As soon as you hear the name Seoni you feel that you are familiar with this place, Isn’t it? I will tell you why? Pench National Park located in the Seoni district of Madhya Pradesh has a special mention in Rudyard Kipling’s famed novel “The Jungle Book” which created tremendous curiosity and love in the minds of wildlife enthusiasts.
Pench National Park – Location and History
In 1977 realising the need to protect tigers in the region, 449 square kilometres was notified as Pench Wildlife Sanctuary by the Government. It was 1983 when Pench was given National Park status. Finally in the year 1992 Pench became 19th tiger reserve of the country. It has an area of 758 square kilometres of which the core area is 292 square kilometres.
It is located in the Satpura range and is home to over 210 varieties of birds and animals of India like tigers, leopards, gaurs, dholes, jackals, stripped hyenas, chitals, sambars etc.
Well, to be honest about six to seven years ago Pench wasn’t the kind of wildlife destination that we know today and wasn’t as famous as other wildlife national parks in the country.
The main reasons were infrequent sightings of big cats and that Pench wasn’t well promoted like its bigger cousins (Kanha National Park & Bandhavgarh National Park) however, the scenario changed and gradually within a span of six years Pench actually gained momentum for its brilliant sightings ( Read Tigers). On 1st January, 2016, Pench, MP ranked as the second best tiger reserve of the country as per a report in the newspaper Times of India.
Getting to know of all these, I along with my friends made a plan to visit Pench National Park. The star attraction had to be Collarwaali or the Collared tigress “The Legendary Queen” who simply by giving birth to a record number of 22 cubs since 2008, rose to stardom in a short span of time.
Starting from the safari to accommodation each and everything was planned well in advance. It was in the month of May when maximum sightings happen but be prepared as during this time of the year, temperature’s soar up to 45 degree Celsius.
Wildlife Safari at Pench National Park
At Pench as per the new rules, the morning drive lasts for 4.5 hours whereas the evening ones are a little deprived of this luxury and confined to only 2.5 hours of a safari.
After reaching our destination we were elated to hear that on the previous day seven tigers were sighted. With a positive mindset we reached the park gate at 3:45 pm. After ID verifications, our gypsies entered the park one by one.
A passing shower along with a thunder storm annoyed is as big cats usually avoid rains, still we hoped for the best and proceeded further. While roaming around for approximately one and half hour we couldn’t find many animals except spotted deers and sambars.
Finally we reached the spot known as Bija Matta, Matta means “hills” in local tribal language, and this was where a big male named “Raiya Kasa” was sighted the previous day. We heard a few alarm calls but there was hardly anything to look about. Our naturalist tried his best but the king remained secluded. Ultimately we ended our first safari on a depressing note.
Next day we entered the park at 6 am in the morning and due to a passing storm last evening, the weather was really cool. This time we took a different route. It was less hilly as compared to the other route which we used yesterday.
As we proceeded further within thirty minutes we were welcomed with a brilliant sighting of around ten dholes (Asiatic wild dog) basking in sun. We were so happy that now we had got something to cheer about.
We moved ahead and this time we were greeted with two jackals hardly twenty feet away crossing the road. Now we somehow had the feeling that this time we won’t be deprived from getting a glimpse of the “king” .
Without wasting much time we headed to the place where the legendary queen “Collarwaali” had made her territory. As soon as we reached the place we saw a queue of gypsies one after the other. On enquiring about the situation we came to know, one of the groups in a gypsy saw the tigress.
Hearing this, our naturalist bended over backwards as he was quite confident the tigress will surely come out. Our patience wasn’t tested much; the grand lady finally came out of the bush. Along with her three sub adult cubs she marched towards our gypsy.
It was simply the best sighting I had in my life and snapping three big cats in the same frame is like a dream come true. I thanked the almighty for giving me this grand opportunity. We were simply speechless, no words could express our happiness at that moment.
Our safari came to a fulfilling end with so many sightings and Pench surely did not disappoint us, except for the minor set back on the first day, it was a wonderful experience for all of us and at last I can safely say “Mowglis’ Land” offered us what other places couldn’t.
Text & Images by: Soham Chakraborty
Got some experiences from Pench? Share them with us in the comments section below!