On a recent trip to central India, Amit Dhoj Khadka, Indus Senior Tours Consultant, had a truly unforgettable experience finding out about some of the country’s wonderful National Parks including Panna, Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Pench and up and coming Satpura. Here’s our fascinating interview with Amit.
As Central India is one of the least travelled places and logistically quite challenging, many people shy away from what is India’s best highlight – the amazing array and diversity of wildlife and game plus the tribal areas. The trip was to find out about the facilities and hotels on offer for our clients and, more importantly, to get into the heart of the wildlife. I wanted to see for myself the differences and variations of the parks and to understand how to best offer them to our clientele.
I was in India for two gloriously amazing weeks. I wanted to see as much of the indigneous wildlife as possible. It includes tigers, of course, but also leopards, wild boar, wild dog (locally called dholes), otters, Malabar squirrels, langurs, spotted deer, Indian bison (Gaur) and antelopes.
AND I managed to see them all!
Where did you stay?
I stayed in a variety of superb accommodation during my trip and each one was unique, where excellent service combined with luxury and adventure to create such a memorable trip. I’d like to give special thanks to the marvellous people at Pugdundee Safaris who own the lodges in Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Satpura and the kind and welcoming team at Pench Wildlife Camp. Here’s my review of those four places.
In Bandhavgarh National Park, home to our very own Bengal Tiger, Pushpraj, I stayed at Kings Lodge. The people here are committed to conservation and local communities. It has 10 cottage rooms and 8 stilt cottage rooms with en-suite modern bathrooms, situated throughout the forest.
As well as a large number of tigers, Bandhavgarh has 37 species of mammals, more than 250 species of birds including Sarus Cranes, many butterflies and a lot of reptiles, all of which can be visited on Kings Lodge safaris.
Kanha Earth Lodge
Kanha Earth Lodge is set in the lush sal and bamboo forests, which provided the inspiration for the stories in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book”.The tiger reserve is a signatory of TOFT (Travel Operators for Tigers), an international campaign advocating responsible tourism as a way to save India’s wildlife. Kanha has 12 open-fronted, luxury bungalows that adhere to high standards of green architecture through their use of recycled, waste wood and local stone, inspired by traditional Gond architecture.
Along with a variety of Jeep drives, visitors can enjoy bird-watching excursions, trips to village market, craft workshops and elephant patrol safaris.
Pench Jungle Camp
At Pench Tiger Reserve about 100 kms from Nagpur in Madhya Pradesh I stayed at Pench Wildlife Camp. The resort has 12 Deluxe Safari Tents, 3 Deluxe Cottages and 8 Premier Rooms plus 6 Shikaar Tents in the Ecological Park.
As well as time spent viewing wildlife, including tigers, deer, wild dogs and a wide range of birds including peacocks, recreational activities include horse riding, cycling and walks in 38 acres of natural beauty.
Denwa Backwater Escape
Satpura National Park, spread over 1427 sq km, was formed in 1981 with an altitude ranging from 300 to 1,352 metres. It’s extremely rugged terrain of deep valleys, sandstone peaks, narrow gorges, rivulets, waterfalls, thick dense green forest of Sal and other medicinal herbs and Teak forests. I stayed in Denwa Backwater Escape backwaters of a dam built on Denwa River.
It is built on 10 acres of forested land and across the river lies the national park which is approached by a boat and then by jeeps to go deeper into forest. There are 8 deluxe river-view cottages and 2 river-view Tree Houses plus an eco-friendly swimming pool. Extra activities include cycling, boating, nature walks and night safaris
What did you enjoy most?
Wildlife, wildlife and more wildlife! If I were to ever win the lottery this is exactly what I would do first! As a serious wildlife enthusiast, crazy about tigers, this trip was a dream come true. I have read (back to back for the umpteenth time) all of Jim Corbett, Kenneth Anderson and more so recently Billy Arjan Singh’s books on the wildlife, noteably tigers, old maneaters in India. Hence staying in these legendary forests was like a rite of passage for me.
What I found really fascinating was the story behind the people, the tribes, the culture that makes the area so special. I love discovering how people have lived in these areas among these beasts for centuries, the myths and legends of tigers, temple and ancient forts within the parks.
There were quite a few long trips and extremely early game drives in the morning. I usually woke up at 04.30 to leave at 04.45 as most park gates open at 0530 and we’d be off for a few hours, We’d often set off again on a drive from 15.30 till 18.30 in the evening.
For two weeks of my life the only “alarm” that we talked about was the alarm call of a Chital (Spotted Deer) or a langur warning every one of the Big Cats or other danger. Nothing really mattered for those two weeks but the sheer joy of driving along game tracks and stopping every now and then to listen to the sounds of the forests; to try and interpret them and hope for a glimpse of the amazing animals that lived among them.
It was actually was very refreshing to do things at their pace and be guided by them. Also, in an age where we demand everything at our fingertips, to be in areas where a phone signal was hard to come by, was a refreshing change.
What about the people?
The areas I went to were off the beaten path and really undeveloped, but the people I met en-route were the happiest I have ever seen during my many years as a tour leader in India. I had the opportunity to see things off-the-beaten track and it was nice to stop and chat to the locals and find out more about them.
The naturalists and guides that I met were some of the most knowledgeable and extremely passionate about their work. I spent many evenings talking wildlife, exchanging stories, tips and photos of the game – and camera settings! I have made some friends for life.
What was the most unusual thing you saw and did?
I had the best day of my life in Satpura. On a night game drive on an open Jeep with spotlights, we saw the world’s smallest feline – the rusty spotted cat.
Then, at 22.10 hrs we were very fortunate to see the very unusual sight of 2 leopards mating; we were there for over 2 hours.
Of course, seeing the Bengal tigers in Kanha and Bandhavgarh and also the Indian wild dogs was pretty spectacular and the diverse landscape is amazing.
As well as all visiting the National Parks, I also saw the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Temples at Khajuraho.
Synopsis of Amit’s Itinerary
08 May: Fly London to Delhi
09 May: Arrival and transfer to the Hotel Shangrila for the afternoon. Overnight train to Khajuraho.
10 May: Early arrival in Khajuraho. Sightseeing tour of the UNESCO temples. Drive to Panna and visited the Ken River Lodge. Drove to Bandhavgarh National Park and stayed at Kings Lodge
11 May: Early morning game drive Bandhavgarh. Evening game drives
12 May: Morning Game drive. Afternoon game drive
13 May: Early morning drive to Kanha to stay at Kanha Earth Lodge. Afternoon game drive.
14 May: Morning Game drive. Afternoon game drive
15 May: Drive to Pench to stay at Pench Jungle Camp. Afternoon game drive
16 May: Morning Game drive. Free afternoon
17 May: Drive to Satpura to stay at Denwa Camp .Night Jeep Safari
18 May: Free morning. Afternoon Game drive.
19 May: Free morning. Afternoon game drive
20 May: Drive to Bhopal. Shatabdi Express train to Delhi. Overnight stay at Taj Ambassador
21 May: Fly to London