Wild times in Pench National Park – sleeping in a machan in the buffer zone of Pench Tiger Reserve and haunting stories of collarwali.
I woke up to a distant roar, and felt a chill run down my spine. Sitting up, I slowly moved the curtain behind me, half expecting two fierce eyes staring back.
Much to my relief, the only glow in the pitch black night was from the million stars twinkling above. A cool breeze tingled my face, and the stillness of the surrounding forest washed over me.
I oriented myself in the dim light of a lantern, reminding myself that I was sleeping in a machan in the buffer zone of Pench National Park.
Also read: Why Satpura National Park is the Most Unique in Madhya Pradesh
My love affair with Madhya Pradesh’s forests began a couple of years ago, when I lost myself in their wild ecosystem. It made me question whether encroaching on tiger territory on safari is the environmentally responsible thing to do. Surprisingly, I learnt about the precarious connection between wildlife tourism and conservation, not just in India but also in Africa.
Also read: Wildlife Tourism: Are We Saving the Tiger?
The Taj Pench experience at Baghvan
So when Taj Safaris‘ invitation to experience the dramatic forests of Pench National Park landed in my inbox while I was away in Central America, it went right to the top of my India cravings.
Now, with a friend in tow, I was tucking back into the comfy machan of our hut at Taj Pench – Baghvan. A wilderness lodge that took me completely by surprise.
Having indulged at Taj in Delhi and Bombay, I expected to be pampered and wined and dined. And that we were, even in the middle of the forest.
What I didn’t expect was the rustic yet classy way in which the lodge is built. The logwood huts with private machans, the lantern-lit pathways, relaxing khatiyas by the swimming pool, a little library with wildlife books, open air dining at the edge of the forest! As someone who loves the wilderness as much as creature comforts, this was like my handcrafted version of heaven.
Also Read: Kanha National Park: Stories from the Wild
Pench jungle safari
At the first light of day, we jumped into our custom fitted land rovers (I remember envying them from the backbreaking seats of our regular gypsy on past safaris!) and entered the core zone of Pench National Park.
Breathing in the pure forest air, gazing at the teak trees looking over me, hearing the sounds of the jungle, I felt alive. Unlike Panna, Bandavgarh and Kanha, the forests of Pench are younger and drier, letting us peek deep into the forest, witnessing more intimate moments.
We saw a newborn, hairless langur baby clinging on to its parent, another digging into the soil for minerals to replenish itself in the dry heat. A solitary jackal stride down the road after casting us a shy glance. A male sambhar trying desperately to untangle its antlers from a twisted branch. A bald sea eagle plunge into the sea and catch a fish. Peacocks open up their magnificent feathers and dance to attract females, for this is their mating season!
Also read: Panna National Park Near Khajuraho: India’s Most Beautiful Forest?
The closest we got to Collarwali, the most fearless (and hence most popular) tigress in this forest, and her cubs, were fresh pug marks and a sambhar deer call. But the feline creatures came alive in our imagination through our naturalist’s exhilarating stories. He once witnessed a showdown between a tiger and a pack of wild dogs, which after much roaring and threatening, ended in a truce.
Penning this post at a cafe in Bombay, I almost skipped a heartbeat thinking of the forest come alive with warning calls of langurs and spotted deer, indicating that a big cat is on the move.
The call of the wild, as much as those candlelight dinners in the wilderness and hikes in the buffer zone, linger in my mind long after saying goodbye.
Also read: Why Satpura National Park is the Most Unique in Madhya Pradesh
Pench National Park: Travel tips
Pench national Park location and how to get there
The closest railway station and airport to Pench National Park is in Nagpur. From there, it’s an easy 1.5 hour drive.
Where to stay in Pench National Park
Minimize your impact on this beautiful forest by choosing an environmentally conscious accommodation.
Taj Pench – Baghvan
I enjoyed my stay at Baghvan, which harmoniously blends into the surrounding forest. It remains quiet and dimly-lit, and has been built using local materials. I just wish the food focus was on local dishes and produce, rather than fancy food from other parts of India and the world.
Pench Tree Lodge
I’ve heard great things about Pench Tree Lodge by Pugdundee Safaris. Hope to experience it in person someday!
Pench safari booking
Safaris in Pench National Park can be booked on the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department website, or through your accommodation.
Pench safari cost
The safari vehicle costs INR 1500-2000, while the guide fee is INR 480. Please tip your guide to encourage guiding that goes beyond just chasing the tiger.
Is Pench National Park on your wildlife wishlist?
Note: I was hosted by Taj Safaris in Pench; lucky me!
Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, “sustainability influencer,” social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes that travel – if done right – has the power to change us and the world we live in.
splendid writing.. for a moment i was teleported to the scenic greens of Pench! 🙂
Thanks Rajmita! Glad to have your virtual company 🙂
Nice one Shivya! Wandering in the wild I’ve done but with style too – now, that’s another thing. 😉
Thanks Vibha! Living in such luxury in the buffer zone is quite the experience 🙂
Wow, you are lucky! Beautiful accommodations and the wild- perfection!!
Loving everything about your wonderful post.
You are lucky, but I guess you have earned it, but your friends!!! They are so so so lucky!! 😀
Nice to read your new post, Beautiful photos.
Love the images, Shivya! There is something about a Taj experience amidst the forest 🙂
Luxury never hurts even in the wilderness 😀 Just got back from a trip to Manali with a complimentary stay at the most royal resort ever! And I have to say, it was a welcome change from the budget 500 per night hotels I normally stay at 😛
Looks amazing! Definitely adding this to my list for future holidays 🙂
Fabulous! loved the pictures and your narration 🙂
The mix of modern amenities amidst wild life still astounds me. It’s amazing that you were able to enjoy all that wilderness and wildlife while still being comfortable and well-sheltered. Thanks for sharing your great adventure. Looking forward for more posts!
Wonderful forests. It has definitely on my travel wishlist now. Thanks for writing this 🙂
Beautiful ! I have been in here as being hotelior makes it easy to be part of hotels in India 🙂 But forest is what interest me awlays..Great Shivya! Btw Do you know Im doing teh crazy RickshawRun this year ? Should see this http://www.photokatha.in/indian-travel-blogger-on-rickshaw-run-2015/
Wow, that was indeed beautiful! I never thought that nature and luxury can mix in such a perfect way. This is certainly on my wish list now.
wow! you are very lucky indeed! 🙂
Splendid writing, very few writers can help people ‘visualize’ with their excellent use of words, you definitely are one such brilliant wordsmith !
What camera do you use, Shivya?
All these photos are taken by my iPhone 6!
O cool!! They are awesome. Don’t you use any DSLR?
Amazing, Visiting National Park always excites me. to get a chance to enrol with nature is truly an amazing experience and can’t be expressed in words. But you have done amazingly expressed those experiences. very nicely done.
Shivya, you have done such a brilliant job on portraying your outdoorsy experience. Your love affair with Central India‘s Wildlife seems like something you could write a novel about. I can only sit and wonder how exciting your trip may have been!
Excellent photography and I fell for the first one the deer looks so serene and solitary. The Machan (I hope that’s the thing) is sooo cool.. and oh how I envy you! the food set on the table is like some five- star cuisine. The trail,… seriously is out of the world…. Under the ready to precipitate dark clouds. This blog site has all what it needs to one of a kind!
It is great that you was very near to my place Nagpur.
I want to say one thing this area (safaris, forest) have many issues like venery, illegal activities also.
The government not looking towards development of rural people around this area.