Land of the Tiger – Kanha

Kanha National Park is located in Madhya Pradesh. The nearest airport and railhead is at Jabalpur, around 175 km away(6 hours by road). The Park is immense, nearly 940 sq Km.
A minimum of 4 days are required to see all the routes of the park. Though a part of Project Tiger, the park is primarily set up to protect the Barasingha (Swamp Deer).

Getting there

We arrived at Kanha from Bandhavgarh, covering a distance of around 250 Kms. Our transport was a Sumo and I assure you, no other vehicle can make the journey. The road was quite nice in some parts and completely disappeared in some stretches and the path reduced to a carpet of sharp stones.
For large parts of our journey there was no humanity or evidence there of, in sight.

Time taken: nearly 6-7 hrs. Cost: Rs. 6500

Where to stay

We stayed at Wild Chalet, the sister resort of Tiger Trails. Wild Chalet too has comfortable cottages and wonderfully comfy beds. (I mention the beds in particular because I had to get out of them at the crack of dawn!) I especially liked the straw carpeting, a nice way to encourage local enterprise. The food here is also Europeanized. The exception being the Aloo Parathas and lemon pickle that we had for breakfast, simply delicious!

The manager of the hotel is a Mr. Eric D’cunha. He has authored a book on the birds of Kanha and is a wild life enthusiast and a good photographer. He has 2 very friendly kittens, which follow him around. So if you are scared of cats, ( I adore them) do watch out. I had dinner with one of them in my lap, very friendly and quite harmless.

There is a small garden, over looking a stream that flows behind the resort. It attracts several water birds.

Cost: per head, per 24 hr day:Rs.2500 (inclusive of boarding, lodging and 2 park safaris)

Safaris

Langoors at a shallow stream

The jungle at Kanha is really quite beautiful. It is very easy to see what inspired Kipling. The trees are very tall and grow straight without too many branches, lots of sal. There are enormous plains covered with tall golden grass with fluffy white tops.

Chittal (Spotted Deer) (L to R) Juvenile Male and female

A large number of birds can be seen. The number of tigers here is quite large, around 135. However, given the size of the park, they are spread out and many of the cubs are radio collared. We saw 2 young tigresses on separate days, both with collars.

Chittal Adult Male. Horns still covered with a velvety covering

Indian Roller

We were in Kanha for 2 days. We could not cover all the routes of the park. A minimum of 4 days is required. It is essential to get over the “hunt for the tiger” and concentrate on the other wildlife that Kanha has to offer. Particularly, the Barasingha (Swamp Deer) . We saw a few Barasingha but always in the morning mist and always quite far away.

Tigress, 3 yrs old

Grey Hornbills at Dusk

The avian residents of the park are many, especially the racquet tailed drongo, which is quite a spirited trouble maker, it mimics calls of several birds, even the Sambar Deer’s alarm calls. It rarely sits still though and I felt very privileged when one obligingly posed for a few seconds.
Be prepared for long “waiting for the tiger” stops, where a couple of jeeps, having heard an alarm call, will enter into a futile wait for the tiger to emerge.

Racquet Tailed Drongo

Sightings

Tigers(3F) Lagoors, Barking deer, Spotted Deer, Sambar Deer, Gaur (1), Barasingha, Jackal.

King Vulture (Red headed), Indian Rollers, Bee eaters, Racquet tailed Drongo, Pipit, Hawk Eagle, Green Pigeon, Bunting, Munia, Magpie Robin, Coucal, Scarlet minivet, Spotted owlet, stone chat, teals, egrets and herons, white breasted kingfishers, Red wattled Lapwing, Little Cormorants, honey buzzard, crested serpent eagle.

Rufus Backed Shrike

Red Wattled Lapwing

Best time to visit

April-May or Nov-Jan Park is closed during the monsoon. We visited in Nov. Visiting in the summer months always ensures a better sighting. There are several large bodies of water at Kanha where the animals will congregate in huge numbers, when water is scarce. The mating season of the Barasingha is also a good time to visit apparently.

Weather

Similar to Bandhavgarh, very cold in the mornings ( by indian standards ) around 15 C. Carry lots of warm clothing. As the day progresses it becomes increasingly warmer. Sunscreen is advisable. The jeep routes are very dusty and at the end of the safari, all occupants will be covered by a thin film of golden dust. Wear a scarf or hat to cover your ears and hair. Sunglasses are a must, mostly to protect from the dust.

What I liked

The park was well maintained and clean, despite the large area that it was spread over. Guides will often stop jeeps to pick up any stray plastic they may find.
If you are staying at Wild Chalet, ask for Mr. HiraLal to be your guide. He is their most experienced guide, well respected and a very energetic person.

What I didnt like

The elephant show at Kanha was a disappointment. If possible, try to avoid it all together. It was poorly managed, there was no numbering system and jeeps tore around the park at top speed to get to the sighting point. Chaos ensued and there were raised voices and the music of jeeps backing up!! The tigress that had been sighted looked extremely irritated and walked off in a huff.
The Mahout was not on very good terms with his elephant and hit it often with a stick. Though it would not have caused much pain to the animal, given its enormous bulk, I felt it was unnecessary.