Covering 448 sq km, Bandhavgarh is situated in Shahdol district among the outlying hills of the Vindhya range. Bandhavgarh boasts of a small national park with the highest density of tiger population in India. This is the original home of the white tigers which have been found in the old state of Rewa for many years. Apart from tigers, Bandhavgarh is densely populated with other species like sambar, barking deer and nilgai, which are seen in the more open areas of the park. At the centre of the park is Bandhavgarh hill – surrounding it are a large number of smaller hills separated by gently sloping valleys. These valleys end in small, swampy meadows, locally known as ‘bohera’. The lowest point in the park is at Tala. The vegetation is chiefly of Sal forest in the valleys and on the lower slopes, and mixed deciduous forest on the hills and in the hotter, drier areas of the park. Bamboo is found throughout. On the highest point of the hill stands Bandhavgarh Fort which is thought to be some 2000 years old. Scattered throughout the park, and particularly around the fort, are numerous caves containing shrines and ancient Sanskrit inscriptions.
Prior to becoming a National Park, the forests around Bandhavgarh had long been maintained as a Shikargah, or game preserve of the Maharajas of Rewa. In 1947, Rewa was merged with Madhya Pradesh and Bandhavgarh came under the Regulation of Madhya Pradesh. The Maharaja of Rewa still retained the hunting rights of Bandhavgarh and no special conservation measures were taken until 1968, when the areas were constituted as a National Park.
Nestled in the southern slopes of the Satpura ranges of Central India, Pench Tiger Reserve lies in southern Madhya Pradesh, bordering Maharastra. The Pench National Park which constitute the core of the tiger reserve was notified in 1983 and was brought under Project Tiger in 1992. The park comprises the Indira Priyadarshini Pench National Park and the Mowgli Pench Sanctuary. Pench National Park gets its name from the Pench river that flows through it, dividing it into western Chhindwara block (141.61 sq km) and the Eastern Seoni Block (145.24 sq km). Over 1200 species of plants have been recorded in the area including several rare and endangered plants as well as plants of ethno-botanical importance.
Pench offers a heterogeneity of mixed forests, shrubs and grasslands and provides a favourable condition to harbour a dense population of cheetal and sambhar. Pench Tiger Reserve has the highest density of herbivores in India, 90.3 animals per sq km. The area is especially famous for its huge population of the Indian Bison, cheetal, sambhar, neelgai, wild dog and wild pig. Pench Tiger Reserve is also among the best areas for bird watching. Over 285 species of resident and migratory birds including Malabar pied hornbill, Indian pitta, osprey, grey- eaded fishing eagle, white-eyed buzzard are found here. Four species of the endangered vulture, white- rumped, long-billed,white scavenger and king vulture can be seen in good numbers in these forests. In winter, thousands of migratory water fowl including the brahmini duck, pochards, bar headed geese and coots come to the Pench reservoir and the tanks within the park. The best time to visit Pench is summer as animals come out in search of water.
Kanha’s sal and bamboo forests, rolling grasslands and meandering streams stretch over 940 sq km. Kanha National Park forms the core of the Kanha Tiger Reserve created in 1974 under Project Tiger. The park is the only habitat of the rare hardground Barasingha. In the 1930s, the Kanha area was divided into two sanctuaries, Hallon and Banjar of 250 sq km and 300 sq km each. Though one of these was subsequently disbanded, the area remained a protected one until 1947. Depletion of the tiger population in the years that followed led to the area being made into an absolute sanctuary in 1952. By a special statute in 1955, Kanha National Park came into being.
The best areas of the park are the meadows where blackbuck, chital and barasingha can be seen throughout the day. Bamni Dadar, known as Sunset Point, is one of the most beautiful areas of the park, from where the sunset can be watched. The dense forest of Kanha can be seen from here. Kanha has some 22 species of mammals. Those most easily spotted are the striped palm squirrel, common langur, jackal, wild pig, chital or spotted deer, barasingha or swamp deer and black buck. Kanha also has some 200 species of birds. Water birds can be seen near the park’s many rivulets and at Sarvantal, a pool that is frequented by water birds and the area in front of the museum. The best season to visit the park is from mid October to June.