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Published: April 30th 2017
Sighting tiger in a forest is a rare opportunity. In fact, a tiger needs a vast area to rule and does not tolerate his own species in his kingdom except for mating or to protect his offspring.
Our state Karnataka boasts the highest no of tigers among all Indian states. There are no. of tiger reserves in and around Bangalore (within a radius of 250 to 300 Kilometers) like Bandipur, Madhumalai and Nagarhole. But my present blog is not related to them but to our visits to three well-known Tiger Reserves of Central India.
We were regular visitors to the tiger reserves near Bangalore but never had the luck to meet the king of the forests. Main reasons might be the size and wide area coverage of those parks due to which concentration of tiger were comparatively less, compared to other forests located in Central India.
This time we decided to venture to three national parks of central India thru a long road trip from Bangalore covering nearly a week. The state of Madhya Pradesh had many tiger reserves, many of which were renowned all over the world. We selected three national parks namely Pench, Bandhavgarh and Kanha.
One big advantage was larger concentration of tigers in those tiger reserves among all parks of India. It increased the chances of seeing this great animal and thus attracts tourists from all over the world. A brief about Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh
This tiger reserve is located in Seoni and Chindwara Districts of MP bordering Maharastra state. It was named after Pench river. It covers a total area of around 750 Kms, out of which 300 Kms is the core area. This tiger reserve was made world famous by famous Rudward Kipling in “Jungle Book". Apart from no. of Bengal Tigers, the forest nests no. of leopards, large no. of Cheetals, Sambars, jackals, Gaurs and other animals. Also there were wide varieties of birds in the forests.
There are three entry points for Jungle Safari namely Turia, Karmajhori and Jamtara. Popular Jungle Safaris are conducted thru “Hood Open Maruti Gypsies” having six seats. There are facilities for on-line booking of either “Full vehicle” or on “Seat Sharing basis”. We made on-line booking of three safari seats on sharing basis by paying the Permit Fees of Rs 250 each (Plus Rs 30 on-line booking charges per head)
. Apart from that there would be Car Hiring Charges of Rs 2000/- and Guide Charges of Rs 360/- for the full vehicle. This additional amount of Rs 2360/- would be paid at the entry gate before safari. The amount can be shared based on filling of balance seats.
There are also facilities for entering the forest thru 15 seater “Roof Open Canter mini bus services” (Cost Rs 510 per head), but only from Touria gate. Canter facilities are provided subject to availability of minimum no of tourists as fixed by the authorities. Only flip side was no on-line booking system for the same.
Safari timing is from 5.30 am to 10.30 am i.e for five hours in the morning, whereas evening safari timings were for shorter duration (4 to 6.45 pm). There is no safari on Wednesday evening.
Rules, cost and nature of services were similar in all national parks of MP, which we noticed later. 7th April 2017 Friday Evening
Our first destination Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh was around 1200 kms from Bangalore. Apart from myself, our team consisted of Munia (my wife) and Shambo (my son). Our beloved
and most trusted friend and companion (Hyundai xcent) would escort us in our long journey for the next eight days. Our trusted friend accompanied us in our earlier long drive to Kolkata (to the east), Kanyakumari, Kerala (to the extreme south), Mumbai (west) from Bangalore and this time towards Central India.
Route from Bangalore to Pench was thru Kurnool, Hyderabad and Nagpur. Almost entire journey would be thru NH4, the longest highway in India covering Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Start of the journey, all the best
We started our journey on Friday evening (around 7pm). Objective was to cover as much as possible during the night. Night driving is risky for occasional drivers. But there were lot of advantages like less traffic, empty road which were conducive for a long drive.
Negotiating with Bangalore traffic upto Bangalore airport took nearly one and half hours. Thereafter the real journey commenced.
I was maintaining moderate speed of within 100 kms/hr.Munia (my better half) brought tasty food. We were enjoying the food while driving as well as the selected collection of music. Music was a must to avoid the napping possibilities.
After Lepakhshi (around 115 kms from Bangalore)
I suddenly watched some people waving their hands at a distance. It was not easy to locate within fraction of second such things in the darkness. I had to change the track immediately, slowing the car speed. We noticed two bodies were lying on the road right on the track where I was driving. If not noticed in time, i would have collided with the crowd.
We stopped the car at a distance. That was the worst scene to avoid in a night drive. We heard the sound of Ambulance siren. My best regards to those guys and also the Ambulance people who were providing invaluable service to the bereaved people. Night stay at Hotel Bluemoon near Gutty
We resumed our journey but changed our plan of driving the entire night. After proceeding another three hours we located a roadside hotel called Blue Moon near Gutty (around 260 Km from Bangalore). It was a motel made for serving ongoing travelers. It was at around 12 am. Hotel was already closed. But they arranged the AC room (Rs 1500). It was very hot outside even at almost midnight. We were relieved to have some rest until next day
morning. 8th April, 2017 - Saturday
We started early morning (around 6 am). My plan was to reach our destination (Pench) before dark. We had breakfast at Food Pyramid near Mehboob Nagar (455 Kms from Blore). A busy restaurant, it was located on the left side towards Hyderabad. They served good food ( varieties of dosa were available in the menu). We selected Egg Dosa and Onion Dosa with Tea. It was good but costly. On the way we came acròss a Royal Enfield with his journey from Delhi to Kanyakumari displayed. A courageous fellow indeed. Obviously, there are crazier people than us. Nehru ORR, Hyderabad
We reached our next destination, Nehru Outer Ring Road (NORR), at around 10 AM. This famed highway encircling Hyderabad / Secunderabad was an excellent opportunity to move forward without traversing through the city itself. It was a pleasure to drive thru that road. There were prominent displays throughout the road to identify the correct exit. I was careful to hit the correct exit, otherwise there were possibilities of roaming further unnecessarily. We reached Medhachal (540 Kms) to exit this road at around 11.15 AM and continue further thru NH4.
Although it was mid April, it was extremely hot outside. From Bangalore our journey so far was exceedingly smooth thru excellent and well maintained four Lane NH4 Highway. Hyderabad to Pench
Unlike Bangalore- Hyderabad stretch, the roadside eating places were much scare after Medachal (outskirts of Hyderabad). Moreover, the outside scenario changed a lot. Scarcity of water was prominent in that region. There was very less water in the streams we crossed.
At around 2.30 PM we reached near Adilabad (915 Kms). Although two lane occasionally, quality of road was ok and there was no problem to drive except the very hot climate.
We crossed Andhra Pradesh to enter Maharastra state. Road diversion started occasionally..In between there were certain stretches of two lane road also. Near Hinganghat there were certain bad patches. Moreover we had to waste nearly half an hour at a congested railway crossing within Hinghanghat. Four lane road bridges were under construction at various places increasing the driver’s worry. There were many diversions but luckily there was daylight to cross the patch..
After Buti Bori we diverted to bypass road to avoid Nagpur city (around 18 Kms before Nagpur). There are no.
of turnings at various places which we could locate, thanks to flawless Google Map direction. Driving further thru Kolkata Mumbai highway (NH 6/ NH 53) we again joined NH 4 well before Manesar Toll gate (around 1165 Kms). Rest of our journey would be thru NH4.
It was around 6.45 PM and we were behind the schedule to reach Pench, our place of stay today.The outside was plunged into darkness gradually. For the last few hours we were making repeated but failed attempts to contact the Bison Retreat Resort at Rukhad over phone. Unfortunately, we were not successful. Bad road after Manesar, Maharashtra
Road condition worsened further after Manesar in Maharashtra. By that time, it was fully dark and there was virtually no road for approximately fifty kilometres upto Maharastra - MP border which continued even after entering Madhya Pradesh. Four lane road construction was under way in that entire segment . It was the most horrible part of our entire journey.
There were no. of dhabas at both sides of the road after entering MP. We were near our destination. But at night, it was totally dark and locating our hotel did not prove to
be easy. “Bison Highway Treat”, Rookhad at last
Khawasa (around 1225 Kms) was the place from where another small road moved towards Pench National Park on the right. “Bison Highway Treat”, where we booked our room was located 23 Kms further from Khwasa, but on the roadside of NH4 itself. Bison Highway Treat, Rookhad belonged to M P Tourism. This place was located in a secluded place right on the NH 4. The hotel occupied a vast area, surrounded by forests and not a single shop near it.
The hotel is located around 110 kms from Nagpur. Location was ideal for nature lovers who like to be away from the urban disturbances. .
At last when we reached our destination (1250 kms) at around 9 PM, we were fully exhausted. Immediate requirement was the food and a bed to throw ourselves in. We traveled nearly 1000 kms that day.
I liked the place immediately after boarding the hotel. We were very tired after almost two days of continuous driving. There were only four rooms in the resort. There was no AC in the room but rather an air cooler. Ours was a separate cottage akin
to what one might find in villages, with a room equipped with air-cooler, separate dressing space, a toilet and of course a balcony. There was a nice garden just in front. It was a rather humbling experience which helped us to trace back to our roots. Room Tariff was Rs 2300 for three heads with taxes and extra bed charges. Hotel charges were reasonable. Room boys were extremely helpful and caring. They immediately arranged for extra beds .
After refreshing ourselves, we finished our dinner with Alu Paratha, Sabji and Dal. Food was tasteful although that might be attributed to the fact that we were extremely hungry.
Mr Pradeep Yadav, the manager, was a smiling, helpful person. We had safari booking only on next day evening. On our request, he agreed to arrange a safari from the resort next day morning. Unfortunately that did not click because of driver’s absence .He briefed us about Pench, its location, Safari timings etc. So did the helping boys, Sunil And Dilip. They were obedient, always eager to offer their services. 9th April, 2017 - Sunday
Next day we woke up early in the morning. It was surprisingly
chilly, compared to the immense heat we experienced the day before.We had our first safari booking in Pench National Park only in the evening. Hence, we were free. We were told that there was a forest checkpost from Rukhad also. But there was no safari arrangement from that post. Strolling inside the forest Check post, Rookhad
We walked a few yards from the resort to the checkpost. There was nobody, may be due to it being early morning. After initial hesitation, we started walking through the kachha road leading inside the checkpost. There were human habitat on the way. We noticed a beautiful Forest Bungalow nearby.
The forest was thin initially, but after a kilometre or so, density of the jungle increased. Thousands of trees were standing tall without leaves. It was totally dry everywhere. There were leaves lying all across the forest floor like an enormous carpet.The colour of the jungle was a mixture of brown and red with occasional traces of trees with green leaves. There were different varieties of birds, most of which were not known to us.There was also a large family of langoors. They were not at all frightened, but showed their
displeasure. After a few kilometers, we thought of calling it a day and returning to the resort. We were hungry.
The day before, a huge banyan tree just at the hotel entry point had attracted our attention. Below the tree, it was mentioned to be more than 500 years old. This tree with its innumerable branches was the abode of thousands of birds of different varieties, monkeys and other creatures. There was a huge garden having no. of trees. In fact, this hotel is located in the midst of nature. Breakfast at Retreat
Morning breakfast was complimentary. We had bread omelette and tea. The great banyan tree formed a canopy over the restaurant. I savored the scene playing out in front of me - the movement and chattering of birds and the gymnastics of the monkeys, while taking my food. The vibrant collection of birds and the antics of the monkeys were a sight to behold.The mellow rays of the morning sun gave the entire scene a pacific demeanor. I wished I could sit there for hours. It really was a fantastic experience .
We chatted with Mr Yadav with regards to tourism information about this
place. There was one more M.P.Tourism hotel inside Pench National Park. That was much bigger in size and other facilities. But this resort was older than the other one. Despite being in a fantastic location, the resort needed modernization,further expansion etc. Upon enquiring about our failed attempt to connect here yesterday, he admitted the weak mobile signal in the area.
One disadvantage was its distance from Pench National park entrance gate (around thirty kms). .
Overall I had a nice experience in that place. We also remember Sunil, Dilip and Nihal (Cook) and their helping hands. Contact address of the retreat is as follows : Mr Pradeep Yadav, Manager In Charge (Mobile No. 09424796797, E-Mail email@example.com) Bison Highway Treat, MP State Tourism Development Corporation Ltd., Rookhad, Distt. Seoni (M.P.) Tel : 07695-290130,290631 (E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org) Tiger n woods hotel in Pench
Our next abode was “Tiger n woods" hotel in Pench. It was located around 12 kms from the main road (NH 4) and nearby (within 1 km) the Touria Gate. A serene environment
A young man at the Front Desk greeted us. His
name was Rahul. He had a pleasant personality. Hotel was really eco-friendly. Our cottage was made of wood, on a supported platform, around 15 ft from the ground. It consisted of a room, dressing passage and toilet (cement made). But the balcony was the best attraction. There were two large glass windows on both sides of the room. When we slid up the curtains, an enchanting view of the forest greeted us. Room and toilet were well arranged and clean. Every thing was made of wood, except the toilet. The roof of the cottage was covered with haystacks.
The suspended wooden cottages blended with the surroundings smoothly.
When we arrived at the shaky, wooden stairs leading up to the rooms, we sighted a group of monkeys hanging out below the suspended platform. They were playing on their own. Never disturbed us.
Every time we walked in the room, our footsteps made screeching sounds on the floor, like it would give way at any moment. That was a different feeling.
Our cottage was surrounded by trees. Waves of sound were emanating from the wind shaking the bamboo and other tree leaves. There was a beautiful rhythm of
the blowing wind. Sitting in the balcony and hearing the sound of wind and birds was a unique experience.
We had lunch there. A buffet meal. Cost of lunch was Rs 300 per head with few essential items like rice, sabji, dal, Papar. A good quality simple lunch.
Our Gypsy Safari at Touria gate, Pench Tiger Reserve
Our first online safari booking was booked for that day on a sharing basis. There were six seats in the Maruti Gypsy which would carry us inside the national park area. Cost of one seat was Rs 250 which needed to be paid along with online booking. But there were two more charges i.e. Vehicle Hiring Charges (Rs 2000), Guide Fees (Rs360) respectively. Those additional charges were to be paid before the start of safari at the ticket counter.
Despite the high cost, all safari vehicles were fully booked. Many of the vehicles originated from the various hotels in Pench and were booked thru them.
We reached the Turia Gate well in advance. Outside, it was terribly hot with the scorching heat characteristic of mid-April. We were told to search for the remaining three passengers.
Gradually, the crowd increased and after a long wait we met our fellow travelers.
In the process we were left behind by so many other vehicles. Searching for fellow passengers troubled us in all our future safari bookings through out the tour ,since we booked our tickets online thru sharing basis.
Entry gate opened exactly at 4 pm.The guide explained that there were tiger sightings in the morning safari. Summer is the best time for tiger sightings. Due to shortage of water, wild animals come out from the dense forest area. Tigers have to come to the nearby streams or reservoirs for drinking .Small water tanks were made by the forest authorities at certain places to assist the wild animals in quenching their thirst. Many of them were natural and favourite destinations of tigers.
Large no. of vehicles entered one by one cruising into the forest. We could spot small animals like jackal, peacock etc, but no trace of big cats. After roaming here and there, the guide led the vehicle to a big water tank. Gradually, other vehicles also congregated. At one point, there were around fifty vehicles stranded on that road. Obviously no animal would
like such a huge gathering. After wasting nearly an hour, we started our return journey.
Our fellow passengers were three young guys, energetic and talking continuously. There were certain basic rules to follow inside the forest. Silence was the primary requirement in a forest.
On the way back a wonderful quote attracted my attention: If you could not see them, do not get dis-heartened, since they saw you. That was the consolation. A spectacular evening in moonlight
The warmth of the daylight leached back to the earth. It was dark. While returning, I could see the moon gradually glowing. Most of the shops near the entry gates were closed. We decided to have our dinner in a roadside dhaba. It was reasonably priced but we had to compromise the quality.
Walking inside the hotel at night was a wonderful experience. By that time, the moonlight splashed its watery white-silverish glow onto the forest. The trees were like silhouettes under the moonlit sky. The sound of insects emerged from the nearby bushes. Every time we neared it, it paused, resuming only after we proceeded to a distance. Calls from a deer herd was coming from the
distant forest. There was a pleasant aroma from the nearby trees, probably from Mohua. We spent some time in the balcony. But that was shortlived due to various insects outside.We slept well on a mystic and memorable night.
At midnight I woke up and came to the balcony to see the outside. The whole compound was flooded with moonlight. That was the time for angels to embark from heaven and play in the moonlight. 10th April, 2017 Monday
The light from dawn woke me up. That was the time when birds of different varieties, colours and sounds looked to be busy chirping, courting and quarreling amongst themselves. I sat and enjoyed the atmosphere fully.
There was a huge garden with different varieties of trees like bamboo, mango and most noteworthy mohua. I was standing under a mohua tree. There almost seemed to be an incessant shower of mohua flowers floating down one after another. That was a favourite place for birds. Mohua has a fragrant aroma. I could see a village girl collecting mohua just outside my room balcony.
The process adopted for warming up water thru boiler was quite unique. Each cottage consisted
of a boiler fitted below it. On our call, a boy poured the wild leaves inside the boiler and lighted it with kerosene. The boiler could provide warm water within fifteen minutes. I came to appreciate the eco-friendly way and cohesion with nature.
Breakfast was complimentary. It was a simple but healthy breakfast consisting of poha, aloo paratha and sabji, along with bread omelette and tea. Although heavy, we consumed everything, since that day, we had to move to a different venue.
I must mention the young boys who were looking after the boarders. Last, but not the least, is the young man in the front desk, a smiling and energetic face.
At around 9 o' clock in the morning, we started towards our next destination, Bandhavgarh National Park, via Jabbalpur.
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