Pench Tiger Reserve, India: Jungle Book Land

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*This post was previously live on my older site TheWingedFork.

They say a love of nature and wildlife can make you do strange things. 😉 So there we were at Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh, India the middle of summer. Crazy temperatures at 45 degrees and dry heat! It was unbearably hot but thankfully there was a thunderstorm that cooled down the place a bit.

We did a morning safari, knowing how hot the afternoon one would be. Luckily for us, because of the storm the night before, it was cloudy all morning. We headed from the Pench Jungle Camp out to the Turia gate in our gypsy at 5 am with our driver Kishore. We reached by 5:15, but there were already about 10 other gypsies ahead of us. On entering the main gate, we completed entrance formalities and were joined by our guide, Vinod.

In time to see the sun rise

We were in time to see the sunrise.

A troop of langurs - pic by Sarah from TheWingedFork
A troop of langurs
Langur walking in Pench National Park - TheWingedFork
Langur walking

Just as we headed into the park, we saw some grey Langurs. They’re also known as the leaf monkey and commonly called hanuman langurs in India because of the long tails like the monkey god Hanuman of Indian mythology.

Jungle fowl in Pench National park
Just a chicken, I tell you

Vinod seemed quite excited showing us a Jungle fowl, but we were like, ‘That’s just a Chicken, we have those in Bombay’. Plus, we used to have them at home back at the grandparent’s place.

A herd of chital deer - TheWingedFork
A herd of chital deer
Chital deer in Pench National Park - TheWingedFork
Chital deer

We saw large herds of chital deer.

My sis’s pic of the chital deer

My sis’s pic of the deer looked more like a painting, didn’t it?

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Crested serpent eagle against the morning sky
Crested serpent eagle against the morning sky
Crested serpent eagle in better light

We also saw quite a few different birds starting with the Crested Serpent Eagle.

Indian-Pitta-in-Pench-National-Park - pic by Sarah of TheWingedFork
Indian Pitta in Pench National Park
Indian-Pitta near a rock-in-Pench - TheWingedFork
Indian Pitta on a rock in Pench

And the Indian Pitta, the Indian Roller and the Indian Magpie.

Indian Roller bird in Pench Tiger Reserve
Indian Roller bird in Pench Tiger Reserve
Spotted an Indian Magpie in Pench Tiger Park
Indian Magpie

We also spotted a Malabar Hornbill, some White Eyed Buzzards, Jacoban Cuckoos, and the Black Drongos.

Malabar Hornbill sitting on a tree
Malabar Hornbill
White-eyed-buzzard in Pench Forest, Madhya Pradesh
White eyed buzzard

We were lucky to spot a lone Wild Dog (Dhole), thanks to me 🙂 We watched as it came through the forest, crossed the road ahead of us and went on its way the other side.

A lone Dhole or wild dog - TheWingedFork
A lone Dhole or wild dog

Not sure why it was alone though, since Wild Dogs usually travel in packs.

Dry landscape of the Pench forest in the heat of summer - TheWingedFork
Dry landscape of the Pench forest in the heat of summer

The landscape was quite dry throughout the park being as it was summer.

Tree bark in the thirsty Pench Landscape waiting for the rain
Tree bark in the thirsty Pench Landscape waiting for the rain
sonpata-tree or bidi leaf tree in Pench Tiger Park, India
Sonpata tree or bidi leaf tree

But there were some ever green trees like the sonpata or bidi leaf tree. Son meaning gold, pata meaning leaves, and bidi meaning cigarettes. The tree that grows from 3 to 5 metres in height flowers from Feb to May and is known as sonpata because its leaves are exchanged during the festival of Dusshera as a sign of gold or wealth. And bidis, well the leaves are used to make cigarettes.

Nilgai-or-BlueBuck in Pench Forest, Madhya Pradesh
Nilgai or Bluebuck

We passed a group of Gaur (Indian Bison) and some Nilgai before we stopped by a huge lake that was quite empty. Our guide Vinod said that in the monsoon it gets really full.

We were stopped on top of the bridge taking pictures of the lake.

Wooly or white-necked stork
Lapwig and other birds
Lapwig and other birds
Just a few more birds
Black head ibis at Pench National Park
Black head ibis

Around the lake, we spotted a few more birds like the Wooly Stork aka White Necked Stork, Herons, Egrets, Black Head Ibis, Ducks, also a Jackal quenching its thirst.

Jackal quenching his thirst-at-the-remnant-of-the-lake in Pench Jungle
Jackal quenching his thirst

On the other side of the lake, amidst the arid landscape, the patches of green around the watering hole provided respite from the heat. The colours were too lovely not to photograph. My sis wanted me to specify that she took this pic. She’s very very happy with it. 😉

Loved the colors on the other side of the lake in Pench Tiger Reserve - TheWingedFork
Loved the colors on the other side of the lake in Pench Tiger Reserve

Thankfully, there weren’t any of other gypsies around, just vast stretches of open land. Good for us!

We continue on for a bit and the landscape changes again.

The road ahead in Pench

My sis takes a pic of me shooting pics. She insisted that I use it here.

We then headed over to a smaller pond named the Bijamata waterbody. As we approached we saw a lot of other gypsies stopped there with everyone looking in the direction of the pond. We immediately knew it was a Tiger!

The tiger Raiyyakasa cooling down in the water

There he was cooling himself down in the sludge. He just sat there for almost an hour and so did we, just watching him. Raiyyakasa was his name, and this was his territory. This Bengal tiger is arch-rival or BMW, and the mate of Collarwale of Guiness book fame and Langdi. Raiyyakasa is also called Sula because of the a wine glass shaped mark near the bottom of his body.

The water body that Raiyyakasa aka Sula is soaking in is called the Bijamata

We couldn’t see it though. All we could see was his head.

There were a group of Langurs playing on this side of the pond, the opposite side to where he was, but they were quite aware that he was there.

Sambar deer approaching the water body

A sambar deer cautiously approached the pond to drink water. Raiyyakasa turned his head and saw the deer, but was not interested. He kept glancing at the deer every now and then, but didn’t move. We hoped to see a kill, but were not that lucky.

Finally, after a while Raiyyakasa swam to the shore and got out.

Tiger-Raiyyakasa-or-Sula-swims-as-a-commorant-stayed oblivious nearby
Sula swam to shore while a commorant stayed oblivious nearby

He walked about 10 feet to some bushes and took a dump! Got that on camera, ha!

Sula getting out of the water in Pench National Park - TheWingedFork
Sula getting out of the water
Tiger pooing near the lake
Have you ever seen a tiger poo before?

He then walked across the road and onto the other side into the forest, aware of but unfazed by the humans that were going crazy clicking away with phones and cameras. It looked like he was eating grass. Did he have an upset stomach? Did you know that they eat grass when they want to regurgitate and vomit their food.

Off into the wild he goes the arch rival of BMW

Raiyyakasa paused a few times while walking, then finally disappeared into the bushes. Happy that we’d seen a Tiger, we drove on and continued with our safari.

Do the tigers look the same as the ones in Corbett National Park? We really don’t know, but since they’re all related, i.e. they’re all from the family of Royal Bengal tigers they should have the same overall appearance. But the the stripes will differ from tiger to tiger, just like our fingerprints differ from human to human.

langur-in-discussion on a tree in Pench Tiger Reserve, India
Langur in discussion

We saw more birds, langur, monkeys and deer and then headed to the picnic point for our breakfast at around 8.45 am. The location of our picnic spot was the erstwhile Alikatta village that has now been relocated outside the park. Alikatte were Forest Villages that were established by the forest department during colonial times, – mostly by the British – to ensure that there was labour available for forest works like tree cutting and transportation.

Mowgli-at-Alikatta-snack-point-in-Pench Madhya-Pradesh
Mowgli watching over the snacking visitors

There were a few other gypsies there taking a break while Mowgli kept watch. Who was mowgli? He was the adorable little kid in the 1967 movie called the Jungle Book based on Rudyard Kipling’s famous book. Yes, the statue doesn’t look as cute as the Mowgli from the Jungle Book movie of 1967, but it is the very same story. Rudyard Kipling in his famous book The Jungle Book took Pench from being just another jungle to a jungle that people care for. The Legend of Mowgli is probably fictional, but Rudyard Kipling used a lot of influences from the Seoni district while writing ‘The Jungle Book’ although he had never visited Seoni himself. Mowgli was a case of the ‘wolf boy’ where there were cases or accounts of wolves nurturing children in their dens.

Breakfast in the jungle

Our breakfast was packed by the kind staff at the Pench Jungle Camp where we were staying. There were a variety of options to choose from; Boiled Eggs, Puri Bhaji, Sandwiches, Muffins, Fruits, Tea, Coffee and Juice.

Picture time before heading out

Picture time with our forest guide and driver before heading out.

eagle-nest in Pench Jungle, India
Eagle Nest

Just after we headed back out and our guide spotted a nest with Eagle babies. We could actually see them, even though they were so high up. One more thing ticked off the bucket list. Baby eagles. 🙂

Lovely ghost trees or Bhootiya in Pench National Park
Lovely ghost trees
Pretty ghost trees in Pench Jungle
Pretty ghost trees in Pench

The trees in Pench Forest were really tall and the Ghost trees especially made for some great pics. The trees shed their bark for six months of the year and their mostly white appearance is said to have scared folk in the forest. Thus earning the name bhootiya or ghost trees.

A langur monkey in the hollow of a tree - TheWingedFork
A langur in the hollow of a tree

On our way out of the park, we saw a Langur resting in the hollow of a tree, that was a sight!

Langur comes out of the tree hollow
Langur comes out
one-langur-still--in-the-tree after the first one came out
Another langur hidden in the tree

After it came out, we saw that there had been another one behind it down in the hollow, though that one just sat there staring back at us. Amazing!

Another langur higher up in the tree

And then we noticed another langur higher up in the tree trunk. It seemed that the entire tree was hollow, but still alive. Awesome!

Nearing 11 we headed towards the exit and said goodbye to our enthusiastic guide Vinod. Just outside the exit, I ran into a travel agent friend who had booked a group trip to Kenya with us years ago. After saying hello, we headed back to the Pench Jungle Camp where we were lodging.

Our journey into the wild at Pench National Park

On the way there we noticed quite some activity near the MP Tourism Resort Kipling’s Courtyard. Kishore, our driver told us that the night before a Leopard had been spotted roaming around there. It ended up in one of the rooms. I wonder how they got it out?

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