The jungles of Madhya Pradesh in the heart of India are a magnet for many a wildlife enthusiast. This vast hinterland flourishes with a wide variety of flora and fauna. Marked by the Vindhya and Satpura range of hills, expansive plains to the east, crossed by swarming rivers, rocky ravines and green forestland, it is an ideal ground for wild animals. It is no wonder Madhya Pradesh tourism boasts 25 wildlife sanctuaries, 9 national parks and 6 Tiger Reserves. The state is home to a number of endangered species from the tiger -which in effect has given the state the name of Tiger Country, to other animals like leopards, wild boar, deer and the barasingha among many others.
For those seeking wildlife adventures, this is the state to head to, and you can choose from its wide variety of national parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves. Here is our pick of the best five wildlife destinations of Madhya Pradesh.
Bandhavgarh National Park
The Bandhavgarh National Park lies in the Vindhya Hills in Umaria district and is spread across 450 sq km. This park is said to have the world’s highest density of Royal Bengal tigers and sighting a tiger here is not luck but the norm! Soak in the sights, sounds and smells of the jungle as you enjoy a safari amid the tropical forest with Sal trees and vast grasslands. You can also easily sight other wildlife as white tigers, leopards, sloth bear, and deer here, as well as 250 varieties of birds including eagles, Great cormorant and stork.
Must-knows of Bandhavgarh Park: The Bandhavgarh Park is open from October 1st to June 30th. The morning jeep safari timings are 6.30 am in winter and 6.00 am in summers. While the afternoon safari starts at 2.30 pm during winters and 3.00 pm in summer season. Other places of interest around the park are the Bandhavgarh Fort and ancient man-made caves and rock paintings.
How to reach Bandhavgarh National Park: The nearest airport to Bandhavgarh National Park is the Jabalpur Airport at 190 km and next is the Khajuraho Civil Aerodrome which is 250 km away. The nearest railway station is Umaria at 37 km and Katni which is 100 km away. All these places are well-connected by road, and cabs or state and private buses can be got from these towns to reach Bandhavgarh.
Kanha National Park
The Kanha National Park is an extensive expanse of forests and grasslands that stretch 940 sq km, making it the biggest national park of Madhya Pradesh. The towering plateau of Bamhnidadar which is a flocking point for birds of prey also provides visitors with spectacular sunset views and a panoramic view of the Kanha forestland. The Park is well-known globally for having brought the Barasingha (swamp deer) back from near extinction, and it is of course a renowned Tiger Reserve. Other animals that roam its wild trails are leopards, foxes, jackals, wild dogs, wild cats, and Indian gaur.
Must-knows of Kanha National Park: The Kanha National Park is open from October 16 to June 30. The morning jeep safari starts with sunrise, while the afternoon safari ends with sunset. Wednesday afternoons the safari remains closed. Some places of interest around the Park are the Kanha Museum and the Shravan Tal.
How to reach Kanha National Park: The nearest airport to Kanha National Park is the Jabalpur airport at a distance of 170 km. Other options are Nagpur Airport at 290 km and the Raipur Airport at 260 km. The nearest railway station is Gondia which is 127 km away. Jabalpur, Raipur and Nagpur are also important railheads. From all these cities, cabs can be availed to reach Kanha.
Pench National Park
The Pench National Park and Tiger Reserve sprawls 758 sq km across the forests of Seoni and Chhindwara districts, and is crossed in half by the Pench river, from which it takes its name. The Park is famed as the setting of Mowgli from Jungle Book and its most famous sightings are the Indian wolf (Akera), the sloth bear (Baloo )and of course the Royal Bengal Tiger ( Shere Khan). It otherwise has a wide variety of animals as wild boar, Indian leopard, fox, striped hyena, four-horned antelope, gaur, barking deer, among others, and about 285 species of home and migratory birds.
Must-knows of Pench National Park: The Pench National Park is open from October 16 to June 30. The morning jeep safari starts at 7.30 am during winters and at 6.30 am in summers. The afternoon jeep safari timings are from 3.00 pm during winters and 4.00 pm in the summer season.
How to reach Pench National Park: The nearest airport to Pench National Park is Nagpur airport at around 92 km. The next is Jabalpur airport almost 192 km away. These two are also the most convenient railway heads. Nagpur is connected by NH7 with Pench and is a two-hour drive away, while Jabalpur is 4 hours away by road.
Satpura National Park
The Satpura National Park stretches across the Satpura range in the Hoshangabad district covering an area of 524 sq km, and is one of the most scenic parks. The rugged terrain is mostly covered by dense forests, marked by sandstone peaks, ravines and narrow gorges. Its highest peak is the Dhoopgarh peak at 1,350 metres. It is popular for tiger sightings as well sightings of leopard, black buck, wild dogs, Indian bison, crocodiles and Malabar giant squirrel. If you are looking for a jungle safari away from the touristy crowds this is your destination.
Must-knows of Satpura National Park: The Satpura National Park is open from October 1 to June 15. You can take on different types of a safari here including jeep safari, elephant safari, go on a walking trail, enjoy boating and canoeing or bird-watching. You can do morning, afternoon or even a full day safari.
How to reach Satpura National Park: The nearest airport to Satpura National Park is Bhopal Airport at 190 km. Jabalpur airport is about 265 km away. The nearest railway station is Sohagpur about 20 km from the park but has limited trains. Pipariya is the next nearest railway station at a distance of about 45 km. Road connectivity is good and the park can be reached easily by cab from any of these cities/towns.
Panna National Park
The Panna National Park and Tiger Reserve is a 543 sq km expanse across the Panna and Chattarpur districts. The Park is popular as much for its wildlife as for its gushing waterfalls and diamond mines that mark the area. The Ken River that meanders across the Panna hills forms a vast catchment area that is also part of the adjoining Ken Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary. You can spot the Indian Ghariyal here – this large reptile is found only on the Indian subcontinent. Besides the tiger, other wildlife that can be sighted at the park are a leopard, sloth bear, chital, nilgai, chinkara, and sambhar. The forests are atwitter with over 200 species of birds including the king vulture, hawk-eagle and honey buzzard.
Must-knows of Panna National Park: The Panna National Park remains open from October 16 to June 30. Some interesting places nearby are the Ken Ghariya Sanctuary, the Pandav Falls, and the Raneh Falls. You can take a boat ride on the Ken river, especially for bird-spotting.
How to reach Panna National Park: The nearest airport to Panna National Park is Khajuraho at about 45 km. Khajuraho is also the nearest rail and road head. Satna is another railway station about 70 km away.
So which MP national park are you heading out to? Check the Madhya Pradesh Tourism website – mptourism.com for more details.