India is undoubtedly one of the best places in the world to see Tigers in their natural habitat. Those on an organised Tiger safari may visit one or multiple national parks, with the country heavily involved in the conservation of the big cat and the precious ecosystems so important to its survival. |
Northern and Central India are home to some wonderful national parks, including Bandhavgarh, Ranthambore, Pench and Panna, each one featuring a diverse and unique landscape. One of the least explored is Panna, but it is an absolute wildlife haven and well worth visiting.
Located in Madhya Pradesh, only a short drive from the temple complexes at Khajuraho, the 542.67km2 park is famous for its wildlife, which includes not only the magnificent big cat but also the Sloth Bear, Leopard, Spotted Deer, Civet, Hyena, Antelope, Crocodile and many others. Hot summers and heavy rains mean lush forests and plenty of greenery, making the ideal habitat for the big cat and its many small prey species. The reserve is overseen by Mr Murthy, a local forest officer, and is highly regarded by the Ministry of Tourism in India.
The Indian government has been very proactive in supporting efforts to conserve the Tiger and Panna was established in 1981, becoming the 22nd dedicated reserve. (It gained Project Tiger status in 1994.) The surrounding area was once the hunting ground of wealthy rulers of the local states, and even after hunting was banned the practice still continued - with the park losing all but two or three of its big cats. It was only after a huge push to get staff re-motivated that Mr Murthy was able to initiate reintroduction projects and breeding plans in order to regain the park’s healthy big cat population.
Home to a diverse array of wildlife species Panna boasts the ideal habitat for a huge range of flora and fauna. In terms of avian life, a healthy population of vultures dominate the skies overhead, and the White Necked Stalk, Bareheaded Goose, Honey Buzzard and Parakeet also make their home here. For those on a Tiger safari, it is possible to spot a plethora of other species, including Chinkaras, Cheetals, Chital, Nilgai and Wild Dog.
The deciduous forests offer the perfect sanctuary for a host of species, and most Tiger safaris will head into the jungle by jeep or boat at dawn or later in the afternoon. This is the time when the wildlife is at its most active and not sheltering from the heat of the midday sun.
Other Places of Interest in Panna The Ken River flows through the reserve and there are several waterfalls that interrupt its route, including the spectacular Raneh Falls. The colours of the granite rocks that surround the falls change from pinks to greys as the sun rises and falls, and it’s a magical sight to witness. Within the park are a number of historically important sites including some stone paintings that date back to Neolithic times. The Mahamati Prannathji Temple is an important place of pilgrimage in Panna, and the Ken Gharial Sanctuary is one of the most prestigious. Established to protect the endangered Indian Gharial, the sanctuary is open for tourists every day.
For those planning to embark on a Tiger safari, booking with a responsible, eco-focussed travel company will ensure the experience will be both memorable and fulfilling.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Tiger watching. As a passionate lover of wildlife, Marissa chooses the expert-led Tiger safari itineraries organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of species in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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