It was a long drive from Bandhavgarh to Panna, but we were in at the right time to witness a wonderful sunset over the Karnavati river (better known as Ken). The round ball of orange painted the sky in a riot of colours and the shimmering river glowed in its reflection. Numerous birds flew in large flocks against the back drop making it all the more dramatic. Indeed, a sight to behold! We were at Ken River lodge, an ideal setting with the charm of hunting lodges set amidst the wilderness of Panna. The surreal vista from its dining area is bewitchingly picturesque. The lodge also receives visitors who come all the way just to enjoy a lovely meal by the encapsulating river side.
|Dining by the Ken
|Parakeets and doves
|A lazy crocodile
|Into the national park
As we drove ahead, the naturalist pointed out bear claw marks on a couple of trees which had bee hives dangling on its branches. Parakeets, both alexandrine and plum headed were seen quite abundantly while a changeable hawk eagle perched restlessly on a branch. The numerous streams that we crossed over added to the beauty of the landscape. At one such crossing, we almost mistook a snake with its protruding head, for a piece of wood. A closer look confirmed that it was a water snake. More spotted deer and langurs were sighted before the jungle opened up its vastness with the thicket giving way to open grass lands. Ken river winds its way through the park and we had a small break near the bank of it with magnificent vistas. We lunged forward on the mud paths back into greenery in search of anything and everything wild. A shikra perched high on a branch was the first sighting after the break, shortly followed by a sambhar deer that was grazing happily before looking up at us for a moment. A wild boar and its playful babies were seen loitering on our way back and they gleefully posed for us without a fuss. A serpent eagle flapped its wings as it flew over us and perched on a stump.
|Changeable hawk eagle
|The expansive Ken
|A boar family
The next day began quite early and the morning drive to the national park was greeted by numerous birds like copper smith barbet, jungle babbler, crested eagle, white vultures, plum headed parakeets and a lonely peacock. The route was a different one this time and the jungle engulfed us as the jeep drove deep into it. No langurs or spotted deer this time. It was just the silence of the mist wrapped jungle. The jeep slowed down suddenly and came to a halt. Our naturalist had heard an alarm call of the monkeys and the lazy morning turned into an exciting one as we waited with bated breathe for the wild one to arrive. The naturalist was sure there was a wild cat amidst the bushes as the monkeys kept repeating the alarm calls with their eyes fixed on the ground. And then within a few minutes the wild one appeared leaping across a couple of rocks beneath the trees. A leopard it was! We saw it only for a few seconds before it vanished again into the bushes. The alarm calls never stopped and the wait continued. The deep gorge next to the bushes and rocks made it tough for the leopard to go across and the only option for it was to cross the path we stood on. We waited for long but no sign of the cat. We then moved ahead a couple of meters and waited patiently. We were all looking in one direction when the leopard quietly had begun crossing the path behind us. Luckily someone pointed out and we saw the majestic creature, as shy as a newly wed bride cross the mud path in front us and then into the tall grasses. It did look up for a second or two before hiding itself amidst the grass and then went up deep into the forest. That was undoubtedly one of the wildest ways to begin the day. It was also my first leopard spotting. The excited wildlife enthusiasts moved ahead and spotted a female nilgai, not very far from where the leopard lurked. Another gorgeous looking creature which was not quite bothered about our presence.
|Leopard hiding amidst the grass
|A pair of Nilgais
The wild drive into Panna national park ended with a few more bird sightings, as the tall teak trees welcomed us back to civilization. I loved Panna for its absolutely stunning landscape and the plethora of avian fauna it offers to wild life enthusiasts. The leopard sighting early in the morning is something I will always love Panna for. Raneh falls, Pandav falls and Ken Gharial sanctuary are the other interesting spots of interest in and around Panna. The ideal time to visit Panna would be from march to june when wildlife sightings would be quite high. But if you want to enjoy the verdant greenery and landscape, october to february would be the apt months.
Signing Note- Wilderness at its best...!!
Location- Madhya Pradesh
Nearest rail head- Khajuraho (30 Kms)
Nearest airport- Khajuraho (30 Kms)
I was in Panna national park on an invite from Pugdundee safaris.