Magical MP – Panchmarhi Part-2 and Pench

Now it is included in Satpura National Park region and visiting many places require a park entrance fees and also the local Jeeps formed an union and now divided the main attractions in 3 full days trip which costs you 1500 per day. Quite expensive specially if you don’t want to see all places scheduled in a day and instead want to replace a few spots with places of your choice, firstly union won’t allow that officially and you have to pay extra to driver on top of 1500. So this is the only place where a MPT safari would be extremely helpful. They cover the significant places in one day and with a charge of 1250. Morning they would take you to Museum to start with where you have to buy forest tickets (Rs 60 per person) and take a compulsory guide by paying Rs.200. The Museum is worth visiting to understand Pachmarhi flora and fauna. From Museum, the tour covers Pandava caves which had given much artificial look than what I saw it 11 years back, then to Apsara Vihar and Rajat Prapat, two water falls that needs some amount of trekking to reach. If you are a trekking enthusiast, you can go to bottom of Rajat Prapat but almost need a full day for taking that up. After lunch, they would take you to Bee Falls, some steep climb down and climb up is involved but you get an excellent views of the fall from below. In Bee Fall, I have seen an Indian Giant Squirrel, (6th snap below) with amazing colors. Next they would take you to Reechgarh, a natural amphitheatre in rock approached from Southside cave like entrance. You would find some old rock paintings here but this place also needs small trek. Finally you would end your day with a fascinating sunset over Satpura Range from Dhupgarh, a must go for any tourist in Pachmarhi. We also gone for some trekking in outer region of Pachmarhi that is equally fascinating as you can see a different views of Satpura range, some old rock paintings and also a 100 year old ruin called Begam’s Palace from where we experienced a nice sunset.

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The next destination and last in our trip was again a forest, Pench, which is smallest in size in comparison to Bandhavgarh and Kanha and primarily have 3 zones. Touria is the most popular zone with most of the hotels and resorts are closer to this gate and this is nearest from Nagpur and that’s why have a lot of local tourists specially in weekends. Karmajhiri is the gate where you would find the MP Forest RH and much quieter area but travel involved is at least 25 to 30km more than Touria gate from Nagpur. On the other side of Pench river the least visited zone in Pench is named as Jhamtara which should be approached from a road forked to right while you are approaching to Seoni from Chindwara, not sure the accommodation options in this area and only 5 Jeeps are allowed in Jhamtara where as 10 allowed in Karmajhiri and 45 to 50 are allowed from Touria. From Pachmarhi We took the road via Matkuli, Tamia, Chindwara, Seoni, turning towards Nagpur up to Khawasa and then taking right to Pench. We stayed in MPT’s Kipling’s Court as we found FRH booking only allowed just a month before your travel date here. Also FRH is comparatively costlier around 1200/- per day here excluding the food, so we preferred Kipling’s Court with it’s all inclusive 3000 rate that includes accommodations, food and close to most popular gate Touria where we can get a car for our return journey towards Nagpur easily. My point of contact here was Ajay, excellent person who was already introduced in IM in some other threads. He was a very sincere guide and carrying some excellent books on birds to show us varieties of birds in Pench. I haven’t seen or probably haven’t noticed so many birds in Bandhavgarh or Kanha.

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Pench, once known as Leopard County and famous for almost sure sighting of leopard even until 3 yrs back. Now leopard sighting is not that common still out of 3 safaris, in two we heard quite a few cars have seen leopards. We were not that much lucky to see it though. Pench’s specialty is Nilgai, male is actually colored blackish blue and females are having dark yellowish shade. We have seen them plenty apart from Gaur, Spotted Deer, Sambars, Wild Boars, Jackals, wild cat and lots and lots of birds. We have seen a spot-bellied eagle owl, a first time sighting in Pench and we had registered our sighting in Forest Office with a few snaps. Apart from Tiger show, we haven’t seen any tiger here. Tiger show usually happens when Forest elephant spots a tiger during morning safaris, costs 200 per head for getting a glimpse of the big cat. Not a very thrilling way of spotting a tiger but sometimes you can get excellent views, like in our day first few Jeeps got an excellent view of the cat with a kill in open space and then saw her pulling the kill to cross the road to go to a bushy area. Also she was accompanied by her 4 cubs of 2/3 months old, a sight to remember for lifetime, I have seen couple of snaps from them and they are awesome!! Later on the sighting was not that interesting, neither people could spot the cubs. So it’s all about your luck and the timing when your turn would come. But I have seen tiger shows running in Bandhavgarh, Kanha and Pench whenever they could spot a tiger.

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Pench stay was really memorable as it was not that touristy like its big brothers Kanha and Bandhavgarh and we got a guide like Ajay who made it more pleasant. He arranged for an Innova to drop us at Nagpur airport for Rs.2200 on next day. The people who travels from Kolkata might end the trip via Nagpur as the Indigo flight connecting Nagpur Kolkata had a good timing, (5.30pm from Nagpur) would allow you to take even morning safari at Pench and then dinner back home at Kolkata. If you book well in advance, the sector offers a very competitive fare and that makes this 1.5 hours journey quite affordable too.

Previous: Magical MP – Bhedaghat and Panchmarhi Part-1

The End

Magical MP – Bhedaghat and Panchmarhi Part-1

With an awesome experience from Kanha we gone ahead with a break from forest again and heading for Bhedaghat via Mandla and Jabalpur. The few stretches between Mandla and Jabalpur was not that good, our first experience with bad roads in MP. But otherwise journey was smooth and we reached MP Tourism Motel Marble Rocks on time. The location wise the hotel is strategically placed close to all tourist attractions yet keeping a nice ambience. In Jabalpur which is just 24 km away, you would find ample accommodation options but in Bhedaghat you won’t find anything better than MP Tourism hotel. In the morning we visited the Dhuadhar Falls where Narmada river is jumping as falls, brilliant for your eyes but no so for your cameras as in morning you would face the sun while taking a photograph. Also if you want to enjoy the ropeway ride that takes you on top of falls and gives a nice view of marble rock, you shouldn’t try it before 10.00am as that’s when the ropeway service starts.

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Enjoyed the falls to its best and then in the afternoon took the boat ride in Marble Rocks. If you take a local council operated share boat, cost is nominal around Rs.20 per head but getting a separate small boat and going little further than designated mark is well worth of your money. The marble rock is also affected by pollution and to see the actual white marbles, you need to go further towards the Falls now a days. This is one of the best of natural wonders I have ever seen in my life. The boating usually runs from 7.30am to evening till sun set and for full moon and a day before and after that, it runs in evening time as well. Surely would be costlier but probably something one shouldn’t miss. The Marble Rocks where Narmada flows through a deep canyon with marbles on both side of it would hardly be 5km of length where boat ride is allowed only for around 2 kms but still it would be an amazing experience of lifetime. I took again the same boat ride in morning 7.30 and preferred the morning journey more as that’s when you would get a better ambience as no tourist would be there, in morning time usually wind speed is low and you get some awesome reflection of marble rocks in Narmada. If you are a lover of old monuments and don’t mind taking up 150 odd stares, Chushat Yogini Temple is also a must see for you.

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On the way to Pachmarhi we gone to Bargi Dam as well and impressed with the MP Tourism property there, the best we have seen among all MPT properties for sure. Location, ambience, cost, in all aspect staying a night here is recommended unless you mind having Veg Food. Had we been staying here, would surely enjoy an amazing sunrise and sunset on the backdrop of Bargi Dam, still enjoyed the speed boat ride, you can take paddle boats, water scooter as well apart from the nice ride in MPT vessels that takes you to sunset cruise in Bargi Lake if it gets sufficient number of tourists. We had a lunch here in MPT and then started our journey for Pachmarhi via Shahpura, Narsimhapur and Pipariya. Another 300km journey with mostly good to excellent roads can be covered easily in 6 hours with breaks.


Pachmarhi, we all know the hill station of MP, an excellent place but must be avoided during Shivaratri and Nag Panchami. I have earlier visited Pachmarhi and fascinated by its charm but with a festival in card and with lots of crowd, it lost its serenity. Pachmarhi has 9 MPT properties to choose from depending on your budget and the place actually is a trekker’s paradise. You need to spend 3/4 days at least to do justice to this place and its attractions.

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Previous: Magical MP – Kanha

Next: Magical MP – Panchmarhi Part-2 and Pench

Magical MP – Kanha

After a break of 2 days from Forest, we were ready to head to Kanha, it was once again an excellent stretch of road through Dindori-Mandla-Kanha. We booked accommodation in Kanha FRH at Khatia Gate. In this end there are 2 gates, Khatia and Kisli (couple of km further towards forest), earlier the safari used to start from Kisli but as park is being expanded, now the safaris start from Khatia Gate itself. In Kisli (which is by now within park) only available accommodation is with MP Tourism. MP Tourism is allotted land now outside Khatia Gate and they are in process of moving the Guest House out of the park boundary. In Khatia gate, you would have lots of accommodation options are various range but FRH is excellent location wise as that’s closest to park gate. The Park has three zones, Kanha is the most favored among tourists, Mukki comes next and the least visited zone is Sarhi. A local guide told me, the road through the park from Kanha to Mukki or the reverse way can be traveled by paying entry fees of both gates in 3 specific days of week, haven’t verified that information with forest department, but I am pretty sure, it would be a great jungle drive from kanha to mukki if at all allowed by forest department. Kanha gate is more accessible from Jabalpur (Northern) end and Mukki is better approachable from south side. Nearest rail head to Mukki is Rajnandgaon on Kolkata – Mumbai via Nagpur section. Kanha FRH is having options of 2 types of Air Cooled Rooms, newer costs 500 and older 400 per day. I have taken the newer ones and would say they are extreme value for money. The food cost in all the FRH are same, they charge you flat Rs.100/- per meal per person for standard veg meal including eggs. You can expect to pay more for a Non Veg dish, quantity is unlimited, as much as you can eat. The food was good in both Bandhavgarh and Kanha FRH. The forest rates are same as Bandhavgarh except the Jeep Charges. Here for Morning safaris (between 6.15am to 12.00noon, though people usually leave by 11.00am) Jeep rate is 1500 and for evening (3.15pm to 6.15pm) it is 1000. Now again you could manage it by Rs.2000 for both the safaris in a day if you can bargain. Options are plenty to choose from. But once again as you can’t choose your guide here, choosing an expert driver helps. I took the service of Imrat, who is having around 20 yrs experience in Kanha and he was brilliant. His younger brother Sadan Yadav is a guide there and he was my point of contact in Kanha like Mukesh in Bandhavgarh. Imrat can himself be a guide as well as he knows almost all mammals and birds there and in my trip to B’garh, Pench and Kanha I didn’t find anyone better than him to understand tiger tracking. Here though we have seen tiger twice in our 3 safaris but from quite a distance unlike what we have seen in Bandhavgarh. Also due to vastness of park it is more difficult to spot a tiger here than Bandhavgarh. But still we enjoyed it more here as the charm of tracking the big cat in an absolute wilderness like Kanha with an experienced tracker is something you should have to feel. He understands the movement so well and we were in true sense running behind it, the hide and seek game it was playing with us, the start and sudden stop of alarm calls, change in call direction, running towards that end, understanding and guessing its movement all adds more thrill to the experience. Kanha tested our patience and it was really an effort that is worth spending to gain this experience.

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As a forest, I liked it most in comparison to others just because of the vastness and varieties of landscapes it offers. Kanha surely deserves at least a week from any wild life lover, I would say. Guide told us there are some 200 odd routes available for safaris in Kanha. (in comparison to 4 to 6 routes in Bandhavgarh/Pench).

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We have seen what all we have seen in Bandhavgarh and in addition to that we have seen the Indian Gaur (few call it as bison too, though they are completely different) and Barasingha. This rare species of deer family is Kanha’s main attraction and you would see them in herds here. They are simply amazing. We had also a very close encounter with couple of wild dogs here whose sightings are rare too. This year MP Forest department took 19 Gaurs from Kanha and placed them in Bandhavgarh in a protected zone, may be from next year onwards you may see them in Bandhavgarh as well.

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Previous: Magical MP – Amarkantak

Next: Magical MP – Bhedaghat and Panchmarhi Part-1

Magical MP – Amarkantak

It was time to fix a car for 10 days to travel for rest of the trip and we have found even the caretakers in FRH were trying the play the middleman’s role in this regard. The Car is again a bargain, we got some nice deals especially with Tavera where almost 1700km travel and 10 nights were negotiated at flat 18000, but later decided to go for an Innova as that suits our need better and the driver cum owner Dinesh Namdeo was turned out to be a nice person. We paid around 23K all inclusive for 10 days for this car which was really in good condition and that was much more than what MP Tourism quoted us for same itinerary which was close to 30K including their 10% service charge for an Innova. Unless you are very hard pressed for time, there was no point in getting cars from MP Tourism, neither you should take the safari arrangements from them. They just book a private Jeep/Car for you which you yourself could do in a better rate and on top of that would charge you 10% extra as service charge.

We took Umaria-Shapura-Dindori-Amarkantak around 220km in an extremely good road averaging almost 90kmph.Except in some stretches between Mandla and Jabalpur everywhere the road condition was simply superb.


Amarkantak is a temple town with lots of temples around it and the place from where 2 major Indian rivers Son and Narmada originates. It’s scenic as well with hills, waterfalls and nice landscapes that you can enjoy. The 8th century temples are simply brilliant. MP Tourism here is the only good accommodation option though with not so good food.

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Previous: Magical MP – Bandhavgarh

Next: Magical MP – Kanha

Magical MP – Bandhavgarh

This trip was planned earlier and then cancelled for some personal problems and this is not the first time, consecutive three attempts to MP failed because of some reasons or others, so I was really skeptic if I could ever make it. After Lahaul/Spiti and more desolate Eastern Arunachal, this was more of a relaxed vacation for us where we don’t have to carry dry foods or tons of medicines, neither we were depending on Govt CH with lots of uncertainties nor we were venturing into a territory with no communication but still it turned out to be quite eventful for many reasons.

We started from Kolkata by Mumbai Mail via Allahabad, a train which was not only up to the mark in terms of cleanliness (talking about AC- II) but also started running late from the very beginning. It started an hour late and kept running late and finally we reached Katni around 7.30pm where as schedule time was 4.20pm. As we have our reservation there in Tala FRH, Bandhavgarh, we had to hurry for our onward journey. The Bolero was taken for Rs.1400/- for a drop to Tala FRH from Katni and driver told it would be 2.5 hours drive from Katni, we estimated it much lower and immediately took a decision to buy our dinner from Katni as we didn’t expect FRH people to entertain us with foods at 11.00pm. So ultimately we started around 8.30pm from Katni, the road was excellent, ambience too, it’s a full moon night and we were cruising around almost 80kmph, after midway, I observed the headlight was getting dimmer, asked the driver, he said nothing, carry on further and suddenly around 15km before Tala, at the T-Junction where the road from Katni, Umaria and Tala meets, car refused to go any further, engine stopped completely. We had Vodafone, Airtel and BSNL and none had towers there, after repeated try driver called up the owner and complained the battery had completely drained out and requested owner to arrange some alternatives from Tala. It was an ugly mess, we were almost inside a forest region with no one in sight, with kid it was a pathetic experience and quite bone chilling when we didn’t find a single vehicle after waiting for 15mins. We didn’t have FRH Number to inform them on our status, then all of a sudden like a lifeline a mini bus came after attending a marriage nearby, it was not going to Tala but looking at our condition, the driver agreed to drop us those 15km for Rs.500/- Obviously we were not in a position to bargain even and when boarded the bus we still were not confident that we could reach those 15km, road got extremely bad couple of km before Tala and it was dense forest at both side but the full moon night was simply awesome, though we were not in a position to enjoy that. The bus finally dropped us around 11.15pm at Tala FRH, it’s the first accommodation when you enter Tala from Katni side. We relieved to see the Caretaker still awake then and got our rooms. The rooms are quite good for Rs. 500/- I must say and best part of MP Forest RH is they take money in advance (Through DD) and send booking confirmation either electronically or by courier. So you won’t be uncertain like other FRH in various states where your reservation might get cancelled in case of VIP Arrivals.

We were extremely tired and straight away had our dinner that we bought in Katni and gone to bed. Next morning we didn’t keep any Safari apprehending the tiredness of such a long journey and it turned out to be a boon. We slept till 8.00 in the morning and then got up and had a great breakfast there. The FRH location is brilliant; it’s far away from noise of Tala and had a large campus with very good arrangement of food and of course the value for money rooms. I have spoken to many resorts in Tala and all were quite expensive in the tune of Rs.2000 and try to include everything naming as Jungle Plan (that includes food, accommodation and Safari Costs) by increasing the cost even more. Our rooms in FRH had Air coolers, AC Rooms costs more around 3000/- in FRH but they are quite specious I would say. I was in touch with Mukesh Burman, a well known local of Tala and quite a knowledgeable and experienced guide there. Unfortunately he was suffering from Typhoid and couldn’t accompany us but made every attempts to make our Safaris as pleasant as possible. In Bandhavgarh for Tala zone 35 Jeeps are allowed where as in Magadhi zone they allow 66 vehicles. But tickets of Tala (Zone1) would always be sold off completely and don’t expect to get a safari ticket on spot there unless you pre-book it though your agent or by yourself in Magadhi zone tickets would be available but people say tiger spotting (the main attraction of Bandhavgarh) in Magadhi is not that common as it is in Tala. Rest two zone, Khitauli and Panpatha, probably have very few visitors. Now in Tala almost 160 Jeeps are operational but as only at most 100 (including Tala and Magdhi) are allowed, it’s a bargain game for you. You would listen to many things like 1500/- is the standard charge fixed by Union but just stick to your ground and use your bargain skill and surely you would be able to negotiate it in a better rate. I got it @1000 per safari.

Usually once you decide the Gypsy, the driver would take the tickets (that you have pre-booked) from you and would get it verified in next morning and pay the guide charge and you would be ready to enter the park. In Bandhavgarh you can choose your guide where as in Kanha and Pench the guide would be allowed in sequence and you have to take who ever would be allotted. In Pench there is a work around where you can choose your guide out of turn by paying additional Rs.200 to the guide who was initially allotted (Total Guide cost would be Rs.400 then) but in Kanha I didn’t find anyway to get the guide I want. Guides do matter specially for first timers as an experienced guide can tell you in details on park and its flora and fauna. Also they have tremendous sense of judging the movements of big cats, understanding the alarm calls and behaviors of other animals and also they would keep telling you some interesting stories about the park. I’m sure a good guide can make difference in your experience.

Back to the park, Bandhavgarh and Pench are almost same size and much smaller to the size and varieties in comparison to Kanha. In Bandhavgarh for Zone1, there are 4 specific routes, A, B, C and D and you would be getting 2 out of them in random, since park opening in Oct 2010, route A is closed for visitors, so only available routes in Zone1 are B, C and D. We got C/D in evening safari of first day. Evening safaris were scheduled to start around 3.00pm and it goes till 6.00pm the sunset time. It was cloudy day and we started our first safari with few birds, storks, and herds of spotted deer. In 5 to 7 minutes after starting the journey, the guide suddenly asked us to be silent, he spoken to the driver in some local accent which I didn’t understand much but the way jeep started running after that, we understood something is going to happen. Slowly we understood in subsequent safaris the alarm calls of Sambar/Spotted Deer and the movements of Langurs nearby and how these guys actually zero in then the possible movement of Big Cats by considering where they seen the cat last and many other factors like if it killed any last night, if it is accompanied by cubs etc. This is really an interesting aspect and you would surely enjoy the moment you would start understanding the underlying principles. Soon the driver also heard something and press the sudden break to halt the Jeep and then started the waiting, we were trying to look here and there but didn’t understand what’s going to happen. Within few moments another three Jeeps came from behind and stopped there, hardly 2/3 mins of waiting and then the unbelievable scene, it was barely 10 ft from me, suddenly it appeared royally from the bush beside us and crossed the road without even caring that 5 odd Jeeps and at least 30 odd people were watching holding their breaths. Its absolute silence and only the sound of relentless number of shutter clicks, not sure how many actually seen it in naked eyes as when I took off my eyes from Camera, I saw all were watching through their lenses only. Actually I was so engrossed with my 300mm lens, I would have completely missed the opportunity to take snaps with some other perspectives, like the first one below, with Jeeps in background it shows how close we have seen it, Thanks for my friend Arindam for taking this snap and sharing with us. But 10 minutes within the first safari, the dream was coming true, it was an unbelievable feeling, difficult to express, the way it walks past us clearly shows the royal arrogance. We were so awe struck, for next 10/15 minutes we were not speaking normally among ourselves, we couldn’t believe that we have seen tiger from so close.

Bandhavgarh at its Best (The First snap credit goes to my friend Arindam):

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Rest of the evening was not that eventful, mainly because all of a sudden it started raining and our driver forgot to carry the plastic they use during rain and you can understand how we spent the rest 2.5 hours in relentless rain sitting in an open Jeep.

Next day morning safari was at 6.30am and we had to start around 5.45am after the last evening rain, it was very cold, morning safaris are really a different feelings when you could see the forest is coming into its life with sun, the wild boars, herds of deer in light and shade were awesome, the light was so low, no point in trying anything with camera, specially with slow lenses, so enjoying the forest and feeling it is the only thing that one can do to his or her best during this early hours. The sun rise in the rocky terrain is gorgeous and beyond any word to express. We have seen lots of birds and peacocks (mainly in route B), sambars, spotted deer, jackals and langurs.

In evening safari we have experienced a great sun set on the backdrop of Bandhavgarh Fort, which again needs proper planning to visit as only 4 cars are allowed per day, 2 during morning safari and 2 between 11am to 2pm. This ride can’t be booked online, you need to buy the tickets on spot if available. Some amount of trekking is involved as vehicles no longer are permitted to go till top because of environmental degradation.

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Next: Magical MP – Amarkantak