This wildlife travel guide is meant to be like a trailer for the new Attenborough series. Because we also have individual travel guides for more specific wildlife holidays, such as our safaris, bear watching and whale watching.
Tiger safaris in Pench National Park
Pench National Park is the least known park in Madhya Pradesh’s trio of tiger reserves, which includes Bandhavgarh and Kanha, and something of an unsung beauty. It is less frequently included on tiger spotting holidays because, despite being home to around 50 of these big cats, it’s harder to see them here amongst the dense forest.
While the chances of seeing tigers are lower than in other parks, so too are visitor numbers, and this is Pench’s trump card. While Bandhavgarh has a reputation for a rather smash-and-grab style of tiger spotting, since its sighting rates are so good, Pench offers a more peaceful and secluded experience – you can sometimes feel as though you have the park to yourself.
Our Tiger safari Holidays
Pench is also exceptionally beautiful – a rolling landscape draped over the softly undulating Satpura Hills – and it’s no wonder that Kipling set The Jungle Book here. It also looks different to Bandhavgarh and Kanha because it consists largely of teak forest, rather than sal, so visiting brilliantly rounds out a wildlife holiday to India.
With its range of habitats, from lush valleys to dry, deciduous forests, Pench shelters abundant wildlife. It has the highest density of deer and antelope in India, so you’ll see an abundance of chital, sambar and nilgai, and it’s also home to jackals, wild dogs and sloth bears. Pench also has a healthy population of leopards, and over 210 species of birds. If you do spot a tiger, consider it the cherry on this already delicious cake.
Visiting Pench National Park
Pench National Park, named after the Pench River which meanders through it from north to south, is located on the southern boundary of Madhya Pradesh, bordering the state of Maharashtra. The park was established in 1975 and expanded to become a tiger reserve in 1992. Most of the tigers live within the boundaries of Pench National Park itself, which forms the reserve’s core, but the entire reserve straddles both states, with 11 entry gates.
Joining a small group or tailor made holiday is the most hassle-free way to visit Pench, as the tour operator will take care of securing those in-demand park permits, as well as accommodation near the entrance. Since Pench’s many gates can be up to 100km apart, booking an organised tour also avoids a common Pench pitfall. Independent travellers might arrange a handful of individual safaris that depart from different gates, theoretically to have the best chance of covering the park and seeing a tiger, only to discover that the gates are miles apart and reaching them in time for a 6am safari means travelling through the night on slow, dusty forest roads.
In common with most tiger reserves, Pench’s park authorities permit open jeep safaris from each gate twice a day, with a fixed quota for each gate. The morning safaris run from 6am or 6.30am and the afternoon safaris from 2.30pm or 3pm, depending on the time of year. Each one lasts between three and four hours, depending on the time of day.
Organised tours usually take in other national parks, too, so you have more chances of spotting tigers. A typical itinerary might also include some cultural highlights, such as the Taj Mahal in Agra and time to explore Delhi. If you fly into Nagpur, Pench is approximately three hours’ drive away, and Kanha National Park is then a further four hours’ drive.
Best time to see tigers in Pench National Park
More about Tiger safari
There are several places in the world where this elusive and endangered creature still roams, including Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and even Siberia.
We can capture a lot of details in our tiger safaris travel guide about where to go and when to go, but we can’t capture that feeling when you finally get to see into the eye of a tiger.
No matter what time of year you choose, it is worth remembering that it's always the tiger who calls the shots about making an appearance.
People travel a long way to see tigers, and it is definitely worth the trip when you do, but it makes good sense to pick a trip that has plenty of other activities alongside the tiger safari.
At Responsible Travel we are lucky to work with some of the world’s most dedicated conservationists, leader guides, naturalists and scientists when it comes to tigers.
Read about the issues affecting tigers today, from habitat loss to poaching and learn how responsible tourism is playing its part in conservation.
Dig a little deeper into the detail of travelling to see tigers in the wild, and find out what tiger safaris entail, so you can plan and prepare with confidence.
Beautiful landscapes, a growing population of tigers and the atmospheric Ranthambore Fort presiding over all make Ranthambore National Park a must-visit for wildlife lovers.
Big, wild and beautiful, Kanha National Park is home to around 100 Bengal tigers, plus an abundance of other fascinating wildlife and birdlife.