Kanha National Park has the honor of providing the setting for Rudyard Kipling’s classic novel, The Jungle Book. It’s rich in lush saal and bamboo forests, lakes, streams and open grasslands. The park is one of the largest national parks in India, with a core area of 940 square kilometers (584 square miles) and surrounding area of 1,005 square kilometers (625 square miles).
Kanha is well regarded for its research and conservation programs, and many endangered species have been saved there. As well as tigers, the park abounds with barasingha (swamp deer) and an extensive variety of other animals and birds. Rather than offering one particular kind of animal, it provides an all-round nature experience.
In the state of Madhya Pradesh, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south east of Jabalpur. The park has three entrances. The main one is the Khatia Gate, which leads into the park's buffer zone. A few kilometers ahead of it lies the Kisli Gate, which leads into the park's premium Kanha core zone. The other two gates are Mukki, and Sarhi (a relatively new gate). Kisli-Khatia and Mukki are located at opposite ends of the park. It's possible to drive between them although it takes around 4 hours. The Kanha zone is most popular as tiger sightings are more frequent at that end of the park.
How to Get There:
Air India and Spicejet fly directly to Jabalpur from Delhi, then it’s around 4-5 hours by road from there to the park. Alternatively, Jabalpur can also be reached by rail.
When to Visit:
March and April, when it starts getting hot and the animals come out in search of water. Try to avoid the peak months from December to January, and March during the Indian Holi festival, as it’s very busy. It can also get extremely cold during the winter, particularly in January.
Safari and Opening Times:
There are two safaris a day, starting from dawn until late morning, and mid afternoon until sunset. The best time to visit the park is early in the morning or after 4 p.m. to spot the animals. The park is closed from July 1 to October 31 due to the monsoon rains. It's also closed every Wednesday evening from April 2011.
Entry Fees and Charges:
Note: Entry fees to Kanha National Park increased in October 2011. When going on a safari, separate fees must be paid for jeep hire and jeep entry. The latest jeep entry rates for the Kanha zone per jeep, carrying up to six people, are 3,000 rupees for foreigners and 1,500 rupees for Indians. Child rates are 2,000 rupees and 1,000 rupees respectively. If there's a mixture of foreigners and Indians in the jeep, the foreigner rate will be charged. A guide costs around 150 rupees per trip for Indians, and 400 rupees for foreigners. The cost of a jeep and driver is around 1,800 rupees ($30).
Where to Stay:
Baghira Log Huts, operated by the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation, provides rustic accommodations amidst the forest buffer area between the Khatia and Kisli gates. Rates are high (expect to pay around 5,000 rupees for a double, per night) and there aren't many amenities. However, the big attraction of this place is having wildlife right at your doorstep. If a log hut isn't within your budget, try staying in a dorm room at the nearby Tourist Hostel instead (around 1,000 rupees a night).
For a relaxing escape, Wild Chalet Resort has tranquil cottages by the Banjar River, a short drive from Khatia. The cottages at family operated Pugmark Resort are recommended as a budget/mid range option, near Khatia Gate. The Kanha Jungle Lodge, at the Mukki Gate, is pricey but worth it. Alternatively, Muba Resort is a popular budget option at Mukki. If the thought of a secluded and rejuvenating and stay with organic farming interests you, try Chitvan Jungle Lodge, also near Mukki Gate.
Tiger sightings on jeep safaris aren't very common at Kanha National Park. If you really want to see a tiger, tiger shows are usually offered in the mornings. Tigers are tracked, and if found, an elephant will take you to where they are. The ride lasts for around 10 minutes. Cost is 200 rupees for Indians and 600 rupees for foreigners.
If you don't want to pay the costly entrance fees for the Kanha zone, you can go on a jeep safari in the park's other zones. Jeep entry rates in these zones are 1,000 rupees for Indians and 2,000 rupees for foreigners. Jeep safari bookings for all zones can be made at the MP Online website.
It's well worthwhile taking a walk in the surrounding forest and exploring its natural beauty. Also, don’t miss experiencing in a sunset at Bamni Dadar (a plateau, at the Mukki Gate end of the park, that’s also known as sunset point). It provides a mesmerizing view of the park’s grazing animals as the sun disappears down the horizon. There are nature trails at Khatia and Mukki, in the buffer zone, that can be explored on foot or bicycle.
Jeeps can be hired from the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation at Baghira Log Huts at the Khatia entrance, or the Kanha Safari Lodge at the Mukki entrance. Hotels also organize and run tours. Private vehicles aren't allowed into the park.