Kanha national park is located in Madhya Pradesh state of Central India. It is part of Kanha Tiger Reserve which is a popular tiger safari destination in India thus included in almost all the tiger photography tours of India. This beautiful forest is spread over Maikal-Satpura range, covering two districts i.e Mandla & Balaghat. It can be visited from October to June month in a safari season. It is counted among finest jungles of Indian sub-continent. Its name is derived from old Kanha village. It was one among those first 9 national parks which were selected for Project Tiger. Conservation history of this park is magnificent in which tiger conservation gone parallel with the conservation of rare hard-ground Barasingha (Swamp Deer) which is iconic face of this national park. It provides excellent tourism infrastructure, attracting large volume of wildlife lovers, every year, from all over the world. Presence of Sal tree makes this forest look green, even in peak summer. While doing jungle safari in Kanha national park, there are so many things to observe and notice like its wildlife, varying landscapes, reserve management, fire-line management, grass management, route management central point arrangement, birding, patrolling work, patrol camps, water hole management and so on. Here prime attractions are Tiger, Barasingha, Balck buck, Wild dog, Indian Gaur and Leopard. For reaching Kanha national park, you may consider Jabalpur, Raipur & Nagpur are popular arrival & departure point.
Kanha national park was created by combining to major river valleys of this region i.e. Halon river valley and Banjar river valley which nourishes this forest area. They were created during British India rule and after independence, in year 1955, Kanha national park was declared. If we go by the ruling history of this region, we will find that this whole region was mainly ruled by Gond dynasty which had control over this region from 10th century till 18th century. After Gond rule, this region came under British India rule and used for hunting expeditions. Here tribal people had their domination in which Gond & Baiga tribes are still can be seen in local villages. It came under Project tiger in year 1973, on its declaration. During that time, hard-ground Barasingha population was just 66 so along with Tiger conservation, park management also worked on Barasingha conservation project and successfully revived their population and secured a position in which now Barasingha are introduced in other nearby tiger reserves. During British India rule in this region, German forester & botanist Sir Dietrich Brandis visited Kanha forest area in year 1876 and make report under title of “Suggestions regarding Forest Administration in Central Provinces” in same year. They put did the work of declaring reserve forest, marked the forest area, restricted tree cutting by locals but hunting activities continues till independence. British officers, royal family members from princely states did tiger hunting on many occasions
Kanha national park is counted among most scenic national parks of India. It is due to presence of varying landscapes like vast meadows, waterholes, hilly terrains, valleys. At the same time presence of Hard-ground Barasingha, makes this park special as it is found only in Kanha national park and no where in the world. Now project is going on to introduce them to Satpura national park. Swamp Deer that we see in North East India is Soft-ground Barasingha so there is difference in between them. Presence of Sal trees in majority, makes this jungle scenic as these trees get fresh leaves, throughout the year so provides evergreen jungle look, even in peak summer. Conservation practices and park management of Kanha national park is always considered as role model for other national parks. This can only be understood when we will visit Kanha and some other national park, to judge the difference.
Jungle safari system in Kanha national park is just similar to other national parks of India. Here we can do jungle safaris by open jeeps, canter (open bus) and walking safari also called nature trail. These safaris can be done twice in a day termed as Morning safari and Evening or Afternoon safaris. We can do these safaris on all days of week but on every Wednesday, evening safari remains closed in core zones. Jeep safaris can be booked on both sharing and exclusive manner. Its online booking is possible, in advance period of 120 days. Mostly they booked in advance thus it is must to plan before 140 days and try to book it in advance else many popular safari zones becomes sold out, before actual date. Canter safaris can’t be online. They can be booked on current basis or if you are using MPSTDC hotels, then you may do its advance seat booking. Now lets talk about least booked nature trail i.e. walking safari. It can be booked on current basis only, done on pre-decided trail of 6 kms, in company of forest guide. It is good for birding, butterflies, vegetation knowledge. In all modes of safaris, you will be accompanied by registered forest guide. Safari timings, handling can be suspended by park management at anytime, may be without advance notice in emergency situation like rainfall, tiger census project, special instruction from government etc. Here popular safari zones are Kanha, Kisli, Mukki & Sarhi zones. At present 3 safari gates are mainly used for safari vehicle entry. These gates are known by names as Khatia gate, Mukki gate and Sarhi gate.
Kanha tiger reserve is having more than 30 mammal species in which prominent ones are Hard-ground Barasingha (Swamp Deer), Sambar, Spotted Deer, Tiger, Leopard, Indian Gaur, Wild Dog (Dholes), Sloth Bear, Wild Boar, Common Langur, Blackbuck etc. Among them most frequently seem mammal species are Spotted Deer, Jackal, Sambar, Barasingha, Common Langur. Where as sighting of Tigers, Leopard, Sloth Bear, Wild Boar, Wild Dog, Blackbuck is little bit challenging, demands luck, tracking skills, patience.
When we talk about birds in Kanha tiger reserve, we can say that more than 300 bird species can be seen here, in a safari season. Among them some are residential, migratory, seasonal birds. Although Kanha tiger reserve is on two river valleys but during summer time, these river belts get dried from top, although underground water remains their thus here we can’t see too much inter-continental birds which we can see in destinations like Jabalpur, Satpura tiger reserve, may be in Pench also. Here commonly seen birds are Indian Roller, Pond Heron, Racket-tailed Drongo, Red Wattled Lapwing, Yellow Wattled Lapwing, Black Drongo, Spotted Dove, Paradise Fly-catcher, Grey Hornbill, Green Bee-eater, Steppe Eable, Grey-breasted Prinia, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Plum-headed Parakeet, Green winged Teal etc. Popular birding areas are Sonf meadows, Sondar tank, Kanha zone, Sharavan Taal, Banjar river crossing. Birding is good in period of November to February.
Accessibility of Kanha national park is easy by all means i.e. by flight, train and road. Kanha tiger reserve forest lies in south-east of Madhya Pradesh state, close from Chattisgarh & Maharashtra state thus it can be approached through these 2 neighboring states also. By Flight : Its nearby airport options are Jabalpur airport, Raipur airport and Nagpur airport. By Train: In order to reach Kanha national park, by train option, most suitable stations are Jabalpur, Gondia, Raipur, Bilaspur and Nagpur. Further journey is possible by cab. By Road: Its nearby townships are Mandla, Balaghat, Raipur, Jabalpur, Nagpur, Seoni. Bus service is available from these destinations.
Kanha national park is open for visitors from October to June month. Here best time visit Kanha depends upon many factors in which your intention matters a lot. If you are visiting Kanha for tiger photography or tiger centric intention then best time is from March to mid of June month. If your interest in overall wildlife and jungle photography then period from November to February is good due to greenery and good birding chances. If your interest is just to visit Kanha for just a wildlife holiday then November to December to March to May periods are good as it is the time when most of the festivals & school holidays occurs.
While drawing initial plan for Kanha national park tour, you need to know some basic information that will help you to draw your rough plan and approach to hotel or travel agent for proceeding further.. As we all know that Kanha national park is counted among popular tiger safari destinations of India thus it remains in demand. As we know that there are three major parts of any wildlife trip i.e. safaris, accommodation and ground transfers. For safaris, we have to ascertain, how may safaris rounds we need. For accommodation part, we need to know our group size and decide how many rooms we need in single/double/triple occupancy. For ground transfer, we need to know whether we need regular cab for complete tour or just hire cab on drop only basis. Here we have tried to help you in answering these basic questions. Let us check them one by one:
Travel Dates: As we know that Kanha national park is a popular wildlife tourism destination so on some dates, it remains fully packed with tourists and thus either we should avoid those dates or remain prepared for average wildlife tour due to problem of over-crowd & safari permits. These dates are Dussehra festival, Durga-pooja festival, Diwali, Holi festival dates. Similarly Christmas & New Year dates (23rd Dec to 05th Jan) remains fully packed. Avoid these festival dates as safari permits of these dates often become victim of black-marketing and thus normal customer don’t get desired safari zone permits which leads to dissatisfaction. Similarly period of summer i.e. from 15th Mar to 25th May is the photographers & school holiday time when tiger sighting remains good and thus tickets get booked in advance. Here you must do advance booking (150 days in advance) else you may not get good safari zones.
Number of Visitors: Here it is important to know that maximum 06 tourists are allowed in one safari vehicle. If you are photographers, carrying your photography kit then choose the combination of maximum 04 person per vehicle so that you can comfortable undertake your prime motive i.e. photography without any disturbance/inconvenience. Similarly in hotels, maximum 03 beds can be provided in each room. So according to these facts, we need to decide our group size. Remember that more number of visitors helps to share the overall package cost so per person cost reduce and make it more feasible for us to take decision. Family rooms or inter-connected rooms are not easily available in hotel of Kanha national park.
Budget: Jungle safari trips are costly in compare to leisure or pilgrim or heritage trips. It is mainly due to high safari cost. As much you increase the number of safari rounds, package cost will also go up. Ideally we recommend to do at least 2 round of safari driver in which 01 morning & 01 evening is advised so that you can experience safaris in both the times of a day. If your travel budget is handsome then please consider to undertake 4 safari rounds in Kanha national park. If you are wildlife photographer with limited budget then ideal condition is to use budget category hotel and try to undertake 5-6 safari rounds, in different safari zones, including buffer zone.
Safari Zone Selection: Here in Kanha, total 04 core zones are offered to visitors, for jungle safari. These zones are Kanha, Mukki, Kisli and Sarhi zone. Among them, Kanha zone and Mukki zone are more popular among visitors and most of the hotels are close to these zones thus they gets sold out first. In peak season dates and in case of delayed plans, it is difficult to get safari permits of these zones. Mos of the times, we select safari zones as per availability of safari tickets. Safari zones selection not only depends upon their permits availability but also on location of your hotel. If you are staying at hotel, near Sarhi gate, then do not book Mukki zone as it is not accessible from Sarhi gate. Similarly for Mukki zone hotel, Sarhi zone safari is not possible. If you have booked tickets under Single-seat (Sharing safari) scheme then chose those safari zones, which are accessible from the entrance gate, close to your hotels. Be very careful in choosing single-seat safari zones as conditions are more strict for them. Better to consult your hotel team or travel agent or official person before choosing safari zones.
Number of Safaris: Decision of number of safaris is sometimes easy but sometimes very confusing for a tourist. Every visitors plans for wildlife trip with some expectations in mind and it is jungle safari which is believed to be the tool to realize those expectations. If we use this tool intelligently then probability of success will be high. As we know that jungle safaris are costly and comprises considerable part of total tour cost so our budget will determine how many maximum number of safaris we can do. If budget is not a big issue then we recommend to undertake 4-5 safaris in Kanha national park, covering 2-3 different safari zones. If your budget is limited or you have time constraint then consider 2 or 3 safaris in Kanha. For tiger centric visitors, please undertake 4-6 safaris at summer period (15th Mar to 15th June) in Kanha national park and booking should be finalized till December month. Although tiger sighting is always a matter of luck and nobody can guarantee it but we can increase the probability by choosing appropriate time for trip.
Hotels Selection: After jungle safari, tourist spends majority of its time in hotel/resort as other activity options in Kanha are very limited. As Kanha national park is already a popular destination thus here we can find variety of accommodation options like home-stays, boutique hotels, budget hotels, deluxe resorts, safari lodges, bungalows, cluster cottages, tented accommodations etc. We advice to book resort after deciding your safari arrangements. It means once your safari tickets are booked, then according to your selected safari zones, you decide your hotel as there are some zone accessibility restriction through some entrance gates (Sarhi gate and Mukki gate) so we have to decide hotel as per suitable entrance gate.
Cab Service: Kanha natonal park can be reached, mainly through Jabalpur, Raipur, Gondia and Nagpur. Further journey is possible by cab hire service. These tourist cabs can be hired on regular basis or on drop only basis. How to decide, which mode is suitable for us? If you are having 01 to 03 nights stay in Kanha national park, then use regular cab else drop only basis will be cost beneficial for us. Similarly if your safari in under single-seat scheme (sharing basis) then you may need regular cab as safari vehicle will not come to your hotel and thus you need cab for transfers from hotel to entrance gate and back.
Here all category of accommodation facility is available. As per our taste, budget, location and service reviews, we can decide which hotel options are considerable for us. Sometime, due to corporate conference, majority of hotels were get fully booked so it is always advisable to do advance room booking on our selected hotel/resort.
Kanha national park lies in eastern part of Madhya Pradesh state. It is close to Madhya Pradesh & Chattisgarh state border. After completion of Kanha national park trip, tourists have option to explore other wildlife destinations like Pench national park (200kms), Bandhavgarh (260kms), Satpura national par (400kms), Nagzira wildlife sanctuary (160kms). For wildlife photographers, these options are great opportunity to plan a nice photographic trip of Central India. If your interest is not too much on wildlife then consider the option to visit Amarkantak (hill station, spiritual destination 250kms), Pachmarhi hill station(380kms), Bhedaghat marble rocks site (225kms) etc/