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6 December 2013 / leggypeggy

Pench National Park—tops the list as our favourite

Indian roller on attack

Our first kill—an Indian roller swooping on a frog

Pench landscape

Pench’s beautiful scenery

In just four weeks, we’ve visited seven of India’s many animal reserves and Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh—the first one we went to—has remained unanimously at the top of our favourites list.

Named after the river that flows through the park, Pench has been a national park since 1983 and a tiger reserve area since 1992. Two years ago, it won the country’s Best Management Award for parks, and it’s easy to see why.

Gypsy, Pench National Park

Our very first ride in a Gypsy

Everything ran on time, the guides and drivers were knowledgeable and enthusiastic, the gypsies (4WD-drive vehicles) were well maintained, the visitors’ centre was informative and the wildlife was abundant.

Even though we didn’t see a single tiger or leopard at Pench, the park rewarded us with wonderful and up-close sightings of dholes (wild dogs), chital (spotted deer), sambar deer, rhesus macaque and grey langur monkeys, guar (bison), wild boars, jackals, birds galore, gorgeous landscapes and our first ‘kill’ of the trip. We saw an Indian roller swoop down and grab an unsuspecting frog for lunch.

No other park—with perhaps the exception of Keoladeo with all its birdlife—gave us so many sightings and so much variety.

We had four safari drives in Pench, and it was always going to be a tough act to follow. Trust me, we gave all the other parks a decent chance, but only a couple came close.

I promise to give you a rundown on each of them, so you know how each fared. The following list on national parks will gain links as each post is completed—Kanha, Panna, Ranthambore, Keoladeo, Corbett and Rajaji,

For the most part, the lesser-known parks gave us the most satisfying experiences, so popularity has nothing to do with results.

But back to Pench. One of the park’s biggest claims to fame is that it served as the inspiration and setting for Rudyard Kipling’s most famous work, The Jungle Book, a collection of stories including ones about Mowgli. Kanha National Park likes to say it was the inspiration, but Pench has the honour. Although, when Kipling was alive, the two parks were joined, so perhaps they can share.

Pench spreads over 750 square kilometres, including the park itself, the Mowgli Sanctuary and a largish buffer zone. The park claims to have 44 species of mammals, almost 300 of birds and 50 each of butterflies and fish.

It’s also where we saw fine examples of teak, saja (crocodile bark) and Indian ghost trees. Interestingly, there is a worm that attacks the teak trees in Pench—we didn’t see this much elsewhere. The worm doesn’t kill the tree, but it chomps its way through the leaves.

Next time I get to India, Pench National Park will be at the top of my to-do list. I’m guessing the BBC liked it too. They used the park for the 2008 documentary wildlife series, Tiger: spy in the jungle, narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

P.S. I’ll do separate posts on the various mammals, so am using just a few pics of each here.  Here are links now to the gaur, jackalswild dogs and sambar deer.

Indian roller with frog

Indian roller with his frog for lunch

23 Comments

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  1. Debbwl / Dec 6 2013 10:43 am

    Wow what a great park with such a nice verity of animals. Love the colors of the Indian roller and what a great close up!

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    • leggypeggy / Dec 6 2013 10:26 pm

      Thanks Deb. A zoom lens plus zoom on the computer make all the difference.

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  2. lmo58 / Dec 6 2013 6:57 pm

    As always Peggy, really good photos and commentary. Thank you.

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  3. duonyte / Dec 15 2013 1:49 pm

    What a beautiful bird – I don ‘t believe I’ve heard of it before Thanks so much for sharing these wonderful photos.

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    • leggypeggy / Dec 15 2013 6:56 pm

      Hi duonyte, the Indian roller is absolutely gorgeous in flight. Mother Nature does good work. I fell lucky to be able to capture some of it.

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  4. Zee / Feb 20 2014 5:08 pm

    Hi I would like to know if you had been to Kaziranga national park or Manas tiger sanctuary, those are supposed to be very good, please visit the sites http://projecttiger.nic.in/manas.htm and http://assamforest.in/knp-osc/linkpages.php?u=ma&sm=ktr for more information. In fact Tiger population density in Kaziranga National Park has been one of the highest in India (So in the World) as supported by several scientific studies- Karanth (1995), and a recent(2008-09) study undertaken by the Kaziranga Tiger Reserve Management

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    • leggypeggy / Feb 20 2014 5:25 pm

      I haven’t been to Kaziranga or Manas, but I’ll put both on my list. Thanks for the info.

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  5. Geoff / Apr 10 2014 6:48 pm

    Hi Peggy. Just came across your write up on Pench via a google search. Can’t say I’ve read through your entire blog but what I saw brought a smile to my face, as my parents (65 years old) are currently traveling around the world as well. They started with Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Brazil. Now they’re in South Africa. And next month I am joining them for the beginning of their trip in India. I live in HK, and I’ve traveled to India many times. I love the place. I was in Kanha National Park last December and was lucky enough to have fantastic tiger sightings. I would like to take my parents right away into a National Park in India when they arrive to show them the ‘calmer more natural’ side of India before I introduce them to ‘Mumbai and Delhi side’ 🙂 So the question is… which park?? Bandhavgarh of course has the highest chance of seeing tigers, but alas they are all booked out for the period we want. Meaning we’d have to line up in the wee hours for ‘standby’ slots. Kanha, while I loved it, I have seen before and I want to go somewhere different. Rathambore – yes except also booked up and in May it’ll be 45 degrees every day. There’s Bandipur near Mysore, but it seems the chances of tigers there are extremely low. So… Pench? Anyway as you’ve been to many of the parks I was wondering what your thoughts are?

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    • leggypeggy / Apr 10 2014 7:10 pm

      Hi Geoff — So glad you stopped by. Sounds like your folks are having a great time. You should get them to check out some of my blog for South America.

      As for India, I highly recommend Pench. The landscapes are beautiful. We saw tigers, other animals and plenty of bird life. The people who took us around India are staying near Pench right now and say they are seeing lots of tigers. Apparently the tigers are spending all day in the water to stay cool. If you can’t get in, get in touch with them and maybe they could ‘pull some strings’. Better still they could probably give you a great deal on a couple of guided safari rides in Pench. We liked them so much, we are doing another trip with them, and they can organise all levels of comfort. You can contact them (Anand and Deepti) on info@prayannindiaoverland.com and I’ll let them know you might get in touch. They don’t always have internet. Let me know what you do.

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      • Geoff / Apr 10 2014 7:20 pm

        Thanks so much for your reply! Sounds great… I did just try to write to Anand and Deepti but the email was rejected – sent back. Any idea if there is another email address? I tried googling the website name but didn’t get anything either.

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      • overlandindia / Apr 10 2014 8:43 pm

        Thanks peggy to recommend us.
        Hello Geoff, I hope your parents trip is going great.
        we would welcome you guys to India.
        As peggy mentioned here we live in pench national park. Our base is here only, every now and then we get the informatations about tiger sightings. Now a days pench has blessed with lots of tiger cubs aswell. Most of the sightings happen near water hole now a days because of summer. Morning is plesant here afternoon is bit warm hereand evening is again plesant. Its worth visiting to do safari in pench now a days. Apart from pench, panna national park is also very good place, it is 25 km far from khajuraho towards Maihar, but it would be hot there . Bandhavgarh is also very good option and very famous for Tiger sightings but now a days getting game drives tickets is really a big task and for now nothing is available there. Kanha national park is also an option, it is very beautiful forest of sal. but for game drives you will have to getdone the bookings one month in advance.
        If you need any help related safaries and stay, and other stuff related to traveling in india then you can contact us at info@prayaanindiaoverland.com.
        As we know their is no problem with our mail id and website, on daily basis we are receiving the emails on same mail id. I apologize if you had a problem to contact with us.

        Thanks
        Deepti

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      • leggypeggy / Apr 10 2014 9:15 pm

        Geoff, if you still have trouble with the email, you can go to the company’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/PrayaanIndiaOverlanders or try asking Deepti Goswami or Steve Anand to be friends on Facebook. Let me know how you go. I see Deepti answered you above. If necessary, I’m happy to be a go-between.

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      • Geoff / Apr 13 2014 2:18 pm

        Thanks again Peggy. We are in touch now via facebook and email. I’ll let you know how it goes 😉

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      • Geoff Cattrall / May 9 2014 2:27 pm

        Hi Peggy. Just a quick note to say thank you!! We went to Pench National Park for a couple of days last week. We stayed in Pench Jungle Camp, did two safari drives, and had a wonderful time. And yes we managed to see one tiger (albeit she was sleeping, and at a distance). But a tiger nonetheless!!

        And for what it’s worth, after Pench, we went to Bandhavgarh NP. And we all decided that we much preferred Pench in the end. Much more wildlife in general, beautiful landscapes, and a much less ‘hectic’ visit.

        So thanks again! I’m back at home in Hong Kong now but my parents have continued down to Ooty where they are relishing in the 14 degrees and rain (after the 45 degrees oven in Pench!) And then they are continuing down to the Kerela for a backwater boat cruise.

        Regards! Geoff

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      • leggypeggy / May 10 2014 11:29 am

        Hi Geoff, very pleased that everything went so well, and even more pleased that Pench lived up to my hype! 🙂

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    • leggypeggy / Apr 13 2014 3:21 pm

      Fantastic. Look forward to hearing how it all goes.

      Like

  6. christie jones / Nov 24 2016 5:22 am

    Awesome posts Peggy!! I simply LOVE them. Looking forward to hear more of your adventures:)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. kelleysdiy / Dec 18 2016 5:14 am

    Beautiful Peggy! Just Stunning…thank you for taking me on all your adventures!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Dec 18 2016 3:31 pm

      Thanks for coming along. I love the company. 🙂

      Like

Trackbacks

  1. Spotting chital everywhere we travelled | Where to next?
  2. Ranthambore Tiger Reserve’s tarnished crown | Where to next?

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