Only four hours drive from Kanha, another tiger reserve takes its name from the Pench River. The main access to Pench National Park is via Turia Gate in the south of the park, but this can get busy as up to 25 vehicles are still allowed to enter at any one time here. However we drove one hour further north to the Jamtara side of the park, where we discovered a real piece of heaven.
Jamtara Wilderness Camp lies just two minutes drive from Jamtara Gate, where only two jeeps are allowed to enter at any one time, and as the camp is the only accommodation there, you pretty much have that whole side of the park to yourself. With only ten luxury safari tents, beautifully designed to fit perfectly into the natural environment in the buffer area adjacent to the park, fantastic in-house naturalist guides, and exquisite Indian cuisine, this is just about as close as you can get to paradise.
The whole experience is very similar to being on safari in a conservancy in Africa, as very few – if any – jeeps from Turia ever get that far north, however from here you can explore the core area of the park as there is no zoning in place.
Any wildlife sighting in this northern sector of the park is highly enjoyable as there is no-one else around and you can take your time. The only downside is that although there are several tigers here, they are less habituated to visitors, and thus shyer – so seeing them is more difficult, but even more rewarding.
Jamtara Camp’s proprietor Amit, spent a long time in Canada. His grandfather was the founder of Project Tiger, which created tiger reserves to protect India’s wildlife and forests; he was granted the Civilian Award from the President. Amit grew up in the jungle and has a true love for its wildlife, and his extensive travels to Africa and Canada inspired him to create this new concept to dramatically improve the quality of jungle safaris in India
During my short stay at Jamtara I was fortunate enough to see an adult female tiger crossing the road – a picture of pride and elegance – as well as a great variety of other wildlife such as white-spotted deer, blue bull, sambar deer, wild boar, peacock, black-faced monkey and a variety of birds including Malabar pied hornbill, common hoopoe, white-throated and common kingfishers, rose-ringed parakeet, mottled wood owl, rock eagle owl, crested serpent eagle, shikra, red-naped ibis, greater racquet-tailed drongo, common iora, oriental magpie robin and jungle babbler.
However what surprised me most about Pench is that the scenery is totally different to that of Kanha, as the forest there is predominantly of teak, which is much more open that the dense forest of sal and bamboo, and affords better visibility for seeing wildlife. The ghostly trees and twilight of the teak forest create an incredible surreal atmosphere.
'At five o’clock in the morning, if you open your window and listen, you will hear the feel of the wind that is going to call the sun.' Rudyard Kipling