In the land of Mowgli, Sharekhan, Bagheera

Rudyard Kipling's "Jungle Book"  published way back in 1894 has Kanha as its backdrop. So here I am with the awesome Nature India Group to explore this unique forest to meet all creatures great and small! And getting me all pepped up was the book "Kanha Tiger Reserve - Portrait of an Indian National Park" by Caroll Moulton & Ernie Hulsey who have spent over two decades visiting and exploring every facet of this unique area.

Kanha is part of the Project Tiger initiative of the Govt of India started in 1972 and is undoubtedly one of the best managed wildlife parks in the country. A huge area covering 1950 sq kms out of which 940 sq kms forms the core area. It lies in the Mandla and Balaghat regions of Madhya Pradesh in Central India. It is a wonderful drive through the thick forests of  mainly Sal trees interspersed with Flame of the Forest, Crocodile Bark tree, Arjuna etc., What caught my attention was the beautiful creeper Bauhinia vahlii locally known as Mahul the stem of which is so strong that it is used for making ropes. Part of the habitat consists of open meadows at places as Sonf & Kanha. These were once villages which have since been relocated outside the park. This has helped in no small measure to ensure that the animals move freely in the areas and have avoided man-animal conflicts that are common in many other parks. The resettled villages have been provided land and housing in the nearby areas. This is definitely a model which other parks should follow.

It was in Kanha where the world renowned field biologist, mammologist and conservationist, Dr, George Schaller did his research in the sixties. For more on the unique work done throughout the world by Dr. Schaller, check out the wiki page

The Charismatic Mammals of Kanha

For most visitors to Kanha, the aim is to see a tiger in the wild; and for many, this may be their first sighting of a wild Tiger. Of-course Tiger sighting is always a marvel and who would not like to leave this forest without seeing the King of the Jungle - despite my many sightings, I look forward to meeting this mighty denizen of the forest; unfortunately in this vast area, the 90 odd tigers are spread out and in the  thickets, and one has to be lucky to spot them. Alarm calls of animals like the Hanuman Langur, Chital or Sambar, identifying pugmarks or scats along the road can help track down the animal, often with mixed results. It is very likely that we have been spotted by a tiger instead! In many forests, experienced  mahouts on elephants also scout every morning for the presence of this species and try to bring them out in the open for the many jeeps to spot and photograph them. This is how we managed to spot this tigress. Also seen a tiger in a distance which made a quick retreat. So here I have Panthera tigris for you!

Besides the Tiger, there are a good variety of other mammals
Spotted Deer in combat mode


Swamp Deer on high alert

Sambar - male cooling off & below fleeing at the sight of us

One of the most charismatic species of Kanha is the special hard-ground Swamp Deer Cervus duavcelli branderii found only in this park. The local name is Barasingha. Please see my Dudhwa blog for more about the other two sub-species found in Assam and Northern India. From a low of just 60 in the 1980s, their number has risen significantly to about 450 today. It is to the credit of the Park management that through careful conservation measures, they have been able to save this species form the brink of extinction albeit at the cost of another beautiful species - the Blackbuck which has all but disappeared from the park. Unfortunately, nature is an exacting master!

Gaur Bos gaurus is another very interesting bovine found in the jungles of Central and Southern India

Waterholes in the park provide good sustenance to life forms as this female Sambar

Gaur in the Mukki range

Gaur with its young feeding peacefully

Birdlife in Kanha

Kanha is rich in birdlife and has over 250 species of birds - many of them migratory. However, the hot month of May is certainly not the best time to watch birds. Nevertheless, it was good to see the residents, some of them in breeding plumage. Most of the birds in this section are the commoners though no less charming. The highlight of them was definitely the colourful Indian Pitta and the Grey Nightjar.
Crested Serpent Eagle

Male of Indian Peafowl in full display mode

Crested Hawk Eagle

Can you spot the bird amongst the rocks? the Grey Nightjar nestled & beautifully camouflaged - only a trained eye can spot it!

Indian Roller

An unexpected visitor in my room - juvenile of Chestnut-shouldered Petronia

Black-shouldered Kite

Crested Tree Swift

Wooly-necked Stork

White-rumped Vulture

With very little time before checking out on the last day, we had an early morning walk in and around our resort campus. Such walks yield a good catch of birdlife & here are some of the sightings. 
Chestnut-shouldered Petronia

Common Iora - male

Ashy Prinia

above & below - Oriental White-eye

Ashy Drongo

Tawny-bellied Babbler

Another view of the Ashy Prinia

scenes from Kanha

Kanha can give some excellent opportunities to photograph the scenery - here are some views.
sunset after a heavy downpour

Time to exit -taken from a moving jeep & hence a little shaky

The plaque at Shravan Tal giving the story of Shravan's devotion to his parents & his unfortunate end

the beautiful Sal forest
a cottage in the forest - the reception area in our Mogli Resorts

One of the many routes

a vibrant scene near the Mogli Resorts

Information & Acknowledgements

Kanha is 160 kms from Jabalpur which is the nearest air link as well as good rail connectivity. The other option for rail travelers is Gondia which is 150 kms. Do keep a gap of 4 hours travel time as  certain parts of the road are not great.

There are two ways to reach Kanha - the road from Jabalpur via Mandla brings you to the Khatia gate where most of the resorts are located. You then enter the park through the Kisli gate. if you are coming from Nagpur, you enter the Mukki gate which lies in the Balaghat area. There are resorts located at Mukki too. To do justice to your visit,  your 5-6 safaris should cover all areas of Kisli, Kanha & Mukki for which you will need to book your safari online and well in advance.

While on safari, it is a good idea to visit the  interpretation centre  located inside the park. One of the best interpretation centres that I have seen which is very imaginatively conceived and gives good insight into the forest and wildlife of this areas

Thank you to the dynamic duo of Adesh & Mandar of Nature India for organising this trip and especially for their passion in sharing the wild wonders of our country with our group.

The staff of Mogli Resorts, drivers and  guides went out of their way to make our trip memorable and their efforts are very well appreciated. A special note of gratitude and appreciation to the Forest Department of Madhya Pradesh for their good park management. Special mention needs to be made about their very well developed and creatively designed interpretation centre that is a must visit inside the park. their dark room is a good stimulation of the night life in the forest.