Wildlife Jungle Safari at Kanha National Park

So after being 4 days on the road from Delhi, we finally reached our destination Kanha National Park to once again try our luck with the tigers. Along the way on our fun-filled Delhi to Kanha family road trip through Madhya Pradesh, we had broken our journey and stopped at Agra (the Taj), Orchha (a hidden wonder) and Bhedaghat (Dhuandhar Falls). We left Bhedaghat early in the morning and after yet another scenic drive, reached our resort at Kanha at 1:00 PM. Immediately after check-in, we went for our afternoon wildlife jungle Safari at Kanha National Park with hopes of sighting the tiger. The entry to the Kanha National Park was to start at 3:00 PM but the ticket counter opens at 2:30 PM. This gave us enough time to grab a bite at a local dhaba nearby the ticket counter. Also, this ensured that we completed the required formalities in time. However, unlucky in the afternoon safari, we tried our luck at the morning safari as well. With the guide pointing us towards the freshly visible pug marks and constant deer calls, our little one had already started her transformation into an expert tiger tracker. Hopes of tiger spotting were ever-increasing…. Alas! The tigers still continued to elude us! 

However, we were not left empty-handed though as Kanha has abundance of wild life. Barasinghas and other deers, Neelgai, Bisons (Gaurs), jackals, elephants, langoors and various birds made our time enjoyable. Also, we found the Kanha Tiger reserve very well maintained and we had great fun exploring the jungle especially experiencing the freezing temperatures of the morning safari. We just loved the parts when the safari gypsy used to stop for locating the direction of the deer calls. It just magnified the peace and tranquility of this vast beautiful jungle. If you want to experience a jungle in its full glory then put Kanha National Park in your bucket list as it is a must visit place especially for families with kids.

Famous termite hills of Kanha National Park

Kanha National Park (Kanha Tiger Reserve)


Established in June 1955 with a core area of 917.44 square kilometers and surrounding area of 1,134.361 square kilometers, Kanha National Park provides an all-round nature experience with lush green tall Sal trees, Sindoor & Bamboo trees, ghost trees and vast green meadows & grasslands for deer grazing. Under the Project Tiger in 1973, it was made the Kanha Tiger Reserve. Apart from the Royal Bengal Tigers, it houses sloth bears, leopards, Indian wild dogs, Jackals, wild boars, bison (gaur), peacocks, spotted deers, blackbuck, sambhar, chital, barking deer and the rare hard-ground swamp deer the famous Barasingha which is found exclusively at the Kanha Tiger reserve. The Barasingha also happens to be the state animal of Madhya Pradesh. Of the above list, tigers, leopards and sloth bears are a bit difficult to sight as tigers are you know…. tigers! and leopards are just the shy type. It also has a lot of birds including the blossom-headed parakeets, woodpeckers and white-breasted kingfishers. It’s therefore no wonder that this beautiful glorious jungle inspired Rudyard Kipling to create the world-famous novel The Jungle book with our little ones favorite character mogli.

Safari Entry Gates at Kanha Tiger Reserve


There are 3 main safari entry gates to enter the various core and buffer safari zones of the Kanha Tiger Reserve. The Safari entry gates are Khatiya Gate (Main Entry Gate to the West), Sarhi Gate (to the North) and Mukki Gate (to the South East). There is another gate named Kisli Gate however only a Safari Jeep can get access to it after it has already entered from the Khatiya Gate.

Core and Buffer Safari Zones at Kanha Tiger Reserve


The whole Kanha National Park is basically divided into 8 Safari Zones of which 4 are Core Safari zones, 3 are Buffer Safari zones and 1 is in the adjoining Phen sanctuary.

The 4 Core Safari zones are Kanha Zone (to the east), Kisli Zone (to the west), Sarhi Zone (to the North) and the Mukki Zone (to the South).

The 3 Buffer zones are the Khatiya Zone, Sijhora Zone and Khapa Zone.

However, tiger and other wildlife sightings can happen anywhere in the 4 core zones as it is not concentrated in any one particular zone. Although rare, tiger sightings even occur inside buffer zones too. Really, it is up to the tiger if it wishes to be seen. However, if you manage to enter early in the morning safari or exit late in the evening safari, then there is a better chance of sighting them. Also, summers are the best for wild life sightings including tigers as they come out more often in search of water bodies.

Attempting to find any wildlife at these water bodies, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be!

Accessibility


Khatiya Gate (followed by Kisli Gate)


This is the Main Entry Gate to the west of the Park. Any of the 4 Core Safari Zones and the Khatiya Buffer Zone are accessed from this gate. Once the Safari Gypsy enters from the Khatiya gate, then to get access to the 4 core safari zones, it will enter through the Kisli Gate. However, Kisli gate is not used to get access to the Khatiya buffer zone. Since all the major resorts are near the Khatiya gate so it is the most widely and easily accessed gate. If you are approaching Kanha National park from Jabalpur via Mandla, then you may choose to stay near this gate and do the safari entry from Khatiya. Good family friendly hotels & resorts near Khatiya gate to choose from are Mogli ResortTuli Tiger Resort, Club Mahindra KanhaCelebration Van Vilas & Sterling Kanha.

Sarhi Gate


This gate is to the North of the park. It is used to get access to only 3 core safari zones – Sarhi, Kanha and only morning safari for the Kisli Zone. Also, Sijhora buffer zone can also be accessed from this northern entry gate. This is the least used gate as it has a lack of good resorts or accommodation near it. However, there is one resort near Sarhi gate – Baghira Jungle Resort which is operated by Madhya Pradesh State Tourism Department.

Mukki Gate


This gate is to the South of the park. It is used to get access to only 3 core safari zones – Mukki, Kisli and only morning safari for the Kanha Zone. Also, Khapa buffer zone can also be accessed from this southern entry gate. This gate is also used to get access to the safari at the adjoining Phen sanctuary. There are some good family friendly private resorts available near this gate too. If you are coming to Kanha from Nagpur side via Balaghat, then it will be more convenient to stay near this gate and do the safari entry from Mukki. Good family friendly hotels & resorts near Mukki gate to choose from are Asteya Kanha Hotels and Resorts, Bagh Villas, Royal Tiger Resort & Chitvan Jungle Lodge.

Shravan Taal where legend has it that King Dasharatha mistakenly killed the doting son Shravan Kumar

How to book Jungle Safari at Kanha National Park


The Kanha National Park is open to visitors from 1st October to 30th June with the following jungle safari timings:

Timings Morning Safari Evening Safari
1 October to 15 February Sunrise to 11 am 3 pm to Sunset
16 February to 15 April Sunrise to 11 am 4 pm to Sunset
16 April to 30 June Sunrise to 11 am 5 pm to Sunset

Every Wednesday is a half day and vehicle permits are available for buffer zones only. The park is closed on Holi and Diwali too.

Pro Tip: As you can see in the above table, the morning jungle safari is of a longer duration than the evening one. However the charges are same for both the safari permits. Also, in the morning jungle safari, you are taken to an Exhibition center at around 9:00 to 9:15 am until about 10 am. At this place, there are some well maintained museums, a canteen for quick breakfast, wash rooms and an impressive photo point – beautiful creative arch made of antelors. Therefore, if you have the option to choose between one of the two, try choosing the morning safari. However, if you are visiting in the month of January, then it is better to avoid morning safari due to freezing temperatures.

Basically the safari cost consists of 3 items which you need to arrange to visit the Kanha National Park – Jungle Safari Vehicle (INR 1,500 per Safari Vehicle) or Single Seat Permit (INR 250 per seat), Vehicle Hire charge (INR 2,500) and the Guide fees payment (INR 360). There is no difference between Indian and Foreign tourists as they both pay the same charges.

Vehicle / Single Seat Permit for Jungle Safari


There are a limited number of vehicles allocated for morning and evening wildlife safari for each zone. They are further divided into various categories – Online Full Vehicle Permit, Online Wait list Full Vehicle Permit, Online Single vehicle Permit and Single seat permit at the entry gate. Online bookings open 4 months in advance and there is a limited number of quota for booking at the entry gate.

Therefore, the vehicle or single seat permit booking for the Jungle safari can be done in a relaxed way online on the Madhya Pradesh government’s website for its National Parks. This is definitely better than trying to getting it when you are already at the park entrance, where things are a bit tedious. The manual paper work involved in filling the permit forms coupled with the hassle of standing a long slow-moving line while the family and friends are waiting for you in the safari jeep is in my opinion … a sure shot way to kill all the fun!

Once you are on the MP govt forest website, click “Book Now” tab and select “Tiger reserve”. Once you select “Kanha Tiger Reserve” you have to choose between “Full Vehicle” and “Single Seat” permit type.

Full Vehicle permit: The Full Vehicle safari permit costs INR 1,500 for the whole jeep which comes down to INR 1,550 along with the service fee. A safari Jeep can seat up to six tourists excluding the driver and the guide. Children under five years of age are free.

Single Seat permit: If you are less than six tourists and do not mind sharing the safari vehicle with other tourists to cut down costs, then this option is now available. A single seat safari permit costs INR 250 per person. Again, children under five years of age are free however, they will have to sit with the family member and there is no separate seat allotted for them as there are only six available seats in a safari jeep.

One Safari permit charge is valid for one Zone only, which you select when making the online booking.

Once you make the booking of the required Zone, to avoid any last-minute confusion, it is a good idea to check the entry gate mentioned on your permit booking so that you make the hotel booking accordingly to avoid the hassle of driving to a far away gate when you are already at the park.

Also, if the permit status on your booking shows “W”, it means that your permit is under Waiting category and is not confirmed. If your permit Waiting does not clear before 5 days from your Excursion date, then your permit will be cancelled automatically and your paid amount will be refunded online.

Vehicle hire charges – Jeep booking


Once you have completed the permit booking online, then the Safari Jeep booking can be done once you reach Kanha National Park. The hire charges for the vehicle i.e. a 4×4 Jeep safari is INR 2,500 per jeep.

Now, if you had selected a Full Vehicle permit, then you need to pay the entire INR 2,500 once at Kanha National Park for the Jeep hire.

However, if you had selected a Single seat permit, then the total hire charge for the Safari vehicle (INR 2,500) will be distributed equally among the tourists present in the vehicle at the time of the entry.

The Safari Vehicle booking desk is very near to the ticket booking center at Kanha National Park entry gates.

There is a provision to increase the Vehicle fee by 10% every year. In 2018, the charges were INR 2,500 per safari vehicle.

Guide Fees


Once you have booked the safari vehicle, a vehicle number will be written on your vehicle permit booking printout. You need to take it to the ticket counter at the entry gate. The the ticket counter there is a side window for ticker verification. Here, the permit booking details will be verified by the forest official with the ID proof you mentioned while booking the permit. Also, at the same counter, you need to deposit INR 360 for the guide fee per safari vehicle. Again, if you had selected a Single seat permit, then the total guide fees (INR 360) will be distributed equally among the tourists present in the vehicle at the time of the entry.

Now you will need to board the allocated safari vehicle and wait for the forest department to allocate a guide for your vehicle.

Therefore, it is better to come up a bit early say 30 minutes to an hour before the scheduled entry time depending on the season, to complete these formalities in time before the safari starts and avoid any undue delays.

Best time to visit Kanha National Park


Kanha National Park is open for visitors from 1st October to 30th June every year. However, due to hot summer months here in Madhya Pradesh, it is advisable to visit the park with kids either in November / December or in March / April. The winter month of January is extremely cold especially in the morning safari. Also, it’s very busy month with plenty visitors. Months from November to February, the park is cool and lush green due to the rainy season. A lot of migratory birds can also be sighted during the winter months. From March, the vegetation starts receding however the temperatures are still comparatively cooler inside the park due to the greenery. The various wildlife also start coming out in search of water. Therefore, March provides the best climate for visiting with kids with a better chance of wild cat and wildlife sightings. There is also a good chance of wildlife photography in March however from April to June, there is a high probability of tiger sightings as the greenery recedes before the rainy season kicks in.

How to Reach Kanha?


Reaching by Air

Nearest airport is Jabalpur airport (170 kms) which is well-connected to Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bhopal and other major cities. Second best option is Nagpur airport (290 kms).

Reaching by Rail

The nearest railway stations are Bilaspur (175 kms), Gondia (127 kms), Jabalpur (214 kms), Nagpur (280 kms) and Raipur (216 kms)

Reaching by Road

Nearest cities are Jabalpur (165 kms), Raipur, Nagpur. Jabalpur & Nagpur are on National Highway-7 which connects Varanasi to Kanyakumari.

The routes are: Jabalpur – Mandla – Kanha (Khatia gate)

Nagpur – Seoni – Balaghat – Baihar – Kanha (Mukki gate)

What Kanha is exclusively famous for – The Barasingha!

Where to stay in Kanha?


Kanha has plenty of kid friendly resorts for families. We stayed at the Club Mahindra Resort for our stay at Kanha. It is quite near to the Khatiya gate so was ideal for our Wildlife Safari. The property was large and well maintained meeting the Club Mahindra Standards. There were ample activities for kids to choose from. My kiddo loved the pottery and the play zone area. Its beautifully built with the forest expanse outlining the property. The rooms were well equipped with a mini kitchenette and all modern amenities. It made for a perfectly comfortable stay to unwind after back to back safaris.

Check out the prices here

Book your Stay at Kanha


Have you been to Kanha National Park? Did you see any Tigers there? What was your experience? Do let us know or if we are missing something, please contact us or comment below and I will update this blog soon. Your comments and/or feedback are welcome.

In case you found the above read interesting, you might also like the following: 

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Sariska National Park – Where The Tigers Roar (for few lucky ones)!!

Orchha – A Hidden Wonder

Lucknow Food Trail

Family Road Trip: Delhi to Kanha National Park

About Manish Samtani

Namaste! A passionate traveller at heart and now a blogger as well. Thanks to my sailing career, travelling has always been an integral part of my professional life. Eternally fascinated by the World of Travelling be it either meeting new people, learning new cultures, experiencing their customs or just trying out some new cuisines. Off late, I’ve been exploring places with my family where my job has not taken me. Mail me at manishsamtani@laidbacktraveller.com

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