Kanaha National Park is located in the remote Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh, in central India. The park offers some of India's best tiger viewing, as well as supporting many other mammals and birds.
Kanha was the setting for Rudyard Kipling's 'The Jungle Book' and has long been famous for its wildlife. Of India’s various tiger reserves, there are few places where can you see these magnificent creatures as regularly as in Kanha. The grassland and deciduous forest supports 22 species of mammal, such as spotted and barking deer, rhesus monkeys, wild boar, Asiatic jackal, three of India’s four lowland antelopes – nilgai, four-horned antelope (chowsingha) and blackbuck – and occasionally leopard, gaur (Indian bison), sloth bear, wolf and dhole (wild dog). The most striking natural feature is the grassy meadows, where you can see sambar and chital. It would come as no great surprise to see Mowgli himself padding barefoot along a dusty trail!
The definitive species, however, is the barasingha, or swamp deer. Kanha has the last population of hard-ground barasinghas, whose numbers exceed 350. Facing extinction over 20 years ago, a series of conservation initiatives has helped save them, and the air now fills with their rutting calls. During the cool winter, the meadows teem with barasinghas, and any tiger activity causes their husky alarm calls to ring through the jungle. More than 220 bird species have been recorded here, including racket-tailed drongos, bee-eaters, crested serpent and hawk eagles, shikras, flycatchers, painted partridge, shaheen falcon, golden oriole and the omnipresent red jungle fowl. Waterholes and high plateaux such as Bahmni Dadar are excellent spots for bird watching, as well as being quiet places to immerse one’s self in the peace of the jungle.
Created in 1955, Kanha covers an area of 1,940 square kilometres and consists of a horseshoe-shaped valley, through which the Surpan River meanders, with steep rocky escarpments created by spurs of the Mekal Hills, offering breathtaking views of the valley, and the forests of the Banjar and Halon valleys form the western and eastern halves of Kanha Tiger Reserve.
Wildlife viewing is by jeep, accompanied by a local guide. Jeeps are free to follow their own route along tracks through the park, using pugmarks and alarm calls to help spot predators. The climate is tropical with hot and humid summers that reach a maximum temperature of higher than 40°C, however winters are pleasant with an average maximum and minimum temperature of 23.9°C and 11.1°C, respectively. The park is open from mid-October to June, and closes during the monsoon period. The park museum is closed on Wednesday.
The easiest way to reach Kanha is to fly to either Jabalpur or Nagpur, followed by a road transfer (175 kilometres/four hours or 265 kilometres/seven hours respectively). Overnight trains from Agra/Delhi to Jabalpur take 15-16 hours. Transfer times are dependent on road conditions, which vary considerably.
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