Prior to corona, I used to wait eagerly for the weekend to come and would plan it excitedly. But corona has changed everything; weekends seem to be boring now, because nowhere to go, no plans to get together with friends. I used to be an avid traveler and 6 months of no travelling had made me frustrated.
On 6th November i.e. Friday, as usual, I had no plans for the weekend. I got a call from my dear friend Ankush and he suggested visiting Pench National Park. I never had done a jungle safari ride, so happily agreed to it. The plan was initially to stay for a night, but we were only 4 people (Ankush, Akash, my sister Isha and me), hence decided to go for a day trip.
Pench National Park is located in Madhya Pradesh at a distance of around 80km from Nagpur. There are various gates to enter Pench. The FIVE Pench Safari Entry Gates in Madhya Pradesh are Touria, Karmajhiri, Jhamtara, the buffer gate at Rukhad, the Night Safari gate and the SIX safari gates on the Maharastra side are SILARI, CHORBAHULI, KHURSAPAR, Kolitmaara, Khubada (Saleghat), Surewani (Nagalwadi). We chose to visit the Khursapar gate as it was said to be the famous place to spot tigers. among all gates. One can easily book the safari ride slot online by going to the official site of Pench National Park. Ankush booked the afternoon slot for 7th November for a 2.00-6.00pm ride.
To enter the Safari Jeep ride at Pench, one has to pass through a small village with narrow roads but that experience was amazing! After the village ended, a jungle started and we kept on moving and moving. As we proceeded, the jungle was becoming dense and no man could be seen. Google Maps showed us to keep proceeding through the jungle but we were reluctant as Pench is famous for tigers! (and you can understand our situation!)Plus a normal car doesn’t run on jungle road as it is too bumpy. Luckily after half an hour of hustle in the jungle, we saw a villager passing by and he helped us with the correct route. So we reached the entry gate only to find that it was closed. On enquiring, we came to know that the gate will open 15minutes before the actual safari ride (i.e. at 1.45 pm).
At 2.00 pm, after showing the identity proofs, we sat in the jeep with a guide and the driver. As we went inside the jungle, the bumpy roads increased and we were dancing while sitting on the safari. For the first time was I seeing a typical jungle so closely; as we went deeper, the guide indicated to maintain pin-drop silence. He told us the reason that they hear the warning sounds of the animals to warn each other of the presence of the tiger. So whenever the guide heard any such warning he turned the safari to that sound and then turned off the engine so as not to disturb the animals. Pench National Park is a hilly region and the lush green and dense forest makes it difficult to spot any creature. That is one of the reasons why the guide would follow the sounds of the animals and ask us to maintain complete silence. We kept silent for few moments but then again started murmuring because “itni shaanti ki aadat nahi hai na! (not used to this much silence1)”. The guide told us that the morning trip’s tourists (6.00 am to 10.00 pm) had spotted the tiger, hence we were hoping to see the same at the same spot. The jungle was so silent that we could literally hear even a small hustle of leaves in the bushes, even the sound of our own tummy!!
Though Ankush and others were eagerly waiting to catch a glimpse of the tiger all along the way, I was enjoying nature to the fullest. Hearing the chirping of birds, chattering of the monkeys, the sound of the winds, hearing various alarm sounds of the animals to warn other animals, I felt one with nature. And the cherry on the cake was the adventurous ride of the safari! The way the driver was driving in the Pench jungle, it just felt as if we were playing a game! We saw a herd of deer; didn’t get to see the tiger, but saw the huge footprints of the tiger who had passed by a small pond in the morning.
At around 4.00 pm we stopped for some refreshment inside the deep jungle (Don’t worry, they won't stop in a secluded place. There are proper arrangements of washrooms). We started feeling a little cold as the evening approached. After 15min we resumed going back to the main gate before it got dark. Ankush was a little heartbroken about not able to see the tiger, But I and Esha were totally satisfied with the jungle experience. I would definitely recommend you to do a jungle safari once in your life to get the feel of pure nature, to hear the real sounds of the birds, to sit back without phones and relax your mind in the lush green jungle.
The only regret I had was that we didn’t stay for a night to enjoy the winter chill, sit in front of the bonfire, and have some hot drinks. Hence, to all my readers, it a request that if you are planning to visit Pench National Park or any other National Park, do book a room to enjoy to the fullest. Plus our guide told us that like humans, lions and tigers also love to have an afternoon nap. Instead, they come out in the morning to freshen up and drink water. So you must stay for a night in the jungle and book an early morning (6.00 am) safari ride and there is an 86% chance to see the giant beast.
Some Advice and Notes:
1.There is a good provision of a toilet at the entry gate of Pench and also inside the jungle.
2. It is advisable to carry a cap and apply some sunscreen so as not to damage your hair and skin.
3. You can bring your snacks with you but be responsible and carry your garbage with you. Please don’t throw it in the bushes.
4. Highly recommend you not to eat while you are in the middle of the jungle as its smell may attract monkeys or any other creature.
5. Getting down from the safari in the Pench jungle is strictly prohibited. So please don’t hop out from the jeep unless you are asked by the guide.
6. While on the safari, it is recommended to keep your mobiles and cameras inside as the ride is so bumpy that you have to constantly hold onto your seat so that you don’t fall J
7. There is hardly any mobile network inside. Only Jio works in selected areas of the Pench jungle.