From night safaris at Panna to exploring the boundless varieties of avifauna, Madhya Pradesh is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts
Tenting at Jamtara Wilderness Camp in Pench National Park
The beautiful Pench National Park runs along the Pench River, and is allegedly the fairytale setting for The Jungle Book. This is a place of choice to spot the big cats, as well as over 285 species of birds. Animals such as chital, sambar, barking deer, wild pig, civet and carnivores such as tiger, leopard and dhole are found as well. Those looking to do so in style should head to the Jamtara Wilderness Camp (from ₹17,425; jamtarawilderness. com), located in the village of Jamtara, where 10 posh tents overlooking the forest promise incredible barefoot luxury. While there, make sure you visit Jamtara village, which somehow combines old colonial charm with homegrown rusticity. Nagpur airport is 88km from Pench (penchnationalpark.com).
Explore Bandhavgarh at Mahua Tiger Resort
Bandhavgarh is, of course, tiger central. It has become world-renowned for the high concentration of the magnificent beast. A welcoming and luxurious stay option here is the Mahua Tiger Resort (from ₹6,000; thewildresorts.com), spread over five acres and offering deluxe cottages and Swiss tents. While here, be sure to experience the open jeep morning and evening safaris, and if you’re more adventurous, the elephant safari. Trained guides will also accompany you if you’d like to walk or cycle. Jabalpur is the nearest airport (200km). See bandhavgarh-national-park.com for more details on the park.
Crocodile spotting in National Chambal Sanctuary
For a rough and ready reptilian adventure, think no further than the National Chambal Sanctuary. And now would be a good time to go: the gharial is an endangered species being bred in captivity here, with only around 200 adults left in the wild. This is a unique tri-state sanctuary, spread across Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Morena is the base from which to explore the sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh; see morena.nic.in/VisitingNationalChambal.html. In Uttar Pradesh, the Chambal Safari Lodge (from ₹13,000; chambalsafari.com) offers an immersive experience; see nationalchambalsanctuary.in
Birding in Kanha
Much-loved Kanha, the largest national park in Madhya Pradesh, has been a draw for its tigers for decades. This time around, train your eyes upwards—it’s just as amazing for birdwatching. Over 300 species of avifauna can be sighted here. Presiding over the tropical expanse are beautiful species such as the Asian paradise flycatcher, gold-mantled chloropsis, black-hooded oriole, pariah kite and white-eyed buzzard. Make sure you visit the many waterbodies in the area to spot a vast concentration of some of these birds. The nearest airport is Jabalpur (160km). Accommodation options are aplenty in and around Kanha; kanha-national-park.com has listings and more information.
Night Safari in Panna National Park
Everyone already knows that Madhya Pradesh is a wildlife haven and Panna one of its most famous tiger reserves. Long-time visitor favourite, Ken River Lodge, offers a novel way to experience the treasures of this venerable park: a night safari. This activity features an hour-long drive to the Jhinna Safari Camp, from where you will begin your nocturnal encounter. Night sightings of animals such as hyenas, foxes, and, if you’re lucky, leopards await you. The truly intrepid could consider exploring the jungle on foot! The nearest airport is Khajuraho (26km). Stay at Ken River Lodge (from ₹7,000; kenriverlodge.com).