Kanha National Park

The largest wildlife sanctuary in Asia, Kanha National Park was one of the first Project Tiger reserves in India. It is, in many ways, Project Tiger’s biggest success story, with the tiger population having doubled since 1976.

Over 1,945 sq km of bamboo thickets, extensive grasslands and dense sal forests make up Kanha- a series of plateaus which stretch across the eastern segment of the Satpura ranges in Madhya Pradesh. This is the land of the tiger, the leopard, and the wolves which inhabit the pages of Jungle Book.

Of this area, the core- about 940 sq km- is the national park; around it is the buffer zone. Porcupines, jackals, sloth bear, jungle cat, macaque, dhole (wild dogs), bison and a stunning spectrum of birds inhabit Kanha, and make a trip to the sanctuary a must for any wildlife enthusiast. It is a truly thrilling experience, made more so by sightings of the tiger, ‘gaur’, or even the tiny mouse deer (muntjac) or the rare hardground barasingha, found only in Kanha. Go bird watching on a misty winter morning, and you’re likely to see beauties like the racquet tailed drongo, crimson breasted barbet, crested hawk eagle and golden oriole.

Who knows, you might even catch a glimpse of Shere Khan off on one of his up-to-no-good prowls…

Entry Requirements

Visitors to Kanha National Park are required to obtain entry permits- a very nominal Rs 2 for Indians- at the entrance to the park. Additional charges are tagged on for vehicles (about Rs 15), for cameras, for guides and for elephant rides. Tourists are allowed to go on excursions in the park only at designated times, generally from sunrise to noon, and then from afternoon to sunset. Check with the park authorities about when you can go. Driving at night or moving around the park on foot is prohibited.

How to Visit

The nearest airport is at Nagpur (266 km from Kanha), which has connections to a number of major cities in India, including Mumbai. The nearest railhead is Jabalpur, at a distance of 169 km; Jabalpur has trains coming in from all across the country, and from here there are convenient buses to Kanha. The MPSRTC operates two buses daily, the earlier of which leaves Jabalpur at about 7 in the morning, to reach Kanha by noon.

Other cities and towns which are connected to Kanha by road include Raipur (219 km) and Mukki (25 km). From all these towns, there are regular buses to Kisli, and to the two park entrances, at Khatia and Mukki.

Once you’re in the park, you can hire a jeep from the MPSTDC office at the park. Jeeps can be booked through the manager of the MPSTDC log huts at Kisli, though elephant-back is a far better and quieter vantage point, to explore the park. You can go on mapped circuits accompanied by guides from the forest department who help you to identify the animals and birds. If you are a birdwatcher, Kanha will give you hours and hours of fun – the early morning being the best time to spot the birds. Also within the park is the Kanha Museum, which focuses not just on the flora and fauna of the area, but also on the local tribal population.

When to visit

Kanha Tiger Reserve is closed to visitors during the monsoon months, from July to November. Winter, between November and January, is a comfortable time to visit the park, when the weather’s pleasant. April to June is when the summer sets in; it can get pretty hot at this time, but if you’re a die-hard wildlife fan, this is when a visit can reward you with satisfactory wildlife-watching at the park’s waterholes.

Where to Stay

Accommodation for tourists visiting Kanha consists of MPSTDC log huts (befittingly named the `Bagheera Log Huts’, in tribute to Kipling’s leopard from Jungle Book) and a youth hostel. Rooms here cost between Rs 700 to 900, and can be booked through the MPSTDC offices in Delhi, Bhopal and Jabalpur. Dorm beds at the youth hostel cost Rs 300, inclusive of meals.

In addition to the log huts, there are other forest rest houses and cabins, at Khatia, Mukki and Kisli. These are managed by the park authorities; reservations may be done through the Field Director, Kanha Tiger Reserve. Khatia and Mukki have a number of privately owned resorts and hotels as well, with a wide range of tariffs.

Further information on Kanha can be obtained from the Field Director, Project Tiger, Kanha Tiger Reserve, Mandla, Madhya Pradesh