Forum > Travel > History: Tiger Tourism in Kanha

Posted by Uday on June 21, 2014

 
Kanha:Conservation

Kanha is World’s finest tiger conservation unit and a National Park. Situated in the cradle of Satpura Range,Kanha National Park is in a part known as Maikal Hills. The forest received early protection during the Raj whence wildlife all over India was on brink of decimation.

Post independence era the park received status of National Park and subsequently it became a Tiger Reserve under the aegis of Project Tiger Program. In earlier times Kanha was a contiguous part of Central Indian Highlands which are now fragmented. The fragmentation came about by conversion of forest into agricultural lands,settlements and denudation.

Tourism at Kanha

In the contemporary era of protected area concept many of the viable ecosystems in the Satpura and Vindhya Ranges have been converted into National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. The protected areas offer varying degree of protection and seclusion depending upon the status granted.

Since the seventies Kanha National Park is receiving tourists from all over the World. During the seventies the safari was conducted in private cars and the forest staff acted as park guides.Most of the tourism took place in Kanha and Kisli Ranges. Elephant rides were freely available and the tiger sighting was good. This was the era whence the park was recovering from land use and settlements that had been trans-located -leaving few.

The park enclosure had been created for Hard Ground Barasingha and about twenty heads or more where kept inside a place devoid of predators. The rest is history of a highly successful conservation program. There are more than five hundred swamp deer now from a critical figure of sixty six in the seventies.   Some where in nineteen seventy six bison population suffered from an outbreak of rinderpest disease that reduced the numbers subsequently.

In the seventies the major problem for tourism was lack of accommodation and bad highways that lead to the park.There was no hotel in Kanha at that time albeit a canteen sold regular stuff including vegetables did exist. The first accommodation which could be described as basic was established by Kissu Chacha a relative of the canteen owner. I remember the shortage of food stuff at the canteen that nearly marred our excursions in the park.

Bob Wright was the first to establish a hotel in the early eighties. This was then followed by Nilesh Agrawal who established jungle resort with twelve rooms. I began frequenting this hotel during my excursions in the park. The resort went on to be the most successful venture and was later sold for profit around 2012.   Today there are more than 30 hotel resorts in the periphery conforming to all grades.      

Subsequently more rules were incorporated and tiger safari and tourism became well organized. The conservation efforts paid heed and the ecosystem flourished with increase in tiger numbers. Other forms of life also increased in numbers and the populations became stable.

I could see bison and swamp deer inhabiting areas which they vacated due to population decline. This was a welcome comeback and I was thrilled.

Stricter implementation of tourism rules made life much less stressful for the wild denizens and their numbers are constantly increasing to reach the carrying capacity.

The Zones

The park is now divided into four zones for tourism, Kanha being the prime zone. The other zones are Kisli, Sarhi and Mukki. All zones can be entered from Khatia Gate which is reachable from Mandla Township. The number of vehicle entry is now regulated in all four zones except in the buffer where safaris are being conducted. Total area reserved for tourism is 22 percent as per NTCA guidelines.

Kanha Tourism Zone comprises of large grasslands or meadows interspersed with many water bodies and streams. Itis the center of the critical tiger habitat. This area is most frequented by tigress with cubs as the open grasslands provide them with prey and security cover due to high visibility. Other animals sighted here are Leopard, Sloth Bear, Bison, Sambar Deer, Spotted Deer, Langur and Wild Boar.

The zone also contains an interpretation museum and cafeteria and most important of all a well equipped set of toilets for the tourists.

Kisli Zone comprises of rugged hills which are low lying and table top. These hills are covered with dense forests of Sal, Bamboo and Mixed.The hills give rise to deep glens which contain numerous water bodies and perennial streams. These are the lifeline of the ecosystem.  The ecosystem supports tigers, leopards,sloth bear, bison, sambar, wild dog, wild boar, spotted deer and langurs.  The zone encompasses diverse habitats. It offers good sightings of tigers and other animals to tourists on jeep safari.  

Sarhi Zone comprises mixed forests, bamboo along the Sulkum river, and it is the most picturesque as well. This is the best place to seethe tiger besides four horned antelope, Nigai antelope and sambar deer.

Mukki Zone comprises of midsized grasslands and large swampy lakes which are home to the Hard Ground Barasingha.  The low lying region is surrounded by tabletop mountains which are home to many tigers. There is a separate entrance for this zone called Mukki Gate. The zone can also be assessed from Khatia Gate towards Mandla. There are many luxury hotels near the Mukki Gate.       

Buffer Zone Tourism

Kanha Tiger Reserve is divided into two management zones. One is the core zone or the critical tiger habitat while the other is the buffer zone which cushions the core zone. In the core zone no human habitation is allowed while this takes place in between the buffer forests subject to some regulations. The gate fee for excursion in the designated buffer zone is less and there is no limit on the number of vehicle entry.  This is booked by the tourists whence no entry is available in the four prime zones. The buffer zone ride yields sight of many deer and with luck one can see the tiger, leopard, bison and the sloth bear.             

Park Safaris

The park safaris are well organized and conducted by the Kanha Management with some strictures from NTCA or National Tiger Conservation Authority. All safaris are conducted on open jeeps registered with the Kanha Office. There are two safari conducted in a day one s in the morning which begins at predawn and ends at 11 AM. The second one begins at 4.30 AM and ends at 6.30 PM. The safari timings keep on changing as per the day light available.

The entry for park safaris is from the Khatia Gate and the Mukki Gate. The entry is booked in advance albeit on spot booking is also available. Advance booking is done on the MP Online Portal.  The jeeps for safaris are available at the Khatia & Mukki Gate. You can also use the resort jeep if available or request the resort to book one for you. Six guests are allowed to sit for the safari in the park.

The zone is allotted during the time of gate entry booking and the excursion is limited to the allotted zone.All zones have different rates which keep on changing but the guide fee is fixed at Rs.300.00 which has to be paid at the time of entry. It is compulsory to hire a park guide registered with the department. Recently full day safaris have been introduced for which a greater charge has to be paid.

Tiger Tracking & Animal Watching   

This has in recent time become a well developed mechanism. The guides and naturalists are expert at locating tigers using a number of signs that includes alarm cries of the prey species. Their knowledge enhances visitor experience by their interpretation of the ecosystem and morphological descriptions. Some of the naturalists are also good at birding which is very useful for the bird enthusiasts.   

Tiger Show: Elephant Joy Rides

Though joy rides on park elephants are still available tiger show has been banned. It is no more possible to see tigers from elephant back. This recreation is banned in all Central Indian Tiger Reserves. Elephants are also available for filming wildlife at Kanha but this is subject to a set of procedures. 

How to Reach?

Reaching Kanha: From New Delhi& Mumbai by flight to Jabalpur and then drive 165 km.

Best reached From New Delhi &Mumbai by overnight train and then drive 165 km. 

Notes: The Park is closed from Julyto October 16th every year. It is also closed on evening of every Wednesday.    

About The Author

Uday works as freelance naturalist guide for Courtyard House a luxury resort at Kanha National Park. He also organizes and operates Kanha package tours for inbound groups.   Uday loves to write on wildlife safaris and travel in India. 
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