Kanha is beautiful - endowed with open meadows that dip into valleys and stretch over plateau; cool breeze over meandering streams; and jungles dense with the lush green canopy of Sal and the long grass elegance of bamboo. It is the land where the Gaur, Chital, Sambar, Barking Deer and four horned antelope roam. It is the offering of an exhilarating sighting of the hardground Barasingha - so rare you must tuck the mental image and the momentary quickening of your senses into mind recesses for posterity. This is also above all the land of Kipling’s Shere Khan - who needs no introduction - immortal, symbolic of feral perfection - the tiger. Sighting wildlife is what you bargained for on your long journey to get here- and you will have a lot of that in Kanha. The land that Kipling describes is vibrant with the unbridled energy of a jungle –Bhagheera the panther, Nagina the snake, Tabaqui the jackal, Baloo the bear and the Bandar - log or monkey people, Rikki-tikki the tortoise and Hathi the elephant to name a few. This abundance of flora and fauna is what the jungles of Kanha unleash on you.
You cannot roam the region unaccompanied or on foot- your safari will be as real even within the safe confines of your vehicle or atop your elephant.
Visit after the monsoons have passed, as soon as the Park re opens in November. It is green and golden fed by rainfall, poised with the uncoiling anticipation of yet another season when animals and humans commune even if only from a distance of an unbroken gaze.
Location, Geography and Topography
Kanha National Park also referred to as the Kanha Tiger Reserve lies in the Maikal range which is in the eastern range of the Central Indian Highlands, more specifically of the Satpura Hills. Kanha is 160 km southeast of Jabalpur in the state of Madhya Pradesh and is 270 km northeast of the city of Nagpur in Maharashtra state.
Kanha is situated at a height that ranges from 450 -950 meters above sea level. Meandering streams and tributaries of the Narmada river feed and drain the land alternatively. Figuring prominently in the topography of the National Park are the two river valleys - the Banjar in the west and the Halon in the east. Halon and Banjar are tributaries of the Narmada that flow through to western entrance of the Park. These valleys are both surrounded by hills and topped with dadar or plateau in the local tongue. It is said that the soil in the region is rich and perfect enough to provide the ideal kind of vegetation for the areas surrounding.
The Park was expanded in the 1976 and to day spans 940 sq km along with a buffer zone of 1005 sq km. The National Park approximately spans a length of 80 km and a width of 8-35 km.
The vegetation of the region is of four types - moist deciduous forest, dry deciduous forest, valley meadow, and plateau meadow. The larger part of the area is typically deciduous forest, approximately 27% of the entire Park area, and is pre-dominantly populated by shorea robusta or in commonspeak Sal trees. The origin of the meadow areas is attributed to the Baiga tribals and is said to be the result of their early farming methods of slash-and-burn cultivation.
For the sole purpose of managing the vast regions of Kanha with the proficiency A Tiger Reserve justifiably requires the region has been divided into 5 ranges namely Kisli, Kanha, and Mukki in the west. Certain roads in the western sector are off limits for tourists. The eastern ranges Bhaisanghat and Supkhar which are completely closed off to the public.
How to get there
Getting to Kanha is a difficult journey, but those who deign to visit shall get what they want- sighting animals in the wild. Here’s how you get there:
Nagpur in Maharashtra is the nearest Airport enroute to Kanha National Park. It is connected to Mumbai by many domestic flights. Taxis and buses operate in high frequency from Nagpur to Kanha National Park. You can fly from Mumbai, Delhi, and Hyderabad to Nagpur with connections to other important cities to suit your itineraries.
Situated at an optimal distance in comparison Jabalpur railway station is nearest to Kanha National Park. From here hire bus or taxi up to the National Park.
Kanha National Park is well connected by road especially by bus. Also the Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation MPSTDC offers Jeep Services for travel in and around the National Park.
Jabalpur to Kanha - 175km
Khajuraho to Kanha – 445km
Nagpur to Kanha - 266km
Mukki to Kanha - 25km
Raipur to Kanha – 219km
Khatia which is 3km from Kisli and Mukki are two nodal points on the western sector serve as entry points into the National Park.
From Jabalpur Kisli is situated 165km accessed through Chirandongiri and Mukki is 203km accessed through Garhi and Motinala.
From Nagpur Kisli is 259km accessed through Nainpur and Chiraidongri, and Mukki is 289 km via Balaghat.
Kanha may find its roots in the local term kanhar that refers to the clay-ish soil of the valley bottom or derived from Kanva the name of a holy man who once inhabited a village neat the forests of the region.
Kanha is easily one of Asia’s most efficiently protected forest regions and is truly as the BBC film Land of the Tiger depicts one of the ideal places in the world to sight tigers in the wild. Since 1933 parts of Kanha have been deemed wildlife sanctuary areas and further expanded by almost 318 sq km in 1955 under the precincts of a National Park. In 1973, 940 sq km one of the 9 regions to be included under the Project Tiger Reserves.
It is interesting to note that earlier on the Kanha region was divided into two sanctuaries in 1930 or there about - 250 sq km called Halon and 300 sq km called Banja, both river valleys. One of these regions was soon disbanded yet the entire area remained protected up until 1947. Still it was the obvious loss in numbers of the tiger population in the following years that necessitated drastic conservation measures, and the region was made a sanctuary and National Park 1955.
The typical visitor to Kanha is well informed about the Park as well as the flora and fauna found in their habitats there. The Kanha National Park provides its visitor with expedition leaders who are experts in their knowledge of the lay of the land and where to look for wildlife.
The Elephant Safaris
Visitors can sight animals on elephant back creating an opportunity to get up close and personal with the wildlife.
MPSTDC Sight Seeing Tours
The Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation or MPSTDC makes available an efficient Jeep Service for tourists to visit in and around the Park. It is advisable to make advance bookings for local sightseeing tours.
The Kanha Museum at the Kanha National Park is very interesting. Visitors will find displayed well preserved symbols and unique craft items symbolising the eco system of tribal culture and traditions of the state of Madhya Pradesh. These illustrate the relatedness of the flora, fauna and people of the region. There are two buildings that together comprise of six rooms that house the museum complex. The museum is open daily at 7 A.M. and throughout the day.
Barasingha and the Tiger
The Kanha National Park offers the fortunate a rare sighting of the Barasingha or swamp deer in its natural habitat. Called the jewel of Kanha special measures are in action to conserve the species from extinction which at one point was a reality to contend with. Barasingha roam and feed on the tall grassy meadows of the Park.
Kanha is also the land of the tiger. Tigers sighting is an unmatched passion for some and at Kanha the opportunities to photograph a tiger are ideal - made possible on elephant back or in a jeep with the assistance of a guide.
The plateau region of Bamni Dadar also called the Sunset Point, is easily one of the most beautiful places in the Park to catch a spectacular Indian sunset in the untamed outdoors! A view of the spread of the land, the dark deep expanses of Kanha's forests is a sight every visitor must indulge himself with. Sighting wildlife such as the Sambhar, Barking deer, Gaur and Four-Horned Antelope is optimal from this vantage point.
Kanha boasts 22 species of mammals of which the ones most commonly sighted are Striped Palm Squirrel, Common Langur, Jackal, Wild Pig, Chital or Spotted Deer, Barasingha or Swamp Deer, Sambar and Black Buck.
The rare wildlife sightings or less commonly seen species are the Tiger, Indian Hare, Dhole or Indian Wild Dog, Barking Deer, Indian Bison or Gaur. Patience may enrich your Kanha experience further with the sight of the Indian Fox, Sloth Bear, Striped Hyena, Jungle Cat, Leopard, Mouse Deer, Chausingha or Four Horned Antelope, Nilgai, Ratel and Porcupine.
There are those species which are very rare in terms of a sighting. Perhaps sheer chance and absolute benevolence will grant you a sighting of the Wolf inhabiting the eastern region of the Park, the Chinkara inhabiting the area outside of the northern periphery, the Indian Pangolin, the Indian Otter and the small Indian Civet.
Kanha National Park is also the home of over 200 species of birds. Birdwatchers should head to the hills dense with mixed and bamboo forests as well with open grassy forest clearings - both rich in many avian species.
The many rivulets, as well as the pool at Sarvantal and the area in front of the museum are frequented by many species of water birds. First light and late afternoon edging towards early twilight are optimal for bird watching. Do not forget your binoculars!
The birds commonly spotted are the Cattle Egret, Pond Heron, Black Ibis, Common Peafowl, Crested Serpent, Racket-Tailed Drongo, Hawk Eagle, Woodpecker, Pigeon, Dove, Parakeet, Babbler and Mynah, Indian Roller, White-Breasted Kingfisher and Gray Hornbill.
Must Do, Must Know
Park Season Excursion and Timings
The Park is open everyday from around the 1st of November to the 30th of June. The park may be closed earlier in the event of early rains which might begin before the end of June. The seasonal variations in climate and the length of the day during these different seasons may influence the closing and opening times of the Park.
Every day at mid-day the employees break for lunch and an afternoon siesta.
The park is closed every year from around July up until mid November.
November - February Sunrise to 11 AM. 3 P.M. to Sunset
February - April Sunrise to 11 AM. 4 P.M. to Sunset
May - June Sunrise to 10 AM. S P.M. to Sunset
Heavy rainfall usually makes the Park roads hazardous. Official activities like census taking could also influence the scheduling of the yearly break as it is of absolute importance. Dawn at 6:30 A.M., and dusk at 6:50 P.M must be strictly followed. Gate attendants are usually relentlessly strict about exit times at dusk as darkness falls rapidly at this latitude.
Visitors are urged to reach the entrance gate half an hour in advance of your scheduled entry so as to complete entry formalities at the Park.
Regulations at the Park
Heavy vehicles and diesel vehicles are barred entry into the Park.
Route guides are compulsory and all expeditions must be accompanied by guides.
The Speed limit is 20 km per hour.
Do not use the horn or the headlights in your vehicle.
Smoking is strictly forbidden inside the Park which is highly susceptible to forests fires.
Visitors are requested not to use flash for photography.
Trekking on foot is not allowed, stay within your vehicles at all costs.
Do not feed the animals and observe a safe distance from them.
Weapons are prohibited and hunting is banned.
Do not litter.
Keep to the road at all costs.
Young children must not be left unattended or supervised at the park.
.Respect your surroundings, blend in, wear dark forest colours.
Observe the silence of the forest and make it your own – refrain from honking the horn, playing music or making loud noises.
Tourist Information Centres
The Manager, Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation Ltd., Log Hut, Kisli, Bhopal.
The Field Director, Project Tiger, Kanha Tiger Reserve, Mandla - 481661.
Where to Stay
Krishna Jungle Resort, Kanha
Royal Tiger Resort, Kanha
Kanha Jungle Lodge, Bandhavgarh and Kanha
The Celebration Van Vilas
The Wild Chalet Resort
Tuli Tiger Resort