A Visit To The Panna National Park, Madhya Pradesh

Here is a glimpse into the mesmerising Panna National Park, home to tigers, leopards, and the Sambar deer
A view from Magaradabri, during sunset, of the Panna National Park, and the River Ken. Credit Arunjeet Banerjee
A view from Magaradabri, during sunset, of the Panna National Park, and the River Ken. Credit Arunjeet Banerjee

They say that time changes things. Does it change everything, though I wonder if the adventurously peaceful forest lanes of the Panna National Park are still the same. I am sure some things don't change.

Created in 1981 and converted into a tiger reserve in 1994, the Panna National Park is the twenty-second Tiger Reserve in India. With a total area of 1645.08 sq km (the core area is 542.66 sq km), this reserve, cosily tucked in the Vindhyan Ranges, spreads its protective wings over the Panna and Chhatarpur districts in Madhya Pradesh. I still remember all my escapades here through the petrichor of the wood and mud, the smooth sails on the Ken River, the barbeques, and bonfires under the machans.

Quiet Flow The Waters

The lifeline of the reserve, the Ken River, a tributary of the Yamuna River, is one of the least polluted rivers in the country. The Ken runs through the park and offers many advantages, including breath-taking views during boat rides. The sunrise and sunset seen from the river are surreal. Views of crocodiles basking in the sun, waiting for their prey, as they float in the still waters pretending to be logs. Sightings of water birds brighten the day and make for wonderful memories.

Conserve And Protect

The Ken River Lodge, established in 1986 by Mr Shyamendra Singh, is a treat for the eyes and a friend to the soul. Hidden within a ensely forested area by the banks of the Ken River, the Lodge has eight plush luxury huts and four cottages. The Lodge has been at the forefront of wildlife conservation in India. The conservation which the Panna National Park has now been able to execute successfully can, to a large extent, be attributed to the efforts of The Ken River Lodge.

Parts Of A Whole

The park can broadly be divided into three parts, the lowest part, which has the Ken basin and the Madla gate the middle, which houses the Hinnauta and the highest part with Talgaon. The forest is a dry deciduous one, and I recall that it was here that I witnessed the motherhood of the Judi Nala Female, a tigress. Among a dense grove of trees, the centre of which is difficult to spot unless you are on an elephant, is a pond-like feature, at the edge of which was resting the majestic Judi Nala Female. It saddens me now to know that the spot is now inaccessible since elephant rides are banned. Good for the elephants, bad for curious minds. However, back then, looking at the tigress, I could tell of the power she possessed even at rest, and on that powerful beast were playing three tiny, precious little cubs. I thought about the day these tiny beings would grow to be as, or even more powerful than her. Tigers were reintroduced in the park in September 2009, after the last male of the park disappeared. Since then, the rules have been made stringent to increase the safety of flora and fauna, as well as the humans who encounter them.

Sights And Sounds

The park, however, isn't home to just tigers. Various mammals, reptiles, and birds can be seen here, including leopards, sloth bears, deer, porcupines, vultures, and owls. It is home to more than 300 species of birds, including migratory ones. Panna supports one of the finest varieties of Sambar Deer. This deer thrives on the Kardhai plant, which grows in ample amounts in the eastern part of the forests of the Panna National Park. Additionally, the park's population of leopards is quite dense, resulting in frequent sightings. What's more, this is the only national park in the country which offers night safaris The Jhinna Night Safari is in the buffer zone of the Panna Tiger Reserve. Wildlife like civets, jackals, foxes, hyenas, the jungle cat, and others can be spotted during the night safari.

The experience at Panna National Park has always been something beyond reality. Every time I returned home, I felt that a little part of me was left in Panna. Each time I go back to fetch that part of me, I, instead leave a little more behind. Here's hoping that the sanctuary remains to be a haven for all the invaluable creatures there, and here's hoping that your visit to the park makes you feel the same.

The Information

Best time to visit The park remains open from mid-October to mid-June. November to March is a good time to visit, although the summers are ideal for tiger sightings due to the dry vegetation in Panna.

How to get there

By air Panna is well connected, and the closest airport is Khajuraho, 26 km away. There are daily flights from Delhi and Varanasi by many leading carriers. Khajuraho airport is 24 km, Gwalior airport is 285 km, and Jabalpur airport is 235 km from Panna.

By road Panna Tiger Reserve is located on National Highway 39 and is well connected by road from many towns. It is 767 km from Delhi and can be reached in approximately 13 hours via the Bundelkhand Expressway.

By railway Panna is also well connected by the Indian Railways. From Delhi, you can take the Gatiman Express and Shatabdi to Jhansi. From Mumbai, Satna (70 km) and Jhansi (176 km) are convenient railheads. The Punjab Mail, Dadar Bareilly Express, Dadar-Amritsar Express, Mumbai Howrah Mail, etc., are the few trains that operate on this route. Khajuraho railway station is 21 km, Satna railway station is 91 km, and Jhansi railway station is 185 km from Panna.

Top Tips

Wear earth/neutral coloured clothing.

Carry mosquito and insect repellents. Keep doors closed while spraying the insect repellents in the room.

Carry binoculars and cameras.

Learn the rules before going on the safari.

Don't smoke.

Don't speak, unless necessary, that too only softly.

Ensure you don't bring young children or pets to the safari.

Please don't go near the animals they have naturally evolved personal boundaries.

Only leave the vehicle if you are at the designated place for the same.

Don't leave trash anywhere in the park.

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