Sunday, 26 June 2016

Kanha National Park

From a long time we were interested in visiting Kanha National park spread in two neighbouring districts of Mandla and Balaghat in Madhya Pradesh. Finally we set our journey on the evening of 8th June 2016.Due to further travel plans we decided to avoid a road-drive to Kanha and took public transport instead.Our route was
Korba-Gondia by rail
Gondia-Balaghat by rail
Balaghat - Kanha (Mukki gate) by road
Gondia and Balaghat were new towns for me and I enjoyed exploring the two towns, especially Balaghat was a tiny sleepy town and I admired the simple slow life style which made me nostalgic of my childhood days of 80's.We hired a vehicle from Balaghat and started our road journey at early morning(6.30am) to Kanha.It was a pleasant breezy morning and we escaped the roaring heat of central India due to a  cloudy weather.It was a good motorable road and as we left the Balaghat town the road passed through small forest villages.From Pipartola the road ascended through the ghat (mouintain pass) and we could view the Gangulpura reservoir below, a beautiful scene indeed.The ghat ended in the small town of Gangulpura and the onward road passed through thick forests , scenic villages and rice fields.On the uphills the climate was cooler and the scenic jungle road added to the thrill.We halted for a short break at Baihar town and moved  ahead to Kanha(Mukki gate).

Balaghat to Kanha(Mukki) is 102 Km by road.By 9.30am we reached The Grand Tiger Resort near Mukki gate.This was our abode for the next two days.
Our resort was about 1 Km from Mukki gate(forest dept. entry gate to Kanha National park).The resort was in village Manjitola and surrounded by Kanha forest buffer zone.The Banjar river flowing nearby gave a special charm to the village.We refreshed ourselves at the resort and took a light nap.After lunch we went for the jungle safari.

Common sitting place at the resort.

Small swimming pool at the resort

An evening view of the resort premises.

Getting the safari ticket is quite difficult at Kanha.For the 4.30pm jungle safari I had queued up at the counter from 12.45pm and secured a first position at the ticket counter. Finally we started our much awaited jungle safari.It was a cloudy evening and a  perfect weather  for a evening jungle safari.We could admire the forest from the open gypsy vehicle.The jungle roads were beautifully lined up with tall evergreen sal trees.Even in the hot summer month of June, the forest was remarkably green.

Tall sal trees

Sal forests amidst vast jungle meadows

A small jungle pond

Deer are in plenty at Kanha

The peacock

Kanha forests were created by clearing the human settlements (mostly small villages and rice-fields).The forest is characterised by large open meadows and thick forests inbetween. The open meadow grasslands provide an ample opportunity to observe the wildlife.

Sambar deers

Jungle lake, probable sighting place of tiger

Wild boar

Cormorants at the lake

Our driver and guide were hurrying up for the jungle lake where the chances of spotting the tiger were more.On the way we could see spotted-deer , sambars , peacocks wild boar etc.As we moved ahead , we came across a long caravan of gypsy-vehicles halted along the jungle road and this was a confirmatory sign of a tiger spotted by the tourist.Our driver hastily joined the caravan and , voila !! we saw the majestic tiger sitting on the edge of the forest road.It was lazily resting and took little notice of its spectators.We hurriedly took its snaps and waited for some thrill.But alas !   within a few minutes the beast moved into the dense forests and left its admirers wait for the expected thrill.

The Royal Bengal Tiger, name-Rajaram

As the tourists continued their wait for a re-sight of the tiger, we decided to move ahead and explore other parts of the forests.We headed towards another water pond.The weather became cloudy and pleasantly cool.Peacocks were in plenty and so were deer and monkeys

Sambar deer

One more peacock in the Kanha forest

Our forest guide and driver

While returning from the pond we once again saw the same tiger.This time it was walking along the jungle road towards Bagh-pulia. Our gypsy-vehicle was following the tiger from a distance.It was a thrilling moment.We followed the tiger for a about 10 min., later on it disappeared into thick forests.It was a memorable event for us.

Tourists waiting for the tiger

Soon it started drizzling and we started our return journey to the forest main-gate.After watching the jungle and the wildlife, we returned to our resort with a happy note.We refreshed ourselves in the room and went for a evening walk in the nearby Manjitola village.As we walked in the dusk twilight,we found a local eatery, Durgesh dhaba, on the main road.The dhaba was a elegant mud house with tiled roof and an extended roof-canopy for the guests to sit.The furniture was a simple table surrounded by primitive log-benches around four-sides of the table.The floor was neatly plastered with mud and cow-dung.We ordered pakodas and spent the time in a leisurely chit-chat.The adjacent kitchen had incensed the surrounding with a pleasant odour of burning fire-wood.After the snacks as we walked towards our resort, it was complete dark and the trees were beatifully lit by tiny shining dot-lights and the occassion seemed like a celebration.Soon we discovered that those tiny dot-lights were fire-flies.Such experiences are remarkably different and becomes happy memories for the future.
As we returned to our resort , we had a sumptuous supper and we retired to our room.

Morning walk from the resort

A village school at Manjitola

Durgesh dhaba, village- Manjitola, 

The next day , I went for an early morning walk to Manjitola, armed with my camera.It was a small village with neat and clean mud houses and ample of greenery everywhere.I could capture some good snaps and returned to the resort.

Indian treepie at village Manjitola

Shri Kali mandir, village-Manjitola

Termite mounds are in plenty in Kanha forests and surrounding areas

Resort maintained by Taj group of hotels, off season discounted tariff, Rs.30,000/- per day

Local houses

Sal forests in the buffer zone of Kanha

The way through the woods

Dried flowers of Sal trees

This village scene made me nostalgic of my childhood visits to my nana's house

Parasitic plants

After breakfast we decide to go for the Nature Trail.It was a walk-way through the forest buffer zone and the forest department had identified it as a Nature Trail.The trail started adjacent from a resort, went along the river Banjar and then turned into the thick forest for some distance and ended at the starting point.

The way to the nature trail

Informative board by the forest department

Cormorant at river Banjaar

Walking along the Nature Trail

Fun at river Banjaar

The basin of river Banjaar

Informative boards along the nature trail

A jungle machaan on the nature trail

Nature trail through the forest

Relaxing in the hot afternoon sun

Walking along the nature trail

By the time we finished the nature trail, it was afternoon and we returned to our resort for lunch and a afternoon nap. Later in the afternoon we planned for a cycling tour in the forest.At Kanha, the forest department has carefully marked a cycling route through the forest buffer zone.One particular agency located at village-Bamhi (6 Km from Mukki gate, towards Baihar) provides sports cycles (gear as well as non-gear) to the tourists along with a guide.Cycling lazily through the forest is an enriching experience to observe the wild flora and fauna.After along 2-3 Km on the cycling track, the forest department has made a small make-shift hut which serves as a token destination for the cycling tourists and also a curious relaxing place.The cycling track further goes upto 20 Km in the forest.We had some light snacks at the hut and being evening hour we returned from this point.

A short break during cycling tour

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This make-shift jungle hut is a  token destination for the cycle tourists

Cycling tour through the forest

After the cycling tour our resort arranged for our pickup from village Bamhi back to our resort.After the exhaustive cycling tour , we relaxed at the swimming pool of our resort and after a sumptuous supper we called it a day.
The next day we rolled lazily in our beds till late morning and later had a whole some breakfast.For the next few hours we packed our bags and  refreshed ourselves in our room.After lunch we relaxed for a while and set for our return journey by road to Balaghat. Once again we spent some good time at the Balaghat railway station and traveled further to Gondia.

Balaghat railway station

Notes :

1. Problems of ticketing :
     There is a serious problem of tickets unavailability for the forest safari.We learnt that recently the forest department has reduced the number of tourist safari vehicles entering the forest.On the other hand the number of tourists to Kanha has increased.Thus there is an increase in demand and a reduction of supply of jungle safari services.The frenzy to get the safari tickets is obivious. Online (internet) safari ticket availability is almost always full.The number of on-the-spot tickets are less (about 6 vehicles per session). Enthusiastic tourists wait at the counter as early as 3-4 hours before the counter opening time.Other tourists make some arrangements with their resort owners whereby some dummy persons stand in the queue and the actual tourists reach the counter at time and take place of their dummies.This queuing business spoils the charm and mood of the vacation.
Alternatively , tourists may spend their time in nature trails and cycling tours

2. Gypsy vehicles for the jungle safari are easily available.The gypsy owners wait near the forest entry gate to pick-up customers.Alternatively resorts also arrange for gypsy vehicles.Considering the costs, it is better to hire a vehicle at the entry gate.However if you do not have your own vehicle at Kanha, then its better to hire a gypsy-vehicle through your resort.In that case you can travel in the gypsy from your resort upto forest entry gate.Gypsy rates as on Jun2016 were Rs.2600/- per safari tour.One gypsy is permitted to carry 6 tourists.Taking forest guide is compulsory.Forest entry fees,guide fees,vehicle entry fees and camera (simple) fees is Rs.1670/- for six people and for each safari tour.

2.Cycling tour problems
    Cycling tours in the forest seems to be a very promising tourist activity but there is only one party catering this tourist interest.Many times the contact persons are not available and the cycling tours may be difficult to arrange.You may book your programs well in advance through your resorts, however in this option , the prices are hefty.Currently the number of Kanha tourist going for cycling tours are very less and local business gives a meager attention to this activity.

3.Opportunity for local people.Restaurants and Bed & Breakfast facilities.
   Presently tourists business at Kanha national park is dominated by resorts owned by distant businessmen from Bilaspur , Raipur etc.Business by local people is almost non-existent. Few local people work at the resorts as attendants,cooks,drivers etc.Considering the high price-tag of the resorts , local people have an ample opportunity to serve Bed & Breakfast facilities, restaurant facilities to the tourists at reasonable rates.


Vijay said...

Good one Ashish. Believe it would be greener post rainy season. Saw in the map, it is manageable from Mouda by Car. Lets see.

Ashish Nimsarkar said...

Plan to stay there for 2-3 days and try to take at least 3 safaris for good wildlife sighting.

Kishor said...

Hi Buddy,
It seems very exciting and adventurous place. I need to visit.

Anonymous said...

Great post with good images. Resorts

bhanu durga said...

Wow, nice resorts to visit in summer season.