Best Jungle Safari in India: On a Tiger Trail in Madhya Pradesh

Best Jungle Safari in India
Best Jungle Safari in India

I have just returned from four-month solo budget travel in Europe and still within a week, the post-travel depression kicks in. And, to make it worse, my morning sneezes induced by a smog-smothered Delhi becomes a routine. I am craving to get back to nature at the slightest possibility. I start looking for options – the hills of Himachal, desolate land of Ladakh the pristine beaches of Kerala or the sand dunes of Rajasthan. After pondering for a few days, the decision is made. I am going to visit the forests that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli. At the end of November, I set off from Delhi to explore wildlife tourism in India. While there are many options to choose the best jungle safari in India, I settle for a five days Tiger Trail in Madhya Pradesh.

The best Jungle Safari in India starts at Pench

At 5:30 am on a misty morning in November, I leave for the Pench National Park in an open-jeep along with my Naturalist, Alwyn from Jamtara Wilderness Camps. Before starting our Jungle adventures, we are treated to a hot cuppa coffee and tea along with home-baked cookies. Our naturalist reminds us to leave behind all electronic equipment at the lodge barring our cameras and binoculars. The chilly wind stings my cheeks and makes my eyes water but I am well-prepared with several layers of winter clothing, woollen cap, muffler and a hot water bottle tucked under my blanket.

Best Jungle Safari in India begins at Pench National Park
Best Jungle Safari in India begins at Pench National Park

As we enter the park, I see langurs jumping from tree to tree, birds tweeting in unison, chital and sambar herds gingerly grazing in the grassland. We move along the jungle and I smell the sweet aroma of the damp earth at daybreak. I see the morning dew dripping from the trees onto the lush undergrowth. Before I could capture any of those, the jeep moves and the smells and sights disappear. The silence of the jungle is occasionally broken by Alwyn and the local park guide, who encyclopedically and passionately tells us about the flora and fauna of the jungle. They share tales of the forest that are an intriguing mix of scientific facts gleaned from their training and the books they have reading, and local lore from the area.

Best Jungle Safari in India is not just about Tiger sighting. It's about flora and fauna too
Best Jungle Safari in India is not just about Tiger sighting. It’s about flora and fauna too

Suddenly Alwyn hears an alarm call of a langur followed by the
grunting of a deer. It is a signal that a tiger is on a prowl. A sense of
alertness grips the group as we drive towards the distress call. As soon as our
jeep comes to a halt, we cram onto one side of the Jeep to look outside.

Best Jungle Safari in India is not just about Tiger sighting but it is definitely the highlight
Best Jungle Safari in India is not just about Tiger sighting but it is definitely the highlight

After 10 minutes, our patience is suitably rewarded when the
majestic cat reveals itself to us from the thick foliage. My heart is forever
gripped by the shiny orange coat with black stripes. Just a few feet away…the
Royal Bengal Tiger crosses the dirt road…gives us a disdainful look…and
vanishes again in the dense forest. My day is made!

Best Jungle Safari in India is not just about Tiger sighting but it is definitely the highlight
Best Jungle Safari in India is not just about Tiger sighting but it is definitely the highlight

We then move on to explore the park’s large
diversity of wildlife, including Leopard, Tiger, Jungle Cat, Dhole (Wild Dog),
Sloth Bear,
Wild Boar, Mongoose, Gaur, Cheetal (Spotted Deer) and Sambar. Once our hunger for
Tiger satiates, hunger pangs kick in. At around 9:30 am a picnic breakfast
is served in the middle of the jungle with a cup of hot tea or coffee. We then stay in the park
until 11 am before returning to our base camp at Jamtara.

Jamtara Wilderness Camps, Pench National Park, India
Jamtara Wilderness Camps, Pench National Park, India

In the evening, we had an option to either go for the afternoon Safari from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm or immerse ourselves in the tribal lives of the Jamtara village. We walk through the village market selling all kinds of knick-knacks – from silver jewellery to fresh vegetables. Hawkers earnestly call us as we pass through the mud path with our eyes stuck on the cobs of corn, which grow abundantly in the area, dry in courtyards. Bottle gourd vines climb wooden fences and tiled roofs. We are invited for a cup of piping hot tea in a local house made up of wood and mud. As the sun sets, we return to our camp witnessing the domestic cattle coming back home with their herders.

This was my first day of a five-day Tiger Trail in Madhya Pradesh, where Rudyard Kipling got inspired to write the Jungle Book. While visiting the two key national parks, Pench and Satpura, I saw a variety of animals and birds including tigers, leopards, wild dogs, wolves, sloth bears, bisons, wild boars to name a few. Alwyn and Aly Rashid (naturalist and the owner of Reni Pani) kept sharing the in-depth knowledge about the undulating topography and wildlife.

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