As I arrived at the entrance of the Pench Tree Lodge (Pungdundee Safari), I was pleasantly surprised. There were more trees than construction around me. There was a huge Mahua tree right behind the reception. In the hot month of June water bowls were kept for birds at various places. The entrance gate is lightly constructed. Other than the reception there is a dining hall and then there are 6 tree houses. Other than that there is Jungle around. I loved the setting from the word go. It was so light on construction and big on trees!
To reach Pench, I landed at Nagpur Airport and then it was a road transfer of 3 hours to Madhya Pradesh. Seoni, spelled Seeonee in Jungle Book is in Pench.
After lunch, we started for Sukhtara Village as it was the day of the local haat (market). We were probably the only tourists around the whole haat, it was a lot of fun!
We did birding all the way to Sukhtara and back. It was possible because there hardly any traffic on the road!
Our tree house was built next to a Mahua tree, the branches came right into the veranda. Squirrels and birds were fond of the tree too. The tree house was comfortable.
It had twin bed, I was sharing the room with fellow blogger Neelima Vallangi. The bathroom was large and comfortable. The best part of the tree house was if we raised the curtains the Jungle came closer to our room! It is prohibited to bring eating items in the tree house as it attracts rodents and you would not like to share the room with them. Similarly one should not leave the doors open or monkeys and other creatures would come in.
The food at the Pench Tree Lodge is excellent. I enjoyed all my breakfasts. They served both Indian and Intercontinental cuisine, however I was partial to the Indian cuisine. I will remember the local drink made of Mahua for a long time. I stopped at one, which is all I could handle of the hot stuff! The staff at Pench Tree lodge was courteous. I particularly remember Mukundi and Negi ji for feeding us with care. As we were in the Jungle the Airtel net connection was not too good. I would not mind it at all but I had some work which could not wait. Make sure you do not end up in the same position as me.
However, the star of the show were the safaris to the Pench National Park. We did an evening Safari and a morning Safari and it rained tigers! In the evening we spotted the collarwali tigress with her cub! I was ecstatic as this was my second sighting of her! Little did we know that the morning would be even better!
We were birding mostly thinking that our tiger quota was exhausted the day before! We came to a spot and realized that there were tigers around. We were the latecomers but then due to some quirk of fate our jeep became the first in the queue, we were directly following Collarwali and her two cubs!
The Forest Office asked us to stop and let others have a view after a while. My then I had anyway watched them to my heart’s content. It was the best tiger sighting of my life at least till date!
I know there is much more to the Jungle than the tigers, like spotting wild dogs. The pack was actually bigger than what I managed to capture.
Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh is stunningly beautiful on its own. With fading light and a peacock it looked dazzling.
As I said, We spotted wild dogs, peacocks, Indian Pita, spotted deer and much more but this time with the Pench Tree Lodge we were extremely lucky with the tigers too!
A big thank you to the Pugdundee Safaris team at the Pench Tree Lodge from my side. It was a truly memorable trip!
— Mridula Dwivedi (@mridulablog) June 16, 2016
Before I close this post, here is a video from the Pench National park’s Collarwali and her cubs!
PS. I was invited by Pugdundee Safari to visit the Pench Tree Lodge.
In spite of saying again and again that I am not a dance person I end up posting more and more dance videos! I guess it is fair to conclude that I do enjoy watching dances. On my trip to Bandhavgarh with Pugdundee Safaris I saw folk dances from MP. This was at their Kings Lodge at Bandhavgarh. They had arranged for the evening drinks outside along with the dances by the local.
When I am on my solo trips on invitation it is a struggle for the lodge to keep me company. They cannot leave me alone and then the manager can spend only so much time with me. I am actually fine by myself. But I can’t say this as well. So after spending a lot of time with me Varun left me in the company of a young naturalist. I asked him about the people doing the show. He said they were from the local village. The resort had an arrangement with them but they struggled when it came to time management. He said they were farmers and would come for such shows only after their day at the field was over. For them farming comes first, it was their livelihood.
Dances from MP
Of late, all the dance performances I have witnessed have been at a cultural show for tourists or at a resort. I would love to see some of these dances in their natural settings but I can’t see that happening anytime soon. In the meanwhile I wonder if the resorts are the new patrons of arts and traditional dances? Is there a downside to it? Is there an upside to it? What do you think?
PS. At night time my cell phone was useless for making the camera. I only had my 50 mm on my SLR so I took this video with that. On reflection my kit lens works better for videos. So next time I am going to carry it around as well.
I am aright now at Ken River Lodge in Panna, still tiger less. But many other sightings. Tomorrow I move to Bandhavgarh. Let us see if my luck changes there. But here are some of the sightings from the day.
I think I saw the most butterflies in my life ever! I did a 2 hour walk on foot and it was full of birds at butterflies. This was behind the lodge and not in the main national park.
Spotted Deer Family
Then there was this spotted deer family inside the Panna National Park and if felt as they wanted to look straight at the camera! I was so happy with their posing attitude.
Stork Billed Kingfisher
Soon after my arrival I sighted this Stork Billed Kingfisher. It is my first sighting of this bird. And sighting a new bird is always such a thrill.
Crocodile in Ken River, MP
This crocodile was my first sighting. The Ken River Lodge is right next to the river. When I first spotted it I thought it was a log of wood. So I asked a lodge employee to confirm and they said yes I was indeed watching a crocodile. My zoom was packed in my bag and I had time to take it out and then click, the crocodile remained in view for quite some time.
I will round off this post the jackal sighting I had in the evening safari at Panna National Park. There is more (but no tiger still) but I don’t think I have connectivity beyond Panna. So more when I come back.
My tiger sightings till date stand at zero. Where ever I go, others see the tiger and I get to see the gleam in their eyes while they tell me their stories. It has been the story of every of my wildlife safaris barring two Gir and South Africa. But unfortunately both the places don’t have tigers. So I have seen lions, elephants, Cape buffaloes, rhinos, hippos and what not tiger can not be included in this list!
In Quest of that Elusive Tiger
I have been to various national parks (Jim Corbett, Kanha, Rajaji National Parks to name just a few) and yet the result is still zero sightings. I am heading out again to Panna and Bandhavgarh National Parks with Pugdundee Safaris. Let us see how this one goes.
Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to be heading out of NCR, I am excited about staying in the jungle but by now I have done too many tigerless safaris. So what is the harm in hoping that my luck might change this time? I know I will have a good time anyway but it has been enough and I would be happy if my tiger jinx gets broken. And then there are friends who manage to see tigers on every single trip they go to! Jungle gods are you listening? This time I too want to spot a tiger, please.
If it is not, well then there is always the next month!