There is more to Pench in Madhya Pradesh than its jungles and this is what adds to its infinite charm.
“Welcome to the setting of Rudyard Kipling’s the Jungle Book,” said my host as he welcomed me to Pench. For the uninitiated, Pench is the setting of this famous book and the forest here was declared as a national park in 1983.
Of course the other reason that Pench is renowned world over is because of its star attraction – Collarwali. Declared a tiger reserve in 1993, Pench has an enviable number of tigers but it is Collarwali, the tigress that has 26 cubs who is the undisputed queen of this jungle. It was a radio collar fitted around her neck (that fell off after some years) that has earned her the moniker. Tiger T-15, which is Collarwali’s name, has seven litters in 12 years which is a record of sorts and is little wonder that she is most loved and a delight to be seen here. The jungles of Pench though are immensely beautiful and you can enjoy different experiences in the early morning safari, afternoon safari as well as a night safari that happens in the buffer zone. With nippy winds, the morning safari is an experience like no other. The jungle is abuzz with chirping of birds and sounds of animals and common sightings include langoor, dhole (wild dogs), deer, sambhar and barking deer. Sighting the elusive tiger of course is a matter of luck but the jungles here never disappoint. There are 300 recorded species of birds and you can spot a whole variety of birds like racket tailed drongo, white broad wagtail, paradise fly catcher, golden oriole, black shouldered kite, owlets, green footed yellow pigeon, black drongo, parakeet, flame back woodpecker and common kingfisher. I also did a night safari where my guide was Gayatri one of the only woman guides here who has braved several odds to pursue her passion for wildlife.
Sights & Sounds
If you look beyond the jungle, there is much more to see and enjoy in Pench and my hosts recommend that I take a village walk as well as check out a panoramic view of the rising sun at Kohka Lake close by. Incidentally the village sarpanch here in Kohka is a woman and a walk through the fields is enlightening. You can also enjoy a small picnic by Pench Lake. A guided walking tour through the jungles is a wonderful way to see the flora and fauna at close quarters and Anil my guide does a wonderful job of spotting birds and taking me through the foliage here. The mahuwa tree here that dots the landscape has a pale creamish, fleshy, scented and sweet tasting flower that attracts birds and animals as well as the tribals who collect its flowers, fruits and seeds. When here pay a visit to the villagers of Pachdhar, where all families are involved in pottery making. It is fascinating to walk through the village where every inhabitant is a potter and you can actually see all the stages of making a pot from the clay stage to when it is baked in the oven. Take a walk in the village nearby and if you are lucky to be here on the day of the weekly fair you can catch a bustling market full of colours, sights and sounds. In fact the Kohka Foundation a local outfit also works with the community here to ensure that their education needs are taken care of. You can even visit the local schools and see how the children are being taught. While in Kohka, it is a must to sample tribal food that is simple yet the flavours shine through for the very same reason. Also pick up handmade souvenirs made by tribal village folk when you are here – you will also make your little contribution to support the local community. Pench is a potpourri of experiences that will leave you asking for more.
- How to reach: Air: Nagpur airport is 110 kms away. Rail: Nagpur Railway Station is about 92 kms away. Road: State and national highways connect Pench to other cities in the state.
- Stay: There are a variety of options but if you are looking for a rustic stay that embodies many experiences the Kohka Wilderness Camp is a good bet.
- Season: November to May
- Travel Tips: Early morning safaris are very cold so ensure you have warm clothes. Make sure you wear clothes that blend with the forest environment.
This story first appeared in The Hans India dated Jan 26, 2020 here: