Pench National Park: Not just Tigers

Little girl with puppy

What is Pench National Park famous for?

Rudyard Kipling's classic 'The Jungle Book' is set in the Pench National Park. And of course it's known for it's Tigers. But you will be surprised at the variety of flora and fauna that this park hosts. Like most wildlife sanctuaries in India, deciduous or otherwise, Pench is a delight to visit. Whether you sight a tiger or not, you certainly won't come away disappointed!

Aurangabad to Pench National Park by road


Our next halt was Nagpur, the orange city was . This is at a distance of about 485 Kms from Aurangabad via Jalna, Washim and Amravati. We left at 0530Hrs and headed east towards Washim. The going was torturous as the roads were being widened and repaired at various places.

Nevertheless, we consoled ourselves that this was for the betterment of the country. Strangely, the road was just a single lane at most places for several kilometres together. And this wasn't due to the repairs - it appeared that this IS the road to Nagpur. We were probably taking wrong side roads to get to our destination. More likely though, for for several decades we've had the centre of the country connected to Mumbai through single lane roads!

The density of dhabas along the way isn't as high as the North - bound carriageways. Still, we passed an outlet pretty much every 20 odd kilometres. We had a leisurely breakfast at one such place, which happened to be a hotel that served a buffet breakfast! Well, the 'buffet' consisted of Poha, Upma, Buttered bread (no toast), Idlis with chutney and pre - made tea / coffee. Not too bad at INR 80 per head! The toilets were very clean and dry to boot, so overall it was a great break.

By 1200Hrs we reached Amravati. From hereon the roads were transformed! There's a spanking new six - lane highway that connects Amravati to Nagpur, nearly a 150Kms long. It had taken us 7 hours to cover about 350Kms to Amravati. We covered the next 150kms in just 2 hours, such was the improvement in the roads.

The Pajero Sport AT


A word on the car. This was our second long road trip in the Pajero Sport. My respect for the vehicle has grown over this time. It is'nt as refined as the Skoda Yeti (I've discussed this in detail in my earlier blogs). However, she holds her own on the highway even at high speeds. Getting up to speeds of 140 KMPH or so is a breeze. The handling & grip aren't compromised in any manner whatsoever. However, once you go over 155 KMPH, the handling feels a little unsure. Despite the bulk of the vehicle she feels like a little nudge is all it'll take to launch her into orbit. I guess that's the reason a Range Rover costs what it does!

Nevertheless, this was all purely academic in nature, since we rarely went above 130KMPH. Comfort wise, the car, which by now had clocked 35000 Kms, left very little to desire. The suspension was as good as new (although we were still running the original tyres that came with the car). The air - conditioning was spot on. Yes, despite it being winter, by 1130Hrs we did need the aircon in the car! Welcome to global warming I guess. Pretty much all the electronics, basic as they are in this car, were working exactly as they should! Except for the GPS screen, which sometimes isn't very clear under direct sunlight, we were quite satisfied with the vehicle's performance. For it's price, the Pajero Sport AT is total VFM!


Nagpur, the Orange City

By 1330Hrs we reached Nagpur. The city was a revelation. Well paved roads, orderly traffic and largely a reasonably clean town. We'd booked rooms at the Hotel Centre Point on Wardha road. The place seemed nice enough, except there was a MLM company convention / recruitment drive / jamboree going on at the hotel. It looked like everyone had shown up with their mother in law and neighbours' dog for this. Must've been the lure of free food I guess.

We made a quick exit before they could recruit us, and headed on towards the MIHAN SEZ area. En route we called the Le Meridien hotel. They gave us a great deal of 7k per night inclusive of breakfast, which we gladly accepted. Upon reaching the hotel we found the pool was under repair. In lieu of that they gave us a complimentary spa session for 2 plus a 20% discount on all F&B! All in all, a pretty cool deal.

Wife and self spent the afternoon enjoying the spa facilities followed up by a nice nap. The room they allotted us was one of the beauties in the corner. This being a double - bay room, we had a huge sitting area, besides a massive kingsize bed.

Our extended family were joining us at Nagpur for the onward journey. We met them for dinner at Center Point, where they were staying. The place was deserted by evening! I guess with lunch hour ending the MLM blokes disappeared like snow on a hot summer noon. I must add, the food at their restaurant was bloody outstanding! The butter chicken, kebabs, lachha paratha etc. was as good as the best gourmet mughlai restaurants. Ambience was pretty good and service intimate without being intrusive. All in all, a pretty impressive experience!

Next morning, we picked up MRS. and MR. Batra, friends of ours who too were joining in for the remainder of the trip, from Nagpur airport. After a quick breakfast at the Le Meridien (routine 5 star buffet stuff. Eminently forgettable, though nothing to complain about) we headed out towards Pench wildlife sanctuary.

The dream run which had started at Amravati continued all the way to Pench. The highway was a dream to drive on. I was surprised to see a staggering number of trailers (the 40 feet variety) moving in both directions. I guess the MIHAN SEZ has really taken off! With the Batras now in the Pajero with us, we stacked up all bags (and there were quite a few) onto the carrier. Effectively, this comfortably made way for 5 adults and 2 kids in the cabin. There was still room to spare, and after a very comfortable and enjoyable drive of about 2 hours, we reached The Jungle Camp resort at Pench National Park.

Group of people outside a forest cottage
Day 1 at the Jungle Camp, Pench - the gang gears up for a night of rest prior to the safari


Pench National Park


The Jungle Camp, Pench, is a resort adjoining the wildlife sanctuary from the Madhya Pradesh side. Spread over 5 odd acres, this is a collection of 'luxury' tents and cottages with a main restaurant and lawns. Our group had a total of 6 tents, which were pretty basic in nature, though comfortable.

We had 2 safaris booked over the next 3 days - one each in the morning and afternoon. The downside was due to it being peak season, the safaris we got were from the Maharashtra side of the sanctuary (Pench is spread across the 2 states of MP and Maharashtra). This entailed a drive of 15 Kms to get to our entry gate. The upside was the resort served piping hot tea and cookies at 0530Hrs in the morning and refreshing fresh lime water upon return. In the interim, each jeep was equipped with a hamper stocked with tea, coffee, boiled eggs, fruits, sandwiches, parathas, et al. So you may or may not see any fauna, but you sure as hell won't want for food!

Group of kids heading to a jungle safari
We didn't see any tigers. but who cares - we got our 'Safari Selfie'!


As for us, we saw several ubiquitous deer and a couple of sambhar on both our safaris, but no tiger. Some members of our group were obviously disappointed with this. Their perspective was since they'd taken the trouble of coming all the way here, the least the tigers could've done is given them an audience. But that was not to be. As for Ritika and I, we were in bliss just to be in a forest, so all in all, good fun.

Little Girl cycling
While some of us chose to trek through the forests, other preferred cycling through the beautiful grounds of the Jungle Camp!


Since the resort is in the buffer zone (as are most such resorts), the Batras and us spent every morning and evening when we weren't on a safari wandering around in the forest. Largely deciduous in nature, the forest isn't very dense. Being winter, it was a sheer pleasure walking through them.

Group of people walking through a forest
The Batras and Talwars heading back for breakfast after an early morning trek through the buffer zone


We came across several deer and peacocks on these forays, and spent a blissful 3 days trekking through the jungles with the kids. After the first day, it was heartening to see that pretty much all our nieces and nephews decided to join in on these treks. Nothing beats walking through nature with your loved ones. Not only do you discover things about each other, but in several cases these little sojourns turn out to be windows of revelation to one's own inner selves.

Of course the high point of the trip was the game of 'Housie' (Tambola) which Ritika's maasi had carted along from Kolkata. She was also thoughtful enough to get little prizes like chocolates etc. for the kids. We spent the evenings playing tambola over drinks, followed by a session of cards.

Kids and adults in a forest
And by that evening all the kids decided to join in for the jungle treks!

If you love fresh air, aren't too fussy about food and relish being in natural surroundings, the Jungle Camp is definitely recommended. If you cannot do without creature comforts like room service, guaranteed big game sightings etc., then I suggest you give this a pass and visit the nearest zoo. In an air - conditioned car.

By the end of the 3rd day, we'd walked nearly 50Kms and were super thrilled with the experience. We wrapped up for the day with the mandatory nightcap, packed and ready to leave by 0430Hrs on the morrow for our next destination!

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Aastha Mishra

Aastha Mishra

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