It was month of June, I thought of making a quick tour to Satpura National Park in Madhya Pradesh. I boarded the Shatabdi train from New Delhi at 6am to Bhopal. Comfortable train with a comfortable seat, fortunately with good company of a young Indian IT engineer and time flew faster than the train. The train reached Bhopal station at 2pm. From there I drove 180kms to Satpura National Park on a smooth highway. Stopped very briefly enroute at Bhimbhetka, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its rock paintings by pre-historic man .
Finally reached Reni Pani Lodge at 6pm. Met up with Aly Rashid the man behind this beautifully run Lodge. He briefed about the range of activities that I will encounter in my brief stay. Early dinner was proposed and accepted. It was followed up with night safari to explore the buffer area of Satpura National Park.
I did not carry my camera for the night safari as I just wanted to get a feel of the night safari whether one see anything at all or not. But, the guide, and Aly both surprised me pleasantly, they were spotting things out of nothing. The permission to do limited night safari is a very good idea by the forest management of Satpura National Park. It surely keeps the poachers at bay, as I could see Jeeps from other Lodges also in the night safari. It was a nice experience though we missed a Leopard very closely. But we saw everything that Satpura National Park has on offer, except the big cats.
This park derives it’s name from Satpura hill ranges. Satpura was declared a National Park in 1981, and is spread over 1400 sq kms. Satpura National Park, Bori Wildlife Sanctuary and Pachmarhi Wildlife Sanctuary combined become a part of central Indian highland ecosphere. For people who have done Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench will be pleasantly surprised as Satpura is a very different park.
Morning Safari in the Satpura National Park
Next day I got up early for the morning safari. I was served a wonderful green tea, and then I was all set to go on a safari with Aly. The drive to the park commenced. As the darkness started to wane, and the park came close, the beauty of Satpura range started to unfold in front of my eyes. It was a beautiful sight of the #Denwa river in front and the Satpura range in the backdrop. The sky was turning pale orange as sun was about to show up. The birds were out chirping. Cows had also started to sound their bells. But men in the village still slept. I could see the women folk on work already, the choolah was lit already.
We parked the Lodge Jeep just before the Denwa river, boarded a motor boat, and crossed the river. There was a Jeep on the other side waiting for us for the safari. The local guide joined us, and his first question was, “What do you want to see Sir”. My mind was set for Leopards and SlothBear, and so I conveyed. Tiger was not a priority for me having seen many over the years. “So, shall it be”, a confident reply from my guide got me a bit nervous. I checked my camera settings to ensure all was set, as the confident voice of the guide conveyed that it was matter of minutes before he shows them to me.
Flora and Fauna of Satpura
Entered the park with no hope for Tigers, idea was just to experience Satpura. Serene, light wind, some deers on the waterhole near the entry was a perfect beginning. I stopped for a few moments to internalize this beauty of Satpura National Park. After a while we met a Jeep that was coming from another direction with happy tourist faces. It was evident that they had some wonderful sighting already. On being asked, they said, just two minutes back a sloth bear with two young ones on her back had crossed their trail. Happy that they saw, and not disappointed that we did not.
The impression so far was very positive. This was not a run of the mill Tiger safari park. One has to have patience, and zero expectations about the Tiger for sure. Only a true nature and wildlife lover will appreciate Satpura. This is not a park for the masses, but for the classes.
Over 250 species of birds which includes birds like Indian Skimmer, Painted Stork, Woolly Necked Stork, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Grey Junglefowl, Red Junglefowl etc. 38 mammals, which include, the Tiger, sloth bear, Leopard, Indian Gaur, Dhole, Jackals, Cheetals, Sambhar deers, recently re-introduced Hard Ground Barasinghas, and more, over 65 types of butterflies, plenty of reptiles, this park has a lot to offer to a serious nature lover. Being a transition zone from North to South this forest represent elements from both like you can find Sal and Teak both together in these forests only, also you would find Red Junglefowl which is a North Indian species and Grey Junglefowl which is a species from South.
Activities in Satpura National Park
Apart from the regular Jeep safaris, one can also do a boat safari, a canoe safari, a walking safari, an Elephant safari, and a night safari. Variety of activities is as diverse as Satpura bio-diversity. We stopped in a camp to have some delicious Aloo Paranthas packed for breakfast by the Lodge. As this was peak summer, so we saw some work going on in the park to replenish water holes. A very thoughtful step indeed. Came out of the park after seeing practically everything except the big cats.
On the way back I thought of visiting other Lodges to get a feel of other good Lodges in Satpura National Park. Apart from Reni Pani Lodge which I would rate right up there for a great overall experience, #Denwa Water Escape, and #Forsyth’s Lodge are also very good Lodges in the area with good product and management.
Lunch with the naturalists was very informative. Most of the naturalists were very experienced in rest of the parks of central India as well. So a very good discussion followed until it was time for the afternoon Safari.
The recent introduction of the Hard Ground Barasinghas from #Kanha National Park has been very successful. The breeding has happened, and the next generation of Barasinghas have already adopted Satpura National Park as their homeland. Tiger population is also on the rise. The rest of the wildlife is fairly commonly distributed and seen.
Best time to visit Satpura National Park
Good time to visit Satpura National Park is from October till April. May and June get very hot in Satpura National Park. Temperatures reach about 45 degrees an above. So the months of May and June are best avoided. During this time the rocks in the park get hot and radiate heat in the evenings. This repels the Leopards, and the Sloth Bears, who move into the areas which are less rocky. Therefore it is not a good time to see Leopards in these two months.
Due to shortage of time, I could not visit the Forest Rest House in Churna, but some of our guests in the past have experienced this rest house, and have come back happy with the experience. Churna rest house is one of the best places in the park to see Malabar Giant Squirrel.
The sun was setting, and much against my wishes I had to come out of the park. Sunset on the Denwa river was very picturesque and serene. A great discussion on future of Wildlife tourism followed with the naturalists of Reni Pani Lodge. In a brief stay of less than 36 hours, I could make out that this Lodge has very good operations, and less carbon footprints. Wish my stay was longer, but my favorite Kanha was tugging me. Next day it was a long drive to Kanha which I was looking forward to.