Located in Madhya Pradesh in the heart of central India, Kanha National Park is the country’s largest tiger reserve. The inspiration for Kipling’s Jungle Book, it is one of the best parks for tiger sightings.
The scenery at Kanha is gorgeous, a wonderful mix of river valleys and steep rocky escarpments, highland forests and stands of bamboo, dense lowland forests of evergreen sal and rolling grasslands. Around 175 bird species and 22 species of mammal can be found in this rich diversity of habitat. Besides tiger, the impressive gaur (wild ox), chausingha, the only four-horned ungulate in the world, as well as barasingha (swamp deer), recently saved from near extinction are likely to be spotted on a morning or afternoon jeep safari. Leopard and sloth bear sightings are less common but still a distinct possibility.
The park is open from November to June and morning and afternoon game drives in jeeps mean you can enter the park at sunrise, return to your lodge or camp for lunch and a siesta before going out again in the late afternoon.
There is no accommodation in the park and everyone must leave by sunset. As well as jeep safaris, short rides on elephant back are also sometimes possible. Pressing through the jungle on these gentle giants is a unique experience and you can get really close to a tiger for a few minutes, but you will probably find that once is enough - this ‘tiger show’ is not for everyone.
We prefer to work with small owner managed lodges and camps who avoid a tiger-centric approach (unlike some hotels in the area) and will give you a complete experience of Kanha. Although walking is not permitted within the park, these lodges will also take you on hikes in the forests around them and perhaps along the banks of river Banjaar which creates a natural boundary between the unfenced core and surrounding buffer forest; it's a beautiful setting for a walk and viewing smaller wildlife.
We also suggest visiting one of the nearby villages, dipping in to a local market and exploring the area around Kanha. A leisurely cycle ride is a great way to get to know this tribal heartland of rural India and something we highly recommend.
In our opinion this is one of India’s finest national parks and if you’re only going to visit one park it has to be Kanha.