Pench National Park
Pench National Park touches the velvety reaches of AVSM (Aravali, Vindhyachal, Satpura & Maikal hills), a most ancient and beguiling portion of the Central Indian mountain ranges. It is located on the southern boundary of Madhya Pradesh, bordering Maharashtra, in the districts of Seoni and Chhindwara. The park is named after the Pench river that flows through the forest from North to South. The forest is spread over 758 sq. kms out of which 299 sq. km is the core area comprising of the Indira Priyadarshini Pench National Park and the Mowgli Pench Sanctuary whereas the remaining 459 sq.km makes up the buffer area. The park was established in 1975 and was subsequently declared a tiger reserve, Kanha-Pench Tiger Conservation unit under Project tiger in 1992.
Pench Tiger Reserve, which includes the Indira Priyadarshini Pench National Park, the Mowgli Pench Sanctuary and the buffer area, has a glorious history. A description of its natural wealth and richness occurs in Ain-i-Akbari. Several natural history books like R. A. Strendale’s ‘Seonee – Camp life in Satpura Hills’, Forsyth’s ‘Highlands of Central India’ and Dunbar Brander’s ‘Wild Animals of Central India‘ explicitly present the detailed panorama of nature’s abundance in this tract. Strendale’s semi-autobiographical ‘Seonee‘ was the inspiration behind Rudyard Kipling’s world-renowned masterpiece – ‘The Jungle Book’.
The forests are a mix of tropical moist deciduous forest mixed with tropical dry deciduous teak bearing forest and dry mixed deciduous forest. Some of the varieties of trees found in the forest are Teak (Tectona grandis), Crocodile Bark or Saja (Terminalia crenulata), Arjun (Terminalia arjuna), Axle wood (Anogeisis latifolia), locally referred to as Dhaoda, Labernum or Amaltas (Cassia fistula), Palash (Butea monosperma), Chironji (Buchanania lanzan), Haldu (Adena cardifolia), Mango (Mangifera indica) and Jamun or Black plum (Syzigium cumini), Bamboo thickets (Dendrocalamus strictus) and Mahuwa (Madhuca longifolia). The flowers of the Mahuwa are used by the locals as food and for preparing a very popular local liquor called Mahua.
The key attraction in the Pench National Park is the Royal Bengal Tiger. Other species of carnivores that inhabit the forest are Leopard, Indian Grey Wolf, Wild Dog (Dhole), Striped Hyena, Jackal, Bengal Fox, Sloth Bear, Palm Civet, Small Indian Civet and Jungle Cat. Besides the tigers, the area is also home to large herds of Gaur (Indian Bison) and other herbivores like Spotted Deer, Sambar, Nilgai (Blue Bull), Wild Boar, Barking Deer, Flying Squirrel, etc.
The park is home to over 300 varieties of birds and the forest is filled with a cacophony of bird calls. Some of the popular species are Indian Scops Owl, Jungle Owlet, Spotted Owlet, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Grey Hornbill, Indian Pitta, Parakeets, Kingfishers, Barbets, Minivets, Orioles and Wagtails. Predatory bird species like Osprey, Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Hawk Eagle, Shikra and White-eyed Buzzard can also been seen during the tour. Four species of the endangered vulture, namely White-rumped, Long-billed, Red-headed and Indian vulture can be seen thriving in good numbers in the Pench Tiger Reserve. During winter, a host of migratory birds like the Brahminy Duck, Pochards, Bar-headed Goose, Coots, etc, visit the park for breeding and nesting. The Paradise flycatcher, commonly sighted during the summer months, is the state bird of Madhya Pradesh. Pied Cuckoo and Indian Cuckoo are monsoon migrants and commonly sighted July onwards.
The dominant tribal community inhabiting the Pench National Park is the Gond tribe. The Gond live in hamlets that have wooden structures and are plastered with cow dung and clay. A walk through the Kohka or Khambrit villages offers visitors a glimpse into the daily life, cultures and customs of the Gond tribe. The villagers earn their livelihood from pottery, making and selling jaggery, working as guides with the forest department and working at the resorts around Pench National Park.
The Turia Zone is part of the Madhya Pradesh side of the Pench National Park is located about 14 kms away from The Riverwood Forest Retreat – Pench. Turia Gate (the entry point to the Turia Zone) is a popular entry point into the forest due to the high probability of sighting tigers. The most famous tigress of the forest: Collarwali, resides in the Turia Zone. The tigress, also known as the ‘Empress of Pench’ has been nominated in the Guinness Book of Records for giving birth to an estimated 26 cubs since 2008. There is a Wildlife Museum related to flora and fauna near the entry gate of the Turia Zone. The Park is open from October till June and is closed on wednesday evenings. Visitors can purchase entry tickets from Madhya Pradesh Forest Department website.
Part of the Maharashtra side of the Pench National Park, Khursapar zone is located about 14 kms from The Riverwood Forest Retreat – Pench. The Khursapar Gate is a popular entry point into the forest for visitors due to the high probability of tiger sighting. There are three water bodies inside the zone which are frequented by a variety of birds and animals. Entry to the zone is closed on tuesdays. Safaris can be book online via the Maharashtra Government Ecotourism website.
Karmajhiri Zone is part of Madhya Pradesh Pench and is located about 35 kms from The Riverwood Forest Retreat – Pench. Karmajhiri Gate is also a premium entry gate and shares part of the Turia Gate area. The Park is open from October till June and is closed on wednesday evenings. Visitors can purchase entry tickets from the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department website.
Sillari Zone is part of the Maharashtra side of the Pench National Park. It is located about 33 kms away from The Riverwood Forest Retreat – Pench. The forest terrain is covered by Bamboo, Garari and Teak trees. This forest is open to visitors throughout the year. Entry to the park is closed on Wednesdays. Safaris to the Sillari Zone can be booked online via the Maharashtra Government Ecotourism website.
Rukhad is a wildlife sanctuary located in the buffer zone of the Pench National Park. It is located at a distance of 28 kms from The Riverwood Forest Retreat – Pench. The forest area is filled with dense vegetation and is home to a large herbivore animal population. The forests in this region have been converted into a sanctuary for Indian Bison (Gaur). The Bison Retreat, run by the Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation, acts as a mid-way refreshment halt for tourists. The zone is open to visitors from October to June. Entry tickets have to be purchased at the gate.
Jamtara zone of the Pench National Park is located in the Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh. It is located at a distance of 61 kms from The Riverwood Forest Retreat – Pench. Sloth Bears are a common sight for visitors in this region. The zone is open to visitors from the months of October to June. Visitors can purchase entry tickets and book safaris online on the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department website.
The Wolf Sanctuary is located inside the buffer zone of the Pench Tiger Reserve and is dedicated to the conservation of the Indian Grey Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes). It is located 2.2 kms away from The Riverwood Forest Retreat – Pench. Besides wolves, Leopards and Nilgai (Blue Bull) are the most popular animals in this region. Visitors can embark on safaris in the Wolf Sanctuary throughout the year except on select holidays. Night safaris are permitted in this particular zone by the Government. Safaris can be booked at the entry gate or you can inform our reservation team to assist you with the same at the time of booking your stay.
This is a relatively new zone, which is located about 14 kms from The Riverwood Forest Retreat – Pench. Teliya is adjacent to the Wolf Sanctuary in the buffer zone of the Pench National Park. It is common for visitors to spot the movement of wolves during the morning and evening safaris. Tickets can be booked at the window of the entry gate.
Best time to Visit
Pench National Park is open from October to June. The best time to visit the park is between February to May for wildlife sightings and from November to March for birdwatching. .