Apart from the big cat, the Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh flaunts a variety of fabulous residents

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Apart from the big cat, the Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh flaunts a variety of fabulous residents
Revati Victor
  • Pench alone has over 53 tigers living in the reserve and an additional 80 tigers (approximately) utilising the reserve.
  • The reserve was the muse behind Rudyard Kipling’s iconic character ‘Mowgli’ from The Jungle Book.
  • Somewhat of a legend, T15, also called Collarwali Baghin, is a 14-year-old tigress who has happily provided Pench eight litters - in total, she has had 29 cubs, out of which 25 have survived.
A mere glimpse of the majestic big cat is the surreal experience most wildlife enthusiasts yearn for, and Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh is undoubtedly an excellent place to start the pursuit. Boasting a healthy population of tigers, this 758 square kilometre park in the southern part of Madhya Pradesh was given the status of a national park in 1975 and was established as a tiger reserve in 1992. Named after the Pench River that cuts through the park, this national park consists of two parts -- the Priyadarshini National Park and Mowgli Pench Sanctuary, which covers an area of 299 square kilometres and a buffer area of 464 square kilometres. Around 257 square kilometres of this park lies in Maharashtra, which is also accessible from Madhya Pradesh.

The reserve was the muse behind Rudyard Kipling’s iconic character ‘Mowgli’ from The Jungle Book. Supriya Sehgal, a Mumbai-based travel and children's book author and the co-founder of a digital marketing and production house, tells Business Insider, “I had the opportunity to spend a short but memorable time in Pench through the eyes of Pugdundee Safaris, while on a long Madhya Pradesh national parks loop. It is believed that Pench and the surrounding areas were the inspiration behind 'The Jungle Book' by Rudyard Kipling. While this piece of information alone was amply intriguing for me, naturally, spotting a tiger sprawled close to a watering hole trumped it. It was a female, eyes heavy with sleep under a leafy patch that curtailed the harsh hand of the sun, in touching distance of a natural pool — it was the perfect way to unwind — one, I would have wanted for myself, but there was more of the vast jungle to explore.”

Apart from the big cat, the Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh flaunts a variety of fabulous residents
Revati Victor
Madhya Pradesh is one of the few Indian states blessed with a substantial number of national parks including -- Kanha Tiger Reserve, Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve, Panna Tiger Reserve, Pench Tiger Reserve, Satpura Tiger Reserve, Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve, Madhav National Park, Vanvihar National Park, Fossil National Park and Dinosaur Fossil National Park. At Pench, apart from a robust population of big cats, wildlife enthusiasts have much more to spot, including mammals like leopards, wolves, jackals, fox, striped hyenas, sloth bears, the Indian gaur, chital, sambar deer, nilgai, dholes (Indian wild dog), macaques, chinkara, barking deer, wild boars, and swamp deer. The reserve also hosts snakes like cobras, pythons and the Indian krait and a diverse population of avian beauties like the Indian pitta, pintail duck, red wattled lapwings, owls, vultures and blue kingfishers.

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Apart from the big cat, the Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh flaunts a variety of fabulous residents
Deepika Sinha
Deepika Sinha, a marketing and communications professional from Mumbai, has visited the Pench National Park four times now, and each time she says she falls more in love with the place. She tells Business Insider, “I have been extremely lucky to have some of my best sightings at Pench from the regal tigress to wild dogs, boars, jackals and the ever-so-shy sloth bear, which I'm told is a very unique sighting in Pench.”

Apart from the big cat, the Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh flaunts a variety of fabulous residents
Deepika Sinha
A 2018 government tiger status report estimated that India has around 3000 tigers, and Pench alone has over 53 tigers living in the reserve and an additional 80 tigers (approximately) utilising the reserve.


As far as wildlife destinations in India go, Pench is among travel blogger Revati Victor’s hot favourites. She says, “It's one of the easiest to access (a 2-hour drive from Nagpur airport) and is where I have seen the most tigers... This is truly Jungle Book land, where regardless of whether you're here as a tourist to capture the famous tigress Collarwali for your Instagram or as a traveller to enjoy a quiet picnic under the watchful gaze of a pair of brown wood owls far from the crowds -- Pench has something to offer you and you will come away utterly fascinated.”
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Apart from the big cat, the Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh flaunts a variety of fabulous residents
Revati Victor

Somewhat of a legend, T15, also called Collarwali Baghin, is a 14-year-old tigress who saunters around the park wearing a tracking collar. She has happily provided Pench eight litters -- one litter of four cubs as recently as 2019. In total, she has had 29 cubs, out of which 25 have survived. Two famous male arch-enemies who constantly battle over territory go by the name BMW (because of the B, M and W marking on his thigh) and Sula (referencing the wine brand because of the distinctive wine-glass-shaped marking on his body). The stories the guides and jeep drivers share during these safaris can be quite intriguing, so it's best to keep your eyes and ears peeled.


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Best time to visit: November to February is considered the best time to visit Pench since the temperature hovers around 10° to 28° celsius, making the safari quite pleasant. With temperatures between 28° to 45° celsius, March to June is often too hot to enjoy the tour, but some still brave the weather and make the trip. July to mid-October, the Pench National Park remains closed primarily because the monsoons are usually the breeding season.

Apart from the big cat, the Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh flaunts a variety of fabulous residents
Revati Victor
Safari zones and timings: Pench National Park has seven zones – Turia, Karmajhiri, Jamtara, Rukhad, Wolf Sanctuary, Sillari, and Khursapar. The main entry points are Jamtara, Turia and Karmajhiri. Turia is the most popular because there are several water bodies in the area, thus increasing the chances of spotting wild animals out for a drink.


The park timings vary depending on the season. The morning jeep safari starts from 7:30 AM to 10:30 AM, and the evening safari starts from 3:00 PM to 5:30 PM. In the summer months (March to June), the safari timing changes to 6:30 AM to 9:30 AM and 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM. There is also a government-approved night safari in the Wolf Sanctuary from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM; this is great for those who want to catch a glimpse of wolves as well as jackals, spotted deer, sambar deer, nilgai and various nocturnal birds.
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Places to stay: There are a number of good properties in the region. Sinha highly recommends Baghvan, A Taj Safari - Pench National Park, for a perfect mix of the fancy and the rustic. The property has 12 cottages and each cottage consists of a room, indoor and outdoor bathroom and a machaan where, if you are brave enough, you can spend the night in. Another great option is the Pench Tree Lodge, a Pugdundee Safaris’ property that consists of six treehouses and six luxury cottages set amidst forty acres of wilderness. Kiplings Court is a slightly more affordable option in the region. This well-kept government-run establishment has two 6-bed dorms as well as private cottages. Plus, it has the added advantage of being only a kilometre away from the park's Turia gate. Victor suggests Pench Jungle Camp where she stayed in a room modelled after a tent. She says, “It is the perfect distance from both the Khursapar gate and action-packed Turia gate.”


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