Pench National Park, just 100 km away from the Nagpur airport is the closest National Park if you are flying from Delhi or Mumbai. It has never failed me in sightings both times that I stepped into it. My first ever Tiger sighting was in Pench so was the rare and amazing sightings of Asiatic Wild Dogs. It is unique in nature and has a kind of a rustic beauty to as the leaves shed completely in late summer and the Teak Forest looks bare and naked. More so opening up superb sighting opportunities with a telescopic view of the forest.
Why you must visit Pench National Park
There are number of reasons to visit Pench National Park, irrespective of whether you love wildlife or not. It is one of the places you must have on your bucket list.
So let me tell you why…..
1. It is ‘Jungle Book’ in real life: Pench National Park was the inspiration for the English author – Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book.
May be you will not see Mowgli but you will see most of his friends just like in the Jungle book.
2. Pench National Park is a place for lot more than Tigers
Of course I will agree that anyone’s idea of stepping into a Tiger Reserve in India is to see the beautiful, majestic Big Cat. Central India is THE PLACE for sure. Being the Apex Predator in these jungles, Tigers are the confident creatures. I did see two cubs age 17 months sleeping with no care in the grass during my safari. My photographic opportunities to capture these two siblings were poor, nevertheless seeing these gorgeous animals was absolutely thrilling.
However there is a lot more to see at the park. Beautiful forest to diverse bird life to range of mammals to commonly found Peacocks and Wild Pigs are wondrous. Indian Rollers, Indian Fly Catchers flying across are a birder’s dream. The mighty Pench river that dries up in the scorching heat of Indian summer is a gigantic beauty that provides an oasis for thirsty animals including a cooling spa for the Big Cat.
3. What to expect from your Safari at Pench National Park
- My Safari was organized by Pugdundee Safaris. What you can expect in your Game drive is that you will be driven , generally in a Gypsy by your naturalist. A local guide from the park will join you, however they do not (most often) speak English except for a few words. So for the safari a naturalist is an absolute must.
- Pench National Park is relatively small. Therefore you can cover the entire park within 3 half a day safaris and see pretty much everything.
- The opening and closer of the park and timing is based on Sunrise and Sunset. So in summer your morning Safari will commence at 0530hrs and end by 0930 hrs. Afternoon safari commences at 1600 hrs and end at 1900hrs. In winter these times will vary .
- The park is closed on Wednesday afternoons. You can make use of these times to relax and unwind, go on a village walk etc.
Pugdundee safaris did a beautiful picnic breakfast, the chef at Pench Tree Lodge, Pankaj was just fabulous. He is a creator of truly Indian dishes plus can do a great mix of Indian and continental. The picnic breakfasts are great as they give you time to stretch your legs in-between the safari.
4. Fantastic Places to stay.
Whatever your budget may be, there are great choices of safari lodges and tented camps. All of them have air-conditioning and heating for winter as the seasons can be quite contrasting. I have listed couple of my favourites.
Pench Tree House
I loved Pench Tree House of Pugdundee Safaris: It’s gorgeous with modern interiors and large villas with attic bedrooms over looking the forest. Great for families too. The common areas are equally lovely with a comfortable and chic relaxation and dinning area with a mid size swimming pool. The food is simply amazing and Pankaj is the best chef I met on my entire journey in Central India. Pench Tree House believes in no plastics and have several great ways to support this initiative including their own organic garden.
Bhagwan is a beautiful Taj property nestled in the forest. The exquisite interiors and the details makes it one of the top sought after properties in Pench.
Pench Jungle Camp
For Value for money property, my pick would be Jungle Camp.