Kanha Tiger Reserve
Nestled in the eastern spur of Maikal range of Satpura mountains, this lush sal and bamboo forests, grassy meadows and numerous ravines all make Kanha a prime tiger habitat. Banjar and the Halon valley forms the western and eastern halves of the Kanha Tiger Reserve providing a steady water source for the abundant wildlife.
The park was created in 1955 by a special law and, since then, it has dedicated itself in preserving a variety of animal species. Today, Kanha is among the few most scenic and beautiful wildlife reserves in Asia. This 'Tiger Country' is the ideal home for both predator and prey. Spread in an area of 1945 km² (750 square miles), Kanha is one of India’s largest national parks and is renowned not only for its high tiger concentration, but as the last remaining habitat of the hard ground barasingha, or swamp deer, which was brought back from the brink of extinction.
The reserve is an excellent interspersion of the dadars (flat hilltops), grassy expanses, dense forests and riverine forests. It is very rich in flora, largely due to the combination of land-forms and soil types, apart from the moist character of the region. The rich habitat diversity of the Reserve supports abundant animal communities and the lesser life forms. The Reserve is the sanctum sanctorum of many typical Central Indian fauna.
Kanha's indigenous forest dwellers, the Gond and the Baiga, were shift cultivationists who practised 'slash and burn' techniques. They were some of the country's finest shikaris (hunters), and they collected forest produce such as berries, honey, mushrooms, roots and Mahua flowers.
In the 1800's, the area was preserved as a hunting estate. Elaborate shooting parties roamed the forest on elephant back, using the skill of the local shikaris. Finally the country's tiger population dropped to an alarming figure and hunting was banned.
In 1972, Project Tiger was established to revive the tiger population in nine prime locations across the country, including Kanha. It involved forming an inner core area - from which all villages were relocated, and an outer buffer zone, where agricultural life would take place, including cattle-grazing and the collection of forest produce and fallen wood. The meadows that we see inside the reserve today are the old village sites.
Park management includes maintaining water-bodies and natural grass species. Forest fires are controlled by firelines and watch-out towers. Patrolling takes place from out-posts, by foot and elephant back by dedicated staff. Tigers are monitored through camera traps, pugmark identification and some are radio-collared.
Poaching and forest encroachment remain the tiger's biggest threat globally, both of which affect Kanha but are largely under control.
The major mammals that can been found here are: tiger, leopard, wild dog, sloth bear, gaur or Indian bison, chital or spotted deer, sambhar deer, barasingha or swamp deer, muntjac, mouse deer, nilgai or blue bull, jackal, hyena, chausinga or four-horned antelope, wild boar and hanuman langur along with several species of bats.
The beautiful and diverse landscape of Kanha is also ideal for birdwatching, with over 200 bird species recorded.
Kanha receives thousands of visitors each year. It is one of the country's most popular tiger reserves, but also one of the best preserved and managed parks. Due to its remote location, Kanha attracts those who are serious about wildlife. Its large size means you can explore tracts where you feel that the forest is all yours. And, as with all parks today, the number of entry permits is restricted, so you rarely feel part of a crowd, even in the holiday season.
20% of the reserve is accessible for tourism. Access is permitted, by jeep, twice a day; morning and afternoon, except on Wednesday afternoons, Diwali and Holi.
The reserve is divided into 4 tourist zones. You can visit one zone per safari. We have complete freedom in where we go within each zone. All zones have their own beauty and charm, and all have good opportunities for sightings.
Choice of zone depends on availability. BOOK 4 MONTHS IN ADVANCE FOR OPTIMUM EXPERIENCE!
Things to do
There is no better way to venture in to the heart of the forest than by open-top jeep.
Safaris within Kanha Tiger Reserve take place twice daily, except on Wednesday afternoons. Morning drives are approximately 5 hours, commencing at sunrise and returning to lodge by 11.15am. A picnic breakfast is taken on-board to enjoy out in the forest.
Afternoon safaris are up to 3 hours, commencing at 2.45pm (later in summer months), returning to camp at sundown.
We recommend a minimum of 5-6 jeep safaris to give yourself a fair chance of sighting tiger while taking in the full diversity that Kanha has to offer.
A walk through the forest down to the beautiful Banjaar river, listening to bird call and the silence is an experience not to be missed...
From the lodge you gradually enter the tall sal forest, following leaf-littered trails that have been used for ever. A short walk takes you to the river bank, a natural boundary between the core and buffer forest. Walk further downstream observing an array of striking butterflies and dragonflies, interesting tree structures that support ant nests, beehives and enormous spider-webs stretched between their branches. The trail crosses several wooden bridges and as you penetrate deeper, you may follow large pugmarks or come across fresh leopard scat. Wild dog and even tiger has been seen here, on foot.
An alternative route is to ramble up the rocky outcrops that form a hill behind our camp. On this walk we criss-cross village paddy-fields before entering a mixed habitat of ghost trees, wild jasmine and flowering grasses. At the top, enjoy a wonderful panoramic view of the forest and villages scattered within.
Visit to indigenous villages and weekly markets
Kanha's people are predominantly Gond and Baiga tribes - the original forest dwellers of central India, peaceful and animistic in their beliefs. They reside in blue-washed settlements which are beautifully integrated with the surrounding forest.
One of our team can take you on a humbling walk through their village where, depending on the time of day and time of year, you can witness the various stages of the labour intensive rice harvest, a mud house under construction, or drop in to the village school. You’ll admire the practical but aesthetic design of their homes, hand-shaped to complement their agrarian lifestyle, with wood stocks and hay piles, the grinding room and grain store for a year’s supply of rice, wheat and mustard, The welcoming gate-house accommodates buffalo, pigs, goats and cows and opens in to the courtyard – a shaded social space, sometimes host to a wedding or baby naming ceremony.
Bustling weekly markets are fascinating to experience as they have barely changed for centuries. Soak up the atmosphere at the chai stall, or even go for your smoothest ever shave in the most unique salon - under the shade of a tree....
The best markets around us operate on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons. Each are within 30-45 minute's drive away.
Goods for sale serve entirely local needs: fish and vegetables, agricultural tools, cooking utensils and water pots, but there are some items that might interest you too: silver tribal jewellery, glass bangles, a colourful sari, fresh spices or a hunk of jaggery. Some like to pick up a brass water pot for an indoor plant back home. Either way, it's a local's market and you'll experience life around here as it truly is.
The rural countryside that surrounds us is absolutely idyllic, and the best way to soak up the gentle pace of life is to ride out on one of our cycles and explore!
Country lanes weave between each village where you find clusters of charming houses moulded out of earth and painted sky-blue. The surrounding rice fields are verdant in October, having grown throughout the monsoon season and almost ready to harvest. The harvesting process: cutting, winnowing, threshing and gathering is intense and fascinating to witness. Around the same time, fields of brilliant yellow mustard will appear. By Spring (Feb-March) the rice season is complete and the forest blooms. The Mahua flower is collected and brewed into a strong country liquor devoured throughout the community. Marriage celebrations commence.
We have a hand-drawn map to help guide you through some of the loveliest villages, allowing you to go at your own pace and distance. You can stop for chai at one of the stalls, or we can pack you a thermos in the panniers if you'd prefer to halt under the shade of a tree, and be lulled by the sound of cow bells and gentle chatter.
Full day photographer’s safari
A full day 'photographer's' permit allows easier access to different areas of the reserve and can be organised at a premium rate. Special permission is granted for up to 3 people per jeep. Safaris commence 30 minutes before sunrise up till 30 minutes after sundown. A full day permit can be combined with a three-hour elephant safari. Please contact us for full day rates and more details.
Best time to visit
October – April
For serious wildlife photographers best time is from March – June.