KANHA NATIONAL PARKS
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Kanha diverse miscellany of mammal and bird life is without many parallels, because so much is seen so well in so short a time. Yet Kanha is better known as the best place in the world to see tigers. Sighting tigers on drives here is not uncommon, but seeing and photographing tigers from elephant back, sometimes after a thrilling systematic track, is a memorable experience. Elephants usually go out very early in the morning for tiger tracking from Kisli, Kanha or Mukki. An elephant accommodates up to 4 persons besides the mahout the elephant driver and the friend, philosopher and guide of the visitor. But the game of tracking is thrilling and affords a real feel of the dynamic wilderness, unlike the tiger, not for a prolonged view. Other rare sightings may include amnitor lizard, or a porcupine or a python. Of course a host of birds and often gaur sambar and muntjac are seen too. Once the tiger settles down, it can be viewed for several hours. Kanha , 175 km south-east of Jabalpur, is one of India's largest national parks covering 1945 sq. km including a 'core zone' of 940 sq. km.
Excursions into the park are made in the early morning and evening ; no night driving is allowed. Between 1 July and 31 October, Kanha is completely closed owing to the monsoons. Although the wildlife can be seen throughout the season, sightings increase as the weather gets hotter in March and April and the animals move out of the tree cover in search of water. The hottest months are May and June when the temperature can reach although it's warm enough to do without a sweater during the day, as soon as the sun sets the temperature quickly plunges to zero and below. Excursions into the park can be very cold so bring plenty of warm clothes. There are no facilities for changing travellers' cheque here . The nearest places to do this are at Mandla and Jabalpur . There's a telephone and small shop at Kisli but no petrol - the pump here has been dry for years. Make sure you bring enough film. It needs to be fast film because of the low light of the early morning and evening excursions. The local market at Sarekha on Fridays draws the colourful Baiga tribal people and is worth going to. There's a small fee for entry to the park.
In a joint project with the US National park service and the Indian Centre for Environment education, three visitor centres have been set up. The interpretative displays in these centres at Khatia and Mukki gates and at Kanha itself are of a very high standard and well worth looking round. The Kanha display is the most impressive with five galleries and a research hall. As well as display of the animals and the environment, there's a novel sound & light show ' Encounters in the Dark' . Select the English or Hindi soundtrack and spend an enjoyable 20 minutes in a small dark room with five other people, ' there is no danger, all exhibits are artificial'! A number of publications are on sale including informative brochures, posters and postcards, and a small guide to the roadside markers installed as part of the project. There's also a full-colour handbook to the park .The visitor centres are open from 7 to 10.30 am and from 4 to 6 PM daily, and there are free film shows each evening at the Khatia visitor Centre.
Nearest town is Mandla 65 km from Kisli, where field director's office is situated. The nearest airport & railway station are Jabalpur, 160 km from Kisli & 167 km to Mukki. A train or flight is recommended to reach Kanha. There are direct state transport buses from the city bus stand in Jabalpur to Kisli Gate twice daily at 7 am and 11 am . Tickets go on sale about 15 minutes before departure . In the opposite direction, the buses depart from Kisli at around 8 am and noon but the early bus can be late starting in winter. These are ramshackle old buses and crowded as far as Mandla though there are generally spare seats after thar. Don't bring too much baggage as there's hardly anywhere to put it. On the Kisli to Jabalpur run you may have to change buses at Mandla. The nearest railway station to Kisli is 11&1/2 hours by bus at Chiraidongri. It's reached on a slow journey by narrow-gauge trains that will appeal to rail enthusiasts, via Nainpur from either from either Jabalpur or Gondia .
Jeeps are for hire at both Khatia and Kisli Gates and the cost is calculated on a per km basis. Park entry fees are extra. Park gates are open from sunrise to noon and 3 PM to sunset from November to 15 February; sunrise to noon and 4 PM to sunset from 16 February to 30 April, and sunrise to 11 PM and 5 PM to sunset from 1 May to 30 June. An average distance covered on a morning excursion would be 60 km,. less in the afternoon . At the height of the season there may not be enough jeeps to go round so book as soon as you arrive . As in other Indian national parks, drivers tend to drive too fast and not wait around long enough for game to appear. If you think they're being impatient, tell them to slow down. And stay in the Jeep if it breaks down.
Elephants are available for hire . They used to be used for game-viewing safaris but it seems this practice has now ceased; check on arrival at the park.
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