*This post was previously live on my older/erstwhile site TheWingedFork.
Tigers! The majesty, the magnificence, the sheer presence of wild nature. One of the reasons people from across the world visit India. And the reason so many of us visit National Parks. The last time we saw tigers was at Ranthambore National Park in February. So this May we went to Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh to see some more. Next on our list will be Corbett National Park, Gir Forest, and more.
After looking at a few places, we settled on the Pench Jungle Camp in Seoni District which had won the Best Wildlife Sector Resort Award in MadhyaPradesh and a few more. We landed in Nagpur Airport one warm morning at 8 am and were shuttled to the camp by driver Ravi in his pristine white vehicle.
We traveled along the NH7 highway for a bit. This highway is the longest one in India and runs from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. Or should I say Kashmir to Kanyakumari?
Arrival at Pench Jungle Camp
As we moved from Maharashtra to Madhya Pradesh the landscape changed to become more arid with dots of green. We saw a lot of babool, bamboo and kher trees. Our driver Ravi also showed us the section of the road where the two states met.
After a 2-hour drive, we reached the camp and were greeted at the door by Mr. Rathore, an erstwhile army man. It’s always an honor to meet the people who have served our nation. Took a pic of Mr. Rathore with dad. 🙂
[We met the other Mr. Rathore, the owner and Managing Director, later in the day. He was visiting with some of the partners. It seems the camp will be expanding soon and the new section might be ready by December. Would be nice to go back during the cooler weather.]
Anyways, we got there just as a number of vehicles had returned from morning safari. So there was a hullabaloo about the tigers they had seen. I think it was the tigress Baras, BMW’s mate. 🙂
There’s a mighty mahua tree in the driveway. It’s about 20 metres tall and I get my long-limbed sis to stand in front of it for a comparison. But I’ll tell you more about the tree later.
Enter the reception area, cool down with nimbu paani and complete formalities. Leave the reception for the long walk to our tent and the heat hits you. It was 45 degrees Celsius that day.
The porter informs us of spots on the way – the restaurant, the swimming pool, the spa – but my sis is the only one who hears him because she’s walking at his speed. The rest of us are following at a snail’s pace having a discussion about nothings.
Our special tent at the end of the camp
We reach our tent and it’s lovely. The air conditioning saves us from the heat outside.
Twin beds in greens and gold welcomed us while a stork couple adorned the wall behind us. I’m not sure what may have been behind the storks, but it was recently painted over. The drawstring windows kept out the light while the golden canopy above gave a rich feel to the tent.
On the other side, is a refrigerator, tea-coffee maker, sitting area, and study table. I loved the study/work table, especially the chair. It had a quaint old-world feeling. Reminds you of the furniture in the old houses from our grandparents’ time.
On the right of the study table is a walk in dressing area with a floor length mirror. The space has been managed very well here. 🙂
The washroom was also very spacious and the decorations gave it an earthy feel.
The best part of the room was the fan and light setup. So different from chandeliers or other light contraptions. The effect was awesome!
The tent next to us was about 5 to 7 metres away, while our parents tent was about 25 metres away. It was similar to ours but had green and a bit of blue. But their tent was hotter inside because the air conditioner was placed facing the door instead of the main part of the room.
Some people we became friends with at the camp, – Jeff and Rupin – also remarked how our tent was cooler than theirs. So if you go during summer, ask for the tent at the end of the property. That’ll keep you cool.
A Lazy Afternoon Rest
We spend the afternoon recovering from our 3 am start to get there that morning. As evening arrives, a random thunderstorm hits. I love the sound of the lightning as it streaks across the sky.
Also loved running across the bridge from our tent to our parent’s tent in the rain with teacups in hand. Makes me wish we’d been here in the monsoon. Must be awesome when the tiny waterways are flowing through the camp.
The General Manager Ajay tells me that all three waterways end up in this lake which is now dry. In the pic above, the first boundary is for the waterway and is still on the property.
The gazebo provides shade from the sun. We could hear some of the other guests chatting there late into the night. Beyond the second boundary is where the lake is.
Why are there boundaries? Well, because we’re in the middle of Pench National Park. And even though we’re not where the action is, the leopards and tigers have been known to visit the surroundings.
We went out exploring and passed the pool and the spa, making a note to come back later. But the pool was too crowded later, so we skipped it.
There’s a swing and a bonfire pit for the cold winters. We also saw a quad bike, trampoline, rabbit hut, lily pond and cycles for use withing the park.
Dad also spends quite some time talking to Mr Prabhir, the resident naturalist who has been with the camp for over 14 years. Mr Prabhir also had a telescope out later that night once the skies had cleared.
Dinner and Lounge Area at Pench Jungle Camp
On the first night, our bush dinner was cancelled because of the rain. So we have dinner and then spend time in the lovely lounge playing chess.
There was carom there as well and a large TV that some kids were watching. A library with wildlife books stocked on a tree-shaped stand was in the next room.
Revisiting the Pench Jungle Camp Reception
We later meet with Ajay in the reception to plan our itinerary for the next day. We also get the WiFi password but find out that it’s only available near the reception.
And my sis makes friends with Tarzan, the resident German shepherd. He and Jenny (not Jane) had 8 pups together. It’s sad though. Jenny lost 6 of her 8 pups. We hope the last two survive.
Maharashtrian Breakfast Menu
Soon the sun comes back out and peeks through the trees.
Breakfast the next morning is a mix of Indian and Continental. Would have loved if there were juices too. (The camp informs me that they’ve added it in to future menus.)
Pench Jungle Camp Ecopark and a mid-morning stroll
The next morning we spent more time exploring the private eco-park at the camp with Ajay.
He showed us the huge beehive over where our bush dinner would have been. It was massive. Thankfully instead of smoking the bees away, the camp staff had found a new place nearby for the bush dinner that wasn’t bee infested.
The Eco-park is close to the buffer zone and the camp staff often spot a number of wild animals there. Ajay showed us a few pics from the hidden cameras.
There’s an oriental magpie robin on one of the trees and my sis shoots it. With the camera I mean. 😉 These robins visit India between March and April every year.
The park is also home to the mahua trees. They say the mahua tree grows up to 60 feet tall. The Mahua is revered in Madhya Pradesh by natives who find use of almost every part of it – skincare, food, jams, breads, soap, fuel oil, fodder, medicine, and alcohol.
The Mahua flowers are also fermented to make the mahua liquor that is claimed to induce lunacy in large amounts. The fermented flowers also affect animals, much like the South African marula.
We get back to the park in time for a short break before lunch.
Lunch at Pench Jungle Camp, MP
Just before going out to lunch I get a shot of sis shooting the area. 😉
Straight ahead is the service desk. The dining area is on the right of the service desk and the lounge that we visited last night is on the left.
The food menu is a mix of Indian veg and non-veg dishes and sweet dishes. The non-veg are separated from the veg dishes though to cater to the “shudhh” or pure vegetarians.
All the staff are friendly and accommodating.
A great camp for birders and naturists
During the afternoon we spend time taking pics of birds. The Pench Jungle Camp is great for birding, with a lot of them just outside your tent.
There was a green one that was knocking on our tent door and we thought it was a person. Tried to take a pic but it was too fast for us. We got to see some other good ones though.
There’s a good variety of flowers too.
And lizards that looked like salamanders. I’m not sure what they were though.
The langurs roamed freely and had sparring sessions with Tarzan. They moved too fast for the camera though. So no good pics of them.
That night there was a bush dinner for the entire camp over in the Eco-park. On our way over there, we took pics of one of thse tree against the night sky.
The dinner was fun. We took a few pics of the friends we made there, but with the night light they didn’t turn out so good. The food, drinks and company were perfect though!
Safari at Pench National Park
The next morning we woke at 4 am to go for a safari in Pench National Park where we were lucky enough to see Raiyyakasa, a huge male tiger.
We also had a lovely breakfast packed by Pench Jungle Camp. After wWe got back to the lodge, we were greeted with some cool nimbu paani.
And soon it was time to pack up and leave for our trip back home. The staff gather to say goodbye to every visitor when they leave. It’s a nice human touch!
If you’re ever in Pench, spend some time at the Pench Jungle Camp. It’s almost like a home away from home. 😉