Once notorious as land of dacoits and unexplored valleys, Madhya Pradesh is home to some 12 percent of India’s forest cover. Roughly 30 percent landmass is densely wooded, making the environment apt for national parks of Madhya Pradesh.
Thick woods of these popular national parks provide haven for few of the world’s most rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. Royal Bengal Tiger, Indian White Tiger, Indian Bison, Blue Bull, Rock Python, and myriad varieties of mammals, reptiles, birds and insects, trees and shrubs thrive here.
Visit Madhya Pradesh’s national parks to enjoy nature’s bounty alongside historical wonders and cultural splendor.
1. Satpura National Park and Biosphere: Abode of Royal Bengal Tiger
Satpura national park of Madhya Pradesh draws identity from the Sanskrit ‘Shata Pura’ or ‘Hundred Mountains’. The densely forested range is an ideal ecosystem. It provides home to India’s national animal, Royal Bengal Tiger- once classified critically endangered. Satpuras house more exotic animals- Sloth Bear, Indian Bison, Asiatic Wild Dog- the list continues.
Some 1,500 sq.km of Satpura forests is tiger conservation zone. This area is sufficient to relocate both Shanghai and Las Vegas. Indian Bison, the world’s largest living bovine, is a frequenter here. Near extinct Malabar squirrel vies to forage alongside the Sloth Bear and Four Horned Antelope.
Stay options near Satpura National Park: There’s a wide selection of safari hotels and lodges in nearby towns and villages including Panchmarhi hill resort and Madhai. Hotels and lodges for various budgets are available at Itarsi, Hoshangabad, Pippariya, Bhopal and Nagpur.
Things to do in and around Satpura National Park: Boat safari and overnight camping in Denwa River backwaters. Village visits for handicraft buying and picture ops.
Safaris in Satpura National Park: Half-day walking safari, 4×4 drives and elephant rides in the safe perimeter. Access to protected zones is disallowed and requires special permits. Hunting trips remain banned under India’s Wildlife Protection Act 1973 and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna.
How to reach Satpura National Park
Air: Raja Bhoj International Airport, Bhopal located 180 km away and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Airport located 340 km in Maharasthra’s winter capital are the nearest ones. Dumna Airport, Jabalpur is 360 km away and Devi Ahilyabai Holkar Airport, Indore, about 390km. Airport-hotel transfers are available from travel agencies.
Train: Located 93 km away, Itarsi Junction, a historic and very busy station is ideal to hop off the train and head to Satpura. Other nearby railway stations include Hoshangabad and Pippariya.
Road: Madhya Pradesh Road Transport Corporation and private operators run frequent buses to towns around Satpura National Park. Gutsy motoring skills on developing roads and gallons of gasoline will get you there too.
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2. Bandhavgarh National Park: A cradle of Indian White Tiger
Bandhavgarh National Park, which draws its fame from a nearby historic Bandhavgarh Fort, is one of the most popular national parks in Madhya Pradesh. Legend has it that Lord Rama, a prince attributed with divine powers, gifted the area to his younger sibling Lakshman. In Sanskrit, ‘Bandhav’ is brother and ‘Garh’ stands for an elevated place or mountain.
Nearly 1,150 sq.km of Satpura forest is designated as Bandhavgarh National Park. It is the single largest haunt of Royal Bengal Tiger anywhere on Earth. Spotting Indian White Tiger or the lonely Sloth Bear with cubs is fairly common here.
Various genus of hyena, deer and civet are ubiquitous. Different species of venomous and non-venomous snakes – krait, viper, and cobra are common. Located in grasslands, Bandhavgarh hosts migratory and domestic birds. Experts list over 300 species of flora and fauna as indigenous to Bandhavgarh.
One can also visit Khajuraho monuments, a grouping of ancient Hindu and Jain shrines near the national park.
Stay options near Bandhavgarh National Park: Hotels and lodges for various budgets are available in Katni and Jabalpur.
Things to do in and around Bandhavgarh National Park: Take a trip to Jabalpur to taste local cuisine and shopping.
Safaris in Bandhavgarh National Park: Half-day (three to four hour) walking safaris, 4×4 drives and elephant rides from three gates- Tala, Maghadi and Khatauli as well as Buffer Zone. Access to animal protection and breeding zones is restricted. No hunting allowed and poaching attracts very stiff penalties under Wildlife Protection Act 1973 and related CITES signatory obligations.
How to reach Bandhavgarh National Park
Air: Dumna Airport, Jabalpur about 180 km away followed by Khajuraho Civil Aerodrome at 260 km.
Train: Access is easier from Katni Railway Junction located 100 km away. You can hop off an Indian Railways train at Umaria (40 km), Satna 9120 km) or Jabalpur (180 km) from Bandhavgarh wildlife reserve.
Road: Madhya Pradesh Road Transport Corporation and private operators serve the region. One can also drive to the sanctuary.
3. Kanha National Park: Savior of ‘Barasingha’ Swamp Deer
Indian Swamp Deer locally called ‘Barasingha’ is listed critically endangered by International Union for Nature Conservation and CITES. The animal distinct for 12-tined antlers was greatly hunted for exotic meat and shaman medicine. Kanha National Park provides grassland and safe breeding environment to Indian Swamp Deer while protecting them against poachers.
Kanha is the sole sanctuary on this planet where ‘Barasingha’ is seen solo or as mob. Over 940 sq.km of grasslands housing motley leopards, wild dogs, & a rich smattering of assorted wildlife makes this park rank high in the list of the best national parks in Madhya Pradesh.
Stay options near Kanha National Park: There are 3 zones named as Kanha, Kisli & Muki. Plenty of hotels are available near all 3 gates and the preferred gate for many of the tourist is Muki. You can find hotels like Banjara Tola by Taj, Kanha Treasure Resort, Tuli Tiger Resort but if you want to save money then you can find budget hotels like MPTDC.
Safaris in Kanha National Park: 3-4 hours walking safaris, 4×4 drives and elephant rides. No access to animal protection zones. Hunting trips are strictly prohibited, on lines with other reserves.
How to reach Kanha National Park
Air: About 167 km far, Dumna Airport, Jabalpur and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Airport, Nagpur (270km) are the nearest ones.
Train: Indian Railways gives excellent connectivity to Jabalpur and Nagpur.
Road: Madhya Pradesh Road Transport Corporation, Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation and private operators connect Kanha to Jabalpur and Nagpur.
4. Pench National Park: The Jungle Book comes alive
Pench National Park is a part of Project Tiger and another home of Royal Bengal Tiger. Part of Satpura range, Pench spans over 750 sq.km. Indian leopard of two known species dwell here alongside Wild Boar, Indian Bison, Sloth Bear and more.
Lucky visitors can spot one or more four rare Indian vulture species deemed critically endangered by IUCN and CITES. Pench river bisects the reserve providing ideal grasslands and swamp conditions for birds. It is every bird watcher’s paradise with about 300 species of rare indigenous and migratory birds in it.
Stay options near Pench National Park: Nagpur offers best deals to travelers headed for Pench. Hotels and lodges as well as home stays are possible.
Things to do in and around Pench National Park: Sitaghat, Alikantta, Raiyakessa, Baghin Nala and Pench reservoir located within the reserve make for excellent viewing of animals, birds, insects and reptiles.
Safaris in Pench National Park: 3-4 hour walking safaris, 4×4 drives and elephant rides. No access to animal protection zones. Hunting trips are strictly prohibited, on lines with other reserves.
How to reach Pench National Park
Air: Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Airport, Nagpur is closest at 115 km. Dumna Airport, Jabalpur is 200km away.
Train: Nagpur and Jabalpur are well connected by Indian Railways with rest of the country.
Road: Madhya Pradesh Road Transport Corporation, Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation and few private operators have bus frequencies to nearby towns. Great highways connecting from Jabalpur and Nagpur make motoring pleasurable.
5. Madhav National Park: Erstwhile hunting ground of emperors and princes
Spread across over 375 sq. km of tropical forest, Madho National Park is yet another name that often features on the list of the major national parks in Madhya Pradesh. It commemorates rich history of Gwalior region under the reign of Madhav Raje Scindia. It was a hunting ground for Mughal emperors, Maratha kings, and motley other royals that reigned over a once fragmented land.
The park is a wetland and forest reserve combined. Sakhya Sagar lake runs through Madhav presenting opportunities for crocodile safari. Varieties of antelope dwells in grasslands of Madhav, including near extinct ‘Barsingha’ or twelve tined Indian Swamp deer. Predators including the leopard and fox lives here. These animals thrive in protected environs of the park now.
Rich in history and rife with legend, Madhav delights the bird watcher. Boating over Sakhya Sagar is permitted. Wood cabins, tree houses, and designated wildlife viewing spots dot this reserve. George Castle, Tunda Bharka springs, Bhura-kho springs and watch tower, and Churanchaj ancient wall paintings are nearby attractions.
Stay options near Madhav National Park: Hotel Anand Palace, Hotel Surbhi, and Hotel Solitaire Inn
Safaris in Madhav National Park: 3-4 hour walking safaris, 4×4 drives and elephant rides. Temptation to hunt is great but the sport is strictly prohibited. Do not purchase or deal with any animal artefacts including skin, nail, bone, antlers or meat: You may inadvertently violate the Wildlife Protection Act 1973.
How to reach Madhav National Park
Air: The Rajmata Vijaya Raje Scindia Airport, Gwalior lies within proximity at 120 km away. Raja Bhoj International Airport, Bhopal at 320km and Rani Ahilyabai Holkar Airport about 360 km far also serve Madhav National Park.
Train: Gwalior located 120 km away is a busy Indian Railway junction on crossroads of India. Jhansi is 98 km away and Agra—home of world famous Taj Mahal is 225 km away.
Road: Madhya Pradesh Road Transport Corporation, Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation, Uttarakhand State Road Transport Corporation serve Gwalior well with bus connections from major cities in northern India.
6. Panna National Park And Tiger Reserve: By the river Ken
In local parlance, Panna means diamond. Covering some 570 sq.km, Panna National Park and tiger reserve is a gem by right. River Ken runs through this woody and damp grassy national park, creating paradise-like habitats for Royal Bengal Tiger, leopard, species of antelope and deer, over 260 birds, insects, reptiles and other flora, fauna.
Located in Vindhya mountain range, Pandav and Raneh, the mesmerizing waterfalls form part of this natural reserve. Boating over the Ken is major attraction here.
Stay options near Panna National Park: Available within Panna on banks of Ken and vicinity of the two waterfalls. Khajuraho is preferred by most travelers due to excellent infrastructure.
Things to do in Panna National Park: Hike to Pandav and Pahen waterfall
Safaris in Panna National Park: Three to four hour walking safaris, 4×4 drives and elephant rides. River safari is the biggest attractor here.
How to reach Panna National Park
Air: Located 30 km away, Khajuraho Civil Aerodrome provides excellent connectivity to Panna National Park.
Train: Indian Railways junctions Satna and Katni are located 85 km and 120 km away. Rail access is also possible from Khajuraho despite fewer frequencies. Jhansi on India’s crossroads is 180 km away.
Road: Madhya Pradesh Road Transport Corporation connects Khajuraho with other parts of the state. State of roads in interior Madhya Pradesh can deter hardy motorists.
7. Sanjay-Dubri National Park And Wildlife Sanctuary: Where Barking Deer thrives
This is one of the smaller and lesser known national parks of Madhya Pradesh. Sanjay-Dubri has dual features: Sanjay is a national park and Dubri is a wildlife sanctuary. The two cover combined 450 sq.km of the state’s landmass.
Sanjay-Dubri is the most visited one for various species of deer. Unique Indian Barking Deer is well protected here. This combined reserve has hundreds of species of flora and fauna. Damp deciduous woods of this region render it excellent for reptiles and insects. This reserve charms snake lovers.
Stay options near Sanjay-Dubri National Park: Available around the Sanjay-Dubri national park and nearby cities, Rewa and Singrauli. Better accommodation facilities are available in Varanasi, across the state border.
Safaris in Sanjay-Dubri National Park: Usually walking safari and 4×4 safari of 4-5 hours only.
Things to do in and around Sanjay-Dubri National Park: Explore Amarkanta town for spiritual retreat. Amarkanta is on banks of river Narmada and home to a few Hindu shrines of great religious interest.
How to reach Sanjay-Dubri National Park
Air: Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport, Varanasi is closest at 250 km.
Train: Jabalpur is located about 350km away and well connected by Indian Railways
Road: Uttar Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation, Uttarakhand State Road Transport Corporation and Madhya Pradesh Road Transport Corporation offer dotty services to nearby Singrauli town located about 50 km away. Roads conditions favor limited motoring.
Each year thousands of wildlife enthusiasts travel to these wildlife sanctuaries and national parks of Madhya Pradesh. These parks of Madhya Pradesh are sure to surprise you with its flora and fauna.
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