Jabalpur—25 km/45 min—Bhedaghat–190 km/4.5 hrs (via Shahpura and Umaria)—Bandhavgarh—100 km/2 hrs—Ghugwa—130 km/3 hrs—Kanha—193 km/4.5 hrs (via Seoni)—Pench—210 km/4 hrs—Jabalpur
Day 1 BHEDAGHAT
Most flights to Jabalpur arrive around midday. Drive around an hour out of the city to the Marble Rocks at Bhedaghat. Cliffs of pale marble rise on either bank of the Narmada, changing hues, from pink to ash-grey, in the light of the sun. Row down the river by boat and pick out shapes in the rugged rock faces. Five minutes away, the Narmada River crashes down in a 100-foot drop at Dhuandhar Falls. Get an aerial perspective of the stunning sight from the Narmada Ropeway, which goes across the waterfall and deposits you on the river bank. Pick up carved marble souvenirs from the many stalls that line Bhedaghat’s main stretch. Overnight at Motel Marble Rocks in Bhedaghat.
Day 2 BANDHAVGARH
Set out early to reach Bandhavgarh in time for lunch. Check-in to the luxurious Samode Safari Lodge, near the Dhamokar Gate. After lunch at the lodge, set out on an afternoon game drive (3-6 p.m.). Look into the canopy of sal, bamboo, and mahua to spot some of the 250 bird species, including the racket-tailed drongo, and at ground-level birds like the rare lesser adjutant stork. Most people visit the national park hoping to catch a glimpse of the tiger and the chances are high since Bandhavgarh hosts one of the highest concentrations of tigers in the world. Keep an eye out for chital, dhole, gaur, and sambar in the grasslands and the forest.
Day 3 BANDHAVGARH
Head out for an early morning game drive (from 6-11 a.m.) into a different zone of the Bandhavgarh National Park. No two drives in the 1536-sq-km national park are the same, as landscapes transform from vast meadows and dense forest to lush hillocks, riverine plains, and ancient caves.
After the drive, spend the afternoon exploring the Mardhari village at the Dhamokar Gate. Learn about the lives of the Gond and Baiga tribal communities who live on the fringes of the forest, sharing space with all the jungle’s residents. Walk past blue mud homes, rice fields, and vegetable gardens. In the evening, watch the cattle coming home.
Day 4 GHUGHWA – KANHA
Depart Bandhavgarh early the next morning for Kanha National Park. En route, stop at the often-overlooked Ghughwa National Fossil Park. Here, 65-million-year-old fossils of eucalyptus, palms, and other evergreen plants are displayed in an open meadow. Central India’s landscapes evolved over millions of years, and the museum at Ghughwa is a good place to learn about the region’s natural history.
Reach the tented camp of Shergarh, near Kanha’s Mukki Gate, in time for lunch. Spend the afternoon exploring Kanha on foot. Walk with trained naturalists through the camp’s wild grounds, where jungle cats and ground birds like lapwings inhabit the wild grass. On the seven-kilometre Bamni Nature Trail, walk past winding streams, rocky outcrops, forested patches and the Banjar River. Look out for brightly coloured butterflies, like the orange-and-black-hued striped tiger butterfly. Chital and sambar are often seen on the trail, and sometimes, you’ll spot pugmarks of a tiger or a leopard.
Day 5 KANHA
Depart for an early morning game drive (6-11 a.m.) in the 2051-sq-km Kanha National Park. Talk to the accompanying naturalists about the inspiring story of the barasingha’s revival—one of India’s biggest conservation success stories. The stately deer, distinct because of their 12-point antlers, roam Kanha’s grasslands. Look into the branches of the sal trees to spot some of the 300 species of birds that live here, including yellow-footed green pigeons, woodpeckers, kingfishers, and spotted doves.
After lunch at the camp, grab a cycle and explore the villages surrounding the national park. Ride past lush rice fields and settlements of blue mud homes. Explore the Gond villages on the periphery of the forest at a leisurely pace, observing the local architectural styles: tiled sloping roofs, sal wood columns, mud walls. Visit an afternoon village haat (local market), which usually takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at different villages. Snack on wild cucumbers, while shopping for local souvenirs like bamboo baskets.
Day 6 PENCH
Depart Shergarh in the morning to arrive at Pench Tree Lodge before lunch. The untamed tree house camp is set within the agricultural fields of Sarrahirri village, near Pench National Park’s Karmajhiri Gate. An afternoon game drive (3-6 p.m.) takes you into the beautiful teak forest of the 757-sq-km national park. Wide meadows with tall wild grass are the domain of jackals, dhole, and chital. Look towards watering holes to spot gaur, sambar, nilgai, and a plethora of bird life. The Pench River is the best spot for bird watchers, as grey-headed fish eagles, vultures, ibises, and cormorants cluster around the water.
Day 7 PENCH-JABALPUR
Squeeze in an early morning cycle ride to nearby Sagar village. As you ride past rice and corn fields, spot birds like the turquoise-hued Indian roller and jungle owlet. Spend an hour walking within the blue-and-green mud homes. Head back to Jabalpur after breakfast at the lodge.
Boating at Marble Rocks
Open: Operational from Oct 15 – June 15, but can start earlier if the monsoon recedes.
Tariff: Shared boat rides cost ₹50 per person, while a private boat (seats 5) starts at ₹400.
Hours: 10.30 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed for lunch from 1.30 p.m.- 2 p.m.. Closed for the monsoon.
Tariff: Round-trip tickets cost ₹95 per person.
Motel Marble Rocks
Address: Bhedaghat, Madhya Pradesh 483053.
Tel: +91 76128 30424
Tariff: Doubles from ₹3,290, plus taxes.
Samode Safari Lode
Address: Village Mardhari, Post Dhamokar District Umaria -484661, Madhya Pradesh
Open: Oct 1- Jun 15
Tel: +91 76532 80579
Tariff: Doubles ₹66,550 including meals, drinks, and two safaris; plus taxes.
Address: Kanha Tiger Reserve, Village Bahmni, Post Kareli, Tehsil Baihar, District Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh 481111
Open: Oct 15-May 15 only
Tel: +91 90981 87346
Tariff: Luxury tented doubles cost ₹15,000 per night, including meals, plus taxes.
Pench Tree Lodge
Address: Pench Tree Lodge, Pench National Park, Gram Sarrahirri, Tehsil Kurai, Seoni, Near Karmajhiri Gate
Tel: +91 124 2970497
Tariff: Tree house doubles cost ₹16,000 per night inclusive of all meals and taxes; add-on one (shared) jeep safari for an additional ₹4,000 per night.
Open: Oct 1-Jun 30
Hours: Twice daily open-top jeep safaris from 6 a.m. to 11a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.; parks are closed on Wednesday afternoon.
Booking: Book permits online at forest.mponline.gov.in.
Entry: In Bandhavgarh and Kanha, permits per jeep cost ₹1,550 for the core zones and ₹1,250 for the buffer zones. In Pench, permits per jeep cost ₹1,500. Each jeep seats six. Vehicle and guide charges are extra and payable at the gate, shared by all occupants of the jeep. Carry government-approved photo ID.
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