Madhya Pradesh is the king of the jungle when it comes to tiger parks, and Kanha National Park is the most famous and beautiful national park in the country.
Often described as India’s finest game sanctuary and a model for wildlife conservation, Kanha’s magnificent landscape combines grassy meadows and flat-topped hills with meandering streams and lush deciduous forests. This is the country about which Rudyard Kipling wrote so vividly in his famous The Jungle Book. A continuation of “Kipling Country,” Kanha is in many ways the most beautiful and fascinating national park in the country, not only for its sizeable tiger population but the landscape that keeps changing as you traverse the 250-sq km (98-sq miles) open to tourists; thick wooded areas open into scrubland, which in turn dissolves into meadows, and all periodically interspersed with natural bodies of water and streams.
The area was once the exclusive hunting ground of the British viceroys but now the valley has been well developed as a national park and is today an important Project Tiger Reserve. Kanha was included into Project Tiger in 1974 and here, we can say with some relief, it has had positive results (currently India is battling under the ignominy of losing its tigers at an alarming rate to poachers due to insufficient infrastructure and conservation mismanagement). Another success story is that of the Barasingha—a handsome swamp deer whose numbers had dwindled to 66 in 1970, but is now at 450 and climbing!
George Schaller, the zoologist, conducted the first ever scientific study of the tiger here and research is also being done on deer and langur habitat.
Lying in the Maikal hills in the eastern part of the Satpura Range, 40 km from Mandla, Kanha National Park has deciduous hardwoods, rolling grasslands and meandering streams of the Banjar River. The forests are vast, and while your chances of seeing a tiger are probably slightly slimmer than at nearby Bandhavgarh National Park, they’re still very good. Add to that the fact that you can really go deep into the forest thanks to the park’s huge core area surrounded by a large buffer zone, and you have a complete safari experience, rather than the rush-and-grab outings some complain of at Bandhavgarh. The picturesque park is teeming with all kinds of birds and mammals which you will most definitely come across during the safari; even on the worst of days, finding langurs, chital and peacocks is guaranteed.
The sal forests and vast meadows of this 1,954-sq km (754-sq mile) park contain a rich variety of wildlife including more than 200 tigers and leopards and a huge populations of deer and antelope, including the extremely rare barasingha. You’ll see plenty of langur monkeys, the odd gaur (Indian bison) and maybe even a family or two of wild boar. The park is also home to more than 300 bird species.
There are a few gates into the park, but the most popular and easily accessible is the Khatiya Gate.
See below for some of the best things to do in Kanha National Park.
Of the four zones, Kanha zone in Kanha Kisli National Park is by far the most beautiful in the park followed by Kisli zone. While a morning safari is more popular, an evening safari is more entertaining as there is more wildlife around. The evening sun also makes the scenery more spectacular making for a more enjoyable visit.
The Kanha Forest Nature Trail is a well-marked 7km trail that leads from just inside Khatiya Gate and skirts along the edge of the park before looping back to the village. The nature trail is a great way to see the forest from a micro perspective. While fauna is always the main attraction, it is also important to learn about the biodiversity of the park and to understand how each eco system co-exists with each other.