By Journey Man
Within India’s middle state Madhya Pradesh, Pench National Park is located in the districts of Seoni and Chhindwara. Named after the pristine River Pence which flows through the park, Pench National Park is one of the most popular wildlife reserves in India.
The park also has its mention in the famous story of 1894, ‘The Jungle Book’, penned by the renowned English author Rudyard Kipling. The story was applauded worldwide, and hence, the national park became one of the most popular national parks in the world in the 1970s and also a prominent tourist attraction in India. Since then, every year oodles of wildlife buffs flock to this place just to spot the famous characters of the book, Akela (the Indian wolf), Raksha (the female wolf), Baloo (sloth bear) and the vicious Sher Khan (Royal Bengal Tiger).
Sprawling across a massive 758 sq km, including the core area, Pench National Park has a rich wildlife which offers visitors an opportunity to indulge into one of the finest wildlife experiences in India.
Since its inception in 1965 as a wildlife sanctuary, the park has serving as the cosy nest of numerous wild creatures including the Royal Bengal Tiger, jackal, peafowl, wild dog, wild boar, sloth bear, Indian leopard, fox, striped hyena, monkey, gaur, barking deer, four-horned antelope, Indian wolf, and more such enthralling species. However, later in the year 1975 and 1992, the sanctuary got the recognition of national park and tiger reserve, respectively.
The Royal Bengal Tiger is the major attraction of the Pench tiger reserve. As per the last census report, the tiger population in the reserve ranges between 53 to 75, with around 80 more tigers dwelling in the reserve area. So, it is no wonder that the enchanting and engaging tale of Mowgli and his adversary Sher Khan was inspired by this magnificent forest.
Excellent conservation effort
Thanks to the forest officials’ excellent and consistent conservation efforts, Pench has earned the reputation of one of the well-managed parks in M.P. With BBC’s documentary “Tiger – Spy in The Jungle” on the Pench tiger reserve, the reserve gained more popularity. Captain J. Forsyth, a naturalist, also wrote extensively about the Satpura region’s nature reserves, attracting the attention of several wildlife enthusiasts.
The core area of the tiger reserve is spread across 411 sq. km. Along with a buffer zone comprising more than 760 sq. km., the total forest area covered by the Pench tiger reserve is around 1200 sq. km. The region boasts of a large variety of flora and fauna. You can experience different forest types (South Indian tropical moist deciduous, Southern tropical dry deciduous and Southern dry mixed deciduous) while travelling through the Pench tiger reserve. Around 1200 species of plants, including climbers, shrubs, and trees (mahua, teak, amaltas, tendu, bija, khair, palas, etc.) have been documented in the region, many of which are rare and endangered. Apart from this, many plants of ethnobotanical importance are also found in the forests of the Pench tiger reserve.
Rich in fauna too
The region is also rich in fauna, with various animals, birds, insects, and reptiles seen in the area. Large herds of wild boar, chital, nilgai, sambhar, and Indian bison are often spotted. The predators are dominated by the Royal Bengal Tiger, leopard, wolves, and wild dogs.
Other mammalian species spotted in the national park include sloth bear, spotted deer, jackal, fox, barking deer, palm civet, jungle cat, porcupine, hyena, small Indian civet, langur, etc.
Apart from these animals, more than 105 species of butterflies, moths, and insects can be seen here. The forests are home to several residents and migratory birds (in winters), including osprey, white-eyed buzzard, Indian pitta, Malabar pied hornbill, grey-headed fishing eagle, vultures, etc.
Ornithologists can have a wonderful time spotting the more than 300 species of bird seen in the region during the winter months. Around 50 species of fishes, 33 species of reptiles, including pythons, monitor lizards, crocodiles, turtles, cobra, viper, and 13 amphibian species are also seen here.
Pench National Park is very rich in fauna and it’s an abode to a large number of endangered species. The most dominant predator is tiger and there are around 25 of them in these prey-rich woodlands. There are some other predators like dhol (Indian wild dog), leopard, hyena, wolf, jackal and jungle cat. Some prey species observed in the park are sambhar, chital, gaur, muntjac, langur, wild boar, and rhesus macaques. Commonly seen species are deer.
There are more than 170 species of birds comprising various migratory ones like peafowl, crow pheasant, jungle fowl, red-vented bulbul, crimson-breasted barbet, magpie robin, lesser whistling teal, racket-tailed drongo, egret, pintail, shoveler, herons to name a few.
As per the study in the year 1, 25 tigers were found under the umbrella of the park along with 39 mammals, 13 reptiles, and 3 amphibians. Aside from mammals and other land-based flora & fauna, the park is also rich in bird life. As per the evaluation of the wildlife authorities, 210 species of birds were observed in this park like munias, barbets, minivets, orioles, bulbul, waterfowls, wagtails, mynas, and blue kingfishers.
The flora spread
The park is blessed with rich and verdant forests, spread throughout the area of the National Park. Southern dry broadleaf teak forests are there, which blend with tropical mixed deciduous forests. The flora in Pench includes different kinds of shrubs, climbers and trees. It has some uncommon varieties of herbs with medicinal properties that are mentioned below:
- Teak (Tectona Grandis)
- Saja (Terminalia Tomentosa)
- Bija (Pterocarpus Marsupium)
- Lendia (Lagerstroemia Parviflora)
- Haldu (Adina Cardifolia)
- Dhaora (Anogeissus Latifolia)
- Salai (Boswellia Serrata)
- Aonla (Emblica Officinalis)
- Amaltas (Cassia Fistula)
History of the park
Pench National Park is located in the heart of India- Madhya Pradesh and covers a total area of 758 sq.km. It is located on the southern part of Madhya Pradesh, to be specific, in the districts of Seoni and Chhindwara, which also shares a boundary with Maharashtra. An additional area of 257 sq.km of this park lies in Maharashtra but is also accessible from Madhya Pradesh.
A treasure of rich flora and fauna, this national park has its area segregated in two divisions:
a) Priyadarshini National Park and Mowgli Pench Sanctuary which covers an area of 299 sq.km and
b) 464 sq.km which is considered as the buffer area.
The national park is named after the river Pench, which while flowing from north to south, divides the national park in almost equal halves namely eastern and western halves. The park is just not home to wildlife but also to humans. There are 10 villages in and around the park out of which one is inside the park named Fulzari and other nine on the periphery.
Not always a national park, Pench was declared as a sanctuary in 1965 but in 1975, it rose to the status of a National Park. And since it is home to a huge number of tigers, it was established as a tiger reserve in 1992 and now is working under Project Tiger. Also the beauty of this place has been mentioned in the classic “ The Jungle Book” by the great Rudyard Kipling.
Forests and Wildlife
Though Pench National Park looks very similar to the classic tale, it actually is more than that. The national park is home to flora species like Mahua, White Kulu, Salai, Saja, Bijiyasal, Dhaora, Amaltas and many others. Apart from trees, the park is filled with grasslands, plants and saplings.
Pench National Park is a residence of a great variety of wildlife. The place is an abode of real Sher Khans (Bengal Tigers) accompanied by Chital, Jungle Cat, Wolf, Indian Leopard, Gaur, Four-horned Antelope, Sloth Bear and many other wildlife. Also a great variety of birds like Crow Pheasant, Peafowl, Pintail, Lesser Whistling Teal, Indian Roller, Wagtail, Munia, Waterfowl, Blue Kingfisher, Crimson-Breasted Barbet, Red-Vented Bulbul are found here.
Sitaghat- This spot is a winding path that is close to the bank of river Pench, speckled with rocks and artistic looking trees. During the summer season, white flowers and bushes lope all along the bank. To view these flowers in full blossom, it is a must to visit in the early morning hours. The place also appears to be a splendid spot for wildlife sightseeing.
Alikatta- This place is another exciting attraction that has a fascinating area of grassland, where animals are also observed. In the evening time, there is an excellent view of grazing herds consisting of thousands of spotted deer. One can also enjoy elephant rides that begin from this place.
Chhindimatta Road- Journeying over rocky hills, it is considered as a place of interest in the huge Pench reservoir. The rocky cliffs make tremendous places for leopards. Other species like Eagles, Buzzards, and hawks are observed looming over their nests.
Bodhanala Range- This area is worth sightseeing for visitors. It starts from slopy hill, bamboo forest to a huge pond close to the border of the park. It is a perfect area for raptors.
Rukhad Cycling Excursion
Another attraction is the cycling excursion from Rukhad sanctuary which is situated in the buffer zone of Pench National Park. It is a thrilling adventure of spotting wildlife and enjoying the natural beauty. Rukhad was one of the most popular forests for sighting wild animals. Being a part of the famous Kanha-Pench Tiger Corridor, Rukhad, though not a national park, still boasts of magnificent teak and bamboo forests and has a large number of gaurs, tigers, leopards, bears and other animals.The cycling expedition starts at around 8 A.M. and covers a distance of 22 kms finishing at Sakata Forest Rest House.
RunuJhunu walking trail
RunuJhunu walking trail inside the Pench National Park, from Karmajhiri gate, is a 3-4 kms nature trail.It provides a perfect opportunity to tourists to experience nature and wildlife from very close quarters. Accompanied by experienced naturalists, this walking trail ensures a detailed understanding of nature and the various flora and fauna. Alarm calls, fresh animal tracks, including tiger pug marks, can be sighted during the jungle walk. Langurs, deers, wild boars, jungle fowls, and a variety of birds are the main attractions of this walking trail.
Boating near the Pench dam
The Kamthikhairy Dam or the Pench Dam is an earth-fill dam on the Pench River. It is situated inside the Pench National Park and most of the wildlife is found around this water body as the animals come near the dam to drink water. In the summer season, the Pench River dries out leaving behind small pools of water that are locally known as ‘doh’ or ‘khassa’. The Pench Reservoir which is at the center of this park is the only major water source here. Tourists have the opportunity to view several species of waterbirds while enjoying a ride in their pedal-boats, row-boats and motor-boats. This place is a must-visit place for every bird lover who must not forget to carry their binoculars for a memorable experience.
Visiting Kohka Lake
Kohka Lake is one of the less explored beautiful landmarks near the Pench National Park. From Turia or Kohka, one can easily reach this lake via cycle, jeep or even by foot. Having a look at the beautiful sunset and a view of the lush green fields the lake is home to several species of colorful birds. Blended with nature it gives you an opportunity to explore the great outdoors at popular Khoka Lake during your vacation in Avarghani Pench. Please add it to your itinerary and make some time to see the monuments while you are in the area. It is really a heartfelt place to be discovered once while visiting Pench National Park.
Best Time to Visit
The months of summer are all about hot and humid weather conditions that sometimes make it difficult for tourists to explore the wildlife to its fullest. However, despite the hot weather, a large number of wildlife buffs still visit the park during this time.
Winter is the best season to visit Pench National Park due to the pleasant weather conditions. During this time, the park receives a cool temperature that makes it easy for tourists to explore the region without getting exhausted from the sweltering heat.
Not at all an ideal season to visit Pench National Park, the monsoon received a considerable amount of rainfall in the region. Monsoon is the breeding season of the wild animals, and hence, the park remains closed till mid-October.
Pench National Park is situated at 21° 40′ 17.76″ North and 79° 18′ 11.88″ East. The Pench land is surrounded with small hills and well-stocked teak mixed forest in the southern part of Satpura Ranges. The park has a tropical continental climate with distinct monsoons (July-September), winters (November-February) and summers (April-June). The altitude varies from 425 to 620 meters above msl. The temperature of this region is 4°C in December and 42°C in May & June. Average rainfall is 1300 mm.
During summer, casual summer clothing of natural colors is perfect from March to May while from November to February, carrying warm apparels for chilly mornings and hazy evenings is very important.
How to Reach
By Air- Nagpur Airport (88 Km) is the nearest one to reach the park. Another option is Jabalpur Airport, which is 200 km away from the park.
By Rail– The nearest railway station is Nagpur (90 km), well connected to all the cities of India.
By Road– Nagpur is 88 km away from Pench through Seoni (NH No. 7).
Where to stay:
Taj Baghvan Wildlife Resort: starting price@Rs1899
‘Baghvan’ is made from the jumble of two Hindi words ‘Bagh’ (Tiger) and ‘Van’ (Garden). Thus the literal meaning of this word is “garden of the tigers”. It is a perfect and luxuriant accommodation option in Pench. Its surroundings are blessed with exotic wildlife. The view from the bungalows of this luxury accommodation property is extremely mesmerizing. This resort boosts the serenity in the minds of the tourists.
In the resort, there is a real rustic retreat set by the gushing stream surrounded by the picturesque woods and hills. It amazes the guests coming for a tour to Pench. This resort provides world-class amenities that add to the saga of a forest retreat. All these facilities make this resort one of the finest accommodation options in Pench.
Pench Tiger Camp: starting price @Rs2598
The Pench Tiger Camp is a perfect getaway for wildlife enthusiasts as it is situated in the midst of Mother Nature. The place gives a real-life experience of living in tents in the dense forest, thus making it a great stay for nature photographers, bird watchers, and for tourists who would like to enjoy the thrill of the forest. The Camp is located in the village Garrahvery close to the Khursapur gate which is in the core zone of the Maharashtra side of the forest. Due to the high possibility of sighting the Big Cats, it has become popular among tourists in the last few years.