Express News Service

The fresh jungle air in Pench National Park carries with it the smell of teakwood trees and the sounds of birds. This park in Madhya Pradesh is said to have inspired author Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.

Nestled on its outskirts is the boutique resort Saj in the Forest. Its manager Saurabh Singh knows a thing or two about tracking tigers.

“One of the ways to spot a tiger is to keep your ears peeled for a deer’s call. You can also look for fresh pug marks. It is important to listen to the forest guides as they understand the patterns and behaviour of wild animals,” he says, on an early morning safari inside the park. 

A couple of hours later, animals such as jackals, spotted deer, sambhar, langurs, gaur (Indian bison) and even a leopard are spotted, but the elusive tiger remains hidden from sight.

All it takes, however, is a couple of alert forest guides who hear a sambhar’s call and follow it to a path near the non-tourist side of the park. All is silent until the driver signals with a wave of his hand and slowly, there is movement of orange-and-black stripes amid the trees and an adult male tiger comes into view.

Terracotta objects in the village.

In no hurry, he makes his way towards the road and stops to give a cursory glance at the people inside the jeeps before heading towards the trees on the other side. For the tiger, this might be just another day in the woods, but for those inside the jeeps, it is moments like these that compel them to visit the forest again and again.  

The property also arranges for drives around the picturesque Kohka Lake and backwater safaris, besides visits to Pachdhar, a village of over 100 kumhars or potters, a couple of kilometres from the resort. As Sajendra Prajapati proceeds to mould the soil with his hands, he says, “In this village, you don’t need to teach children how to make pottery.

They learn just by watching their elders. I started when I was just 10 years old.” Little wonder that Pachdhar features on the ‘places-to-see near Pench National Park’ for the discerning traveller.

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