Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Pench National Park

Day 2 Tadoba to Pench via Warora 

Distance: 250 kms
Road condition: Very good

Pench National Park derives its name from the Pench River that flows through the jungle. This park inspired Rudyard Kipling to pen the cult book 'The Jungle Book.' Many of the places described in the book are actual locations in Seoni district.

Calm Beast
The park is massive with three natural watering holes. We took 4 safaris and saw jackals scavenging, mottled wood owl, woodpecker, changeable hawk eagle, deers locking horn and fighting for territory/female, jungle owlet- playing hide and seek with us.

Mottled Wood Owl
Changeable Hawk Eagle
However, the start attraction tiger continued to elude us. We were lucky to grab a spot booking for Sunday morning and shared our safari with Taj guests. Taj offers jumbo safari jeeps that are super comfortable and have a slight edge over other jeeps in terms of wildlife experience. We met a naturalist, Sangita, who had quit her marketing job and now works for the Taj.

Safari expenses - entry Rs.1400, guide charges Rs.300, jeep charges Rs. 1800. There are no camera charges unless it is a professional video camera. Please note there are only 5 jeeps available for spot booking on any given day.

There are plenty of stay options to suit every budget. The Riverwood Forest Retreat is the first resort, one would encounter en-route. It has a great view of the forest/river from the room. It is a huge property with great aesthetics, priced at Rs.4500/day all inclusive. However, it is 12 kms away from the forest entry gate making it difficult for those who do not have online safari booking.

We checked into Tiger N Woods Resort.  It is way better than Kipling and Pench jungle camp in terms of view, proximity to Turia gate, amenities and service. They take hospitality service to new heights. Dheeraj, the manager, is very friendly and helpful. The wake up calls by the resort are of military standard. The resort shares its boundary with the national park. One evening after the safari we were lazing in the sit out area and were elated to hear strong warning calls proving that tigers are not restricted by boundaries and it is not necessary to spot a tiger only during a safari. The last day in Pench happened to be our wedding anniversary and the resort guys gifted us a handmade bouquet, they had also packed an early breakfast as we hit the road to our next destination.

Tiger N Woods
Handmade Bouquet 
Local attraction- Pachdhar pottery village is a must visit. The locals are very shy yet welcoming and friendly. One can also experience the local business of brick making, you are welcome to try your hand at making one.

Pottery Village
Earthen pots of various shapes and sizes displayed outside each home hone the beauty of the place. The clouds thundering, the raindrops falling all over your face, your feet sunken in the mud and the splash of water all over the mud emanating the beautiful earthen fragrance and the sun setting in the sky made a perfect end to a beautiful day in Pench.

Nearest ATM is approx. 30 kms away so stock up enough cash as most resorts do not accept cards and safari booking is by cash only. For ATM, head towards Kawasa, cross MP check post and watch out for 2 ATMs on your left at Kurai village. Nearest fuel station is 25 kms away in the same direction.
After spending 5 days in Pench, we headed to our next destination - Kanha.