Panna National Park
Panna city in Madhya Pradesh is popular for its diamond industry. Apart from its glittery diamond affairs Panna is also home to a wide variety of elusive wildlife species. Panna National Park came to glory after being declared as the Tiger reserve in 1994. Panna National Park, the Tiger reserve of Panna is the 22nd Tiger reserve of India and fifth in Madhya Pradesh. Located in central Madhya Pradesh and just 57 km away from Khajuraho, Panna National Park can be easily reached via air and road. Being closed to the popular tourist attraction Khajuraho, Panna National Park is often clubbed with the Khajuraho visit. Only a hardcore safari enthusiast will specifically come to Panna National Park for a safari as it has less Tigers as compared to Bandhavgarh National Park and Kanha National Park.
Panna National Park, the stop over destination has slowly gained a lot of popularity among wildlife enthusiasts. Though the main aim of any safari is to spot the elusive but I feel a safari is much more that. Apart from Tigers Panna National Park is also home to wide varieties of Sambhar, Chinkara, Spotted deer, Bear, Wild dog, Wolf, Jackal, Monkey, Crocodiles and more than 200 species of birds. So even if you don’t spot the elusive there is so much in store for you. But when on a safari no one wants to settle for anything less than the mighty Tiger. Before we get into the safari some shots of the flora and fauna from the jungle.
Rubbing eyes and yawning I got up at 5 in the morning to start the exciting wildlife affair. As I got close to the entry gate at Madla I saw a huge queue already lined up for the entry. There is one more entry gate at Hinauta but since Madla gate was close to the Madla Jungle Camp so me and my friends chose it for the entry. Clad in jackets and caps we all ventured inside the jungle with high hopes for just a glance of the elusive. As the jeep progressed the first thought that cropped up was “such a beautiful jungle“. An array of thick Teak and Acacia trees all around us blanketed the whole jungle. The guide was continuously rambling about how he is going to help us spot the Tiger and we can ask him any questions if we have. It was too early to ask any question so I just kept quiet.
Just after few minutes we started spotting the lesser popular wildlife of Panna National Park. Just so that we don’t get bored waiting for the mighty the jungle kept us awake by feeding interesting sights of flora as well as fauna. In no time we spotted a Sambhar and the paparazzi within all of us was out in the jungle.
As we moved ahead the landscape started changing and the thick forests transformed into glowing grasslands. In the struggle of being on our toes we nearly forgot that soon the sun is going to rise. The dawn filter of the landscape slowly changed and the grassland started glistening with the sunlight. The guide continuously showed us various species of birds. So if you are an avid birder this safari can be a real treat for you. Very soon we started spotting Chintals, Nilgai and Langurs in big numbers. After a point it became a regular thing and our excitement hit a saturation level for them.
While the safari in Panna National Park didn’t turn out that fruitful for us but our other friends who were in different jeep saw a Leopard attack and kill a Sambhar. Their guide identified the calling and insisted on staying while everyone else moved. When they told us the story we tossed it in the air thinking it as one of those concocted safari stories. But then they had pictures to prove their story. I was awestruck. Considering the shy nature of Leopards, spotting one is a big deal in itself and watching the action live must have been a full adrenaline rush. While they couldn’t stop telling the stories we had to make do with the pictures only.
Apart from dramatic landscapes and wild life, Ken river is also the permanent companion of Panna National Park. The river is home for species of crocodiles like mugger and long snout gharial. The guide told us that Ken River is the lifeline of the park. The river is strewn with little islands. We drove along the expanse of the river, took the uphill road to a plateau with colorful igneous rocks, crossed little streams of water and finally after crossing another stretch of grasslands we reached the most picturesque sight of the park which is a 200-meter-high gorge called Dhundhua. Dhund (hindi word) means mist and dhua (hindi word) means smoke, the name aptly describes the gorge. We saw Vultures flying across the steep gorge and it was a sight to remember.
Satiated with the opulent doze of wild life and mother nature we decided to head back. The other group couldn’t stop raving about the Leopard attacking Sambhar story. Our group felt a little left out and to make it up we decided to come back for the evening safari. Hoping that we would outshine the other group by spotting the mighty Tiger. We followed the same drill, traversed through the same terrains but we couldn’t get to see the elusive. Yes the magical sunset covered a lot of wounds and we got back. Yet another safari and no sigh of the elusive. Panna National Park surely taught me look at a Safari not just beyond Tigers but beyond wildlife too. It is the most beautiful jungle I have ever been to.
Other Important Info for Safari in Panna National Park
Park charges Entry Fee: Rs. 40 (Indians) & Rs. 500 (foreigners, including morning and afternoon safaris)
Jeep rental: Rs. 1500/half day
Guide: Rs. 100/vehicle
Park timings are 6:30 to 10:30 AM & 2:30 to 5:30 PM.
Carry some identity proof.