This was my first visit to Pench National Park. Unlike all past visits to other national parks/tiger reserves including one crazy drive to Tadoba from Delhi(that was in November 2012 when I teamed up with Dr. Nandy who drove all the way from Delhi to Tadoba and back with almost 48 hours on wheel), this was more of a the luxury break and and not so much about safaris. In fact, on this 3D/2N trip, I went for safaris only twice. I spent rest of my time birding in and around Pench Tree Lodge – our host at Pench.
Browse TripAdvisor.com and you will get to know the resort better. There are only couple of reviews available as the resort is only 10 months old. But the fact that each reviewer has rated it ‘Excellent’ says a lot bout it and it absolutely justified. I have never come across such polite hotel/ resort staff in any other resort. Pankaj, the young chef from Delhi who must be in his late 20’s, kept surprising us at each meal with his delicacies. He was kind enough to share his Makke-ki-Kheer recipe with me.
Just after check-in, Amit, the manager, started explaining the whole set up of the resort to us including the services they offer and kind of wildlife we can expect to see within the property. My first reaction to him was to know whether we can expect to see any owls. The naturalist who was present there promptly replied, “You can expect to see Jungle owlet and during safari you can see Indian Scoops Owl. Occasionally, we see an eagle owl as well”. Seeing an Eagle owl will sure be an “Oh Penchhhh” moment for me, I thought.
That “Oh Pench” moment came on day 2 when on our first safari I heard the roar of a male tiger. We tried our best to follow it but wasn’t lucky enough to spot the same. On day 3, as I was strolling inside the resort, I saw a forest owlet sitting on a branch of a tree adjacent to our tree house. That was the other most exciting moment of my visit. To some of you it may sound funny but that is what it is – nothing is more exciting to me than seeing an owl in the jungle- smaller the owl more excited I get. I saw two pairs of Indian Scoop owl inside the park and one spotted owlet near a village.
The park has the highest density of Spotted deer in India and I am told that the grass land in the park is under threat. Forest department has fenced certain areas inside the park to save some grass for the summer. Deer are now getting relocated to nearby jungles like Satpura. The other species which are in large numbers are the Jackals. I have never seen so many jackals in any park. Other than these two species, you can easily expect to see Indian Gaur, Sambhar Deer and few wild dogs. Regular sighting of tigers and leopards also happen but my luck was only good enough to see a Jungle cat – a mild touch to the cat family.
One would definitely like the lantana free jungle covered with soft grass. The Teak forest allows good amount of light for photography. The river Pench breaks the monotony of the jungle and delights you with beautiful landscapes. I would have loved to spend the entire evening sitting by the river and looking at the river terns fishing. But then with an avid lover of tigers on board stripes were most sought after than the wings.
One must carry a good wide angle camera to photograph the beautiful forest and the Pench River landscapes. The villages around the resort also provide ample of opportunities for rural photography. The colourful houses, the corn fields and the weekly bazaars will surely induce you to stop for few clicks. The best way to visit this villages is to go on cycle available at the resort.
Thanks to Pugdundee Safari/Pench Tree Lodge for being such a wonderful host. The dining experience under the light of kerosene lanterns and in the warmth of bonfire in the wild and complimented with a peg of Taliskar was amazing. So was the experience of having breakfast inside the park.
A sighting of a tiger would have completed the picture gallery but that is something I have to wait for my next trip.