Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve – Treasures of Wildlife

Many friends and acquaintances often ask me – which forest in India is the best for an ultimate wildlife experience!

Indian forests boast immensely rich biodiversity and are abound in wildlife. It wouldn’t be fair to name one such place, but I can still recommend the jungle from where I commenced my wildlife journey.

It was my first wildlife excursion and I was super-excited with the mere imagination of surprises and beautiful moments, the forest of Kanha National Park would be full of.

We reached Jabalpur from Mumbai by flight, hopped onto a taxi, and drove off to village Samnapur near Mukki gate.

Kanha is the tenth-largest National Park in India and the largest in Madhya Pradesh spread over an area of 940 sq km in the Mandla and Balaghat districts.

But only 30-35% of the protected area is open for tourists and is segregated into four core zones, namely Kanha zone, Mukki zone, Kisli zone and Sarhi zone.

The next morning, we were in the jeep by 6:30 at the Mukki gate impatiently waiting to get into the jungle. It was a chilly winter morning and the daylight struggled through the dense fog.

Misty Morning in The Forest
Misty Morning in Kanha National Park Forest

Our resort packed breakfast for us and also sent a few blankets to the jeep. Every jeep is allotted a forest guide, mandatory for each visit.

Our guide was closely examining a large set of freshly made pugmarks as we leaped deeper into the forest.

He muttered under his breath indicating there should be a tiger somewhere around. I was waiting for my magical first time moment to spot the beast in the wild.

All the jeeps huddled there and waited for long, but the majestic animal didn’t venture out of the thick bushes.

Our guide told, the tiger has hunted a prey early in the morning and is still relaxing after its sumptuous meal.

Tiger pugmarks at Kanha National Park
Pugmarks of The Wild Beast

Kanha National Park forest comprises of Sal (Shorea Robusta) and other mixed forest trees, supporting the rich and varied wildlife.

In our quest to catch a glimpse of the tiger, we encountered many other forms of life thriving in the jungle, including spotted deer, Indian bison, wild boar, barking deer and the mesmerizing swamp deer (Barasingha).

Kanha has the highest density of swamp deer (Barasingha) and are famously known as ‘jewels of Kanha’.

Indian Bison at Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve
Indian Bison at Kanha National Park
Herd of spotted deer at Kanha National Park
Spotted Deer Herd Nibbling Grass in The Park

We were enjoying the picturesque drive and spotted several beautiful birds, like white-bellied drongo, green bee-eater, pied hornbill and serpent eagle. Kanha National Park is a birdwatcher’s paradise and there are as many as 300 bird species here.

You may also like: 15 Most Beautiful Birds in India

Birds at Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve
Birds of Kanha

The jeep stopped for a few minutes at a halt point inside the forest for us to have breakfast. We could see a jackal suddenly appearing from nowhere and quickly crossed the way into the dense woodland.

By this time, I was in complete awe with the lush greenery and splendour of the forest. We couldn’t see the most sought-after predator, the elusive tiger during this ride.

Here is a small video capturing a deer herd grazing on a meadow and a few of them drinking water from Shravan tal (a small pond inside the forest).

Many tourists feel their trip is wasted if they don’t spot the tiger and ignore other facets of wildlife experience.

Don’t miss out on the fun of seeing many other forms of wildlife, the smaller animals and experiencing the enormity of the forest itself. I didn’t wind up my first wildlife trip here.

The jungle was calling us again and this time with evening safari. We were in the jeep at sharp 3:30, our guide joined and there we set off for another exciting ride.

Our guide was on the job, trying to infer from the myriads of sounds originating from the forest from chirping of birds to chattering of monkeys.

The guide murmured ‘it’s a warning call’, which means the herbivores like, deer and monkeys make a peculiar noise to alert other animals when they see a tiger or a leopard.

Our jeep halted and we waited to get a sight of the beast; it felt as if everything came to a standstill.

We could vaguely see something moving out from the dark and dense forest, throwing a silence that speaks of footsteps of the unknown beast.

To my surprise, it was actually a young majestic tiger, sauntering and marking its territory in style. All the nearby safari jeeps lined up to catch a sight of this awe-striking moment.

But the beast was oblivious of the presence of the vehicles and so unruffled that he barely looked at the safaris and steadily disappeared into the bushes.

I was completely speechless for a moment and couldn’t believe my eyes until I pinched myself. Here is a small video of the breath-taking moment.

If you want to know which other wildlife destinations are famous for sighting tigers in India, check this post.

Useful Travel Information and Tips

Tourist Zones

Core ZonesEntrance Gates
Kanha ZoneKhatia Gate
Mukki ZoneMukki Gate
Kisli ZoneKhatia Gate
Sarhi ZoneSarhi Gate
  • Kanha and Mukki zones are the most popular tourist zones.
  • You can easily visit Kanha and Kisli zones if you are staying near Khatia gate. Mukki gate is almost 2 hrs drive from Khatia gate. You can plan to visit Mukki zone in the evening safari, but start early in the afternoon from Khatia gate to Mukki gate.
  • Check your entry gate carefully in the vehicle permit.
  • Plan your travel only when you have booked confirmed permits. Permit’s status shown with ‘W’ on your permit means permit is under waiting category. if your permit waiting does not get cleared before 5 days from the date of excursion, it will get cancelled automatically. And, you wouldn’t be able to visit any of the zones without a permit.

Permit Booking for Kanha National Park

  • Book your permits online through Madhya Pradesh Forest Department website only.
  • For every zone, there are two kinds of permits – Single seat permit and Full vehicle permit. Go for single seat permit, if you want to book a few seats and not the whole jeep. Tourists traveling in larger groups usually book full vehicle permit. One jeep can accommodate not more than 6 adults.
  • Approximate cost per person for a single seat is Rs 750 and Rs 4500 for a full vehicle permit.
  • You can also book a canter ride through the forest department office at the respective gates, but there are a very limited number of seats for the canter ride.

Getting There

Kanha National Park enjoys good connectivity with major cities of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.

By Air

The nearest airport is in Jabalpur, roughly 170 km from the park. Jabalpur has direct flights from Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad. The other nearest airports are in Raipur (205 km) and Nagpur (263 km).

By Train

Balaghat Junction (82 km) is the nearest railhead which enjoys good connectivity with cities like Mumbai, Jabalpur and Raipur. Jabalpur junction is the other nearest railway station, almost 160 km away from the park.

By Road

The park is almost 3.5 hours drive from Jabalpur, 5 hours drive from Raipur and 6 hours drive from Nagpur.

To (Gate)From (City)Distance
Khatia GateJabalpur (Via Mandla) 160 Km
Khatia GateRaipur (Via Chilpi-Mukki-Baihar) 250 Km
Khatia GateNagpur (Via Seoni-Nainpur_Chiraidongri) 220 Km
Mukki GateJabalpur (Via Mandla-Mocha-Baihar)200 Km
Mukki GateRaipur (Via Chilpi) 210 Km
Mukki GateNagpur (Via Seoni-Nainpur-Mocha-Baihar or Balaghat-Baihar) 260 Km
Sarhi GateJabalpur (Via Mandla) 150 Km
Sarhi GateRaipur (Via Chilpi-Sijhora) 220 Km

Best Time To Visit Kanha National Park

The best time to visit Kanha National Park is from 15th October to 30th June. The park remains closed for the visitors in the monsoon season, from July to Mid-October.

Where To Stay

Only the state-run hotels and rest houses are situated within the Park.

  • Khatia Jungle Camp at Khatia
  • Kisli Forest Rest House at Kisli
  • Mukki Forest Rest House at Mukki

There are plenty of private hotels and resorts near Khatia and Mukki gates matching all sorts of budgets from affordable to luxury.

Over To You Now…

Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve has a thousand faces from enchanting forest to splendid wildlife to spectacular landscapes.

Have you visited this astonishing wildlife destination? Share your experience with us in the comment section below.

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  1. Kavya Rath
  2. Vartika singh

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