Pench National Park

Pench National Park - home to Mowgli and Sher Khan

Pench National Park sunset
As the sunsets over Pench National Park

This summer, I finally visited Pench National Park. Yes, the same national park that inspired Rudyard Kipling when he wrote one of my all time favorite books - Jungle Book and penned down the characters of Sher Khan, Mowgli and his posse.

Tigress in Khursapar Gate - Pench National Park
Tigress in Khursapar Gate - Pench National Park

Pench National Park is one of 9 national parks in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh (MP), known as the 'heart of India'. It is 2.5 hours by road from Nagpur which is well connected by air to all major cities especially Mumbai and Delhi. 

Indian Wild Dog in Pench National Park
Indian Wild Dog in Pench National Park

I spent 4 days this May and trust me even though it was hot, it was totally worth the visit. The forest consists mostly of teak trees and given its summer had lost most of it's foliage, except for the red leaves of the massive and magical Mahua tree which stood apart from the rest. 

Mahua Tree Pench National park
Mahua Tree

For a wildlife photographer, visiting the Park in the summer months is a dream come true as you get to see not only Sher Khan but several other species that are not seen in other national parks in North India. 

These include - Indian Bison (gour), Indian Wild Dog (dhole), flying squirrels, and let me not forget to give the Park it's due credit as a paradise for all birdwatchers. During my visit, I saw over 50 species of birds including mottled wood owl, black naped monarch, leaf birds, jungle owlet, oriental honey buzzard, orange headed thrush, Indian Pitta etc. Pench is also a great Park to visit if you know your reptiles.

Mottled Wood Owl
Mottled Wood Owl

Pench National Park is shared by the states of Maharashtra and MP, although majority of the Park is in MP. To get a good perspective of the Park in the two states, I decided to visit both sections which are managed by the respective forest departments. Although there are many gates to enter the Park in Maharashtra and MP, I entered the Park through two gates namely, Khursapar (Maharashtra) and Turia (MP). The Park is closed from July 1 to September 30 during the monsoons every year. You can do a morning and an afternoon safari in Pench's core forest area.

Common Flowerpecker
Common Flowerpecker

For booking permits in the MP side of the Park visit You can either book an entire vehicle (each vehicle is an open top jeep and can carry up to 6 people, plus a guide and a driver) or a single seat in a shared vehicle. I always book an entire vehicle because safaris are a very personal matter according to me and the last thing you want is to be stuck with the wrong kind of co-passengers. Read my rant about doing a safari right, here:

Langdi the Tigress - Pench National Park
Langdi the Tigress - Pench National Park

While booking a safari permit is not expensive, adding to it the safari vehicle charges can make it so. The total cost for a safari in Pench MP can end up being between INR 4,000 to 8,000. In Pench MP you have the option of choosing a G1 or G2 guide. G1 guides are supposedly more experienced than G2 guides and cost a mere INR 150 more. I hired  a G1 both times I did safaris but didn't find them extremely knowledgable but to be fair I have never hired a G2 guide so I have no grounds for making a just comparison. The MP side of the Park is closed for visitors every Wednesday afternoon.

reptiles in pench national park
Black Rock Agama - Pench National Park

For booking permits in the Maharashtra side of the Park visit Safari vehicle charges are extra. The safaris in Maharashtra side of Pench tend to be a bit more expensive than those in MP. If you are interested in tigers, most will recommend you to buy permits for the Khursapar gate.

Birds of Pench National Park
Jungle Nightjar - Pench National Park

Pench (MP) is also one of the few national parks in India where you can do a night safari. This safari is from 7PM to 9PM and absolutely worth it. I did one and although I didn't see a 'major' animal (did see some birds and a jungle cat) it was a thrill and a huge adrenaline rush to be the only vehicle in the forest (buffer zone) at night and that too in an open top vehicle. Not knowing what you might see and where it may be lurking was seriously epic! Bookings for this safari are done on a first come first serve and there is no facility to book online at the moment.  

Besides jungle safaris, you can also visit the pottery village, go for a sun-downer by Kokha lake, walk around the colorful villages, go for nature walks in the area or simply lounge by the pool!

Birds of Pench National Park
Black Naped Monarch - Pench National Park

There are several stay options for all kinds of travelers around various gates in the National Park. It is likely that you will struggle to find a hygienic stand alone restaurant, thus limiting the availability of food in the periphery of the Park. As such, I recommend that you chose an all meals (American plan) when making a hotel booking. 

I organize custom holidays to Pench National Park. Click here to see an itinerary which can be customized to your requirements. Contact +919717148483 or email

What to take with you:
  • Summer:
    • Sun glasses, cap, face mask (made of cloth) to cover your face from the dust, sunscreen
    • Dull color (greens, browns) clothes during safaris
    • Swim wear (if your hotel has a pool)
    • Photo identification
    • Binoculars and of course a camera
    • Sturdy pair of walking shoes
  • Winter
    • Some of the items above
    • Warm clothing as it will be pretty cold during the early morning safaris