Melghat was declared a tiger reserve in 1974, and was one of the first nine reserves that were notified under Project Tiger – India’s foremost wildlife conservation project put in place in 1972 to protect the Bengal Tiger. Melghat means ‘a confluence of the ghats’, and the area’s rugged topography is characterised by steep cliffs and rocky ravines, providing the reserve natural protection from encroachers. The reserve extends across 1,677 sq km. The core area, the Gugarnal National Park, has an extent of 361.28 sq km, and the buffer area of the reserve, the Melghat Tiger Sanctuary, spans approximately 788 sq km.

Eco-development activities have been taken up consistently by the state government and various other organisations, resulting in an increase in the tiger population.

ORIENTATION

River Tapi marks Melghat’s northern boundary. Five tributaries from the Melghat region drain into the River Tapi: Khandu, Khapara, Sipna, Gadga and Dola. Two state highways – Paratwada to Burhanpur and Akot to Harisal – pass through the reserve. It stretches from Rangubeli and Hatru to the north, to Jarida and Chunkhadi to the east, Kolkas, Tarubanda and Dhakna to the west, and Dhargad and Gullarghat to the south. Semadoh is the entry point if you are coming via the Paratwada-Dharni State Highway.

If you’re travelling from Madhya Pradesh, the entry point is Harisal, located 25 km from Semadoh.

The reserve area has been divided into three different zones – Semadoh, Gullarghat and Harisal. Safaris begin from Semadoh, which has a Tourist Complex. This houses the Nature Interpretation Complex, a centre for information, and has accommodation facilities as well. Although it is the starting point for jungle safaris and trekking arrangements, elephant rides can also be organised here.

Entry 30 Vehicle Entry 80–100 Jeep Safari 1,000 (for 5–6 pax) Guide fee 220 Park Timings 6.00–8.00am, 4.00–6.00pm Tel 0721-2662792

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

Jeep safaris are conducted in Melghat from mid-October to December till the beginning of the monsoon. You can travel on the safari trail by the mini-buses arranged by the Forest Department or by your own vehicle. The jeep safari starts from Semadoh; there are two safaris a day and the timings usually depend on when the bookings are made.

Dipa Chaudhury
A magnificent tiger at a water hole in Melghat TR
A magnificent tiger at a water hole in Melghat TR

The first usually starts at 6.00am and the evening safari begins at 4.00pm. The safari starts only after the jeep is full. The other alternative is to pay the cost of the entire jeep.

TIP If you travel in a private vehicle, you’ll have to take a forest guide with you

There are many trekking routes along the Sipna river with plenty of scope for birdwatching. Most of the reserve is flat land with very few climbs. Therefore, Melghat lends itself easily to treks.

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

The Forest Department here offers a range of accommodation. The Semadoh Tourist Complex (Forest Development Corporation Office, Nagpur Tel: 0712-2226761; Tariff: 500–700, 150–200 per dorm bed) has huts and dorms. Rooms have attached baths and running hot water. You may want to carry your own towels and sheets, as well as mosquito repellent as a precaution.

The Kolkas Rest House (FDC Nagpur, Tel: 2226761; Tariff: 550– 700, dorm bed 150–200), situated in the park, offers the best view of the surrounds and is a much better option than the Semadoh dorms. The Upper Kolkas Rest House (Tariff: 1,300–1,900) has three suites. To stay here, you can book online at W mahecotourism.gov.in.

There are several other Forest Rest Houses (Tel: 07223-220214; Tariff: Govt 80, Private 450, Vehicle Permit 350) within the park, at Chaurakund, Raipur, Hatru and Chunkhadi. To book any of these, contact DCF Sipna Wildlife Division, Paratwada. The Dhakna, Tarobanda and Harisal Forest Rest Houses (Tel: 07223-222643; Tariff: 400) can all be booked through the DCF Gugamal Wildlife Division in Paratwada.

An owl awakens at twilight, Melghat TR
An owl awakens at twilight, Melghat TR

Huts and tents at Shahnoor, Gullarghat and Dhargad (Tel: 07258-281011; Tariff: 500–900) can be booked via the DCF Akot Wildlife Division, Akot. Simple meals can be arranged at the forest rest houses.

Food is available at the Semadoh Guest House, although nonvegetarian food and alcohol aren’t allowed. The chef’s repertoire here is limited, so you will have to subsist on plain vegetarian food.

You might want to carry snacks with you. The Semadoh Complex has a canteen that serves simple vegetarian fare.

FAST FACTS

When to go Open from October to June. Summer is when chances of animal sightings are high. Winter is more comfortable, but animal sighting is difficult, except for birds

Wildlife/ Forest Dept Office

Field Director, Project Tiger
Melghat Tiger Reserve
East Melghat Division
Amravati
Amravati Tel: 0721-2662792
Paratwada Tel: 07223-220214
W melghattiger.gov.in
STD codes Amravati 0721
Paratwada 07223

Region Vidarbha

Location In the northern part of the Amaravati District, NE of Aurangabad

Distance 203 km W of Nagpur

Route from Nagpur Take the Nagpur-Aurangabad Highway; Turn left onto SH194; Turn right onto MSH24 and continue for 40 km

 

GETTING THERE

Air Nearest airport: Nagpur (280 km/ 6 hrs). Taxi costs 5,500–6,000

Rail Nearest railhead: Badnera (110 km/ 3 hrs). Private vehicles hired from Badnera cost 2,500–3,000

Road All buses going via Paratwada to Dharni and Burhanpur stop at the Tourist Centre in Semadoh. MTDC (Mumbai Tel: 022-24211690) also organises excursions to the reserve. The road journey can be tiring