The beautiful forests of Pench…

After Ranthambore and Tadoba, we planned a trip to the Mowgli land – the Pench National Park. Pench is known for its beautiful forests along with sightings of tigers, leopards, dholes as well birds and a wide variety of mammals. My friends joined me for this trip and we were group of 5. We were a little late in booking but still somehow managed to get 3 safaris (1 night safari, 1 morning safari and 1 afternoon safari). We reached Nagpur by 12:30 PM and Pench being around 2 hours from Nagpur, we were at our resort (Village Machaan) by 3 PM.

After getting fresh and relaxing for couple of hours, we were ready for our 1st safari of the trip, which was a Night Safari. Pench is the only national park where night safaris have been started since a year or so. These safaris are conducted in the Buffer zone; which is a Wolf Sanctuary. The safari started on time however we did not get any guide. We were told that there were no guides left; which meant we had to spot the animals along with Nagesh (our gypsy driver). Thankfully we had couple of torches and Nagesh was also very cooperative and guided us on how to spot animals at night. Our 1st sighting was a Common Hawk Cuckoo and then we heard quite a no. of them all along. As we slowly ventured deeper into the forest, I saw 2 shiny eyes.. and it was none other than the Civet Cat. We got a good view of it as it relaxed on rock for a good 4-5 minutes. As we kept exploring the jungle, we saw a Barking Deer, another Civet Cat and quite a no. of Indian Nightjars. The night safari had been a fantastic experience and and we were on our return journey when I saw something flying from one tree to another and going by its size, it looked more like an Owl. As Nagesh stopped the jeep, we saw it one the tree and it was surely not an owl but a huge squirrel. What we saw in next one minute was nothing but amazing. It was a Flying Squirrel and we literally saw it flying from one tree to another..! Surely a spectacular sight. If one loves spending time closer to the Nature, Night Safari is the closest you get. As it was a night safari we could not click any pictures however we did manage few landscape shots during sunset.

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After getting a good night sleep, we were up and ready by 5 AM for our morning safari. Initially, the resort had booked for Turia (Tatkal), but we were told it got cancelled at the last moment. However, they were quick to arrange a morning Safari at Khursapar. We had no option then to accept it; at-least something is better than nothing. We arrived early at the gates; by 5:30 AM and again we had to wait till 7 AM for all the formalities to get completed as this was a last minute arrangement. A whole hour was wasted which probably is the prime time for sighting birds and wild mammals. Finally the safari started with Hemant (driver) and Digambar (guide) at 7 AM and we were greeted by a female Nilgai. As we moved ahead we saw quite a no. of birds; the Rufous Treepie, Chestnut-tailed Starling, Eurasian Collared Dove, Black-hooded Oriole, White-eyed buzzard, Black-headed Cuckooshrike, Large Cuckooshrike, Jungle Owlet and Indian Rollers. We even got to see a pair of Indian Rollers where in the male was flying up in the air and rolling down trying to impress the female. Surprisingly we hardly sighted any mammals; as in addition to the Nilgai, we only saw a Spotted Deer (Male).

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Soon we reached a huge reservoir where there have been consistent sightings of the tiger. We also heard the Sambar Deer alert call but soon the call faded away deep in the jungle. We spent a good 45 minutes there. We managed to see a Grey-headed fish eagle, Black Stork, Crested Serpent Eagle, Shikra, Racket-tailed Drongo, Jungle Owlet and also the Indian Softshell turtle.

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We started back by 9:30 AM from the reservoir so as to reach back on time. Just as we began our return journey, we were greeted by couple of woodpeckers species, the Lesser Flameback and the Streak-throated Woodpecker. Hemant halted at another reservoir on way back where we saw an adult male Nilgai, Common Hawk Cuckoo, Pied Kingfisher, Red-naped Ibis, Darter, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Crested Serpent Eagle, Indian Spot-billed ducks, Red-wattled Lapwings, Cotton Pygmy-goose, Rufous Treepie and a White-naped Woodpecker.

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We were back to resort by 11 AM. Our next and last Safari was at Sillari which was an hour away from our resort; which meant we had to be ready by 2 PM. We started on schedule and reached right at 3 PM to the Sillari gate. This time our driver was Ajay and guide was Omprakash. Formalities were smooth this time and we started our Safari by 3:15 PM. Within no time we realized that this zone is buzzing with activity. We saw Gaurs (Indian Bison), Spotted deers, Nilgai, Sambar Deers, Indian Peafowls, Racket-tailed Drongos, Indian Rollers immediately as we entered the jungle. Going ahead, we saw Red Junglefowls, Wood Sandpiper, Malabar Pied Hornbills, and Yellow-footed Green Pigeons.

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Best part of Sillari zone was the variety of forests it offers; from the huge Peepal and Ghost trees to Bamboo forests to huge grasslands with water reservoirs..! Ajay drove through these lovely grasslands with huge water lake which gave some mesmerizing views. We also got to see quite a number of White-rumped Vultures along with Little Ringed Plovers, an Osprey and an Oriental Honey Buzzard.

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This was probably the best of Safari among all 3; special thanks to Ajay and Omprakash. Be it the steady driving skills of Ajay or the knowledge of Omprakash, we couldn’t have asked for better driver and guide. On the final day, I had planned for a visit to Koka lake for bird-watching early morning. While returning from Sillari, I informed the same to Ajay; to which he said is that the activity is pretty low. That is when we decided to do another Safari at Sillari zone on final day. We started at 4:30 AM and after driving for around 15 minutes, we saw a Jungle Cat crossing the road. It crossed the road and did turn back to check us when we saw it clearly. A 1st time sighting for us and an elusive one!.. We reached Sillari by 5:15 AM and were inside the zone by 5:30 AM. On request, we again got Omprakash as guide. Omprakash took us to a different area this time, which connects to the same reservoir we visited from Khursafar on day 2. He showed us fresh pug marks and informed that the chances of spotting tiger is pretty high. We could hear alert calls from Sambar deer as well as Langurs. Finally we managed to spot a Tiger cub which was just 20 meters away from us, keeping a watch on us through the bushes. Rest of the time we spent at the reservoir itself where in we again saw the Crested Serpent Eagle. We also saw Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Lesser Flameback, Yellow-crowned Woodpecker, White-bellied Drongo, Golden Oriole, Shikra and River terns.

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After spending a good hour in hope that the tiger would come out (unfortunately it did not); we started our return journey. We had almost reached at the gate and driving on the tar road when Omprakash informed us that we may see the Wild Dogs (Dholes). He was spot on and soon we had a road block with a pack of Dholes on the road. It was yet another 1st time sighting for us and we clicked to our hearts content. This safari was already a fantastic one with a tiger sighting; and the pack of Dholes was like an icing on the cake..!

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We were back to the resort by 11:30 PM. We rested for a while and it was check-out time. We all had a superb time and personally I fell in love with the forests of Pench.. especially the Sillari zone. Even in April, we never felt the heat during the Safaris; the forests offered a very pleasant and cool weather. Add to it over 70 species of birds, 10 mammals and 1 reptile. With such variety of flora and fauna, I am sure to visit Pench again… soon!

Thanks for reading. Let us know in-case of any queries, suggestions, critics and we will be happy to respond.

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– Rudraksha & Shraddha

Key bird species sighted:

– Osprey
– Black Stork
– Indian Nightjar
– Jungle Owlet
– Red Junglefowl
– Racket-tailed Drongo
– White-rumped Vulture
– Malabar-Pied Hornbill
– Yellow-footed Green Pigeon
– Streak-throated Woodpecker
– White-naped Woodpecker
– Grey-headed Fish Eagle
– Crested Serpent Eagle
– Darter (Snake Bird)

– Cotton Pygmy-goose
– Common Hawk Cuckoo
– Large Cuckooshrike

Mammal species sighted:

– Bengal Tiger
– Dhole (Wild Dog)

– Gaur (Indian Bison)
– Flying Squirrel
– Civet Cat
– Nilgai
– Barking deer
– Sambar Deer
– Spotted Deer
– Jungle Cat

Reptile species sighted:

– Indian Softshell Turtle

4 thoughts on “The beautiful forests of Pench…

  • April 10, 2015 at 11:29 am

    That was again an awesome trip – you saw the tiger!! Night safari must have been really thrilling, no? Oh and great images of the dholes! Loved the post 🙂

    • April 10, 2015 at 11:33 am

      Thanks Sangeeta. Yes the Night Safari was very thrilling.. listening to Owl, Nightjar and Cuckoo calls especially in pitch dark environment.. 🙂

  • April 12, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Hi, We were planning to go to Tadoba in April end with the hope of sighting some tigers but all the safaris in Tadoba are full. So, thinking of going to Pench instead. Can you suggest which of the gates, Sillari or Chorbauli is closer to the buffer zone in Pench?

    Ausi |

    • April 19, 2017 at 7:32 pm

      Thanks for writing in and apologies for the delayed response as we were out on a tour. We have done only Sillari gate, so really not sure if it is closer to buffer zone or not. I believe you can contact any of the resorts operating in Pench MP and they should be able to help you. Thanks.


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