An area of 450 sq.km. in Seoni and Chhindwara districts of Madhya Pradesh was protected as Pench Sanctuary in 1977. 292 sq. km. was upgraded as Pench National Park in 1983. In 1992, a total area of 757 sq.km. was declared as Pench Tiger Reserve, India's 19th tiger reserve.
Local tribals, mostly Gonds, revere Mansingh Deo, a legendary figure who was believed to be a magician who had supernatural healing powers. He would ride into the local bazaar on his tiger. There are two temples dedicated to him, the Chhota Mansingh and Bada Mansingh temples.
The area is located in the lower, southern reaches of the Satpura ranges, around 580 m. above sea level. The terrain is undulating, covered with several small hills jutting out like sharp cones. Some hills rise steeply over 675 m. above sea level. Arjal Matta, Kalapahad, Chhindimatta and Kumbhadeo are some of the prominent hills in Seoni district. In Chhindwara district, there are hills extending up to Pulpuideh village. These slope towards the Pench river and the land once again soars higher towards Totladoh. Most of the area is covered with sandy loam, which is especially fertile in the valleys and fairly so on the slopes. Red kankar and saline soils occur in some areas. Alluvial soils are found on the banks of the Pench river and other streams and nalas that crisscross the area.
The Pench River flows almost through the centre of the reserve from the north to the southwest. The river dries up towards the end of April, leaving behind a number of small pools locally called kasa or doh. Much of the low-lying area on either side of Pench have lands submerged by the Pench reservoir.
The forests are mainly Southern tropical dry deciduous and dry mixed deciduous forests.Teak Tectona grandis dominates, comprising 25-50 per cent of the species. Moyan, Mahua, Mokha, Skiras, Tendu, Bijra, Garari etc. are associates of teak. Dhaora Anogeissus latifolia, lendia/seja Lageostroemia parviflora, saja Terminalia tomentosa, salai Boswellia serrata, bija Pterocarpus marsupium, bhirra Chloroxylon swietenia and sirus Albizzia lebbeck are other trees. Bamboo occurs sparsely, restricted to some valleys. Chiltai, mahulbel and palas bhel are common climbers in areas along the river and large water sources.
In Chhindwara, you would see weeds like chirota Cassia tora and gokharu Xanthium strumatium while in areas around Chedia, Alikatta, Tikari and Ambar village, Lantana camara predominates. Parthenium is found in submergence areas along the Pench river. Heteropogon contortus, Digitaria cilliaris and Eulaliopsis binata are common grasses.
Occasionally, in September and February, high velocity winds may rage through the reserve, which uproot the shallow-rooted teak on the slopes.
The tiger and the leopard are the predators who claim fiefdom in Pench. The sloth bear and the leopard cat coexist with the four-horned antelope and mouse deer. Spotted deer, sambar, barking deer, nilgai and wild pigs may also be encountered. Langurs and the wild pig are most commonly sighted. Though the flying squirrel, the Indian pangolin, porcupine and wolf are also residents of the park, spotting any of these is rare.
The Indian python, Common Indian monitor and the Water monitor Varanus salvator along with the marsh crocodile Crocodilus palustris and Shikra Accipter badius form the reptilian population complemented by the Indian Flap Shell Turtle and the Peninsular Black Turtle.
Fish like padhan, jhunda, sanbal, chalar, dadai mahur kunda, mrigal rohu calbasu and mahasir are found in the waters of this area.
Pench will seldom disappoint a birdwatcher. Over 170 species have already been recorded. In Pench, you will be greeted by the Little Grebe and you may see darters, herons, egrets, Whitenecked Stork, pigeons, parakeets or cuckoos. Mynahs, shrikes, orioles, bulbuls, tailor birds, barbets, minivets, sunbirds, wagtails and munias are other birds a visitor could be rewarded with. Water birds are often found around the artificial wetlands created by the submergence of the Pench reservoir. The area is on the migratory route of waterfowl in winter.
Almost all the animals seen in Kanha, except barasingha, can be seen in Pench. In April when the Pench river dries out, the animals use locally formed dohs as waterholes. The submergence of the Pench reservoir at the centre of the reserve acts as an artificial wetland where you may see hordes of water birds.
You'd probably see chinkara in small herds in open areas and sometimes around Turia, Telia and Dudhgaon villages.
Wild dogs are seen in packs of 12 to 15 near Chhedia, Jamtara, Bodanal and Pyorthadi.
The wild boar is found almost all over the park, mainly in areas next to agricultural fields, especially in Chhindwara district.
You would probably catch the sloth bear in its favourite hangout amidst the hilly, rocky outcrops and the mahulbel infested forests. Look around for them especially at Kalapahad.
Jackals are sometimes seen next to villages near Tekadi, Alikatta and Chhindimatta.
In the Bodanala and Budhgaon tanks situated within the precincts of the park, a large number of migrant waterfowl may be seen in winter. You may also see Pigtailed ducks in large numbers near Bodanala tank. The Dudhgaon talab in Chhindwara district also attracts migratory birds. The pied or small blue kingfisher is also often seen in Pench.
Fishing is strictly banned. Report to the Wildlife office if you chance upon such illegal activities that are detrimental to the wildlife in the area.
Wear light cotton clothing but ensure that you carry a windcheater and light woollens, especially in the winter.
You could visit the Kandadev, Bagdev and Kumbhababa temples within the reserve that attract thousands of pilgrims every year.
40 km. northeast of Nagpur, in Ramtek, there exist temples that are over 600 years old. The old British cantonment, Kemtee and the Kalidasa memorial are other points you may visit at Ramtek.
Director, Pench National Park,
P.O. Barapathar, Seoni – 480661.
Tel.: 07692-50794; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
It is hot and humid between June and September. Temperatures range from a maximum of 470C to a minimum of about 260C. This is also the monsoon period, when the vegetation is at its best. Rainfall ranges from 856 mm. to 1965 mm., averaging about 1,397 mm. It is cold and dry during December and January. In winter, day temperatures range from 200C -290C while night temperatures drop to between 30C -130C. By March, it starts getting hotter. The ideal time to visit would be October to February when it is slightly warm but with the most comfortable weather.
One cannot ever guarantee sightings in a natural reserve! Seeking the tiger doggedly would cause you to miss the call of the cicada or the sight of the common butterfly hovering around which is also so much a part of the forest. Early mornings and evenings are nevertheless often quoted as 'best times' to view animals. Night falls abruptly in the forest and it is safest to be in the rest house by then.
For bookings at any of the following, contact: Deputy Conservator of Forests, Pench, Nagpur. Tel.: 0712-524727.
Tiger Top Forest Rest House, Totladoh (3 suites)
Tiger Den, Totladoh (6 tents are available)
Hornbill Nest Forest Rest House, Kolitmara (2 suites)
Forest Rest House, Sillari (2 suites)
Forest Rest House, Paoni (2 suites)
Forest Rest House, Mogarkasa (6 suites)
For bookings at the following, contact the Public Works Department, Nagpur. Tel.: 0712-2510802/ 776; E-mail: email@example.com
PWD Rest House, Chorbauli (2 suites)
PWD Rest House, Deolapur (2 suites)
VIP Rest House, Totladoh (6 suites)
Chumri Rest House, Totladoh (8 suites)
For details on accommodation in MP, you may contact: The Field Director, Pench Tiger Reserve, Dist: Seoni, Madhya Pradesh – 480661. Tel.: 07692-20557, Fax: 07692-223204.
By Air: Sonegaon airport at Nagpur is 70 km. away.
By Rail: The nearest metre gauge railhead is Seoni (30 km). Nagpur (70 km.) is a more prominent option since it is well connected to major towns and cities.
By Road: Buses can be boarded at Nagpur or Khawasa. From Maharashtra, the park can be approached via Pauni, which is 60 km. from Nagpur on NH7. The park is 10 km. away on the Pauni-Totladoh Road. In Madhya Pradesh, access is via Khawasa on NH7 (81 km. from Nagpur). The park is 12 km. away on the Khawasa-Karmajiri road. Ramtek (40 km.) is the closest bus-station.