I had posted this blog in Team-BHP in 2011 soon after returning from this memorable trip. Now this is like a trip down memory lane – many of the details may not be relevant now. For example, the MP government has moved the guest house in Kanha outside the national park perimeter now I heard.
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We wouldn’t have planned for the Kanha trip, had it not been for a chance mention by my travel-bug colleague, Mel in Jan 2011. He had recently led an adventure club team to Pench and was planning on another team outing to Kanha. When it hit me that Kanha was within ‘car’ range from Hyderabad, it just had to happen and all we had to do was wait for the first weather-friendly opportunity.
Having been in Hyderabad for close to a year, and always grumbling for the abundant lack of getaways, this drive to almost the heart of India excited both me, and my wife. It would be a different experience for our 6-year old son. The journey began with the research – route, distance, time, stay and food.
For the distance and route part, my major decisions were based on team-BHPians’ experiences – I’d like to quote a few recent ones here:
One-way distance being 800 kms, and unfamiliar terrain, we thought against doing a non-stop stretch. After some dillydallying, we figured that there were two options for a pit-stop – either at Nagpur or on the Pench Highway. We chose to delay the choice till we reached Nagpur, so didn’t pay for any accommodation in advance for this leg (but had confirmed availability of rooms by phone). The travel times estimated were as follows:
- Hyderabad to Nagpur (475 kms) – about 9 hours
- Nagpur to Kanha (270 kms) – about 5 hours
The idea was to start from Hyderabad at 7 am in the morning, and if we reached Nagpur before 4 pm, we would proceed to a place called Rookhad, near Pench National Park. This way, my next leg of the journey to Kanha would be less than 3 hours. We chose a place recommended by fellow BHPian – downsouth called ‘Bison Highway Treat’ run by MP tourism.
We kicked off our adventure at about 8 am on 3rd Feb 2011. The journey to Nagpur was uneventful, and the 500 kms stretch was covered in less than 8 hours. About 110 kms of it, at different stretches, is still single lane (four-laning in progress), the rest providing a pleasurable driving experience. As we reached Nagpur before 4 pm, we proceeded for another 100 kms to reach Rookhad the same day. Rookhad is so tiny a village; you might miss it if you weren’t looking for it. Even though the place is situated on NH7, one feels the jungle all around, especially at night.
Nice stay at Highway Treat, very hospitable employees, decent food. There are only four cottages there, each one with an independent courtyard and sit-out. No ACs, but with coolers available during summer. Infrequent power supply, but generator backup is available for lighting and fans.
Next morning after breakfast, started around 10 am to Kanha. For those who travel by meter readings, please note the driving directions in the table attached towards the end. The distance from Amajhiriya Bye-pass to Kanha, about 125 kms is one of the best interior roads we have travelled. Notwithstanding that it is a single lane interior road, the fact that you can make the distance at an average of 60 kmph says a lot about it. We made it to Kanha by lunch time, around 2 pm.
The place we chose to stay at Kanha is again one of my best decisions made till date. A property run by MP Tourism again, called Bagheera Log Huts, very close to Kisli gate. It’s the only accommodation located 3 kms deeper into the core area of Kanha NP. Heard that it’s also been asked to move out, but not sure how long they will take to do that. We had booked a room for a couple of nights @ Rs.4500 per night A.P. (breakfast + lunch + dinner for us couple and my kid) from MPTDC office at Hyderabad.
The stay was enchanting by itself – deer, bison, peacocks and foxes abundant around the lodge itself. At night, sitting on the veranda, enjoying the eerie silence was even more amazing. MPTDC had also sold us one ‘park round’ for Rs.3300/- (this includes Park entry fees of Rs.1030/- per vehicle, guide fees of Rs.200/- and Gypsy hire of Rs.2100/-). During our visit, we found that one can book online the entry fees to National Park on the MP forest department site. Read about the rules and regulations on:
With this, we can hire any registered vehicle at the NP gate for just Rs.1000/-
Though we didn’t get to see the much-desired wild cats, the park rounds for over 4 hours each trip on an open-top gypsy in the dense deciduous forests of Kanha range was immensely enjoyable. Not to mention that on one of the early morning rides, the temperature being close to 5 degrees, we hadn’t wished for an early sunrise with more eagerness before.
Our return journey was much swifter, as the roads felt familiar. We decided to stay at the same Highway Retreat. A last-minute addition to the plan was to do an evening safari at Pench National Park – in the hope of seeing one of the wild cats. We were unlucky again, but it increased our enjoyment multi-fold. The terrain was different in Pench as compared to Kanha. We also found a very good vehicle, and a well-informed guide who gave us lots more insight on the flora and fauna inside the park.
With almost 1600 kms distance travelled, we’d packed lot more fun and frolic in a five-day trip than ever before. Even though we love our car, I am sure it was the excitement in our hearts that carried us to that enchanting land and back – safe and completely relaxed.