A trip to Pench National Park

A trip to Pench National Park

Do you know what that smell is? asks the naturalist, as I wrinkle my nose on my trip to Pench National Park. “Tiger ant,” he grins. He looks at my “omygod-show-me-where” expression, shakes his head at my naivety, and confesses :”Okay, that’s not it. It’s the smell of the mahua flower.”Instead of disappointing me, I’m in good spirits. Where there’s mahua, there’s mahua booze… I went to Pench National Park with zero expectations. In fact, at the end of my three days, Pench fell short of my expectations of a dead, dusty, one-tiger hellhole. On the contrary, it was everything a National Park should be. I write this piece with regret – I don’t want you to come and discover how absolutely gorgeous Pench is. I want the place to myself. And here’s why. Imagine the beauty of Bandhavgarh without pesky tourists in their noisy, diesel spewing vehicles. Imagine a park where you can spend five hours without encountering another vehicle. Imagine a park where spotting a tiger isn’t difficult (and it’s not a terrible tiger show). Pench is all that and more. In Pench one morning I met Kankatti, the tigress with the chopped ear. In the winter of 2004, a travel agent from Europe came to Pench on a recce.

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Tiger in the forest at Pench National Park (by lk photography & design)

The next morning a tigress (Kankatti) was seen and while watching from atop an elephant she fell off and landed on one foot of the tigress. In front of the tigress was a kill (a cheetal, not the woman) that she stole from a leopard (which was perched in a tree just above her). Eyewitnesses in Pench say Kankatti and the travel agency were equally shocked. But the cat fled, leaving the woman to nurse her dignity (just hurting her).

Six months later, when I saw Kankatti, I felt I knew her. She was heavily pregnant and lay in the shadows under a rocky overhang; her white distended belly rose and fell rhythmically. She was beautiful, majestic and irrational, I wished I was in the shoes of the travel agent, within reach of Kankatti. So yes, I had seen a tiger. Mission accomplished. So pleased was I with my day that I had forgotten about the other wildlife we ​​saw in the jungle that day…the wild dogs, collared scops owl, chameleon, jackal, hornbill…as my naturalist reminded me. I’d discounted everything else I’d seen, heard, smelled—the whole jungle experience—for the sight of the tiger. Nothing meant more now that I had seen my tiger. I missed little things that would have enriched my experience – funnel spiders, a tiny baby boy, the blue flash of a nightjar’s wings, butterflies swarming around the jeep’s yellow indicator lights thinking they are flowers, a baby boar grunting after his mother, even the drops of cicada pee on your face (I thought they were dew drops). I listened to my naturalist about everything else that lives and breathes in the jungle and I know it was a lesson I will never forget. As a peace offering, he took me to Sepobai Bhalavi’s house for a drink. She comes from the Gond tribe, who distill the mahua flower into a powerful spirit. I added some fizz to my drink and tossed it down… it was soft, strong and decidedly smelly. But it is recommended. Ah! Tiger pee! Give me more, I say, give me more. Want to know more about the connection between Pench and the Jungle Story book, check out the cool story by ixigo.

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Tiger enjoying the waters in Pench National Park (by Tarique Sani)
Tiger enjoying the waters in Pench National Park (by Tarique Sani)

The park

In 1863, the first Inspector General of Forests (India), Dr. Dietrich Brandis, toured this area and established a policy for the forests. In 1929 it was declared a Reserve Forest, but hunting permits were available until 1970-1971. In fact, 49 tigers were shot in the area in 1949-50 according to local records. In 1977, when it was realized that the region’s tigers needed to be protected, 449.39 km2 was registered as a Pench Wildlife Sanctuary. Then, in 1983, it was declared a National Park and in 1992, a Tiger Reserve. It became the 19th reserve to be protected under Project Tiger. The total area of ​​the Pench National Park is 758 km², of which the core area is 292.85 km2 while the buffer zone is 465 km2. The terrain is undulating, with most of the area covered by small hills, sloping steeply on the sides.

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Elephant Rides in Pench National Park (door Ankur P)
Elephant Rides in Pench National Park (door Ankur P)

The hills in the park are Chindi Matta, Khumabdeo, Khariban Matta, Arjal Matta, Kalapahar. ‘Matta’ means hills in Gondi (the language of the Gond tribes in this area). Kalapahar is the highest of these at 2130 feet while Jamtara and Ghumtara are the plateaus. It is only in the last seven years that Pench National Park has actually opened up to tourists, although ironically, descriptions of its natural wealth and wealth appear 400 years ago in the Ain-i-Akbari (Abul Fazal’s famous account of the court of Akbar).Descriptions of the area’s natural beauty, huge prey base, numerous predators and biodiversity also appeared in numerous nature books dating back to the 17th century.

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Some quick facts:


On the southern border of Madhya Pradesh and adjacent to the Pench NP in Maharashtra.


92 km ten NO van Nagpur

Route van Nagpur NH7 naar Khawasa via Kamptee, Mansar, Deolapar en Manegaon; districtsweg naar Pench NP.

When to go

Early November to mid-March is the best weather

Park closes from July-September. Just go there for Tigers.

Natuur- / bosafdelingen: Field Director Pench NP Seoni, Madhya Pradesh Tel: + 91-7692-223794, 220794 Pench Range Office STD-codes Seoni 07692, Pench 07695.

Van Kshitiz

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