Kanha: The Jungle Book, a date with Shere Khan

Kanha National Park

Kanha National Park or Kanha Tiger Reserve is located in Madhya Pradesh and is one of the best and well maintained national parks. This park is known for its tiger population and in addition various other species such as leopards, sloth bears, spotted dears, Barahsingas etc. It has a varied landscape that comprises of grasslands, areas with thick cover of tall sal trees, hills and water bodies. A must visit to see the tiger in its grandeur. The jungles in the Central India (now Madhya Pradesh) and in particular around Seoni are the setting of “The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling. The main characters in this book are “Shere Khan“, a fictional Bengal tiger and “Mowgli“, the boy or man-cub raised by wolves.

The core area of the park is 917 sq. km and the buffer area is 1134 sq. km. These make the park one of the largest in India.

During our three days visit to the park we could see a tiger right in front of our open vehicle, a leopard twice, spotted deers, sloth bears, Barahsinga and other animals. We could also see birds like peacock, kingfisher and matted wood owl. We also took an elephant safari.

A close encounter with a tiger and leopard

Important information

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Best time to visitGenerally the tiger reserves in India are closed during monsoons. The closure and opening dates vary by state. Parks open some time in October and close in June. Time from November to May is best. Higher probabilities of sighting of animals in summers.
Climate / weatherKanha being situated in Central India is subjected to extreme and tropical weather. Month of January witnesses very low temperatures (up to 1 deg. C) and frost. In May and June the temperature can go as high as 45 deg. C. Monsoon arrives in second week of June.
Booking of jungle safariOnly done online – through website of Forest Department – Madhya Pradesh Government. https://forest.mponline.gov.in/
LocationSituated in Mandla and Balaghat districts of the Madhya Pradesh state in central India.
How to reachBy road:
Jabalpur is the nearest city about 160 Km, 4 hours, Nagpur in Maharashtra: 300 Km ~ 6 to 7 hours and Raipur in Chhattisgarh: 250 Km ~ 5 hours
By train:
Nearest railway stations are Jabalpur and Gondia in Maharashtra (145 km, ~ 3 hours)
By air:
Nearest airports are Jabalpur, Raipur and Nagpur
Entrances to the parkThere are two entrance points for the park
Khatia gate: This gate is entrance point for the Kanha, Kisli and Sarhi zones of the park.
Mukki gate: This gate is entrance point for the Mukki zone of the park.
There is a distance of about 50 km between these gates and 1.5 – 2 hours of driving time. One should keep this consideration in mind, while booking the safaris.
Core zones of the parkKanha, Kisli, Mukki and Sarhi zones are the core zones of the park. These are main areas with high animal density. Book your safari for core zone.
Buffer zones of the parkKhapa, Khatia, Sijora and Phen are the buffer zones of the park. These zone surround the core zones and have less animal density.
Frequency of safariGenerally everyday 2 safaris are available – morning and evening. Morning safari starts around 7 AM and evening at around 4 PM.
Permit requiredA permit is required to enter the park. Two types of permit are available (1) Full vehicle and (2) single seat. Please see “Booking of jungle safari above“. A limited number of vehicles are allowed from each gate. It is important to book your safari / permit well in advance.
GuidesEvery vehicle which enters the park is provided with a guide at nominal fees. Tipping the guide is optional, though I will suggest.
Jungle Safari / vehicleThe jungle safari happens in open gypsys / jeeps. You can step out of the vehicle only at designated points – other places it is strictly forbidden. Comfort rooms are available at these designated points.
At designated points tea / coffee and snacks arrangements are available. Alternatively you may ask your hotel to pack the same for you.
Maintaining silenceMaintenance of silence is important to increase the probability of sighting animals and avoid distracting them.
AccommodationThere are many options available from private to government, budget to premium. Taj Banjar Tola is a premium accommodation. MP Tourism properties such as Mogli Resort, Kanha and Kanha Safari Lodge, at Mukki gate are good options as well. I have personally stayed at Kanha Safari Lodge.
Other places of interest1. Jabalpur and Bargi dam: Jabalpur is famous for the Narmada river and the marble rocks. Bargi dam (40 km from Jabalpur) is a tranquil place to spend a night on the banks of the Narmada.
2. Khajuraho temples: Approx.: 375 Km and 8 – 9 hours. A UNESCO world heritage site and a group of Hindu and Jain temples in the Chhatarpur district.
3. Amarkantak: A pilgrim town in the Anuppur district, the origin of the Narmada and the Son rivers.
4. Pachmarhi: Approx. 300 km. Often known as ‘Queen of Satpura’, Pachmarhi is a concealed gem of Madhya Pradesh in the lap of nature and history.

*** My experiences before the COVID-19 pandemic