One day one of my friends asked “Why do you keep visiting the forest again and again? It is same right- same kind of trees , vegetation, predators & preys!!” Well he was not right -every forest has its own characteristic like the animal . May be forests are also distinct from each other like the species that live in them !!
Well sometimes uniqueness resides within the same forest as we explored Pench National Park which is part of both states – Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra spanning the districts of Seoni and Chhindwara. The area of the Pench tiger reserve has a glorious history-description of its natural wealth and richness occurs in Ain-i-Akbari. It is believed that Pench Tiger Reserve and its neighbourhood is the original setting of Rudyard Kipling’s most famous work, The Jungle Book. The legend is well scripted near the entrance at Turia gate-
Well as we found out there is no such boundary like river or fencing between Pench Maharashtra and MP. Tigers and other animals can easily move from one state to other without any “Permit”. The trees of sal ,shagoon and mohua are present in both the parts. So where lies the difference then?
We entered Pench, Madhya Pradesh through Turia gate & Pench Maharashtra through Khursapar. Madhya Pradesh Pench comprises plain land with few natural water bodies in places like alikatta or bijematta, whereas Pench Maharashtra is predominantly a hilly terrain. The road inside the Pench Maharashtra has some sharp bends with frequent ups and down similar to a mountain road. Probably this could be the reason why waters do not accumulate within Pench Khursapar .As a result there is probably no natural waterbody and at one point of time the animals suffered due to lack of water for drinking or cooling off. The forest department led by Praveen Sathawaneji the ranger of Khursapar with the help of a group of wildife enthusiasts namely Sagnik Sengupta , Umesh Krishnan, Amrut Naik, Rahi Jaiswal worked closely to build quite a few waterholes where water can be stored during the rains and there is also a system of pumps powered by solar panels to extract groundwater. On the Khursapar side, we observed the animals drinking water or cooling themselves off in these waterbodies.
Pic: Tiger cooling off in the man-made pool in Khursapar on a hot summer afternoon
While the debate of whether you should intervene or not within a natural ecosystem can continue, there is little doubt that this initiative has helped the animals residing in Pench Khursapar.
Tiger Density and Famous Tigers:
Tiger density in Pench Khursapar is quite high with respect to Pench Turia at least based on the information available till now (We may have to wait for the Census happening this year to know the latest numbers )
Pic: Tigeress (Bandra Female Cub) at Khursapar, Pench
With 44 tigers** Pench tiger reserve on Maharashtra lags behind Pench MP where 53 was recorded* but density wise the Maharashtra side of the forest is ahead it seems.
*Status Report – Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in Protected Areas of Madhya Pradesh, 2016 (State Forest Research Institute, Jabalpur MP)
Famous tigers from both sides of the forest have played their part in boosting tiger tourism. We have Raiyakassa -Collarwali pairing with Langdi on the Turia side who are sighted regularly by the visitors along with their sub-adult cubs. Collarwali is famous for her 26 cubs (this is probably a world record wrt number of litters produced by a tigress in the wild). Articles, pictures , stories on Collarwali by Shivang Mehta, Sagnik Sengupta and others have helped Pench to scale up the ladder in the Indian tiger tourism map. Khursapar is also not to be left behind with tigress like Durga, Baras with Handsome male (dominant male in the Khursapar tourism area) are sighted with a few sub-adults.
From the guides and drivers, we have also learnt that the sighting of other predators like wild dogs and leopard is very rare in Khursapar but they are frquently sighted on the Pench MP side. (Does it indicate lower presence ??)
Pic: Leopard at Turia, Pench
Tourism-Safari, Accomodation :
Pench Turia has started safari from 1998 ,though at that time it allowed private cars only. Slowly after the tiger sighting increased, people started to come to Pench on a regular basis. The last few years have seen increase in tiger sighting on both sides of Pench forest (as described above) and has led to a large gathering of wild life enthusiasts and travellers here. The local economy around the forest area also is undergoing a change.
Taj has built a hotel property and foreigners have started to come. There are almost 40 hotels around the Pench Turia side.On the other hand, there is no such hotel near the Khursapar gate. The only resort ” Tuli “on bandra road is under construction. Tourists who want to visit Pench Maharashtra ,have to travel from Turia to Khursapar for around 7 km or so.
Overall safari cost for Turia comes to around 4200 INR per safari for full gypsy booking whereas the same at Pench Khursapar costs around 5000 INR. There is an extra charge of camera in Pench Khursapar. where per camera you have to pay 100 INR at the entry.
We have been to Pench multiple times. Considering sighting aspect, we believe though high densities in both forest ranges play a part but ultimately it depends on luck and on the experience of the guide /driver. We have been lucky to spot the tiger in both the forests. So if you are planning for tiger sighting at Pench, would recommend for safaris at both Turia and Khursapar.
Pic: Raiyakassa Male , Turia Pench
Enjoy & explore Mowgli’s forest beyond the “boundaries”. Sher Khan (Tiger), Jungle Kutto ka jhund (herd of wild dogs) are waiting for you at Pench!!
If You Want to go
Pench is around 2 hours away from Nagpur by road . Nagpur is well connected to all major Indian cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata etc by rail and air.
Further details on safari booking (permit) for MP and Maharashtra can be done at (you need to create user logins for the same)
-Suddhasattwa Das and Niladri Kundu