This is not my first visit to Kanha National Park. The last time I was, it was a super cold December and there was no luck of seeing the Tiger. So this time I was keen to spend considerable amount of time in the park to spot the predator. And the moment Pugdundee Safaris offered a stay at Kanha Earth Lodge, everything seemed to be falling in place. It is summer where the sighting can be high, Kanha Earth Lodge is a luxurious eco lodge on the fringes of the Kanha forest, I love Kanha landscape, what more do I need. The universe was conspiring to head to Kanha National Park. And I got properly pampered in their Denwa Backwater Escape property at Satpura, so I was eagerly looking forward to check out the Kanha Earth Lodge property.
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Kanha Earth Lodge
I caught a bus from Jabalpur that took me to Mandla and from there caught another bus to Kanha, technically the bus stop is at Mocha. It was 1:30pm when I landed at Mocha and I was promptly picked up by Kanha Earth Lodge. I was surprised to see that we were driving and driving and driving and driving further and further into the buffer zone. The mud road turns into no road and if you are driving your vehicle keep a look out for the signboard else you are sure to miss the turning that leads to Kanha earth lodge. I think it was towards the end of the buffer zone and no other resort or home stay after that. Silence loomed around and as usual I was out of the network area, something that I have started to love about national parks. A traditional welcome of aarthi was there and I settled down to take the glass of peach iced tea. Man it was a hot afternoon! Pictures of Tigers adorned the wall of the lounge area and the taste of the artifacts caught my eye. I however had to rush, freshen up, have lunch and then leave for the safari. I gave one big gasp when I entered my cottage but I literally had no time to love it, I blew a kiss and rushed to my safari.
Harpreet Singh Dhillon, the naturalist from the lodge was waiting to take me on the safari. Pugdundee safari is known for their unique wildlife experiences and one of the reasons why they stand out is because of the knowledgeable naturalists who accompany on your safaris. As me and Harpreet set out, I had already started asking about the Tigers and Tigresses and the cubs. He shared with me how he saw Tigress with cub other day in the Mukki gate and I was super excited. I have never seen cubs, so I ought to see right! Then he showed me the pic of the legendary tiger of Kanha, Munna and that one day they saw him around the buffer zone close to the lodge! I got super greedy now and I was dreaming about tigers with cubs walking by and then Munna surprising me even before the safari starts. But soon Harpreet brought me to reality stating, he had to work five years in this forest to see this sighting of Munna near the buffer zone. Sighh. Anyways, my expectations were set high. But this was an evening safari and I wasn’t hoping to see much. It was the Kisli zone of Kanha.
Kanha National Park – Kisli Gate
I love Kanha! Oh my beauty. After watching dry deciduous forest in Kabini and Pench and Satpura, the tall towering green Sal trees were a treat to my eyes. I was smiling all through my drive. The cool breeze in spite of the summer sun, the different shades of green shining bright in the sun, langurs jumping across the road, passing by big water holes, my joy knew no bound. I was very much immersed into taking photo, video and just keep smelling the forest while Harpreet and the other forest guide were busy driving around looking for the predator. Kisli zone was past the Khatia zone. We got over a hill and got on the other side to the plains. I was surprised to see so many Bisons! I have seen one or two Gaurs grazing in other parks but here, it was a herd! I even saw the calf and male, female. The huge gigantic ones passed by our jeep and I kept my eyes fixed on them. Harpreet mentioned that with the arrival of these bisons, the tigress with cub in that area would have probably moved out of the territory. Quite possible because a Tiger is no match in front of a male bison. And the kids can easily get injured or killed by them. When the sun was almost coming down there was a faint alarm call. The deer looked alert. A jeep from the other end drove by and said the tiger was coming in this direction. But soon the herd of deer started grazing peacefully and there was no movement to be seen. It was park closing time and we were back.
Kanha Earth Lodge – Cottages
Back to the lodge I was treated with some hot chai and home made cookies. And then I did what I was dreading to do, to soak in the opulence of my cottage. The cottage was rustic, it was made of stones and you could feel the rawness in it. The foyer opened up to bedroom on its left and the dressing room to its right. The dressing room had the washroom attached. I prefer these kind of washrooms which have the covered glass windows and ceilings that let you be part of nature and not a complete open bathroom that you have to share it with reptiles. It is nice to have a proper dressing room sectioned away from the bedroom because at the end of the day I would go to a bedroom which has no clutter. Everything goes off with the dressing room. They give so much attention to detail and comfort of the guest. Simple example being everyday morning my bed would be set with all that fancy colorful pillow stuff, but when I return at night to sleep they would all be neatly folded away so I can go straight to bed. My cookie jar would be refilled, water would be refilled, it is like living like a queen. See it for yourself.
And the food!! Every meal that you dine in is a four course meal and the menu is not even repetitive. And with organic vegetables garden setup in their own backyard, the taste is exceptional.. it starts with a soup followed by starters. After taking my dietary preference and the moment they got to know fish is my favorite just over city chatting with the chef, every night there was fish on my plate in different form. Pairing their yummy appetizers with their fancy cocktails is a must. Mahua drink is famous in the region but it’s seasonal. I was not able to taste that but the whiskey sour was perfect too. The main course is usually a set thaali (full plate meal) that contains phulka, one type of dal, paneer, vegetables, non veg curry, salad and papad. The cuisine was unique. The mutton kurma was so rich in taste. Even though they don’t repeat the menu, I insisted to keep some aside for dinner too 😁 it was too yumm. Cauliflower with sun dried tomatoes made the Indian way was another dish I liked. A curry out of freshly plucked brinjal was another love. Dessert was a surprise I would wait eagerly for after every meal. This gulab jamun was the show stopper. If tummy is happy what more you want from a place 😀
Note: Mobile network may be blotchy. There will definitely me no data. However the lodge provides you with a wireless router/data card that you can carry around and use to stay connected
Kanha National Park – Mukki Gate
The next day morning safari was at Mukki gate. Kanha is huge. Some of the lodges are around Khatia gate and some are around Mukki. Kanha Earth lodge is closer to Khatia and Kisli gate. But that doesn’t stop you from going to Mukki gate you just have to wake up a little bit more early. So around 3:45am or so we set out driving through the buffer zone. And guess what while we were sipping early morning coffee near the gates before leaving for the safari, langur was giving out an alarm call. I was all wide eyed. May be some predator was passing by. We drove through the buffer zone, crossed a dry river and it was more like off-roading before coming on to the road to Mukki gate.
This was the most thrilling safari of the Kanha series. We were so close to the tiger, probably she saw us but we did not get to see. We were waiting by a water hole where she was spotted with her cubs the previous day. There were alarm calls and we strategically took our positions by the lake. While we were waiting for the queen on this side of the road, she walked off on the other side of the road. We missed seeing her just in the blink of eye. And then we literally followed all sort of alarm calls but she just refused to see us. We saw lot of fresh pugmarks through out that morning at various places but not one tiger decided to say hi. At least there was plenty of action on this side. We even skipped our breakfast cos there seemed to be a lot going on and we kept ourselves hooked around the area.
Anyways, that day evening I saw a leopard in the Kisli gate. But it was evening and she was sitting between the twigs in a low light. So there is no picture. But for sure you will get to see the tiger.
How to Book Safari & Safari Timings
You can as well leave it in the safe hands of Pugdundee Safaris. They will do the booking, take you to the gate, a naturalist will accompany you and you will have a heavy breakfast packed for the safari. If you want to look for free slots and book some for yourself then do visit Madhya Pradesh Forest Department Website and look for Kanha Natioanl Park under the Tiger reserves.
Kanha National park remains shut from July to Mid October. However you can always enjoy the luxury of the resort, relax, go for village walks and nature walks.
While the park remains open, the morning safari is from 6:30am to 11am and the afternoon safari is from 3:30pm to 6pm.
How to Reach Kanha Earth Lodge
Jabalpur is the closest airport to Kanha. From there you can hire a cab to Kanha Earth Lodge. Drive down to Mandla and from there follow the road to Khatia gate and almost close to the village you will see the sign board for diversion. If not call up the resort they will always help you with the direction. Flights flying to Jabalpur usually have a costly airfare, so you can fly to Nagpur airport instead. And from there it is about 5 hours or so by road. There is no direct bus, go to seoni and figure out from there. If you are coming from Bhopal, get on an overnight train to Jabalpur. From Jabalpur the bus leaves to Mandla at 7am and from Mandla the connecting bus leaves at 11:30am. By 1:45pm you will be at Kanha. Two years back there was a direct bus to Kanha leaving at 7am and I thought that’s how it is, but I couldn’t find it when I went to Jabalpur bus stand and was told the direct bus is only at 9am. Get down at Kanha and Kanha Earth Lodge people will pick you up.
How to Book your Stay at Kanha Earth Lodge
Pugdundee Safaris offers a variety of wildlife experiences and exclusive wildlife lodges. So don’t stick to just booking stay with them, book couple of activities too that will enrich your experience in the wild. There are many tribal villages around check out if you have time to visit them.
Their website: http://www.kanhaearthlodge.com/
Phone No: +91 – 124 – 4222657, 2570404, 2571404
Mobile No: +91-8800637711, +91-9990537711
Mail Id: firstname.lastname@example.org