Beyond the Safaris and more—Bandhavgarh, Panna via Khajuraho and Gwalior 2015-2016

Shilpi Shekhar

New Member
Road Trip: Delhi- Gwalior-Khajuraho-Panna-Bandhavgarh.

We visited Kanha last year and as it was our first trip to MP, we just did the safaris and came back.
It’s only after coming back that we realised that there were so many things near and en-route to Kanha that we just missed because of our ignorance and view that visiting a national park is all about just safaris.

So this year when we planned Bandhavgarh via Khajuraho and Panna, I decided to do my research and also explore places around and en-route and believe me, it was really fruitful!

Before moving ahead, since safaris are primarily what we are looking at, here are some details.

Safari Details:In all of the National Parks in MP,the safaris have to be booked online. Plan a trip only when you book a safari.


They do roll out some tickets at the last moment in the morning from the counter but for that you will either have to stand in the line the whole night or ask your hotel to book it at whatever premium they want to charge and still there is no guarantee that you will get it.

The link of the site where you can book your safari from is

https://forest.mponline.gov.in/Index.aspx

You have to book the permit online and carry IDs of everyone travelling with you.

If you have a choice it’s better to book a morning safari as it’s for a longer duration and sightings are better. The timings are

Winter Safari Timings (Oct to Jan)
MORNING - 06: 30 to 10:30 AM,
EVENING - 02:30 to 5:30 PM

Summer Safari Timings(Feb to June)
MORNING - 06:00 to 12:00 AM
EVENING - 03:30 to 06:30 PM

The permit charges are given in the following link

https://forest.mponline.gov.in/FeeDtls.aspx

The vehicle charges are separate. Somewhere around Rs 2200-3000 per jeep and guide charges extra at around Rs 360.

Please note that these rates may vary from time to time please check the latest rates before going ahead.


Though nothing can beat the joy of a nice sighting, I discovered places around Bandhavgarh and Panna which can easily make up for the frustrations of not spotting the big cat!
The places discovered were:
Raneh falls enroute Panna from khajuraho
Pandav falls in Panna
Ghughwa fossil park near bandhavgarh
Chenchpur waterfalls in Bandhavgarh.

The detailed Trip report
Day 1 Gwalior:

Highlights—Gwalior fort, Scindia museum.

Day 1: 27th December 2015, 6:00 AM , Started from Delhi, took Delhi-Agra-Gwalior-Jhansi-Khajuraho route. Reached Agra around 9:00, had breakfast on the expressway right before hitting Agra as there are not too many eating options on Agra Gwalior route.

The road upto Gwalior is very good. We crossed Chambal ravines on our way. Once notoriously famous for Chambal ke daaku. Thankfully they have been sanitized now rendering the Chambal valley free to be explored!

Traveller's Tip: There is a Chambal river safari in Chambal famous for bird watching and spotting alligators and crocodiles. You need minimum 3 hours for it. Include it if you want to take a one night break before Khajuraho somewhere in Gwalior,Datia or Jhansi, otherwise just click some pictures and push off to Khajuraho which is a 10 to 12 hrs journey from Delhi.

Gwalior
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We decided to stay in Gwalior, as Gwalior fort was on my agenda for quite some time.
We reached Gwalior at around 12:00. We straight away headed to the Gwalior fort. The fort is worth a visit, built in three levels below the ground.

The fort is very intriguing as it is built beneath the ground but still there is ample amount of ventilation. This just goes to show how technologically advanced our ancestors were.

I was admiring the technology and the cool breeze and the ventilation and it all looked so beautiful until the guide, in his bid to impress me, pointed out that the fort had been converted into a prison during the reign of Akbar, and I was standing at the exact point where Aurangzeb had executed, hanged to be precise, his brothers and cousins!

After the fort we went on to see the Scindia museum which is open till 5:00 PM. It is again a must do as you get to see real thrones and the grandeur of the raja maharajas of those days. It is a very well preserved palace converted into a museum.

We then checked into Hotel Prabha International, a nice clean hotel with best of amenities.


Day 2 and 3, Khajuraho:
Highlights—Light and sound show, Khajuraho temples, Amazing Italian food, Raneh falls on way to Panna.

Day 2: The drive on the Gwalior bypass upto Datia was a little slow as there was some construction going on there but still roads were pretty much motorable. It took us 2 hours to reach Jhansi bypass. The road from Jhansi to Khajuraho is single lane. Although the road is good, we encountered fair amount of traffic on this road, it took us four hours to reach khajuraho. We reached there around 4:30.

Khajuraho has numerous options to stay right from Taj and Lalit to lots of budget hotels. I realized from my last trip that when travelling in MP, the best option to stay is MP tourism. Awesome food and service compared to any good private starred hotel and best locations! Khajuraho has three MP tourism properties, we checked into tourist village, very nice property, big lawns and swings for kids.
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Backdrop for Light and Sound: Western Group of Temples
After checking in and freshening up, we went for the light and sound show. English is from 6:30 to 7:30 and Hindi is from 7:30 to 8:30. It was very nice and informative. A must do.

Day 3: The western group of temples is the main group of temples to be seen.
Traveller's Tip: For people wanting to visit the temples I would suggest to take a guide. A lot of bargaining happens. Even though the charges for a guide are mentioned as 1200/1400 they can bargain for as low as 600. Please note that inside the western group of temples only authorized guides are allowed, lots of guides will try to woo you saying western group is waste of time and we will show you around for half the price but do not get into the trap. First see the western group of temples as they are the main ones and then if you want to see more hire another guide and go. Typically such a guide would charge around Rs 500- Rs 600 to show you around the rest of the temples

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Western group of temples

After the temple visit, we went out to look for a nice place to eat. I was surprised to see some very authentic Italian restaurants with an elaborate menu and very authentic food. We had a wonderful time digging into rosemary lamb, chicken lasagna, fish and chips, Pizzas and winding up with a sumptuous serving of Banoffee pie. Some of these cafes worth mentioning are Café Bella vista, Raja’s café and Mediterrano.

Day 4 and 5, Panna:
Highlights—Safari which includes both Tiger safari and Ken river safari, and Pandava falls.


Day 4: The 20 km stretch between Khajuraho and Panna is not in best of conditions, actually bad as some construction is going on but the road is motorable. My hunch is that within an year the construction must be completed.While heading for Panna we took a short detour to visit Raneh falls.

Raneh falls: It harbours a volcanic crater and hillocks made of volcanic rocks.

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Raneh Falls with the crater and the surroundong rocks

The falls are formed out of volcanic rocks, you can see different color rocks, you can see the crater too. This place also has a Ghariyal Sanctuary.
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A Ghariyal in the lake
We drove through a short distance with a guide into the forest to go to the lake where we could see both Alligators and crocodiles. The views from here were amazing.
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Views from Raneh Falls
Caution: They do have a boat ride too but the boat was very dingy. The moment we set to sail some water started leaking in to the boat. Boating in a leaking boat, in deep waters, infested with crocodiles and alligators was not my cup of tea, so we immediately returned to the bank. Do check the boat before going for the boat ride.

Panna:
We then moved on to Panna. In Panna again we had booked ourselves into MP tourism. Jungle Camp Madla. It was an amazing experience. Do not go by the word camp. These are camps set on concrete floors attached bathroom with best of amenities, TV, Ac, Heater, Fridge, and the best part is its location—right next to the forest. In the evening just sitting out on the verandah we could see deers, wild boars, rabbits and porcupines crossing by.
Travellers Tip: ask for cottages on the back side. These have the views of the jungle.

Day 5: We had booked our jeep from the forest gate. In Panna, unlike other forests, there are no zones demarked as yet, so the guides can listen to the calls and manoeuver the jeeps so as to track calls and spot a tiger. We managed to see a tiger twice on the same safari! Unfortunately the Tiger chose not to give us a photo opportunity. However, we spotted a lot of birds.

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Grey Francolin

The best part of Panna is that they have a ken river safari included as part of your safari.
They dropped us at the boat jetty on the ken river, the forest department runs a motor boat there. It took us very close to alligators and crocodiles. We saw an alligator sleeping with its mouth open, they remain so still that sometimes you feel they are just artificial statues and not real ones, but the moment they start to move you wish you were just not stationed that close to them!
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A crocodile with it's mouth open
However, this safari was very safe. The guide was very experienced and knew exactly where to anchor and when to move away. It was a unique experience.
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A Baby Crocodile
We came back from the safari, freshened up, had lunch and then moved on to see pandav falls.

Pandav falls:
A beautiful landscape where locals believe the Pandavas once stayed. The roads are very good and the place is very beautiful and pristine.
You have to take a ticket at the gate and walk down, it’s a one km walk to the falls which includes a short flight of stairs but kids can do it. The falls are worth the walk.
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Pandav Falls
The legend has it that pandavas stayed here during their ‘agyat vas’ and there are separate caves dedicated to each pandava. The one that is still intact and you can actually go inside it, is the Draupadi Gufa.


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View from Draupadi’s Gufa.

There is a small spring with water tricking down into a kund. People believe that the water has been blessed by Draupadi herself and couples who drink it, develop a strong bond of love forever.
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Stairs to the spring
Even if you do not believe in the legends, the place is worth the visit for its beauty and serenity.

Day 6, 7, 8, Bandhavgarh:
Highlights—Safari, Chenchpur falls and Ghughwa Fossil park.


Bandhavgarh:
Travellers Tip: Please note that the forest department has closed a lot of the park area for tourists, so lots of sites like the ancient caves and the fort have been shut down for tourists.
Also, the rules have become very stringent, each jeep is allocated a route and it cannot take even a slight detour. Again be sure you book your safari well in advance, rather plan a trip only after you book your safari.
Last minute safari bookings especially for Tala is next to impossible. Tala has been declared a premium zone and charges are more. If you are going all the way to Bandhavgarh, makes sense to take at least one safari in Tala and one in Magadhi. Khitauli can be given a miss.
For stay, MP tourism has the White Tiger Lodge here which is again very good. You have lots of options here right from Taj to other 5 start and 4 star resorts.
Do buy some Baiga art handicraft artifacts as souvenirs. Baiga art is practiced by the local tribes here for decorating the walls of their homes.


Day 6: 8:30 left from Panna for Bandhavgarh. The route taken was Panna-katni-barhi-umaria-bandhavgarh. Reached Bandhavgarh at 4:00PM.
The best part of Bandhavgarh is that the resorts are located after fair amount of off-roading into the forest. Unlike Jim Corbett, you get the feel of the forest right from your resort.

Day 7: We had an evening safari booked for both the days so we decided to explore other places in Bandhavgarh.

Chenchpur Waterfalls:
Traveller's Tip: For Chenchpur falls you have to book a ticket from the booking office. I suggest do include it in your itinerary.
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Chenchpur Waterfalls
It was around 30 km from Tala. The roads were very good. We had to cross the forest barricade to go to the falls. These were again very beautiful falls, one can actually walk upto the falls, Seemed like a very popular picnic spot among the locals.
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Chenchpur Waterfalls

Ideally one should get lunch packed and spend few hours here and also bathe in the stream just below the falls.We spent some time there and came back to the hotel for our safari.

Day 8: We again had some time before our evening safari, so we decide to explore some more places. I narrowed down to Ghughwa fossil park.

Ghughwa fossil park:
It hosts fossilized dinosaur eggs and trees. These belong to the times of Gondwana land!
It is a must do. It takes about an Hour to reach this place from Bandhavgarh. It is located on the road to Jabalpur from Bandhavgarh. The museum is small but informative.
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A Dinosaur Egg

It seems, the ancient Tethys sea use to flow from here, thus you get to see lots of fossils of trees, shells, and even a dinosaur egg.
It is a small walk into the park with fossils stacked under the trees.
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Fossils Stacked Under the Tree

The most amazing part is that if you just walk along the trail and keep an eye for small pieces of wood, you would find numerous fossils lying everywhere.
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Gughwa Fossil Park
We spent some time here visualizing dinosaurs roaming about the area, and the sea flowing right where we were standing…only to be snapped out of our thoughts by our growling stomach. There is no eating option around. So we headed back to our hotel.

We had our lunch and went for our safari which again turned out to be unproductive with just varied species of deer to be seen everywhere.
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Bandhavgarh National Park
Day 9: With a promise to come back to MP again and exploring some new places, we headed back to Delhi. With no more sightseeing in our agenda and the only target being reaching back home, we decided to take an alternative route through Sagar.

Traveller's Tip: The route we took was Bandhavgarh-Katni-Damoh-Sagar-Lalitpur-Jhansi-Gwalior-Agra-Delhi. This was a slightly longer route but roads were excellent. From Sagar we got a four lane expressway right upto Jhansi. We left Bandhavgarh at 6:00 AM and reached Jhansi at around 2:30. Though we pushed off to Gwalior as we wanted to reach Delhi a little early the next day, Jhansi/Orchha is an ideal place to stop between Bandhavgarh and Delhi.

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Bandhavgarh National Park

Please Note: All the images except the one for Gwalior fort (for which a photo credit has been given to MP Tourism) have copyrights assigned to Shilpi Shekhar. The images cannot be reproduced or copied in any form without the permission of the owner.
 
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jeetcp

Mediocre me
Nice log. I keep thinking of doing the same trip. But have no time, no money, no will as of now :)

Seems like MP roads have improved a lot now?
 

Shilpi Shekhar

New Member
Nice log. I keep thinking of doing the same trip. But have no time, no money, no will as of now :)

Seems like MP roads have improved a lot now?
I am very fond of road trips and have covered majotr parts of Gujrat, Rajasthan, Himachal and Uttarakhand by road from Delhi. However, MP roads were by far the best. The four lane highway between Lalitpur and Sagar is comparable to roads abroad. Probably because they have been built recently.
 
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