Panna is the twenty second Tiger Reserve of India and fifth in Madhya Pradesh. The Reserve is situated in the Vindhya Ranges and spreads over Panna and Chhatarpur districts in the north of the state. Panna National Park was created in 1981 and it was declared a Project Tiger Reserve in 1994. The Ken River flows through the reserve from south to north. It has a total area of 545 sq km.
One of the practical benefits that I enjoy most working in News Channel is the man-power available at every nook and corner of the country and that too is very resourceful. Bottom line is that resort as well safari was completely free. Rajasthan has best tourist facility to explore national parks. Solo traveler like me can book his own ticket only and he will get accommodated with others without any pain. But here in Panna one need to hire a complete Gypsy that charges around 3600 for a safari. The same situation is with Kanha that I visited later in this month. With little delay we started our journey at 6:30.
Out of the nine vulture species found in India, Panna has six of them. The are : Oriental White-backed Vulture, Long billed Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Indian Griffon Vulture, Himalayan Griffon, Cinereous Vulture. The ‘vulture estimation exercise’ was conducted on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of January 2012 in Panna. They were about to extinct but luckily there number are growing rapidly here, thanks to all those conservation program. We had encountered a group of vultures during our safari.
Beside flora and fauna the nature in National park is another aspect that attracts its visitors. I too feel like, the forest can be visited only to see the pure and unspoilt nature, tiger is obviously a bonus.
Few years back Panna had respectable Tiger population of around 30. But due to poaching the tigers become extinct in the reserve two years ago and to revive it, three tigresses and a tiger were translocated into the reserve. Two tigresses have given birth to around five cubs. It was a path-breaking and first of its kind successful experiment of tiger conservation involving breeding of a translocated tigress in captivity. Now all the tigers have given radio collars and they are monitored consistently with GPS (global positioning system) and HRF (high radio frequency) devices. Cameras are installed everywhere to stop poaching.
The safari ends at 11.30. My train was at evening so we decided to visit a friend’s resort for boating in Ken River, Pandav Cave and Panna City before leaving to Khajuraho to catch the train.
Pandava Cave and Falls is some 20 km from the Panna Tiger Reserve, 34 km from Khajuraho and en-route to Panna city. This place was visited by Pandavas during their exile. Now it’s a picnic spot for locals.
After visiting this place I can say that Pandavas had some great sense of admiration for nature. It is a beautiful place nestled in forest and slate rocks.
One thing that surprised me was the water flowing continuously in-between the mountains, not from the top.
When I started descending towards the falls the first thing I noticed was the protective iron railings all through the way that looked like the edge of a gorge. Beyond the railings there was a breath-taking oval shaped valley and a serene lake of emerald colored water. This lake is supposed to be more than 100 ft deep. As per legend, Arjun cut the rocks by his arrows to make way for the flow of fresh water into the lake.
As I started descending I saw the slate rocks all over my right side. The left side was lake area and about middle of a rock, a stream of Ken River was making its way to the lake. Look further left and one can notice some caves on the other side of the lake.
A more closer look of lower half
There are five caves which was supposedly used by the five Pandava’s. The five shrines are also built by locals in front of those caves. There is one cave below at the water level. It is supposed to be the bedroom of Draupadi. I entered inside, and got the feel of such an ancient place.
This is the view of the lake and waterfall from cave that was supposedly Draupadi’s bedroom.
This is the inside of the room.
Probably these serene environment and the fresh sparkling water of river Ken must have given them a good time and it was not as bad as we get to know through the stories of Mahabharata.
During freedom struggle Chandrashekhar Azad also visited this place. The beauty of this place left me mesmerized. The mixed feeling of being a part of history and witnessing the miracle of nature gave me a sense of fulfillment.
Before I finish, I am going to introduce the two staying options near Panna Tiger Reserve. One is Jungle Camp which is locate next to the entrance of Tiger Reserve and another is Ken River Lodge where I visited for brunch and boating.
Though my stay was for a very short duration in Jungle Camp but I was impressed with the facility. It was tented accommodation with proper wooden door. As it is adjacent to Tiger Reserve so it is good from security point of view.
The room was air-conditioned with a double bed, cable connection and excellent washroom facilities. The charge includes the breakfast and dinner.
The safari was finished at 12 in the noon and I still had 6 hours to kill before I could catch the train. So first it was decided to visit the ken river lodge for boating and then Pandavas cave and falls which I had already mentioned in my earlier post.
Ken River Lodge is an ideal setup at the bank of River Ken, in complete isolation. The entire property is made of woods and surrounded by forest. A rustic charm is prime advantage of this place.
The restaurant overlooks the River and an ideal place for bird watchers. They have their own boat that we used to take a stroll in the river.
Few years back this property was washed away in floods but owners rebuilt it and now it stands to offer an unforgettable experience to its visitors. Though I have not stayed here but it seems to be a option for my next visit.