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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Naina - The one with beautiful eyes

Kanha national park is one of the best place to spot tigers and other wildlife. Floras and fauna of Kanha is second to none. Most tourists visit Kanha to spot tigers and one of the rarest deer species - Hard ground Swamp deer, commonly known as Barasingha, which is endemic to these forests.

Certainly spotting a tiger in the wild is an experience in itself but think how it would be when you get to spot tigress with small, cuddly cubs. Yes, that is the most memorable, lifetime experience. Here are a few photographs of one of the most beautiful tigress of Kanha - Naina also known as Link 8 female and T 76. Here T 76 is the name given by forest department for her identification and Link 8 is the area she normally frequents.

Naina - also known as T 76 and Link 8 Female

Naina is a very bold tigress and can be spotted lazing around in grass or walking on the road. We had been fortunate enough to have seen her a few times. Once she gave a sudden appearance and came on road, calling her cubs. We were with her for almost 1.5 Km's.

Naina - on a walk 

Naina is a first time mother and a very careful one. Although her cubs are around 4 - 5 months now but she rarely comes out with them. In last few months she has given an appearance with her cubs only a couple of times and we were fortunate enough to have seen her with all 4 cubs on one such occasion.

One of Naina's cub

She has Neelam on one side and Mindidadar female on other and both of them have cubs. A few male tigers also roam and overlap her territory. Keeping this in mind she keeps her cubs in safe place and she will have to continue this for another 2 years and wait till her cubs are grown up and ready to face the world.

Portrait shot of Naina - T 76. 

Naina or T 76 it seems will be able to raise her cubs well if she remains careful and we hope we will be able to see the young once getting bigger and crafting out their own territory in some time.

Photo credit: All photographs have been clicked by Navneet Maheshwari, Owner Kanha Village Eco Resort

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tigress with small cubs at Kanha National Park

At times nature amazes us, we still need to learn a lot about nature and wildlife. In a rare and spectacular sighting in April 2018 we were amazed to spot a tigress with small cubs.

Yes spotting tigress with cubs is not rare but what made this one of the rarest sighting is that here cubs are very small, may be around 5 - 6 weeks old. Normally we get to spot tigress with cubs when the young once are 3 - 6 months old.

It was almost 9 AM and we were not sure of what to do since safari excursion time was coming to an end as we have to reach exit by 11 AM. From the point where we were waiting to hear any sign of predator movement it would have taken us an hour to exit well within the permissible time limit. Another safari vehicle crossed us and told that one tigress had crossed the road with small cubs from a place near Minkur nallah area.

We discussed and decided to try to spot her although chances were not very good. Choti Maada or T31 has very small cubs. We were not expecting her to bring the cubs out again since tigers and very protective of young once. But, with the jungle very silent and no other option as well as time restraint we decided to give it a chance.

When we reached there were a few other vehicles also waiting and trying to understand where the tigress is. It was all of sudden and things unfolded in a manner we never expected. As we approached the area and were just parking our vehicle that suddenly the tigress was seen coming towards one other vehicle. She was coming out of very dense foliage and we could spot her only when she was almost on us.

This vehicle was in line of her movement so the only option was to ask them to move but there was no space. Our driver had presence of mind, he removed his vehicle from the road and asked the other driver to back his vehicle. He immediately took our place and we gave enough space to the tigress. And, within next few seconds she was out on road, alone though. She came out and just sat on road.

With tiger so near and knowing that she is a mother of small cubs we had to restrain ourselves from moving the vehicle least it disturbs her. And, that was a very good decision, within a few seconds one cub came out. He went on to his mother who was sitting on road. All the tourists were asked to sit down and watch as cubs were near by and any movement could have been taken as a threat making the things ugly.

Rest, what happened can be seen in the video attached herewith for all to see one of the rarest sighting at Kanha National Park. We thank Mr Indranil Bhattacharya ji who was staying with us at Kanha Village Eco Resort for giving us this video to share.

That's Kanha where we respect our wildlife and nature.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

M1 - The New King in Making in Kanha

                M1 - The New King in Making

Kanha tiger reserve has almost 90+ Tigers with Munna (CAT) at the forefront being the most famous tiger of all in present times. Tigers come and go, some are able to craft their territory within the forests of Kanha and some have to look for safe home elsewhere.

Cubs of T8 - Mundidadar female, Jan 2017

T 8 also known as Mundidadar female had 4 cubs, all male who have spread over different areas of Kanha after leaving their mother. Of these 2 are often sighted in tourism area and 2 rarely. I had seen them with their mother last season on 5th of January 2017. It was one of the best sighting for me that season. This year T8 (Mundidadar) has rarely been sighted and we are expecting she has given another litter.

Cubs of T 8, playing, Jan 2018

This season I could spot M1, one of the 4 cubs of T8 on couple of occasions and here are a couple of photographs for all to see and enjoy. He is a bold but elusive male, remains around when seen, but is rarely spotted.

M1, the bold one
We are expecting him to settle down somewhere within the core area itself but he has severe competition. Only time will tell if he is strong enough to carve out a territory for himself or is thrown out by other more experienced tigers.

M1, cub of T8, is trying to carve his territory
Hopefully we will continue seeing him in Kanha for long time to come.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

What you should know before planning a trip to Bandhavgarh National Park

FAQ – Bandhavgarh National Park

Here is everything you need to know about world famous tiger reserve - Bandhavgarh, its tourism and general information.

Tiger in Bandhavgarh Landscape - By Sushil Chikane

What is Bandhavgarh National Park?
Bandhavgarh National Park is a protected forest and designated tiger reserve spread over more than 450 Sq. Kms. (including core and buffer area) of dense forest. It is one of the best national park and tiger reserve of India for spotting the big cat – Tiger and other denizens of jungle.

Where is Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve located?
Situated in Umaria district of Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, Bandhavgarh falls in Vindhya mountain landscape.

What can we do at Bandhavgarh?
Bandhavgarh forests are famous for jungle safari on 4x4 open Gypsy to see Tiger and other wildlife. It is the best place to enjoy the unspoiled forests of central India, bird watching, wildlife photography or just for a relaxing holiday with family and friends. Bandhavgarh is also known for ancient ruins, fort and caves inhabited by humans earlier, frequented by tigers now. Bandhavgarh fort was once seat of Baghel Rajput clan and is known to have history of almost 5000 years.   

Bandhavgarh - one of the best places to spot tigers - By Sushil Chikane
When should we visit Bandhavgarh?
Bandhavgarh national park is open for tourism for the whole year although core area safari is open only between 1st of October till 30th of June every year. For tourists who want to visit the core area on jeep safari should visit in this time only but for avid nature lovers and people who want to relax it is open for entire 12 months. Buffer safari is open in monsoon period also enabling tourists to enjoy the forest in rains but spotting a tiger is rare.
Wildlife photographers and nature lovers may plan a trip in any season to enjoy this beautiful jungle. All seasons have their own advantages and disadvantages like in summers it’s very hot and dry here but wildlife sightings and visibility is better and in monsoon season although you may not be able to enter the core area but its great time to photograph reptiles, butterflies and other insects along with some mammals which come out in buffer region as well as enjoy the floral diversity and peaceful environs.  
Dusshera, Dipawali, Christmas, New Year and long weekends are very busy being peak tourism time.

Which is best season to visit Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, MP?
As told earlier, all seasons have their positives and negatives. Family tours are best planned between October and April. Bandhavgarh lies in extreme climate zone so it is very hot in summers (max. temp 44 degrees centigrade), cold in winters (minimum temperature can drop sub-zero) and rains heavily in monsoon.
In summers chances of spotting tiger and other animals is high since water availability goes down and they must visit limited water holes making it easy to locate them. Immediately after monsoon when core area opens for safari it is very dense but jungle is very beautiful although spotting animals is bit low. Winters is very cold but drives are very lovely and animal sighting good.

Bird watching at Bandhavgarh - By Sushil Chikane
How is the weather conditions at Bandhavgarh National Park?
Bandhavgarh lies in central Indian landscape which has extreme and tropical climate with January being the coldest and May / June hottest months. It rains heavily in monsoon period.

Are Central Indian tiger reserves tourist friendly?
Travelers have been visiting national parks and reserves in Central India for many decades so all of them have very good tourism infrastructure. They have good accessibility and accommodation facility for all budgets – economy to luxury. Medical facility is available within 50 Km’s of most national parks and many hotels have facilities for special needs of tourists. We advise that visitors must carry their medications and prescriptions with them always.
Most hotels having friendly staff and local people are also very helpful. State government has appointed tourism police at most places so if you need any help it is readily available. We have not heard of any unpleasant incidents with tourists so we can figure out Bandhavgarh is a very safe destination.  

What languages are used at Tiger preserves of MP?
Hindi being the local language is most widely spoken at all tiger reserves in MP. Most hotels have English speaking staff so communication is not an issue if you are conversant in Hindi or English. As for other languages, we may need interpreters / language guides which can be arranged by your accommodation provider or tour operator with sufficient notice and payment of requisite charges.  
Bandhavgarh has 46 mammal species By - Sushil Chikane
What are other destinations we can cover along with Bandhavgarh?

Madhya Pradesh is a big state with historical, architectural, hill station, cultural, spiritual and other tourism options. Along with Bandhavgarh you can plan to visit other national parks like Kanha tiger reserve, Panna tiger reserve, Satpuda national park or pachmarhi (hill station), Jabalpur, Rewa, Khajuraho (temples), Orchha, Amarkantak, etc., We suggest national parks should be given 3 night / 4 days and minimum 2 parks should be covered. A three week tour package will cover almost all important tourism destination of Madhya Pradesh.

What should be minimum duration of stay at Bandhavgarh National Park?
We suggest a minimum 3-night stay at Bandhavgarh with 4 safaris and 1 jungle walks to enjoy this beautiful forest to its best.

Should we book tiger safari package through agent or directly?
Both the choices are good depending on how you wish to make your holiday plan. You are the best person to understand your choice so plan and book directly or else you can take tailormade packages from any well-known tour operator. Most accommodation providers around national parks in Madhya Pradesh will be able to assist you in your plans along with safari booking and transportation and even propose a tailor-made package as per your need. If you have limited budget certainly pre-made and group departure packages always come cost-effective to tailor made / FIT packages. 
Stork at Bandhavgarh By - Sushil Chikane

How are safaris planned?

2 safaris are available every day one from sunrise and one at after noon. There is a break of 3 to 4 hours between both safaris when you can have some rest and lunch. You are permitted to enter any one zone at a time so do ask your accommodation or tour operator to check for best sightings and book safari in recommended zone.

How can we book tiger safari entry permit?
Safari entry permits in central Indian forests are booked through MP Online portal. Permits can be booked directly or via tour operator / accommodation where you are staying. Safari entry permits can be booked through registered MP Online kiosks or at the entry gate of tiger reserve also on current basis but it is advisable to book your permit well in advance. Safari permit can be booked 120 days in advance.
Remember, national parks in Madhya Pradesh are closed for safari on Wednesday afternoons. Do carry your original photo ID (Government issued photo id like driving license, passport, PAN, etc.) to show at the entry point without which you can be denied admission. 
Red Headed (King) Vulture By - Sushil Chikane
What is zone system for safaris?

Bandhavgarh tiger reserve is divided into 3 tourism zones namely Tala, Khitauli and Maghdi. You are only allowed in zone where you have booked your permit for, so If you have booked permit for Tala zone you cannot enter Maghdi zone. Plan well in advance and consult your accommodation and local contact if any before finalizing on zone.

How to get a guide / naturalist to accompany for safari?
National park entry is permitted only if you are accompanied with registered guide. You get your guide at the entry gate after due verification of your photo id’s and permit. Registered guides must be paid a fixed amount of guide fees before entry.  
Many accommodation providers have naturalists to accompany you for safaris without any extra charge but taking a government guide is mandatory.  
Bandhavgarh is known to have highest density of Wild Tigers. By - Sushil Chikane

Can I take my own vehicle for jungle safari?
Private vehicles are not allowed in national parks. Only vehicles registered with the forest department are permitted to take guests for safari in the tiger reserves of Madhya Pradesh. You can get a vehicle through the accommodation provider or Gypsy Association which has a counter at the entry gate after payment of stipulated amount.

How many people are allowed in one safari vehicle?
Maximum 6 guests above age of 5 years are allowed in one Gypsy, they are accompanied with one guide and a driver.

Can safari ticket be cancelled / rescheduled?
Safari entry permit can be rescheduled on payment of requisite fees as well as cancelled. If a permit is cancelled you get a refund directly in your bank account. Ticket can be rescheduled or cancelled online through portal of MP Online. Further details can be checked at MP Online portal.

What is elephant safari / Tiger shows?
Elephant back safari is an excellent way of enjoying the forest as it enables you to visit deep forests whereas when on Jeep you must follow designated road route. But, we suggest not to take the elephant safaris since they are for patrolling the tiger reserve and not intended for tourism purpose.
Earlier forest department used to conduct Tiger shows where in tourists were ferried on elephant back to the spot where tiger is sitting deep inside the forest and you were given a few minutes to see the majestic cat but now this practice has been discontinued.

Blue Bull is known as Neel Gai due to its cow like face By - Sushil Chikane
What clothing is best for jungle tourism?
Always wear subtle / forest colors since bright colors are known to disturb wildlife thereby decreasing the chances of spotting animals.
Winters in forests of Madhya Pradesh can be very harsh with temperature going subzero at times so carry enough layers of woolen to cover yourself. Temperature till end of March can be cold early morning so do carry a light woolen jacket / wind cheater.  
Light cotton clothing is best for summers and in monsoon do not forget to carry a good rain coat and light cotton clothing.   

What animals can we see at Bandhavgarh?
Bandhavgarh forests are known to be home to 27 mammals, 250 birds, 100+ butterflies and host of other small and big living beings. Tiger, Leopard, Wild Dogs, Jackal, Hyena, Fox, Gaur, Spotted Deer, Sambhar Deer, Barking Deer, etc. can be seen here easily.

Tiger in Bandhavgarh. By - Sushil Chikane
How is bird watching at Bandhavgarh Tiger reserve?
Bandhavgarh is known to have more than 250 species of birds making it one of the best destination for bird watching. Birding can be done in core area by Gypsy or in the buffer region on foot. When planning a bird safari trip to Bandhavgarh do take a minimum of 4 to 5 bird watching treks in buffer area along with 3 to 4 core area Gypsy safaris to see maximum numbers of birds.  A good pair of binocular and bird guide book is a must. You can also ask your lodging to provide a naturalist or guide who knows the local area well and can accompany you on bird watching trips.

Which hotels resorts are best for stay at Bandhavgarh?
Bandhavgarh has an excellent tourism infrastructure and you can get a place to stay ranging from INR 500/- to INR 20,000/- and more per day so you have a good choice. We will suggest selecting a hotel or resort where the management values its social responsibility and cares for forest and biodiversity.
Aaranayak Resort, Taj – Mahua Tola, Bandhav Vilas, Samode, Tiger Den, White Tiger Lodge (MP Tourism) and MP forest department rest houses are very good options.  
Bird watching has its own charm By - Sushil Chikane
What budget should we keep in mind for Bandhavgarh visit?

You can get accommodation ranging between INR 500/- to 20,000/- per day at Bandhavgarh. Since most of the farm produce here is costly and other ingredients are bought from cities as far as 50 Kms food costs a bit on higher side.
But, most expensive of all is Jungle safari, which costs approximately INR 5000/- for core area and around INR 4500/- for buffer zone. This cost includes entry permit, gypsy, guide, safari facilitation charges and taxes thereon and prices are same for both Indian and foreign nationals.  
A two-night stay in a 3-star property with 2 safaris can cost around INR 22,000/- to 24,000/- for a couple. Transportation to / from Bandhavgarh is extra.

Is Bandhavgarh a safe destination?
We have not heard of any major unpleasant incident in or around Bandhavgarh national park rather you will find people here to be very tourist friendly and helpful.

How is Bandhavgarh for wildlife photography?
Bandhavgarh is one of the best destination for wildlife and bird photography especially for photographing Tigers. I will suggest maximum 4 members in one Gypsy when on photography trip to Bandhavgarh. Tell your driver and guide about your interest well in advance, drive slow and keep your eyes open or you may miss many some good photographic opportunities. Carry extra battery and storage capacity for your photographs. Bandhavgarh is a very good place for Bird photography also.

Wildlife photographers from all over the world visit Bandhavgarh for
photographing Tigers and other wildlife. By - Sshl Chikane
Is Bandhavgarh children / family friendly?
Yes, as it has a very good tourism infrastructure Bandhavgarh can be visited with children and family. It is one of the best destinations for children to enjoy the natural heritage and learn about bio-diversity.

What should we carry when visiting Bandhavgarh?
All tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh are remotely located so do make a list of all required items especially medicine and carry them with you. A good guide book, list of flora and fauna, binocular and a camera are standard gear’s in any wildlife expedition so do not forget any of them.
Bandhavgarh boasts of 300+ species of birds. By - Sushil Chikane 

How to reach Bandhavgarh National Park?
Bandhavgarh tiger reserve can be reached from Jabalpur, Katni, Satna and Khajuraho very easily. All these places are well connected with road and rail network. Jabalpur, and Khajuraho are also connected by Air with major cities in India.
Remember you are on a holiday to a forest area and should follow a set of rules, Do’s and Don’ts which you can get from your accommodation provider. I have tried to cover most important points but may have missed a couple so if you have any doubt feel free to contact me on

Spotted dear are most abundant of all deer species. By - Sushil Chikane
Enjoy your trip to Bandhavgarh National Park……..

Photo Credit: We are grateful to our friend Mr Sushil Chikane, for permitting us to use his photographs of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve.  

Spotted deer spotted a snake. By - Sushil Chikane

Black faced (Hanuman) Langur. By - Sushil Chikane
Peacock - National Bird of India. By - Sushil Chikane

Monday, August 21, 2017

Kanha National Park - Zones or Gates

Zones and Gates in Kanha National Park

Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve is one of the most visited forest reserve in India. Tourists from all over the world visit Kanha to spot the majestic king of the forest – Tiger and other wildlife, wildlife photography, enjoy the peaceful environs and spend time with family and friends. Most tourists visiting Kanha go for Jungle excursions in open Gypsy to enjoy the forest and spot wild animals.
Tiger in Kanha National Park
Tiger in Kanha
When visiting Kanha you need to plan your jungle safari excursions and here is where many get confused. Kanha has zones for safaris and entry is through gates but mostly we get confused for zones as gates.
The Zones:
Safari in kanha is conducted by the forest department and tourists are permitted to visit only 4 zones – Kanha, Kisli, Sarhi and Mukki, in core area. Along with we have 3 buffer zones – Khatia, Sijhora and Khapa, also available for safaris. Rarely visited by tourists, Phen Sanctuary is a satellite core of Kanha, leopard and sloth bear sighting here is very good.
Tourism zones in Kanha Tiger Reserve
Tourism zones of Kanha National Park
The Entry points:
Kanha national park has many entries off which 3– Khatia, Sarhi and Mukki gates are open for tourists.
·         Khatia gate (also known as Kisli gate) is the main entry gate for excursions. If you are staying near Khatia gate (we have many resorts in Khatia, Mocha and Boda Chhapri villages) you can go to any of core zones for safari as well as visit Khatia buffer.

·         Sarhi gate is the northern gate and we can visit Sarhi, Kanha and Kisli zones from this entry point. Sarhi gate does not have good accommodation although Madhya Pradesh Tourism is coming up with a property here and forest department runs some home stays. Rarely anyone stays at Sarhi side so most entry to Sarhi zone is from Khatia gate only.

·         Mukki gate is best for entry to Mukki, Kanha and Kisli zones.

·         Entry to Khatia, Sijhora and Khapa zones are easily accessible from Khatia, Sarhi and Mukki gates respectively.   
Map of Kanha Tiger Reserve
Kanha Tiger Reserve - Core and Buffer Map
How to plan your excursion:
When planning a jungle safari trip to Kanha keep accessibility in mind, for gate as well as zone. If you are staying towards Khatia gate you can visit any of 4 core zones. Here you enter from Khatia gate, reach Kisli zone first and take designated route to reach your permitted zone.  If staying towards Khatia gate we suggest not to take Mukki zone for evening rides as it is almost 45 minutes’ drive (although it is from inside the park / core area) since you have less time in evening excursions you will not get enough time in your designated zone. (The route we take to reach Mukki zone via Kisli zone and come back or vice a versa is one of the best for spotting tigers so if you are ready to take the risk, no issues there.) Remember, if you have booked your permits for Sarhi zone and staying at Mukki gate side you must drive down 40 Km’s (60 – 70 minutes) to Khatia gate for taking entry.
Kanha is best forest to spot tigers
Kanha is the best forest to spot tigers
Khatia gate is easily accessible from Jabalpur, Raipur and Nagpur. Mukki side is easy to reach from Raipur and Bilaspur. Sarhi gate can be reached from Jabalpur, Raipur and Bilaspur easily.
Travel time between gates:
Travelling from Khatia gate to Mukki or Sarhi gate takes almost an hour. Travelling to Sarhi gate from Mukki takes almost 1 hour 30 minutes.
A very common question from visitors is: Which is the best zone for spotting tigers in Kanha? A very difficult question to answer because sightings change due to many reasons but certainly Kanha and Mukki zones will come on top followed by Kisli and Sarhi. 
If you are visiting Kanha for 3 nights 4 days and taking 4 safaris, which are on day 2 and 3, I will suggest following itinerary for safaris –
If you are staying at Khatia gate side:
Option 1
Option 2
Safari 1 (Morning) – Kanha zone
Safari 2 (Evening) – Kisli zone
Safari 3 (Morning) – Mukki zone
Safari 4 (Evening) – Kisli zone
Safari 1 (Morning) – Kanha zone
Safari 2 (Evening) – Kisli zone
Safari 3 (Morning) – Kanha zone
Safari 4 (Evening) – Kisli zone

If you are staying at Mukki gate side:
Option 1
Option 2
Safari 1 (Morning) – Kanha zone
Safari 2 (Evening) – Mukki zone
Safari 3 (Morning) – Kisli zone
Safari 4 (Evening) – Mukki zone
Safari 1 (Morning) – Mukki zone
Safari 2 (Evening) – Mukki zone
Safari 3 (Morning) – Mukki zone
Safari 4 (Evening) – Mukki zone

These are suggested safari itineraries for Kanha and different combinations can be worked out. Do keep in mind before finalising the zone or booking permit for safari in Kanha do call your accommodation provider, check on social media or talk to someone who resides in Kanha (Guide / Gypsy Driver / Naturalist), you maybe suggested a different safari itinerary as per sighting and availability of permits. Also, we can only suggest but there is no assurance of spotting tigers since they are free roaming animals, tracking them takes a lot of hard work and experience and certainly your luck plays a big part here.  
Kanha landscape is very good for tigers
Kanha forest has beautiful landscape
Hope the above will be helpful in better planning, making your jungle holiday toKanha an enjoyable and memorable experience.
Happy Tiger Tracking …….

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