Madhya Pradesh is known for National Parks and many must have visited Kanha Or Bhandhavgardh. Pench National Park is divided between Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Maharashtra. Most of the stay options of Pench are located in MP part. We planned a long weekend trip to Pench during summer time before the forest department closes down the park for safaris.
Here is some quick information about those planning their trip to Pench National Park.
How to Reach
Pench National Park is 3-4 hours away from Nagpur and You can reach Nagpur via Flight, Train or Road. From Nagpur, you can either hire a car or request a hotel to arrange for a pick-up. We hired a car for a pick-up at Nagpur Station and drop to our hotel in Pench.
Where to stay
There are ample options available for stay at Pench. From a basic 3 star resort or a lovely 5 star property, Pench has it all. We booked our stay with Tathastu Resort. The location of the resort doesn't matter as much since each core gates are away from one another. You will end up hiring a pick-n-drop from the hotel.
Which gate to visit
Core gates selection is important for tiger sighting. There are 11 gates at Pench National Park, out of which 6 are in Maharashtra and 5 are in MP. The two top gates for best tiger sighting are Touria in MP and Khursapar in Maharashtra. Apart from these two gates, there are other core zone gates which has good tiger sighting. Even buffer zone has good wildlife, if you missed your chance to book safari in core zone.
Whichever gate you choose, tiger sighting is completely on luck. Despite doing safari in these top gate, we barely could see the tiger. Hence, to have more chances, you have to book minimum of 2 safaris.
Where and when to book
The permit for core zone is available on Tourism website. Eg. For booking permit for Touria gate, you have to login to Pench Madhaya Pradesh site and similarly Khursapar is available on Pench Maharashtra website.
It is advisable to book your permit atleast 3 months in advance. Permits are available for entire safari or single seat. One Jeep accommodate 6 people including guide and a driver.
MP Pench: https://forest.mponline.gov.in/Search.aspx?park=4
Maharashtra Pench: https://nationalpark.mahaonline.gov.in/User/Availability.aspx
What is included in the permit
The permit only allows you to enter the zone. To enter the zone, you have to pay additional fee to govt for guide and car. The same can also be arranged by your hotel. We had to book single seat in Touria gate and entire jeep for Khursapar gate as entire jeep for Touria wasn't available. Also, reach on time as per the time mentioned in your permit as forest department will not allow delays and they may cancel your permit as no show if you don't reach on time.
Best time to visit
The National Park is open from October to May as it is closed during monsoon. Tiger sighting is completely on a luck. However, in summer, since Forest is dry and weather is hot, chances of spotting is high compare to winter time, when forest is lush green.
From a photography perspective, winter time is good as you get a greener background. If you are keen to spot a tiger, then summer will be the best option.
Morning Safari v/s Evening Safari
Majority of you will always like morning safari as weather will be cooler and the sunrise in the forest looks beautiful whereas Evening safari will have harsh sun but amazing sunset. From photography perspective, Morning is idea as sometime harsh light of evening disrupt the picture and the background. This is completely a personal preference, those not using dslr camera will prefer evening as it has more light.
What to carry
There is no such dress code for safari except that you carry sunglasses, hat and scarf (if going in the morning). It is advisable to wear forest colours like olive green, brown, black so that we can blend in with the background. Neon and loud colours are strictly no-no. Along with proper clothing, do carry with you lot of enthusiasm and patience as tiger safari at times will lead to no sighting of any wildlife. Don't forget to carry your identification card and print out of the permits.
Photographing tiger can we exciting. What I missed and couldn't have improved was to keep my camera ready. We had tiger sighting for barely 10 sec and my camera was on manual mode from sunrise picture, by the time I change the setting, tiger was gone. So be quick with the setting and once you have taken picture in particular setting, it is better to come back to basics to that you don't miss any shot.
Most of the time animals are in motion and are far away, so carry telephoto lens. If you don't have any of those, don't invest in one, rather borrow from someone. Unless you are thinking of wildlife photography full time, there is no sense in investing money for expensive camera or lens.
I used my Canon 760D with 18-135mm lens. I have shot video footage in iPhone XR and GoPro. I didn't carry any tripod on the safari as most of the safari was in daytime.
What not to expect
Last minute safari permit - These permits are available online well in advance and any last minute permit for core zone is unavailable. Tiger sighting - As mentioned earlier, it is completely on luck and probability. We have met people who haven't spot tiger even after 3 Safari and others who saw in all 3 safaris. Your guide will do best to take you to places where tiger can be there but there is no guarantee. Entering the park with your own vehicle - Forest department is very strict and they do now allow any personal vehicle inside the park. All vehicle have permit and are labelled for entering the park. The same rule is for driver and guide as well. Shouting and Taking different path - Forest department is very disciplined in Pench National Park. All the guide and driver follow only the path which is give to them for routing inside the park. As a visitor, you should maintain the silence of the forest and not make loud noises or create sound when spotted any wildlife. Let's enjoy the safari and let wildlife enjoy their sanctuary. Last minute changes - Permits doesn't allow any last minute changes and most of the things are available online. Since the permits are limited, changes in advance is possible but nothing works on last minute. These are just basic point to make a note of when you are planning your holiday to Pench National Park. If you have any questions or need more details, leave a comment below and I will be glad to assist you.
Quick video on my experience of Pench National Park.