Pench Tiger Reserve – A Complete Guide

Tiger hiding in the bushes in Pench

Teeming with an impressive array of flora and fauna, Pench Tiger Reserve beckons to lovers of wildlife and nature.

There are more than 50 species of wild animals including mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. The forest is dotted with teak, mahua, and bamboo trees.

This tiger reserve and its surroundings inspired Rudyard Kipling’s famous work “The Jungle Book“.

As we began the safari tour of the forest, the fictional characters of the book seemed to become real. From notorious Shere Khan and cunning jackal Tabaqui to fearless man-cub Mowgli, we experienced a flashback of ‘The Jungle Book’ stories.

In this post, we are covering all major aspects of trip planning to Pench Tiger Reserve. Go through our in-depth guide and start planning your Pench trip.

A Quick Glance Through

Pench Tiger Reserve Fast Facts

  • Pench Tiger Reserve is spread across two Indian states – Madhya Pradesh (61%) and Maharashtra (39%).
  • The tiger reserve is huge and encompasses a protected area of 1920.9 sq km.
    • The Madhya Pradesh side occupies 1179.6 sq km (roughly 61%) and the Maharashtra side covers 741.2 sq km (roughly 39%).
  • It is divided into core and buffer areas.
    • Madhya Pradesh side – core area: 411.3 sq km, buffer area: 768.3 sq km
    • Maharashtra side – core area: area of 257.3, buffer area: 483.9 sq km
  • First created as Pench Sanctuary in 1977, then upgraded to a national park in 1983, it became Pench Tiger Reserve in 1992.
  • Pench Tiger Reserve and National Park is named after the river Pench that traverses the park from north to south.

Entry Gates

Madhya Pradesh Side

There are six entry gates on the Madhya Pradesh side of the park.
Turia, Karmajhiri, Jamtara, Telia, Rukhad, Khawasa (Wolf Sanctuary).

Turia is the most popular gate because of the abundance of water bodies in the area. Plus, you can find several accommodation options around this gate.

Telia and Rukhad gates provide entry to the buffer zones.

Khawasa buffer zone is famous for night safari. It is also called Wolf Sanctuary and is about 12 km from Turia gate.

Maharashtra Side

On the Maharashtra side, there are 6 entry gates that provide access to the tiger reserve.
Sillari, Khursapar, Chorbahuli, Kolitmara, Khubada (Saleghat), Surewani.

The core area of the park is accessible via Khursapar gate and Sillari gate.

The other four gates lead to the buffer areas of the Maharashtra side of Pench Tiger Reserve.

Khursapar Gate is just about 10 km from Turia gate, located on the Madhya Pradesh side. So, if you are staying somewhere near Turia gate, you can plan a safari from Khursapar gate as well.

Khursapar gate -Maharashtra side of Pench
Safari Jeeps Entering From Khursapar Gate

How To Get There

You can take a flight or a train or drive to Pench Tiger Reserve.

By Air

If you are coming by flight, you are likely to fly into Nagpur Airport or Jabalpur Airport.

Nagpur Airport is the nearest and Jabalpur Airport is the second nearest.

Approximate distance and drive time:

  • Nagpur Airport to Turia gate distance: 119 km, Drive time: 2.5 hours
  • Nagpur Airport to Sillari gate distance: 94 km, Drive time: 2 hours
  • Jabalpur Airport to Turia gate distance: 204 km, drive time: 4 hours
  • Jabalpur Airport to Sillari gate distance:219 km, drive time: 4 hours

By Train

Nagpur Railway Station serves as the closest railhead to Pench. The next closest railhead is in Jabalpur.

Both railway stations have good train connectivity from cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bangalore.

By Road

If you want to travel by road, you can take a state transport bus or a private bus that will drop you off at Khawasa. From there, you will have to arrange your transport to reach the hotel (Turia gate).

By cab, Turia gate is just about 2-hour drive from Nagpur City and Sillari gate is roughly 1.5-hour drive.

Where To Stay

There is a range of accommodation options around Turia gate. From premium to budget-friendly, this place offers choices for all budget types.

Premium: Tathastu Resort

Mid-range: WelcomHeritage Jungle Home Resort and Spa

Budget-friendly: Olive Resorts & Villas, Turia

Things To Do in Pench Tiger Reserve

Jeep Safari

The only way to explore the core areas of Pench Tiger Reserve is by a jeep safari. Tourist jeeps are allowed to run on designated routes within each area.

The tiger reserve boasts a healthy population of tigers and leopards.

It is home to more than 50 adult tigers, according to the 2018 tiger census. The exact leopard population is not known because the leopard census is usually not done.

You can spot only those tigers whose territory falls within safari limits.

a young tigress in Pench tiger reserve
B2 Tigress – Sighted in Khursapar

We were lucky to spot a tiger on 2 out of 3 safari rides we took. On Turia gate safari, we saw a tigress called B2, the daughter of Baarsa. Our guide told B2 is yet to get a formal name from the Forest Department as she just turned 3 now.

In Khursapur, we had an amazing sighting of a gigantic male tiger named Swastik. It was cooling off in a waterhole oblivious of all the commotion of the safari vehicles.

Swastik male tiger sighting in Turia, Pench-tiger-reserve
Tiger Swastik – Sighted in Turia

And, when we did not see a tiger, we saw a leopard relishing its kill. It wasn’t close to our safari jeep, but we could see it clearly with binoculars.

jackal sighting in Pench tiger reserve
A Jackal Staring At The Safari Jeeps

The herbivores like sambar, chital (spotted deer), gaur, and nilgai are also found here. In fact, Pench Tiger Reserve has one of the highest deer populations in the country. As per estimates, there are 50,000 spotted deer in Pench.

Birdwatching

Indian roller sitting on a tree branch in Pench
Indian Roller

There are over 300 bird species in Pench including raptors, scavengers, and waterfowl.

Keep an eye out for birds during your safari.

Asian green bee eater in Pench
Asian Green Bee-eater

We managed to see a lot of birds such as grey hornbill, green bee-eater, woodpecker, and serpent eagle. The guides have a fair idea of the birding spots within the forest.

If you are interested in seeing birds, tell your guide to take you to these spots too.

a serpent eagle spotted in Pench tiger reserve
Serpent Eagle

Night Safari

Night safari is considered an adventure safari. It is conducted in the Khawasa buffer zone (Wolf Sanctuary) only.

There is only moonlight and the jeep’s headlight to see any kind of wildlife.

This safari is more about experiencing the serenity of the forest under the star-studded sky than spotting wild animals.

night safari sightings
Pictures Taken During Night Safari

Although we saw just a few nocturnal animals, we really loved the safari experience on a dark night.

Runi Jhuni Nature Trail

Runi Jhuni Trail is a 3-4 km walking track inside Pench Tiger Reserve. It is accessible from Karmajhiri gate, roughly 20 km from Turia gate.

a nature trail in Pench tiger reserve

Take this trail if you want to enjoy the natural beauty of the forest up close. It is also a great opportunity to spot the beautiful birds of Pench.

A naturalist accompanies and guides you through the forest.

Activity timings: Morning (7 am to 9 am), Evening (4 pm to 6 pm)

Pench Safari Booking

Given the park’s expanse across two states, you can use the respective state’s safari booking website to book your entry permit.

Maharashtra side – Pench Safari Booking

Madhya Pradesh side – Pench Safari Booking

Safari Cost

We booked full vehicle safari to visit both sides of the tiger reserve.

While booking the permit, you pay the permit booking fee only. The gypsy fee and guide fee have to be paid separately.

We got the gypsy arranged through our hotel. So, we paid the gypsy charges to them directly.

Here is the tentative cost of safari booking as of February 2023.

Madhya Pradesh side
Online permit booking fee: 3,050
Gypsy charges: 4,500 (approx.)

Maharashtra side
Online permit booking fee: ₹ 1,550
Gypsy charges: ₹ 6,000 (approx.)

Safari Timings

The safari timings vary with the season.

Madhya Pradesh Side – Safari Schedule

MonthMorningEvening
October6 am – 11 am3 pm – 6 pm
November6:15 am – 11 am3 pm – 5:45 pm
December6:30 am – 11 am3 pm – 5:30 pm
January6:45 am – 11 am3 pm – 5:45 pm
February6:30 am – 11 am3 pm – 6:15 pm
March6:15 am – 11 am3 pm – 6:30 pm
April5:45 am – 11 am4 pm – 6:45 pm
May5:30 am – 11 am4 pm – 7 pm
June5:30 am – 11 am4 pm – 7 pm

The Madhya Pradesh side of Pench Tiger Reserve closes during monsoon (July to mid-October).

Maharashtra Side – Safari Schedule

MonthMorningEvening
October6 am – 10 am2:30 pm – 6:30 pm
November to January6:30 am – 10:30 am2 pm – 5 pm
February to March6 am – 10 am2:30 pm – 6:30 pm
April to June5:30 am – 9:30 am3 pm – 7 pm

The Maharashtra side of the tiger reserve also closes during monsoon months (July to September).

Best Time To Visit

March, April, and May are considered the best months for tiger sightings.

While the weather is comfortably pleasant in March, the maximum temperature in April and May can rise above the 40s (°C).

The chances of seeing a tiger are higher in summer than in any other season. Tigers are warm-blooded animals. So, it is quite likely that you may spot them near a waterhole in the forest.

If you want to avoid the harsh summer heat, plan your visit between October and February.

It’s not a good idea to visit between July and September because the core areas are closed during the rainy season.

Tips For Visiting Pench Tiger Reserve

  • Carry your entry permit and the original identity proof that was used for the safari booking.
  • Apply sunscreen before going on a safari to reduce the chances of sunburn.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a scarf or a mask to protect from dust as there are mainly dirt roads within the forest.
  • Take plenty of drinking water with you.
  • Don’t forget to carry your binoculars and camera.

Further Reading

For more national parks travel inspiration, you may want to read some of these posts.

You might also want to check out our blog on tiger quotes: 55 Best Tiger Quotes on Strength And Magnificence.

Over To You Now…

We hope you found our guide to Pench Tiger Reserve informative and helpful.

Have you visited this tiger reserve? Is there anything you would like to add to this Pench travel guide? Let us know in the comments below.

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