The parks are closed during the monsoons with heavy downpours between July and October. They begin to open again in October and until the end of December the landscape is lush and green, many trees are in flower and rivers and lakes are full; it’s a stunning and beautiful time to visit and while the thick vegetation can make wildlife spotting more difficult, birdlife during this time is superb, and if you’re a keen birder, travelling at this time is a must. There are around 220 species of birds in Bandhavargh national park alone.
The winter months from November to February are the most comfortable time to visit, with sunny days and pleasant midday temperatures. It can still be very cold first thing in the morning and at night, particularly in December and January when sudden frosts can kill the open patches of grass in Pench.
From January to March Flame of the Forest flowers streak the tree canopy with splashes of red and orange and March midday temperatures in the open start to climb to 40’C though fortunately it’s noticeably cooler in the shade of the forests. The rolling grasslands become dry and the chances of seeing wildlife is higher as it can usually be found near the diminishing waterholes and ponds. In Kanha, tigers rest near the marshy meadows and play in perennial waters of the lake at Tadoba. Sloth bear sightings also often increase between February and April, particularly in Satpura, when the Indian Butter Tree is in flower and they feast on the fermenting fallen blooms.
In May and June most western travellers find central India’s heat unbearable, and some accommodation, such as Shergarh tented camp closes, but if you like it hot (50’C plus) you are likely to have the parks pretty much to yourself. All parks occasionally close for random dates within the usual open season when the Forest Department conducts a wildlife census – sometimes only very short notice is given.
Posted by: Andrea Hulme