenly asked our driver to head towards the woods. That was also the way out to the main gate (as closing time was nearing by)….We drove from twilight to a darker forest zone of Indri and braked. A huge Indian Gaur
crossed the road. We thought this was it and decided to leave.
Something struck the boy sitting with me on the last (elevated) seat of the open jeep. He pointed a finger and pulled my t-shirt … “didi tiger”….and I turned. This huge tigress was sleeping just behind the tree next to our jeep. I could tough the Sal tree and she was the base of it - just on the other side. We couldn’t believe our luck….. She didn’t even fit in my focal length. The driver pulled our vehicle a little away for our safety and also to avoid obstructing the animal’s path - if she plans to cross. She rose and walked a few steps on the same side of the path and again settled down. 2 tiny cubs (could be 6/8 months) jumped out of the dry forest to join her. They suckled - played with her tail - jumped around - growled at us - sniffed our jeep tyres - played mock-killing for an entire 30-40 minutes before they all went to the stream behind us for a drink. We decided to leave them at peace (and also because flash lights are best avoided in
I had never seen such healthy bubbly cute adorable cubs…..
(See pics of Indri female)
The Kanha thrill and game continues with every camp I went ...I had some special experience to gather……..
Njoy the pictures…and do write to me ....
There are more photos below