THE SUN IS just up, and Kanha Meadow shimmers. It is November. Only a few days ago, the park has reopened to the public after four months of rest. The monsoon has rejuvenated all nature. At the start of a new season, Kanha is once again a meeting place, an intersection of wildlife and humankind. The rains have renewed Kanha, and Kanha will now nourish and renew her guests. A gentle, silvery mist still wraps the great vista of the Meadow in its folds. A small party of chital saunters daintily across the road and ambles toward Partak Nallah. Last to cross is a majestic stag. Emerging from the long grass, he stands stock still for a moment, carving a silhouette against grasslands and trees, low hills and horizon and ghostlike sun. He offers an invitation.
Geography & Climate
Kanha National Park (which is now officially known as Kanha Tiger Reserve) is located in the Maikal range, the eastern sector of the Satpura Hills of the Central Indian Highlands. The park lies 160 km (100 miles) southeast of Jabalpur in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Kanha is 270 kIn (170 miles) northeast of the city of Nagpur (Maharashtra), which currently furnishes the nearest air link to the park (direct flights from Mumbai, Delhi, and Hyderabad, with connections to other cities). The exact geographical coordinates of Kanha are as follows. Latitude: 22° 7′ to 22° 27’N; longitude: 80° 26′ to 81° 3’E.
KANHA: PORTRAIT OF AN INDIAN NATIONAL PARK
The name Kanha itself may be derived from kanhar, the local term for the clayey soil in the valley bottoms, or from Kanva, a holy man who once lived there in a forest village. Two river valleys are prominent features of the park’s topography: the Banjar in the west and the Halon in the east. Both these rivers are tributaries of the Narmada, which flows through the district headquarters town of Mandla, 64 km (40 miles) to the northwest of the park’s western entrance. Kanha’s valleys are enclosed by hills topped with plateaux, locally called dadar.
Four principal vegetation types have been identified in Kanha: moist deciduous forest, dry deciduous forest, valley meadow, and plateau meadow. The main species in moist deciduous areas (27% of the park area) is the sal tree (Shorea robusta). Park headquarters, located at Kanha Village in the park’s western block, lies at about 600 m (1,900 ft.) above sea level. The plateau at Bamhni Dadar rises to 870 m, or about 2,900 ft. The park is shaped roughly like a figure “8” on its side (see map facing page 16), with a length from west to east of approximately 80 km and a width ranging from 8 to 35 km.
The park consists of a core area of 940 km2, which is surrounded by a buffer zone of 1,005 km2, thus comprising a total area of 1,945 km2. The core area of the park and most of the buffer zone are located in two districts: Mandla to the west and Balaghat to the east. In addition, a small section of the buffer zone in the southeastern sector is part of Rajnandgaon District. There are nearly 150 villages in the buffer zone and over 260 villages within a radius of 10 km.
For management purposes, the park is divided into 5 ranges: Kisli, Kanha, and Mukki in the western block, and Bhaisanghat and Supkhar in the eastern sector. These latter two ranges are closed off entirely to the public. Within Kisli, Kanha, and Mukki ranges, certain roads and areas are also closed to tourists. As of this writing (mid-1998), the percentage of the park’s core area open to visitors (227 km2) is about 25%. The park is served by an extensive network (a little over 700 km) of generally well-maintained roads.
Park Season, Excursion Timings, and Fees
The park is open daily from 1 November to 30 June, although management reserves the option to close earlier if the rains begin before the end of June. The opening hours are scheduled to accord roughly with the seasonal variations in climate, as well as with the length of the day at different seasons. There is always a mid-day break, so that employees may eat lunch and rest and the animals may have a respite, too.
Opening hours are as follows:
- 1 November-IS February Sunrise to 11 AM. 3 P.M. to sunset
- 16 February-30 April Sunrise to 11 AM. 4 P.M. to sunset
- 1 May-30 June Sunrise to 10 AM. S P.M. to sunset
These hours are subject to change because of special conditions: for example, heavy rain showers may make park roads temporarily hazardous, or official activities such as census taking may be scheduled. In practice, “sunrise” and “sunset” are interpreted as “dawn” and “dusk,” with vehicles being admitted at 6:30 A.M., for example, if sunrise occurs at 6:50. The gate attendants tend to be stricter about exit times, since darkness follows sunset quite rapidly at this latitude.
Entry fees and regulations are as follows:
- Park entry for Indian citizens: Rs. 10/
- Park entry for foreigners: Rs. 100/
- Light motor vehicles: Rs. 10/- per vehicle up to 5 persons and Rs. 2/- for each additional person.
- Park entry for student groups: Rs. 10/- per group.
- Entry for children below 5 years of age is free.
Permissible capacity of vehicles exclusive of driver and guide is as follows:
Guide Charge: Elephant Joy Rides:
- 5 persons 8 persons
- 15 persons
- Rs. 60/- per round
- Rs. 20/- per hour (up to 4 persons)
- Rs. 50/ – per person on elephant back
Movie Camera (8 mm) Movie Camera (16 mm) Movie Camera (35 mm) Video Camera
Rs. 10/Rs. 200/Rs. 250/Rs. 1,000/Rs. 100/
Official notice boards direct visitors’ attention to the following regulations:
– Heavy vehicles and diesel vehicles are not allowed inside the park.
– Route guide is compulsory.
– Speed limit is 20 km per hour.
– Use of horn or headlights is not allowed.
– Smoking is forbidden inside the park. Forests are vulnerable to fire, and your negligence may cause a widespread fire.
– Visitors are requested not to use flash for photography.
– Foot trekking is strictly prohibited. Do not get down from your vehicle.
– Do not feed the animals, and keep a safe distance from them.
– Do not carry weapons. You are safe when accompanied by a guide, and hunting is banned.
– Do not throw empty tins, boxes, or other litter.
– Keep strictly to the road.
– Supervise young children closely at all times.
– Try to blend with the surroundings. A void wearing colours that jar. Do not blow horn, play music, or make loud noises.