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I planned this trip on a cold and gloomy December day in Copenhagen last year. Getting slightly restless from the lack of travel plans, I reached out to @Sharad Kumar Vats from Tiger Safari India to ask whether he could help us plan a trip to India for the Easter break 2019. We primarily wanted to visit national parks, but since we had never been to India, we also wanted a day in Agra and Delhi. 


Unfortunately, we were not able to travel for much more than a week, so Sharad planned this compact and ambitious program for us:

  • Delhi  - Roseate House Aero City (1 night)

  • Kanha National Park - Singinawa Jungle Lodge (4 nights)

  • Pench Tiger Reserve - Vaanraj Resort (2 nights)

  • Agra - Jaypee Palace (1 night)

  • Delhi - Roseate House Aero City (1 night)

In Kanha we had 3 drives in the Mukki zone, 3 in the Kanha zone, and 2 in the Kisli zone. 

In Pench we ended up with 1 drive in the Turia zone and 1 in the Khursapar zone. 


Edited by Kirstine
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Chapter 1: Arrival and transfer to Kanha (12-13 April 2019)

We landed in Delhi in the middle of the night. We were scheduled to arrive around midnight but because of the closed Pakistani airspace, the flight from Zurich was about two hours longer than normal. This meant that we only had three hours at our hotel before we had to go back to the airport to catch our next flight to Raipur. So we really did not get to enjoy much of what the otherwise beautiful hotel had to offer. 


Slightly tired, but completely cured for all signs of jetlag, we arrived in Raipur on 13 April. Ahead waited a four hour/220 km drive to Kanha. The road between Raipur and Kanha was rather bumpy, sometimes only one lane and full of people, cows and motor bikes. But it also gave us a great opportunity to see rural India. Around lunch time, we arrived at Singinawa Jungle Lodge, where we were welcomed by the managers Ghanshyam and Kriti. Singinawa is located about 25 min. from the Mukki gate, so it does take a bit of time to get to and from the national park. However, we did not mind this. In fact, I took the opportunity to catch a quick nap or two on the back seat of the jeep. :)


We stayed in one of the 12 cottages at Singinawa. The cottages are big, well-decorated and has large attached bathrooms with double sinks. Outside each cottage is a small patio with two metal chairs and a small sunshade. I would have liked the outdoor area to be a bit bigger, more private and with more shade. The way it is currently set up makes it hard to use during the very warm afternoons. The main building of the lodge is beautiful with a large hall and two broad stairways leading from the lobby to the first floor. On the first floor you find a library/bar and the restaurant. Lunch and dinner are served as buffets with lots of choices for all including vegetarians. 




The lodge provides all guest with a water bottle to use throughout the stay. Bottles can be refilled with ice cold filtered water by the main building. In the cottages, water is also provided in reusable bottles. I found this to be a great initiative to reduce the amount of plastic. 




We were lucky to be assigned naturalist Solanki as our guide for our entire stay. Solanki is an extremely experienced naturalist and a keen ornithologist. On top, he was a treat to be around, telling us lots of stories about his upbringing – and answering all our questions about life in India. When we were not spotting wildlife, he also taught me a bunch of words in hindi.




After a quick bite to eat and a cold glass of lemonade, we headed out for our first drive in the Mukki zone of Kanha. We started by checking all the water bodies and were lucky to spot our first tiger! What a relief! When planning the trip, it was difficult for me to assess the likelihood of spotting tigers and though I tried to tell myself, that the trip would be great no matter what, it was kind of nice to already know that no matter what, we would return having seen a tiger.


The first tiger we saw was the mighty, dominant Umarpani male (T-30). Umarpani was born in late 2009 and is one of the largest male tigers of Kanha. Solanki told us that while Umarpani has been the undisputed ruler of a major part of Mukki, he is now being challenged by a younger male tiger. All in all we saw three tigers on the first drive, the last two from a distance.


Umarpani was very "aarraam" (aka relaxed). :)




We also met our first swamp deer:




And one of my favorite animals of Kanha - the Langur monkey:



Edited by Kirstine
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Great plan for your Easter Break!

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Sharad Kumar Vats

Hi Kirstine, Good to read your post here. The UMarpani male image is gorgeous. The light is simply awesome, and you have captured it very well.

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@Atravelynn - indeed! I do not know why we have not been to India before. 


@Sharad Kumar Vats - I look forward to sharing the rest of the trip report. And thank you! We got to see him walk right by our car in the golden morning light.  

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Chapter 2: Kanha (14-17 April 2019)


The following days in Kanha were great. Every morning we got up early, had a quick cup of coffee and drove to the Mukki gate to wait for the park to open. Before entering into the park, we were joined by a guide from the forest department. Apart from one guide - who literally fell asleep - all the guides were good and informative. 


On our first morning drive, we were lucky to meet the Umarpani male again. This time he was out for a walk in the golden rays of the morning sun.




When he walked by us we couldn't help but notice a rather big cut to his throat. We later found out that he had been injured be the antlers of a deer. Fortunately, the forest department was able to track him down, sedate him and ensure that he wound was treated properly (since he had no chance of cleaning it himself).


Though I obviously enjoyed this sighting, I found the scene a bit hectic with 10-15 gypsies all trying to get in front of each other. Everyone respected the tiger (actually, he did not seem to care about the cars), but all the shouting and commotion still took some of the joy out it. I get that the guides do it because they want their guests to have the best possible view, but I still think that everyone could have behaved better. Luckily, this was the only time we experienced this many people in one place.


More Langur monkeys. It was a treat to watch the adults and babies interact.  




On our way home, we got a glimpse of a tigress. However, the pictures do not do her justice since she decided to walk "the wrong way" back into the forest.


The afternoon gave us more tigers - though from a distance - like this one. Another two were in water bodies. 




We also got to witness the beautiful peacock display




After a while, he got tired and decided to take a rest in a nearby tree. No luck with the ladies this time




Indian Gaur out for a sip of water




A female Sambar deer 




On our way home, we saw a car that had pulled over by the side of the road. I find this to be so exiting every time! What ARE they looking at?! As it turned out, they had spotted an otherwise well-hidden jungle cat in the grass. Well done! The cat was not in any hurry, so we stayed and watched it groom its fur until we ran out of time - and proper light.    











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A excellent  start, and the Jungle Cat is a great sighting 

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Wow, you were lucky to get such a nice jungle cat sighting, my wife wanted to see one on our trip but no luck.  Also really liked the displaying peacock with reflection, nice he was so accommodating with his positioning!

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Sharad Kumar Vats

The Peacock reflection image is amazing. Also to let you know Umarpani male has fully recovered from his injury, and is back to his usual. 



Edited by Sharad Kumar Vats
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Very nice Tiger sightings, and what a lucky Jungle Cat encounter. Well done with the Peacock indeed!

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Nice going with the jungle cat.  I like the tiger with the other animals around.  Very jungle booky.  I don't suppose they were singing?

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Chapter 2: Kanha (14-17 April 2019) - continued


The next drives we did in a new part of Kanha. It must technically have been the same zones, but the vegetation and landscape was completely different. The area was rocky, with lots of bamboo and much fewer water bodies - though it did have one big and very beautiful lake that offered good opportunities for birding. 








On the first couple of drives we didn't see a lot of new things though we met more beautiful, dancing peacocks 




The peacocks turned out to be a favorite of mine and I was equally intrigued by the details on the front, the sides and on the back of the birds 








We also saw a small group of Langur monkeys going for a quick drink of water.




This bird was actually new to us! I believe it is a Black-naped Monarch. 




April 16 started out pretty quiet as well. On our way out, we met two men from the forest department, who was able to tell of the story of how Umarpani had been found and stitched back up. 




It was rather cloudy in the morning, but Solanki told us, that the weather would in fact increase our chances of seeing a sloth bear, so we were pretty excited. We drove a route similar to the day before and was losing a bit of hope when we suddenly saw him: a sloth bear! Solanki had been right! The bear was walking up the hill on the road in front of us, and for a while we followed it from a distance along with one other car.




At some point the bear took a short cut off road which allowed us to overtake it. When the bear returned to the road, we were the only car in front of it. Sheer joy!  


The bear took its time, scratching against trees, digging for food... 







It even decided to walk along side the road, allowing us to get even more great photos. And when the sun emerged - it walked into the light. What a nice bear! 








In the evening, we met Chhota Munna Male, relaxing in a small lake. Chhota Munna was born in 2012 and is the son of the legendary Munna.  






We waiting by the lake for a bit to see whether he would get up - but he did not seem to be in a hurry.


We were not the only ones watching Chhota Munna's every move...




We also managed to get a few pictures of some of the birds of Kanha. Solanki told me the name of this one MANY times but still I managed to forget it. I do however remember how to identify a bunch birds from their sound ("greeeen piper", "one more bot-tle"). :) Solanki really is full of information and a highly recommended guide for anyone (though especially relevant if you want to focus on birds since he seems to know everything about ALL birds).




The Indian Roller 




Though the light was quickly fading, we also managed to get a few pictures of a group of jackals.  




I think this day proved to me, that all the zones and areas of Kanha can offer something spectacular. We did not see as many tigers as we did on the first day or two, but we were much fewer cars and got to see so many other equally great things! 

Edited by Kirstine
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Wow, fantastic sloth bear encounter.

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awesome Sloth Bear and Jungle Cat sightings! We didn't have much luck in Kanha at all, but it just goes to show that every trip is so different!

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Great Sloth Bear!

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Superb trip report @Kirstine.    And some excellent photos.


You are so lucky t have those encounters - Jungle Cat, Sloth Bear, multiple Tigers.   I would be thrilled to see a Gaur and you had some nice birds as well.



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Thank you so much @offshorebirder - and indeed @Zim Girl, @janzin and @TonyQ! We did feel very lucky. And there are actually more great sightings to go. :) 


@janzin - I am curious to know when you visited Kanha? 

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It was in February 2016, you can see my trip report here:

We found Kanha very frustrating--only one very brief tiger sighting--but we loved Pench even though we didn't see a tigers there.

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Chapter 2: Kanha (14-17 April 2019) - continued


We did our final two drives in the Kisli Zone. Kisli turned out to be quite different from what we had seen the other days with large grassy meadows and tall grass. I found it absolutely stunning.


We started the day of on a high as we spotted one of Dhawajandhi's subadult cubs relaxing close to the road.










We were only a few cars around so we had plenty of time to watch the cub slowly wake, groom and get ready for the day ahead. 








After a short walk, the cub disappeared into the bush. A very special moment and one I will definitely not forget any time soon.


The grassy meadows were not only beautiful - they also provided us with some new sightings.


Jackal cubs hiding in their den (they were running around for a bit outside while the mum took a nap nearby). 




Kisli is also the place to go to see Black bucks with their spectacular horns.  




The White-breasted kingfishers were present all over Kanha.




Another Barasingha Swamp deer. I was truly amazed to learn that the Barasinghas had been nearly extinct before a succesful breeding program was put into place in Kanha. Well done! 




The next picture I took while waiting for the national park to re-open one of the afternoons. I would normally not take pictures of people without their permission, but I was so drawn to these men and the bright orange scarf, that I could not help myself. It turned out to be one of my favorites from the trip.




On our way home from the final drive in Kanha, we stopped at a local Hindu shrine were Solanki told us about the most important deities in Hinduism including Shiva, Ganesha, Hanuman and Krishna. It added a whole extra layer to our experience of Kanha having Solanki educate us on life in India. 




Next stop: Pench! 

Edited by Kirstine
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49 minutes ago, janzin said:

It was in February 2016, you can see my trip report here:

We found Kanha very frustrating--only one very brief tiger sighting--but we loved Pench even though we didn't see a tigers there.


Thanks! I will definitely read it! As you say, it shows how different two trips can be. We loved Kanha (of course) and did not really like Pench. For us, I think it had a lot to do with our guide Solanki - and the whole atmosphere around Kanha - which I found very different from Pench. But I will get to Pench soon. :) 

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Great sightings again! Do you know when the Blackbuck were released? When I was last in Kanha in 2015 they were still in an enclosure. And did your guide mention anything about how they are adapting to Kanha? 

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We were in Kanha about a month before you, and I'm really enjoying the comparison with our trip.  Like @janzin found the park more challenging than others.  Definitely you had more sightings of tigers than we did, I imagine the later time of year and higher heat helped get the tigers out. 


@michael-ibk, when we were there Rajan told us that the blackbuck were slow to adapt - at first they didn't have any fear of the tigers, so the tigers could literally just walk up to them and take them down. They apparently are learning as time goes on, but I gathered it was still a challenge to get the numbers up.  I seem to remember he said there were about 25 outside the enclosure, and 25 inside.   Not sure if @Kirstine heard similar information.  

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  • 3 weeks later...

@michael-ibk - I am sorry for the late reply! Unfortunately, I do not remember what we were told about the blackbuck population, so I am very glad that @Zubbie15 chipped in! :) 

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Chapter 3: Pench (17-19 April 2019) 


We have been blessed with some warm summer days in Copenhagen, so it has taken me some time to get around to writing this next chapter... But here we go!


I was quite sad to leave Singinawa. We really had a great stay and had developed a warm friendship with Solanki. The road from Kanha to Pench was much better than expected, so we got to our new lodge pretty quickly. The lodge (Vaanraj Resort) was very different from Singinawa. But from what I saw, the whole area around Pench was quite different than the area around Kanha. First of all, the lodge seemed a bit more like a hotel than an actual lodge. It was a huge place with lots of space and a nice swimming pool in the center. However, no guides/naturalists seemed to work at the lodge. The lodge was also quite close to other hotels which meant that we could hear the parties going on around us. We really did not mind this, but it was just so different from Singinawa and different from other safari lodge experiences. 


We did have a huge house:




The house was fine and had a huge bathroom (basically the same size as the bedroom). I did not really find any use for this, but it looked nice. :) A bit of renovation could make a big difference for the rest of the house (new curtains etc.). 


At the back of the house we had a great patio. This is the kind of outdoor seating that I was missing at Singinawa. Here we had coffee while watching the many different birds. 




Secondly, we were pretty much the only guests staying at the lodge (apart from a small group of Germans) which made the place seem a bit abandoned. This was in particular the case at dinner where Casper and I sat almost alone in a huge dining hall. On top, all the different dishes were served by the waiter and we were not "allowed" to do anything (the waiter was standing by our table watching us eat, so there was really no way of getting around the formalities). I know that this was probably meant to resemble fine dining, but I personally preferred the relaxed buffet-style dining at Singinawa. All in all, I think the lodge cater more to "normal" tourists than to safari guests.


We had two safari drives in Pench. Both with a driver from one of the nearby villages and a guide from the Forest Department. Our driver said very little, so I was happy that we had already gotten so much information from our stay in Kanha. 


The first drive we did was in the morning in the Turia Zone. The atmosphere around the gate was again different from that around Mukki Gate. We were only a few cars waiting in line, the drivers did not interact with each other (or us) and it just did not feel as welcoming. Perhaps it is just because they get fewer visitors and thus have not developed as much. 


We had been warned that the it had been very slow at Pench for some days due to very high temperatures, but it seemed to have cooled off a bit when we arrived. Still, very little happened for the first hours of our drive. We really saw nothing. Still, the colors and contours of the landscape was interesting to watch. :)




After having gone back to the gate for a bite to eat, we decided to drive to a kill that we had spotted earlier in the day - hoping that a tiger would come to fetch a bite to eat. I always find it difficult to decide whether to stay in one place or to drive around (though I can be patient, I am more patient when I am not sitting still... :)). But this time, we made the right decision by staying! Half an hour later, out of the thick forrest... a tigress! It was not the best spot for photography, but it was an incredible experience! 














Our afternoon drive was in the Khursapar Zone. This zone has more rocky areas and is known for a relatively high density of leopard, though I think the best chances are in the morning.  


The drive was pretty quiet. We heard alarm calls many times (once near where a tigress with cubs had been spotted earlier), but no signs of tigers or leopards until the very very end of the day. A big male tiger had been spotted by another car. He was absolutely gorgeous, and I tried really hard to mind control him to get up and move towards the car, but no luck. However, it was still a great last sighting - made even more special by the fact that we shared it with a family from Belgium whom we had met and chatted with multiple times in both Kanha and Pench (In fact, they were also guests of yours @Sharad Kumar Vats). :) 






According to our original schedule, we were suppose to do another drive in the Turia Zone the morning after. However, we had to leave for the airport quite early, so we would only have a few hours available for the drive. Had the drive been scheduled for the Khursapar Zone (or had we had our own guide), we would definitely have gone, but given the circumstances, we decided that we would sleep in and have a relaxed morning before our trip back to Delhi.

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