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Published: June 28th 2017
In continuation of our self-drive from Bangalore to the Tiger Reserves of Madhya Pradesh we proceeded from Pench towards Bandhavgarh National Park via Jabbalpur.
Starting our journey on the 7th
April, 2017 (Friday) evening from Bangalore, we reached Rukhad near Pench, Madhya Pradesh next day night. We stayed two nights at Pench and visited the Pench National Park.
In this blog I tried to depict our journey further from Pench to Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Park before finally returning to Bangalore. At the end I also mentioned our learning points from the trip which may be useful to the prospective travelers to this route. 10th April, 2017 Monday – Pench to Bandhavgarh via Jabbalpur Drive to Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve via Jabbalpur
Contrary to our plan we started late from Pench at around 9 AM. Bandhavgarh National Park was around 360 kms from here. There were various alternative routes from Pench to Bandhavgarh. We selected the road via Jabbalpur since (as understood from various reviews) road condition had been better and also to make a brief halt at world famous Marble Rock, Narmada River, Jabbalpur.
After initial few kilometres of rugged road, the four lane highway
started near Seoni. Road construction was in progress in various places. There were intermittent diversions and bad roads reducing the car speed. At near Chapra the road was hilly and two lane, restricting the speed. Nevertheless scenic beauty of the place was worth enjoying. After Bargi and near Manegaon, we saw the mighty Narmada river for the first time in our journey. At around 1.30 PM we reached Beda-ghat, our initial destination today. As usual, there was immense heat outside. Mother earth was burning in mid-noon blazing sun. Marble Rock, Jabbalpur
Our destination Marble Rock was a well-known tourist destination on the outskirts of Jabbalpur. Distance between Jabbalpur to Bandhavgarh was around 165 Kms. Normally, it could be covered in around three hours time. We planned to spend around two hours there and resume at around 3.30 PM to reach Bandhavgarh before the nightfall.
Beda-ghat was the place (around 13 kms from Jabbalpur) on the bank of the mighty Narmada River. Narmada was one of most sacred rivers of India. The great river has passed thru natural gorges here. High rise natural rocks on both sides of the river created magnificent god gifted shapes and sculptures. Excellent Boat ride
Not many tourists could be seen braving the firing sun on top, in mid afternoon. Boat-ride facilities were available from the ghat. Charges were fixed at Rs 400 initially for a brief ride. Subsequently it was further negotiated to Rs 800 for a detailed tour thru the river for nearly an hour.
Huge rocks on both sides were mostly white with attractive shapes and curves. This place particularly attracted Hindi cinema-lovers since many Hindi movies were filmed here. Our Boat anchor
Our boat was driven by two men and the guide was the anchor. He had an unique dramatic style of describing various rock formation, comparing rocks with goddess, showing different natural sculptures, depicting specific spots where scenes of hindi films had been shot, with vivid description of the intimate scene, sometimes with massala gossips. It was quite dramatic and sensational, befitting with that place, really worth enjoying.
There were number of temples above the rocks. MP Tourism Tourist bungalow was located right above the rocks on the river bank, an ideal place to enjoy the exquisite nature. I wished to stay and enjoy full moonlight here if I could return here
Young boys were offering to dive into the river from the top (at least fifty feet high) for a price, providing a good opportunity for the photographer to click. I watched a negotiation going on from a nearby tourist boat with those boys. I thought it unethical to find amusement taking advantage of someone’s poverty.
There were large number of shops selling articles made or claimed to be made of marble. We had a tasteful Lassi session at the end. The famous Dhuandhar waterfalls was a popular tourist destination and located nearby. A ropeway facility was available to enjoy the falls. Unfortunately we did not have time to avail that. Swiping card in Petrol Bunk
Sometimes small issues create un-warranted glitches. It happened while making payment after filling fuel at a Jabbalpur Petrol Bunk. I decided to pay petrol charges thru card payment since in a long road journey it became inconvenient to carry huge cash. But after swiping initially, no confirmation generated from the Swiping machine although I received confirmation of debiting the amount in my mobile. On assurance from the merchant, I swiped again in a different machine, but with same result.
Ultimately, payment could be confirmed and I received the Payment Slip on third attempt. In consequence I received three debits and worried whether I could get back two credits later from the bank. The entire incident not only spoiled my mood but in effect I lost more than an hour in dealing with Petrol Pump personnel as well as calling the Bank.
We left Jabbalpur and very soon it became dark. Google Map was the only guide after dark since Milestones and other road indicators were absent from our view. The two lane road was well maintained but there were lot of twists and turns, not at all a smooth ride. The route was Kundam-Kuppi-Sahapura-Umeria-Bandhavgarh. Moonlight sonata
Outside environment became comparatively cool after the sunset. I switched off the Car AC and opened the window. It was Moonlight all over the surroundings. A mystic environment outside, with black roads glowing with illuminating moon. Quietly we were enjoying the beautiful view. Now I had no regret of being late. In fact it was difficult to explain the feeling. It could be realized only when we experience it.
I was expecting the forest area to start but there
was no trace of forest so far. At last it was seen when we were almost near to our destination (around thirty kilometres from Bandhavgarh). We felt excited and Shambo and Munia were attempting relentlessly to trace any wild animal with the powerful torchlight. Who knew our first sight of tiger would happen in nearby bushes on the same road next day evening. Bandhavgarh at last
Finally we reached Bandhavgarh at around 9 pm. Contrary to our expectations and information gathered from the net, that place contained all basic necessities required in a popular tourist spot, like ATMs of various banks, mobile connectivity, large no of hotels and restaurants to cater tourists of all segments i.e ordinary, middle class, as well as tourists with deep pockets. Hotel Mougli Jungle Resort, Bandhavgarh
Arriving at Hotel Mougli Resort was proved to be a difficult task particularly at night. Contrary to what we could presume from internet reviews, it was located quite distant from the main forest entry gate (around 2.5 kms) and far interior from the main road. It was a horrible path, should not be called a road at all. Uneven and full of crater-like potholes, no
street lights, with very little direction how to reach there at night. It was a nightmare. A bullock cart or a even a jeep/gypsy could ply that road but not a sedan vehicle of ours.
I was terrified while driving to locate the hotel. There was huge possibility of creating big damage to our beautiful car with low ground clearance.
Once we reached inside it was quite good. Hotel tariff was Rs 5466 for two days three persons including breakfast, quite reasonable. Hotel contained a huge well maintained garden with different varieties of trees and plants.
We were virtually the only occupant of the hotel. Our allotted room was a spacious cottage. It contained the main room with a small drawing room, a small passage with wardrobe and a toilet. Overall the area was more than sufficient. Room maintenance was ok except toilet faucet not working. Commode needed cleaning. Those were small issues and could be ignored.
Huge positive side was the excellent treatment by Hotel staffs at Reception Counter, Serving Boys as well as men at the kitchen. A brief about Bandhavgarh National Park
This tiger reserve was located in Umeria District of
Madhya Pradesh. Originally belonging to the Maharaja of Rewa, the park was taken over by the State Government and developed as Tiger Reserve. This park was one of the most popular tourist destinations for animal lovers across the world, due to highest density of wild tigers in India. The park was divided between Core and Buffer Zones.
There were three zones here, Tala, Khatouli and Magadi. We booked two safari permits on-line thru Government web-site, one in Tala Gate in the morning, another in the evening on sharing basis (i.e out of six seats in the Gypsy Safari, we booked three, balance would be occupied by other travellers). Status of both the tickets were “waiting 1” when we booked. Nevertheless I was confident that it would be confirmed, since I booked them one and half month back. Un-expected setback
When I checked in the hotel the counter person asked me whether I had ticket for safari. I replied casually that we had tickets booked online long back as “Waiting 1”. He asked me to check. I showed my online ticket to the hotel and shocked to know that both our online "wait-listed" entry permit (morn & even)
had been cancelled. Having undertaken 1500 km road journey, it was a bolt from the blue. I was told in the hotel that six tickets would be distributed at the counter early morning as current booking. But there used to be heavy demand usually and chance of getting tickets was remote. With broken heart I had no other choice but to try next day at the ticket counter. 11th April, 2017 - Tuesday
Morning started with anxiety and uncertainty. As advised by the hotelier, we reached the “ticket counter” at 4’0 clock in the morning. The counter man confirmed the cancellation and to our dismay he confirmed that all current tickets were already sold. It was told that the amount would be refunded to us online.
Unexpectedly, It was a very chilly morning for which we were not prepared. I wore only a T-shirt and almost shivering.
On our repeated request, he also assured to do some arrangement for us. We waited for long and after nearly one hour our patience yielded successful result.
Out of three zones in Bandhavgarh, we were allotted ticket for Tala Zone, which had been a premium zone.
I deposited the required amount (Rs 2000 for vehicle charges and Rs 2200 for permit and guide charges). Subsequently we shared the vehicle with another three visitors. Accordingly the total amount got shared. Corruption everywhere
While waiting for long in the Ticket Counter, I noticed that current tickets were being booked thru brokers with premium prices. Those tickets were not being distributed with personal presence of the visitors, but thru third parties. Similarly, the cancelled tickets were reallocated in the same manner. Balance three tickets of our allotted vehicle were allocated to visitors thru brokers, who did not buy tickets standing in the queue like us. Those visitors arrived much later, not like ours waiting for nearly two hours. It was disappointing. At the same time it was a relief, at least we got the ticket. Tiger safari at Tala
We started at around 6.30 AM after arrival of the actual visitors. Virtually all the vehicles already left by that time and possibly we were the last. Guide escorted us initially to a place near a pond where tiger was spotted last evening. But there was no luck. On the way we came to know that
our earlier safari party could spot a female along with cubs. By then the animal went into the deep forest. Some foreigners changed the Gypsy Safari to embark on elephant ride for penetrating the big cat into the jungle.
Incidentally, that was the only time I could watch the elephant (although domestic) in our entire tour, unlike the South Indian forests where wild elephant was quite common.
Gradually when we proceeded further the forest became dry with thousands of trees without leaves. Forest ground was entirely covered by dry leave carpets. The entire wild became reddish or brown in colour. But the advantage was that it increased the visibility to identify animals from distance. Apart from Shaal and Mohua, one specific type of tree was quite noticeable. It was white colour, called “Ghost Tree” by the Guide, due to its distinct visibility at night.
The tour was un-eventful like any other safari tour, although quite expensive compared to south Indian forests. We could see wild gour, peacocks, jackel apart from deer but not tiger. Slightly disappointing, since that place was famous for tiger sighting. The tour duration was long, between 5.30 am to 10.30 am. There was
interval in between for breakfast, answering nature's call and small memento marketing at a price, from few shops at the resting point. We had a taste of samosa and tea.
There was a huge fort deep into the forest along with a temple. Lord Vishnu was resting here in Ananthasayanam posture. Huge Lingam of Lord Shiva was also erected in the same place. All the statues remained in the open in the midst of nature.
Guide explained that the entire area originally was a part of the estate belonging to the Maharaja of Rewa. Subsequently it was taken over by the Government. Once a year, a festival was celebrated surrounding the temple and attended by thousands of devotees from local villages. I was imagining where the animals take shelter when such big festivities occur here.
He also told that a large portion of the forest remain in-accessible to the ordinary tourists due to court order. Visitors were allowed only in a small portion of the whole forest. In fact the area of Bandhavgarh national park itself was smaller compared to other forests of this nature. We could see the cultivated fields just after the forest fence in
various places. Effort was on to enhance the area by rehabilitating the local habitats in Buffer Zone area to other places.
Back to hotel at around 11.30 am. On the way we noticed a restaurant offering Bengali food. We ordered for lunch there and returned to hotel. Had some rest, lunch in that restaurant and arrived to the ticket counter for evening ticket booking. Luckily there was not much waiting this time. I paid Rs 4100 and booked a ride in Khatauli. This was less preferred compared to other two gates, but no choice.
I noticed near the booking counter that bargaining was on to book the ticket of choice with some extra. Everything was not fairly dealt here, that was my overall experience. Evening safari at Khatouli
For evening booking there was no sharing. Khatauli was slightly far away. This time we changed our seat position to have better luck. An important experience of afternoon ride was to face dust. It was flying like powder. Our Clothes, exposed portion of the body, bags everything had been affected. Most vulnerable was the camera, lenses and accessories. Some experienced travellers came prepared for that. They covered the
camera with soft clothes. A good guide is essential apart from luck for sighting the tiger
Selection of Guide was made randomly by the park authorities and not based on travelers choice. Our guide was a relatively old guy. Tiger spotting in a vast forest was not an easy task. For that the guide used to depend upon the behaviour of other animals like monkey, sambar and deer. Call of deer was not always dependable since many a times they gave mating calls. Sambar was a more careful animal. Their calls were indication for the guide. Finally the monkeys. They could spot the tiger from tree top and generated a different sound. Recognising these indication correctly, required years of experience. Our overall experience was that tiger sighting chances depended to a great extent upon the experience and effort of the accompanying guide, apart from luck.
After a while the guide heard a “call” from sambar. We waited there for quite some time. But the call stopped. We tried our luck in other places near the tank. The anticipation was tiger used to come to the tank for drinking before the darkness. This time there was no luck.,
the king of jungle was still elusive. Evening safari was from 4 pm to 6.30 pm. A sight at last when it was most un-expected
We left the main gate to enter the main road. We were disheartened to be third time un-lucky (once in Pench and two times here). I closed the lense-hood and put the camera inside the bag. We were feeling tired. Suddenly when our gypsy touched a culvert, guide raised his hands on the right side shouting “look look tiger”.
We could see him from around two hundred yards of distance. It was almost 6.45 pm. Intensity of day light decreased. But he was visible, slowly walking thru the bushes. After a while he stopped walking and sat in the bushes.
Suddenly there was a total scramble. The road culvert was filled with long queue of waiting vehicles. Overall it was a surprise consolation gift. Full Moon day
A reddish moon was gradually coming up on the western sky. Today was full moon day. Entire environment, the road and the adjoining forest were glowing with moonlight.
We had early dinner at hotel since we had one more trip here
next day morning. This time it would be from Magadhi gate.
12th April 2017 Wednesday Safari at Magadhi
Today we had confirmed booking in Magadhi but on single seat basis. Early morning we reached the ticket counter. It was packed with brokers and representatives of various hotels, booking ticket on behalf of their boarders, obviously with extra premium. There were very few genuine visitors here. There was a noticeable lacuna in distributing current tickets as well as issue against cancellation ticket distribution system.
Today we had no problem since the balance three tickets were immediately booked by the brokers. Of course we had to wait for the actual visitors to arrive. Our journey started around 6.30 am. Our Guide in command
Our guide Shri Singh was a very thin-looking, aged but very energetic fellow. Frequently he used to get up on the gypsy seat, look the surroundings, express his views and sit down immediately. He assured us that tiger would definitely be sighted. We smiled with disbelief since our earlier two safaris could not end up with successful tiger sighting except distant glimpse yesterday.
Magadhi was not a big zone
and there were certain specific tiger sighting spots, particularly near the water tanks in various places. Many of those waterholes were man-made, built for catering drinking need of the animals particularly during summer. These places were also favourite spots for tiger-sighting particularly in the late morning (preferably after 8.30 AM) and evening before darkness.
Initial half an hour was spent in moving between those places. Around 7.30 am he directed the gypsy driver to stop near a particular water-hole. It was a small pond surrounded by trees. This was the place where a tigress was sighted yesterday along with her three calves. Father of the calves also presently stayed near the vicinity. Our guide was certain that as the heat would intensify, they would emerge. Taste of patience
The road where we were waiting located around 150 yards from the water tank. Our long waiting started. It was a real test of patience. Initially there were other Gypsies waiting like ours.
Our endless waiting appeared to be futile. Gradually most of the visitors fell asleep. Some of the drivers lie down and started snoring with their passengers. I was having deep urge for nature’s call but
the guide remarked that nearest breakfast point had been 3 kms away.
A noticeable feature was the environment around that place. There was no sound of monkey, deer, samber, as if they were not present. Forest was unusually calm and quiet, except birds. King arrived at last
At around 9.30 pm suddenly one of the drivers shouted “tiger”. Suddenly everybody became alive. Gypsies were vying to take position. Everybody wanted have better view of the beast. I could hear the sound of camera clicking continuously. Many of the visitors including foreigners were equipped with latest camera and allied gadgets. Centre of attraction arrived at last.
It was a big male, gorgeous, fiercely beautiful. God must have created him with extra care. He stood for some time, then sat down near the water spot. He put his head on his front paw. Yawned lazily. Chewed his legs. It was a wonderful opportunity to watch his different postures. He moved lazily, as if he was not in a hurry at all. Gradually he changed his posture. After a while he moved half of his body into the water. There was hardly any movement further. A costly mistake
I reminded the guide regarding my urgent need for answering nature’s call. He was anticipating arrival of the mother and calves also. He responded to my plea un-willingly.
When we returned to the same place it was half past ten. Some of the vehicles already left the scene. We came to know that Kankatti (the mother) already arrived and left. Her calve family could be seen now also. Disappointed we had to be content with the view of one calf. Really it was a costly mistake.
We ended our safari with a happy note. At last we could watch the king of the jungle in his territory. Nice hospitality at the hotel
Breakfast was ready in the hotel which was unexpected since it was 11.30 am. I must mention that the hotel staffs were extremely cooperative, always eager to help the visitors, not only the front office but the boys preparing food and serving to us.
Our stay in Bandhavgarh ended and now we would be proceeding towards Kanha. Proceeding towards Kanha National Park
We started at around 1.30 pm. Outside environment was almost burning in the mid-noon sun. Approx. distance between
Bandhavgarh to Kanha was around 215 Kms. We passed Umeria and then Sahapur. At around 4.45 PM we reached Mandla, crossing Narmada river. It was a well-populated town with number of temples, Ashramas and religious activities. Road to Kanha was two lane but well built up to Mandla.
As per our GPS, balance stretch was around 50 Kms which we thought of reaching easily within an hour before the sun-set. But a horrible surprise was awaiting us. NH30 from here was under construction and the next 20 kms was a nightmare. Hips of stones were piled on the roadside. Half way was filled with stones and waiting for tar. Ghugua Fossil National Park
On the way we came across the Ghugua Fossil National Park, the largest fossil park in Asia. The park contained the botanical fossils dating back millions of years ago and attracted scientists and archaeologists all over the world. Unfortunately we had no time to spare since it was becoming dark.
Next was a place called Cherrai Dongri where we took left turn to cross the railway track. I liked the beautiful name. Thereafter it was a hilly track with beautiful greeneries and pleasant
to drive. Road was newly tarred and well maintained.
We reached Kanha at around 7 pm. A brief about Kanha National Park
Kanha National Park was the largest Tiger Reserve in Central India. The famous novel of Sir Rudward Kipling was based on this park. The forest was based on 940 Kms of core area and another around 1000 kms of Buffer zone. There were three entry points here, Khatiya, Mukki and Sarhi. Online tickets were available for Khatiya, Kanha and Mukki. First two were nearby and can be covered by staying in Kanha. But Mukki was located very far (around 40 Kms), thus need sufficient time to reach from Kanha.
This park attracted us the most out of three national parks we visited i.e. Pench, Bandhavgarh and Kanha in our MP Forest Tour. The reason was its vastness, wide varieties of animals, birds and green forest. Apart from around 100 tigers, there were different varieties of animals like Indian Leopards, Gaurs (Indian Bison), Wild dogs etc. The park contained different species of deer like Barasingha (available only in this park), Black bucks, apart from Cheetals available in plenty. Last but not the least were the
birds of various species, magnificent & colourful. We could spot the highest no of animals and birds in this park apart from locating the King of the Jungle.
There were Canter safari also (Rs 510 each).It could accommodate more than 15 persons. It was a medium sized bus with open hood facilities having at least 15 seats. There was arrangement for night safari (Rs 1750 per head) also from 7.30 pm to 10.30 pm. However online booking facility was not available for Canter and Night safari. Our stay at Hotel Pugmark Resort
Our online booking was at Hotel Pugmark Resort. It was located at around 1 km from the main road. One big advantage was its proximity to the Khatia Main Gate (around 1 km). But the interior road was kachha, full of craters and difficult to drive with our sedan car.
It was a much smaller hotel compared to our other places of stay at Bandhavgarh/Pench. Hotel owner stayed in the same compound with his family and managed the affairs with his son.
The AC room which we were allotted was ordinary. Room tariff was Rs 4107 for two days three adults without breakfast. Room furniture was ordinarily built with cheap material. There was nothing to keep belongings in the toilet, a definite disadvantage particularly for ladies. Quality of towel served was of bad. A TV was fitted but for show, it was not working.
My experience with the front office personnel was less than satisfactory. I requested for their assistance regarding our online single seat safari bookings already made. Response was not only lukewarm but negative with no offer for help. I expected more assistance from the hotel which I could not get.
When we checked in, there were hardly two boarders including us. One disadvantage of online safari booking was the indifferent attitude I faced at some hotels where we stayed, since the boarder already made the payment and the hotel had nothing to gain further.
We had dinner at the hotel. Food quality was good, less spicy but tasteful. Our total food cost was Rs 1100 for two days, quite reasonable.
At around midnight when I suddenly woke up, the blue moon illuminated the starless crystal clear sky. Opening the door, I came to the courtyard. It was a mystic different world, unknown but intoxicating.
I went back to bed. We had safari early morning tomorrow. 13th April 2017 Kanha
As usual we started early morning (5am) from the hotel. Khatia gate was less than a kilometer away from hotel. Our ticket was on single sharing basis. It meant that we would need another three visitors to join us, otherwise entire cost had to be borne by us. Luckily it was smooth in the ticket counter. Immediately on producing the ticket we were introduced to another group of three persons. Vehicle was allotted and the total cost (Rs 4120) was equally divided.
We had three bookings here – morning (Khatia), evening (kanha) and next day evening at Mukki. Morning safari at Khatia
Compared to Bandhavgarh, our experience at Kanha was much better at the ticket counter. Ticket distribution was being made in a much fair manner. I noticed the people who were standing in the queue were actual visitors. Counter staffs were very co-operative and extending help to visitors. Commendable effort by our Guide and also the driver
Our journey in search of tiger began at around 6.30 AM. Nilanjan was the Guide’s name and Dhruv was the driver. Both were young and eager to show the best of the park. Safari proceeded thru the core forest area. Unlike Bandhavgarh, Kanha looked green and fresh even in this burning summer. Thousand of trees like Saal, Mahua, Palash and so many others were standing tall here.
One by one deer, Sambar, Bison, wild boar, varieties of birds showed themselves making our journey thoroughly enjoying and memorable. We could watch Barasingha deer which was unique in this park. Early morning was the best time to watch wild animals. Nature was at its best here. But where was the king of jungle ?
We were wondering various spots, particularly near the tank bed which wild animals preferred to rear in search of water. Forest remained relatively cool in the morning. But as the sun moved towards middle of the sky, the earth got heated. Tiger usually came out from the dense forest near the waterholes. Scorching sun would probably compel the tiger to come out of the bushes. That could be the ideal time to get a glimpse during summer safaris.
Guide was endeavouring relentlessly to show the big cat to us. In forest tiger could be traced examining various indications. Guides were specialists in recognising the correct signals from the forest environment, sound and behaviour emanating from various animals.
He stopped the vehicle in a place apprehending something un-usual. We could hear an intermittent screaming sound from a monkey. That could be a “call” for a tiger. His tail was hanging from the top of a tall tree. Guide murmured that this area was the abode of a male tiger. This was perhaps his time for drinking. Guide showed his pugmark on the road. There was indication from yelling deer too. Deer had different sounds, for mating and cautioning of tiger as well as various other voices. We waited for long, nothing happened. We further proceeded without luck. Tiger seemed to be inside the bush but had no urge to come out.
We proceeded further, reversed and again proceeded. No luck. It was nearly 8.45 am. Guide was adamant to show the tiger. He decided to try another tank far away. While proceeding we met a forest guard. He confirmed that tiger was spotted in our destination tank.
Guide explained that our destination point was inhabited by a tigress. She gave birth to three calves few years back. All of them grew up and now became her competitors. Now she lives alone. We rushed there and waited for some time. Nothing emerged.
Slight frustration in guide and drivers mind. He asked our advice whether we should go back to our earlier spot. We consented. While going back we met the “open hood canter bus” carrying visitors. They were coming from that place. Driver confirmed that there was no more call. Half way, we returned to our second destination once again. Already few vehicles were waiting there.
It was 9.30 am. We were sure today the king would be elusive. I was feeling hungry and in sleeping mood . Heat increased considerably. Tiger sighted
Suddenly my wife shouted “tiger”. We could watch “her” strolling in the bushes. Slowly on our right. Her majesty looked to be quite displeased seeing the jeeps. Her destination was to cross the road and reach the water-hole on our left. She selected to sit under the tree shade to avoid the heat.
Meanwhile some more jeeps arrived. Nobody wanted to leave the opportunity of having good visible spots. After competing each other initially, half of the vehicles moved a few hundred yards on the opposite side. Space was created for the tiger to move forward, cross the road between the waiting gypsies towards the pond on our left.
Our waiting for another half an hour succeeded when she got up. Tourists armed with latest and most sophisticated camera started clicking the tiger. Slowly she started walking, crossed the road and gradually entered into the bushes. Only her shoulder was visible. Gradually she reached the tank, put her back into the water to get cool.
It was so majestic. So close. Watching a tiger strolling in wilderness was a lifetime experience. We were watching the whole episode with full concentration.
Hats off to our guide Niranjan and driver Dhruv. I will cherish today’s experience for many years.
We had breakfast cum lunch at a Dhaba adjacent to the main gate.
Evening safari at Kanha
Evening safari was at Kanha. That was also a single seat sharing booked online. One foreigner was our companion. Evening safaris were ordinarily supposed to be tiresome due to blazing sun even in the afternoon and huge dusts spreading all over the body, bags, camera, virtually everything we carry.
But Kanha region was so picturesque, dense forest with thousands of tall trees. There were all around greeneries even in this hot summer. Nature has gifted this place with all possible colors. In certain places the forest was so deep preventing sunlight to enter.
There were some vast grasslands also, ideal for tigers. We could watch many animals like bison heard at various places, Barasingha deer and of course Black Buck. In one place two peacocks were busy in dance ballets with full feathers to attract a peahen, a nice view to watch. Don’t know who won the race.
A huge herd of around twenty bisons were taking bath in a big pond. In another place two jackals were trying to steal eggs released by the birds. Three four birds were attacking the jackals with huge chattering and very high speed. Ultimately both the jackals shelved their plan and ran away.
Last but not the least were birds. So many varieties, so colourful. I wish I would carry a Binacular next time, a must for bird watching.
We could not come across any tiger this time. Duration of evening ride was much smaller ( 2.45 hrs) compared to morning ( 5 hrs). But I must admit that Kanha region was one of the most beautiful and rich forest I have ever seen.
In the evening we visited the kanha museum adjacent to the ticket counter. There was a open auditorium within the museum compound. We sat there casually. Immediately two local girls brought the audio visual equipments and the documentary film on “tigers of Kanha” started. It was the same well-known documentary directed and narrated by Sir Richard Attenborough, which we saw thru our TV sets so many of times. But the same film when watched here, offered a different feeling. In fact that was the ideal place to watch such film. 14th April 2017 Friday Gawa Kanha Resort
Started from Kanha at 11.30 am. The last Safari of our entire journey was from Mukki gate, today evening. Our destination was “Gawa Kanha Resort”, a MP Tourism hotel. It was supposed to be near Mukki gate ( as mentioned in the hotel address). I booked that resort online, assuming the proximity from that gate. But after reaching this place we realised it was quite far away (around 15 km). This resort was located in a place called Mohgaon. The hotel was newly built at an isolated place without any locality nearby. Distance of the nearby locality Baihar was around 20 kms. It took nearly two hours and around 50 Kms drive from Kanha to finally reach the hotel.
However, after entering,we liked the hotel. Cottage allotted to us was very clean equipped with all necessary items and with required quality. Toilet was too good. A nice balcony adjacent to the cottage was a bonus.
We reached there late at around 1.45 pm and had to finish our lunch hurriedly. Our destination Mukki Gate was around 15 Kms ahead and it was not a straight road at all. But we could reach well before time.
Compared to all other entry points, Mukki gate was less crowded and less hyped. As usual we had a shared safari booking online. Nevertheless there was no difficulty to get the balance three passengers. Our shared expenditure was Rs. 1180 ( Rs 2000+360)/2, apart from Rs 780 paid while booking online.
Our last Safari at Mukki Gate
Safari started at 4 pm as usual. It was a pleasant surprise to know, there were regular tiger sightings from safaris thru this gate, even today morning. We hoped to be lucky also.
Mukki side was also full of lush greenaries. Thousands of tall trees, bushes, grassland in between. It was a vast area. No of vehicles were comparatively less in number. Canter (open hood small bus) facilities were also available. I also noticed exclusive safari vehicles of star hotels like The Taj and other expensive hotels. Their vehicles were also different, six seater but bigger in size, mostly occupied by foreigners.
Another noticeable feature was the presence of women guides in number of safari vehicles. Tiger again
Our initial euphoria of sighting the tiger was over since we were successful already, three times earlier. Guide selected a place and stopped the vehicle in a place hearing the “tiger call” from a deer. He narrated that was the place of a male tiger called Mahabir. He was seen in the morning also. But despite waiting for long, our luck did not click. We had to try in some other place.
After wondering various places without success, when we were almost nearing close to the safari timings, our luck clicked for the fourth time. They could be spotted near a water tank. Already the place was occupied by many safari vehicles. On the other side of the pool, initially we noticed one and then two tigers. They were mixed with the jungle trees and not easily visible since it was almost dark. Guide explained that they were young tigers, around ten months of age. They were the male off-springs of Mahabir. Jungle respects the strongest
A huge bison was drinking from the water-tank in front of them. But both the tigers were in no mood of attacking or even crossing the bison. In fact they were afraid to proceed further. After failed attempt, one of them gradually left the place. Another one tried to drink slightly far away. But ultimately he also ran away.
Jungle respects the strongest, be it tiger or other beasts. The entire incident happened within ten minutes, in our presence. It was another splendid experience worth remembering. A small but splendid experience
While returning, we had a tea break at a small roadside shop. An old and poor lady was managing it. When I requested him to change the remaining tea from the bowl and make the tea afresh, he obliged gladly. Next few minutes, the tea was prepared with lot of care and she served to us with country-made biscuits. When asked for the price it was so low, I felt ashamed and virtually forced her to take more.
My heartfelt regards to the lady. To me she represented the real India, a symbol of simplicity and humanity. Staying in the city we miss this human touch. Moonlight, our loyal companion
When we reached the hotel, our evening companion, the moonlight had occupied the horizon. Through-out our journey, the moonlight was our loyal freind. It was always there, steadily watching and encouraging us when we felt alone. Today was the last day in our journey. We were wondering the hotel compound enjoying the moonlight and listen to the evening breeze.
It was dinner time. Food served with hot chapattis was tasty, particularly for a hungry belly. We had good dinner with reasonable price. A nice peaceful sleep which was essential since we had to travel back around 1400 kms to our destination, Bangalore.
15th April, 2017 Saturday
After waking up virtually every day at 5 O Clock for the last one week, I was habituated to wake up early. The hotel compound covered vast area and ideal for a morning walk.
Breakfast was complimentary. Hotel tariff was quite reasonable. We paid around Rs 1069/- for food and Rs 539 additionally for extra bed at the hotel, apart from initial payment of Rs. 2290/- online. Good Bye Kanha, Back to Bangalore
After finishing heavy breakfast (since we had to undertake a long return journey) we commenced our return journey at around 9.20 AM. Good bye to Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench. After a brief drive, the Ghat section started. The next around 30 Kms drive was through steep hilly track upto Balaghat although the road condition was quite good. While disembarking down the hill we had a brief stop to witness the beautiful view of the Gangulpara Dam from the hill top.
Before Balaghat, thru a bypass we proceeded towards Gondia. While on the way, I noticed number of handmade painting showing advertisement for doctor’s Clinic for sexual disease.
At around 11 AM we reached the MP-Maharastra border (around 100 Kms from our starting point). Here we had to come across a mobile police checking in the highway scrutinizing all our papers and credentials.
At around 1.30 PM we reached Bhandara (220 Kms), a big Maharastra suburb on the way. There were lot of shops of Motor Accessories, Tyre and also Nitrogen filling. I refilled Nitrogen to my car-tyres here.
At around 2.30 PM we were near Nagpur (around 280 Kms), took a left turn thru the Bypass to reach Mumbai-Kolkata Highway. Ultimately when we could touch Hyderabad-Kanyakumari Highway (NH 44), it was around 3 PM (320 Kms). We felt comfortable since the rest of our journey was known to us. We drove the same route while coming here from Bangalore a week back.
At around 10 PM we could touch the ORR at Hyderabad. This circular highway was so vast in size with innumerable indicators at various points. Nevertheless locating the correct destination particularly was proved to be difficult in absence of adequate light. We missed the correct exit point and wondered more than fifty kms extra to re-locate the correct point at last.
We planned to stay at a roadside hotel near the ORR to avoid the city traffic inside Hyderabad city and to save time. Unfortunately we did not have prior hotel booking. Initially we tried for an accommodation in a hotel called Oyster Airport Hotel, adjacent to the ORR. But the rate demanded was exorbitant (almost double the normal rate which we witnessed earlier thru Makmytrip for the same hotel).
Having driven around 750 kms continuously I felt damn tired and looked for a resting place for few hours. Luckily, proceeding further, we found what we wanted on NH44 highway. Compared to all around darkness around ORR, that place (Madhuranagar) was so alive even at almost midnight with large no of hotels, restaurants and what not.
We were relieved at last. There were no of choices now. We randomly selected a hotel called “VJR Residency”. Charges were Rs 1830 (AC Room) for our stay for the night, quite reasonable. Hotel was having all basic facilities. Room was OK.
16th April, 2017 Sunday
Started from Hyderabad at around 7 AM. The four lane NH 44 from Hyderabad to Bangalore was butter smooth and pleasure to drive. On the way, we finished breakfast at Food Pyramid, with Masala Dosa and Tea. We had our breakfast on our way to Hyderabad also at the same place one week back. Food quality was good but comparatively expensive.
At around 2 PM we reached our home at Bangalore (around 580 Kms from Hyderabad).
Learnings from our tour : I. Preparation – Self (For summer visits to the National Parks of Madhya Pradesh)
i. Of course light clothes, but to be prepared for chilly weather also, in the early morning hours even during April Summer,
ii. Sun-glass would be of advantage and a cap to protect the head from the sun,
iii. Carrying a torch would be of advantage particularly at night. II. Preparation – Camera
i. Carrying zoom lense is a must to take good snap. In fact I saw the most sophisticated camera lenses and accessories used here.
ii. Covering camera and lense with light cloth is required to protect against huge dust at forest.
iii. I felt the absence of a good quality binocular particularly to watch the movement of beautiful birds. III. Preparation – Cash carrying
i. Contrary to the reviews thru net, I found ATMs, Mobile accessibility in the vicinity of all the national parks we visited. This substantially reduces the need of carrying a fat wallet.
ii. Most of the Petrol Bunks accept payment thru cards. But I had a horrible experience in one of the Petrol Bunk in Jabbalpur which I narrated above. That may be considered as an exception.
iii. Cash was required to pay at hundreds of “Toll Booth”, which we crossed on the way. In my next visit I will definitely prefer payment thru “Fast TracK’ system at the Toll Booth. IV. Preparation – Selection of Timing to visit i.e Pros and cons of visiting the National Parks in Central India during summer: Advantages :
i. Probability of sighting the big cat is more since they usually visit the water-sources due to acute scarcity of water inside the forest having no rain for months.
ii. Forest trees look bare shedding their leaves, increasing visibility and chance of spotting the animal.
iii. Comparatively reasonable hotel rates due to not much crowd. Problems :
i. Un-bearable heat due to scorching summer.
ii. Facing flying dust during safari visits particularly evening safari. V. Preparation – Moonlight
We should not miss the moon-light nights if we visit the forest during summer. I selected our tour dates immediately preceding and after full moon day. To our luck that selection significantly enhanced our enjoyment. Earth became cool, sky was crystal clear, sometimes stars were visible even with crystal clear moonlight at night. VI. Preparation – Booking for Gypsy Safari
i. Booking on-line ticket thru forest.MP online.gov.in website is always preferred.
ii. Tickets for Bandhavgarh National Park are having highest demand, particularly core areas like Tala and Magadhi. Probability of spotting the Tiger is highest there, due to high concentration of tigers in a comparatively small place. But in terms of beauty Kanha attracted me the most, due to its vastness, variety, different species of animals, birds and color of the forest.
iii. As experienced by me, we should not be over-confident, even we purchase the ticket “Wait-Listed” ticket online well in advance.
iv. Most of the hotels have out of turn arrangement of “Safari Tickets”, of course at a premium. This was particularly felt at “Bandhavgarh”, where tickets are available thru Brokers, hoteliers with some extra payment.
v. In fact hotels take more interest for those cases. Comparatively their response was different to the tourists who already booked “Online Tickets”.
vi. On line ticket can be booked either for “Full Gypsy” or on “Single Seat basis”. Booking full gypsy is costly. Comparatively, “Single Seat Sharing” is cheaper. But the disadvantage is that we have to wait for other “occupiers” to join. Sometimes completing that process delays the commencement of journey.
vii. Large number of gypsys start from the entry gate one by one. Whoever starts first, they have better chance of seeing the animals and also the big cat.
viii. Morning timing (in April) is 5.45 AM to 11 AM. In between there will be a recess for refreshments and nature’s call. Evening timing is 4 to 6.45 PM. Wednesday evening there will not be any safari tour.
ix. Total charges per Gypsy is around Rs 4100. In online booking only “Entry Permit Fee” need to be paid. Balance being Vehicle Charges and Guide Fees etc are to be deposited in the counter thru cash. On a sharing basis, the total cost will be distributed between visitors.
x. There are facilities for “Canter Safari (i.e thru 15 seater Canter Open hood bus)” also. The tariff is Rs 510/- per head subject to minimum booking of ten seats. Last but not the least was the “Night safari” arrangement. Both the bookings can not be made thru online, but only at the counter. VII. Sighting the tiger :
Un-doubtedly it is a matter of luck but the following factors may increase/decrease the probability:
i. Time of start of the vehicle -
Although large no of vehicles start together, chance of viewing the beast is more for the vehicles on the front. Booking the entire vehicle increases the possibility of starting early, but costing more. ii. Experience and effort of the Guide -
We could spot the tiger in four occasions out of seven safaris. We remain thankful to the untiring effort of the Guides who used their vast experience and escorted us to the correct spot to meet the tiger. VIII. Preparation - Car
i. Before commencement of the journey, I serviced my car (Hyundai Xcent) to avoid any hassle while on tour. I must mention that we faced no trouble during our entire journey.
ii. We drove thru four states i.e Karnataka, Andhra, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Amongst all, petrol price was highest in MP.
iii. We need to be careful about melting of car tyres during scorching summer. I had to change both the rear car tyres due to melting of threads after returning to Bangalore. Luckily nothing happened during our tour.
iv. Carrying all necessary car documents and credentials are important in a long drive.
v. Unlike in the forests in South India, self-driven cars are far less in Central Indian forest destinations. Most of the cars were hired from professional agencies/hotels.
vi. Location of the hotel is another issue. In both Bandhavgarh and Kanha the hotels we selected online, were difficult to access thru sedan cars due to bad and bumpy kachha roads, also far away from the main road. IX. Preparation – while on the wheels
i. I tried to avoid over-speeding particularly the temptation in beautiful four lane stretches like Bangalore-Hyderabad Express way, Hyderabad ORR etc.
ii. I avoided heavy food during long drive (particularly lunch) which leads to dozing. Dozing is deadly for a drive.
iii. If felt dozy, I preferred to stop the car, rest the eyes for some time and resume the drive. X. Preparation - Hotel Booking online
Online hotel Booking had obvious advantages since we did not worry for getting confirmed booking. I selected the hotels based on reviews and comments in the net. Flip-side was that not always it clicked. There was possibility of large variation between projection and reality.
In fact in alI of these places that we visited, MP Tourism hotels were the best, in terms of facilities, location and other parameters. Only problem is tariff which was quite high. Hence better to opt for MP tourism accommodation, if we can afford. XI. Overall cost of our tour Approx. Kilometer travelled - 3600 Petrol consumed – 212 Ltrs – Rs15100, Toll Charges - Rs 5000, Hotel Charges - Rs. 18200, Food & Snacks - Rs 8100, Gypsy Safari charges (7 trips) - Rs 22600, Misc. (Approx) - Rs 5000 Total Cost - Rs 74000
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