Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tiger Safari on a budget

No Cheap Options from 20 Dec to 7th January, Diwali Festival and Holi festival ...avoid Saturdays and Sundays other holidays.   

The recent price hike in tiger tourism in Indian tiger reserves in  MP has a negative impact on economy that sustains many homes. A world reeling under an economic stress finds it difficult to spend so much on wildlife safaris. Nevertheless lot many people on Earth wish to see this wonder creature though they can only travel on a budget. This does not apply only to middle class Indians but to foreigners as well.   

The price hike may be a management issue aimed at regulating tourism in the Central Indian Parks. Hence those wishing to travel for tiger safaris and birding need to economize everywhere they can. The tour begins at Delhi for most.

Depending upon your flight you can avoid a stay at the Capital. There are direct flights for Jabalpur if time allows get on board straight. Booking flights in advance cuts the cost, last minute flights are costly. Another option is overnight train which are about 4 or 5. You should have booked your rail ticket in advance the cheaper options are 3 tier sleeper or 3 AC bit higher priced.  These are overnight options but will certainly save a stay in the hotel in New Delhi.    

Whence you reach Jabalpur you have an option to get bus for Kanha National Park via Mandla but this is in the early morning times. Taxi ride is costly hence if you have to stay overnight than there are many economy hotels in Jabalpur at Russel Chowk. Be cautious that you do not land in unsafe hotel. Some of the better hotels are Arihant Palace, Vardhman Hotel, Hotel Shikhar Palace which charge reasonably and you can bargain. 

There is a direct bus for Kanha from the bus station known as motor stand very close to Russel Chowk. You can walk down there about 10 minutes. You should reach around 5.45 am.I think there are two buses going to Kanha hence get the first worm. The ride is about 156 km to Mocha Village if you are putting up there or bit further to Khatia Gate.You have to travel to Khatia Gate..Kanha Kisli Side and not to the Mukki Gate (towards Raipur) which does not have budget options. Keep this in mind. Always ask for Khatia Gate at Kanha near Mochha Village.     

Stay: Bargain at hotels in Kanha ....motel chandan at Khatia Gate, and other lodges on main road to Khatia Gate they are safer.  Food is also cheap in these places else there are many road side dhabas for food. Avoid Non Veg which is costlier than vegetarian food. Always go for deep fried hot food in road side joints else eat boiled eggs bread and butter if you are extra sensitive to Indian Pathogens. See things cook right in your presence the hotter the better. The oil and spices your stomach will adjust to. Once you get hooked to Indian curry & roti there is none other food. Anyway carry antibiotics for your stomach as many do. Carry mineral water...branded one use that throughout your journey.

Remember India is a vast country so you cannot expect any homogeneity in services and offerings. There are World class restaurants and accommodations in the country but on budget tour forget it. Most of the budget restaurants are clean and neat. Avoid roadside joints if you come across some good eateries.      

There is a dormitory at Kisli in Kanha National Park operated by MP Tourism you should book in advance along with food it is a real cheap option. You could share the jeep safari if other inbound tourists are staying there. Since the dormitory is in the core area your movements will be restricted by Gate timings. Khatia Gate has a small rustic bazaar but not quaint at all...he!he!. This is where people begin there safari on Kanha side, the jeeps are available here. But if you connect in advance with your accommodation you might get a share ride and save money.     

Try to share jeep safaris with other foreigners this brings the cost down a lot. There is seperate pricing for Indian and inbound travelers which include NRI foriegn passport holders.  Visit any zone that is available since Kanha Zone is a premium zone and costs more. You can see as good wildlife any where. the same bus will fetch you back it leaves around one am from Khatia or Mocha Village. Gate Entry has to be booked in advance since the vehicle entries are limited.  

Do not buy beverages at your resort in the tiger reserves they are very costly. The local bazzar is the best bet, but liquor will cost more anyway...wine is not available....do all these purchasing at Jabalpur or other major town.    

From Jabalpur you can buy a luxury bus ticket to Khwasa township ahead of Seoni town, the entry point to Pench National Park. Within a distance of ten km there are many resorts you can stay at Mowglis Den Resort which has a dormitory that could cost less. Except in the rush season you can bargain with the resorts for accommodations.

Pench is closer from Nagpur connected by luxury bus. In non holiday period the bus will not cost you the nose. There is a Jabalpur Nagpur railway connection as well.  

For Bandhavgarh there is a direct train Utkal Express from New Delhi leaving 3 pm apporx, it reaches Umaria Station early in the morning from here you have to walk down to the bus stand and catch a bus for Tala which is about 32 km. Most of the accommodations are in and near Tala and some are budget class. 

From Jabalpur you can travel by rail/bus to Katni and catch a bus for Umaria and so on. The best option is the Utkal Express which departs for The Capital around 9 pm approx. Please confirm all rail timings.

There is a long option for Khajuraho from here about 6/7 hours drive, from the temple town Panna National Park is about 45 km and so is Ken Gharial Sanctuary.  

The three tiger reserves are recommended for tiger safari on budget. If you can gather some more people from your country the sharing will certianly bring the individual cost down.

The views above are my own, please use your own discretion during the safari tours.