Panna National Park: The lost habitat of Tigers

I arrived at Bandhavgarh with very high hopes of sighting my first tiger in the wild but it ended in sheer disappointment even after trying couple of rides in the National Park… even switching between the zones…. I have traveled extensively across many national parks of subcontinent of which some of those were considered as the best chances of sighting tigers but this majestic cat has always played hide and seek. But I am not going to falter with the series of unfortunate events and will still continue my pursuit for a Tiger….
Sunset at Panna National Park
However Tala was not entirely mind-numbing experience… Like every destination, good things always happen perhaps with veiled gravity. In that very small village nestled among the Vindya hills, I fall in for an affable gesture of a lovely girl who was cooking my meals during my stay in Tala. In the pictures from my memories I can still see her playing with her tangled yet dense hair line while rolling the rotis …sliding her fingers slowly from the ears to the neck… and then she lift her head upwards with a placid smile on her pale reddish cheeks… and then she look straight into my eyes emitting an unworldly expression…. Gradually her image ebbed away down in the memory lane reminding me a fragile promise to return back to Tala one day…
View from Sharda temple Maihar near Satna Madhya Pradesh
                                      
View from Sharda temple Maihar
Getting used to of saying Goodbye is deep-rooted in traveler’s nature and that what persuaded me to leave Tala despite of special attachment with the place and the people… the immaculate serenity was far gone when I boarded a fully packed bus from Tala…. Traveling public transport is a challenge in Madhya Pradesh and I cannot remember exact number of busses I changed to reach Panna from Tala. In between that hectic day of travel, I was fortunate to offer my prayers to one of the revered deity of the region, Sharda Temple of Maihar town which is very close to Satna. Sharda temple lies on the hill top which can be reached either by a track uphill or by a ropeway (50 INR per person). The temple at hill top offers a beautiful view of the valley down.
View from Sharda temple Maihar showing the pond of Alha and Udal

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Public Transport route from Tala to Panna/Khajuraho (Private Busses):
TalaBarhiMaiharSatnaPannaBamithaKhajuraho
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finally after 10 hours on the window seats of private busses, I touched town at Panna which fall enroute to Khajuraho from Satna. As I reached Panna late in the evening so I decided to stay there overnight before proceeding further to Khajuraho. Panna is known for only operational diamond mines in the country and Panna Tiger reserve which was once a dense habitat of tigers but continuous poaching severally damaged the fauna of the forest.

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Accommodation @ Panna: 250 INR  (Many lodges near bus stand)
========================================= ==============

Landscape near Panna
                                             Landscape near Panna

Next morning, I made a sudden plan of visiting the diamond mines of Panna those lies some 18 km away from the town and there is a free bus service on that route run by NMDC (National Minerals development Corporation). Panna today is the only diamond bearing area being mined in the country. One of the open cast mines at Majhgawan is located next to the Hinauta gate of the Panna forest reserve. Passing through the deciduous forest, you will definitely enjoy the journey till the mines. I got entry to the NMDC complex but there are special permissions required to visit the mining sites those I could not procure even with my incessant efforts.
Short Map of Panna

                                         Panna and nearby attractions
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Distances: Panna- NMDC/Hinauta Gate (18 km), Panna-Pandav Falls (12 km), Panna-Madla gate (20 km), Madla gate-Khajuraho (25 km).
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First view of Pandav Falls
                                             First view of Pandav Falls

 

Forlorn and disappointed, I receded back to the main highway (Satna-Jhansi) and boarded another bus to Pandav waterfalls those lies some 12 km far from Panna on the main highway. Despite of mythological importance and absolute wilderness, Pandav Falls are one of the under-rated attractions of Madhya Pradesh. The first look of pandav falls, settled in a deep chasm surrounded by dense forest inspired the awe within me. Reflection of lush green forest was so vivid on the pond that I entered my fingers in the unspoiled water to quench my delusion. With its secluded geographic location, Pandav falls tops the list of must visit places for those who are traveling anywhere near to Panna. Even it can be easily done in one day bicycle trip from Khajuraho.
Pandav Falls and Pandav Caves near Panna

Pandav Falls Entrance fee:
* Visiting hours: 06:00 AM to 05:00 PM
* Foot-travelers: 15 INR (Indian), 150 INR (Foreigners)

        Two Wheelers

   Light Vehicles (up to 8 person)

       Mini bus (9-32 person)

Indian

Foreigners

Indian

Foreigners

Indian

Foreigners

40

200

200

1000

400

2000

Ancient Temple in Panna
                                              
Ancient Temple in Panna
After Pandav falls, I returned back to my hotel room in Panna. had my lunch… folded my belongings….and got some time to stroll along the narrow lanes… While negotiating through the streets of Panna, I realized how badly Khajuraho overshadowed Panna. Besides couple of picturesque lakes, Panna is blessed with many ancient temples and monuments of archeological importance. I offered my bid-adieu to the lost town of Panna when kids were getting ready for kite fighting and I caught a bus towards Madla gate of Panna Tiger reserve in a hope of sharing an evening Safari inside the forest. Panna Tiger reserve used to be a rich habitat of Tigers and other animals but incessant poaching and deforestation severally impacted the biodiversity of the park. Sincere conservation efforts of forest department in recent years are now revitalizing the flora and fauna of the park. Like every other forest guide, I also hope that Panna will regain its golden era in near future and will become one of the best habitats of big Cat in the subcontinent.
Sambar Deers at Panna National Park
                                
Sambar Deers at Panna National Park

Where to stay: Most of the visitors of the park either stay at Khajuraho or Panna nevertheless there are couple of accommodation options near Madla gate of the National Park including a forest department guest house. Some of these resorts offer camping type of accommodation overlooking the scenic shore of Ken river. These river side resorts can be your best pick if you are seeking sheer solitude in the midst of absolute wilderness.

Restaurants: Nothing much other than a canteen at Madla gate runs by Forest department. Panna or Khajuraho is your best pick for taking your meals.

Map of Panna National Park
                                              Map of Panna National Park
Park Timings: 

 

Park Safari Timings

Morning Safari

Evening Safari

16th Oct-15th Feb

06:30 AM to 10:30 AM

02:30 PM to 5:30 PM

16th Feb-31st March

06:00 AM to 10:00 AM

03:00 PM to 6:00 PM

01st April-30th June

05:30 AM to 09:30 AM

04:00 PM to 7:00 P

* Closed in the second half each Wednesday
* It remains dosed between the monsoon months of July and September.
Safari trail inside the national park
                                      
Safari trail inside the national park
Vehicle Entrance Charges:

Purpose of entry

          Light vehicles
      (Up to 8 persons)

                 Minibus
          (9 to 32 persons)

Remarks

Viewing wildlife in Vehicle (per round)

Indian

Foreigners

Indian

Foreigners

 

1000

2000

1600

12000

Rates for foreigners shall be applicable if persons of mixed nationalities travel in a vehicl

Besides vehicle entrance fee, Gypsy guys generally charges 1500 INR per round which is the same for all the zones so total cost per vehicle reaches 2500 INR (3500 INR for foreigners) for single trip inside the national park. So it’s a simple equation of cutting down the cost per person by adding more visitors to a vehicle.
Ken river inside Panna National Park
                                     
Ken river inside Panna National Park
Panna national park mostly attracts those seeking a break from their laid-back vacations at Khajuraho. Unlike Kanha and Bandhavgarh, it does not witness a long queue of Gypsys hence it was difficult for me to get a shared ride to the National park. After waiting for more than an hour, I was able to get a seat in a gypsy which was hired by a family and I had to pay 1000 bucks (more than what I paid in Bandhavgarh) for a seat.

Booking a safari online:
http://www.mponline.gov.in/Portal/Services/Forest/Search.aspx
Waterbody in the middle tier of the park
                                 
Waterbody in the middle tier of the park

Geographical settings of Panna national park is a three tier of hills and Gypsy can ply all the way till the top level (vantage point) offering an incredible view to all its guests. As everyone knows, Tigers define their territory and rarely intrude in others. The highest level (often referred as the roof of the national park) provides a suitable terrain of private territory hence had been one of best spot of sighting Tigers. Panna is also home of one of the few remaining vulture nests of the subcontinent and your rare exclusive chance of sighting this majestic bird. These nests are settled on the steep rocky patches formed around the deep gorge situated on the highest level of national park.
Crocodile in Panna National Park
                                        Crocodile in Panna National Park

Perhaps I knew upfront about the bleak chances of sighting Tigers and leopards in Panna yet I paid hefty Safari charges for a trip inside the national park because the first glimpse of Ken River and landscape intrigued me greatly. Panna is a unique landscape and one of the few national parks nestled among the hilly terrain and still motorable. Besides experiencing usual wildlife (Crocodiles, Sambar deers, Barking deers etc), I also appreciated the pristine flora of the forest which is home to some of the rare tree species. And i won’t deny that watching the sun setting down at the distance horizon in the backdrop of Ken River was one of the most transcendental experiences from my travel memoirs. Soon after Sun surrendered itself to darkness and I was on the road to Khajuraho.
Sunset at Panna National Park
                                     Sunset @ Panna National Park

Travel Tips:
* Morning Safaris are longer than the evening ones hence Gypsy buys more time to reach till the top of the National park. Evening safaris only go till the middle level.
* Most of the visitors enter to the park from Madla gate so here you have better chance to get a vehicle.
I am also extending my accolade to the dexterous jeep drivers those ply their vehicle on that steep trails those otherwise are impossible to motor.
* Nature camps are organized each Sunday (from Oct to Feb) by Panna Forest Reserve for school children but there are also limited seats (20) for travelers as a volunteer. You will have to pay 200 INR as an entrée fee to participate in Nature camps. One will get to spend an entire day in national park which otherwise not possible by Jeep Safaris and moreover sit’s a budget friendly tip of getting inside the national park. Contact 07732-252135/ 9424791254 for getting yourself booked for upcoming weekends.

Relics inside Panna National Park
                                       Relics inside Panna National Park
History of Panna National Park:

 

Forest in and around panna were once the royal hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Panna, Chattarpur and Bijawar. They alone enjoyed the privilege of hunting here. The area was declared the Gangau Wildlife Sanctuary in 1975. It became a National Park in 1981 on the recommendation of a committee chaired by Shri Lokendra Singh. In 1994 it became India's 22nd Tiger Reserve.
 

Many relics of the Gond period, who were the original rulers of this central highland are found in the park. The area has a long history of the wildlife conservation. During the state rule there was a ban on killing females, young wild animals and tigers below 9 feet in length.
Tree from which edible gum is extracted
                                   Tree from which edible gum is extracted

Fauna: Panna occupies an important place in India's vegetation distribution. It marks the northern boundary of natural teak (Tectona grandis) and the eastern boundary of Kardhai (Anogeissus pendula) forests.
Ken River Madhya Pradesh

Ken River: Ken, a tributary of river Yamuna is one of Madhya Pradesh's 12 perennial rivers. It traverses 55 kms in the park and forms a small but significant catchment in the form of Panna National Park. National Park also offers an opportunity of boating in Ken River which is 100 % chances of sighting lazy Crocodiles resting on the rocks at river’s side.

As the protected area, Panna National Park performs many functions including:
* Conserving biodiversity.
* Protecting natural ecosystems.
* Educating people on the value of the natural environment.

Entree Fee of Various Forest reserves and sanctuaries of Madhya Pradesh

Hi Vishnu, That was a cool

Hi Vishnu,
That was a cool description. I plan to visit Panna towards the end of December. The chances of encountering a tiger are high in Tadoba Chandrapur. Is there a public conveyance from Panna to satna?

Regards,

Allan

Thanks for dropping by

Thanks for dropping by Allan... Chances of sighting Tiger in Panna are very bleak but you will be stunned with the flora, fauna and beautiful river... I have never visited such a beautiful forest with 3 tiers of vegetation... Tadoba has got better chances obviously... Tadoba is indeed catching up as the best tiger sighting forest reserve in the country....

There are frequent busses from Satna to Panna.... Most of these are run by private operators... It's till 9:00 PM in the evening... you may get buses after that also but i am not sure...

Regards
Vishnu Kumar

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