The Ultimate Guide to Pench National Park Safari booking: How to Book, What to See, & Where to Stay

Explore the dark green woods where Mowgli grew up
Check out the lake where he played with his brother pup.
Book a Pench safari to see experience this place and its thrilling jitters
Especially when  you see the other Jungle Book critters. 

Discover the unspoiled world of this national park in MP through this travel guide. Get tips for your Pench Safari booking, its best gates, what to see and more. 

It just took a few minutes of the Pench Safari to realize why Rudyard Kipling was so inspired by this national park in Madhya Pradesh. As my safari jeep zoomed along, the emerald forest brought to life some of my favorite scenes from Jungle Book. Mowgli having fun with Baloo in one of the forest openings, Sher Khan lurking behind the deep green cover, Bagheera keeping an eye from the straggler trees along the way and even the pack of wolves running along with Mowgli. I was lucky enough to have spotted all these characters (almost all) in flesh with my safari in Pench National Park. It’s your turn now to embark on this real-life setting of the Jungle Book.

Book a safari in Pench Tiger Reserve to experience Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book in real life
Book a safari in Pench Tiger Reserve to experience Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book in real life

In this blog post, besides sharing my own experience, I will be giving you loads of tips to help you with your Pench National Park Safari booking. I have you covered on all the major fronts – from the various types of safaris to the different Pench gates, timings, Pench Safari cost, where to stay and even what animals you can expect to see. In addition to that I have included step-by-step instructions on how to do a Pench Safari online booking for the MP Zone. In short, just bookmark this mega travel guide on Pench Jungle Safari booking.

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About Pench Tiger Reserve and its history

Named after the Pench River that flows through its 758 sq km of land, this forest was once the hunting grounds of the royalty and the rules of the Gond tribes. It became a protected area in 1965 to safeguard the habitat of the endangered tiger species and promote conservation efforts. In 1975, it was declared a national park and then as the Pench Tiger Reserve in 1992.

Pench river that flows through this national park in MP
Pench river that flows through this national park in MP

While it is widely known as one of the key national parks in MP (Madhya Pradesh), around 40% of the Pench National Park also extends into the state of Maharashtra. The forest is primarily a deciduous forest with an abundant population of teak and sal. The Pench Forest is home to over 250 species of birds and a variety of animals – besides the Royal Bengal Tiger for which is it famous.

Whether you visit the Pench National Park Maharashtra or in MP, you are bound to have an exhilarating experience spotting these exotic creatures in their natural habitat. However, in this guide, I will be largely focusing on the tiger reserve in MP.

Pench National Park Map and Zones

Before I start sharing my tips about the Pench National Park Safari booking, a quick section to understand the various zones inside the forest. This MP Pench National Park Map that I found during my stay with Pugdundee Safaris is just perfect to understand the expanse of this forest. You will need this information to understand your preference when you book a jungle safari in Pench.

Pench tiger reserve map
Pench tiger reserve map

Primarily like all national parks, Pench Forest has two major zones – the core and buffer. The difference between these two zones is that no human habitation or activity is allowed in the Core zones, unlike the buffer zone where you will find villages.  On the Madhya Pradesh national park side, the Pench core zone is further divided into three zones –

  • Turia Zone – The most popular for jeep safaris in Pench. There is a higher frequency of tiger sightings in this zone.
  • Karmajhiri Zone: This zone is less busy than Turia Zone, but it is still home to a variety of wildlife. The zone is known for its bamboo forests, which are a favorite habitat of tigers.
  • Jamtara Zone: This zone is located in the eastern part of the park

The Buffer zone of the Pench National Park in MP too, has three zones.

  • Wolf Sanctuary – as the name suggests, there is a lot of wolf sightings here. It is also, called Khawasa Buffer Zone
  • Teliya Zone – has a lot of grasslands and scrub vegetation. I did get one of my tiger sightings here.
  • Rukhad – this has a hilly terrain and borders the Karmajhari zone.

On the Maharashtra side of Pench national park, you have two major core zones – Sillari and Khursapar. As I mentioned, if you are opting for a Pench National Park online booking, this information is likely to come in handy.

Which is the best gate for Pench National Park in MP?

When doing your Pench National Park safari booking, you can choose which gate you would prefer  book your permit from
When doing your Pench National Park safari booking, you can choose which gate you would prefer book your permit from

Each of the three core zones has its own gate from where the Pench jungle safari begins. Of these, the Turia Gate is the most popular. When you start doing your Pench jungle safari booking, you will see that the number of permits on this gate is higher than the other gates. The reason is that this is where the maximum number of safari jeeps are allowed in. If you opt for a canter safari, then you will again have to start from Touria Gate Pench.

Karmajhari and Jamtara Gates, on the other hand, are comparatively quieter. There are a lesser number of jeeps allowed from here. No canters are available from here.

I used the Karmajhiri gate for both my safaris in Pench. However, I did cover all the possible zones from here. As per my Pugdundee naturalist – Deepa, “The sighting opportunities from all the gates is almost the same. There is no particular advantage of one gate over the other. You are eventually going to cover all the major zones. It finally comes down to your luck”.

Types of Pench safaris in Madhya Pradesh

I recommend that you book jeep safaris in Pench as agains the canter safaris
I recommend that you book jeep safaris in Pench as agains the canter safaris

There are three types of safaris that you can book in Pench Madhya Pradesh

  • Pench National Park Jeep Safaris – these are according to me, the best option. The jeeps are easier to maneuver and allow you to get a good look at any possible animals that you might spot. One jeep can seat around 6 people – besides a guide and a driver. You can opt to either book a seat in one of the jeeps or book the entire vehicle.
  • Night Safaris – This is available only in the buffer zone of Rukhad and Wolf Sanctuary. You get an experience of how the jungle feels at night.
  • Canter Safaris – This is available only at the Turia Gate Pench. There is a limit of two canters at the gate. The canters being slightly longer have a certain limitation of routes. My advice to you is that opt for these only if there are no more Jeep permits available when doing your Pench tiger reserve booking.

The Maharashtra side of Pench does not offer night safari. Instead, you can opt for the daytime Elephant safari that takes you where even the jeeps can wander.

Pench Safari Timings

The Jeep and Canter safaris in Pench can be booked in two slots –

  • Morning Safari – this is a 5 hours safari between 6 am to 11 am during summer. During winter, the safari starts a little later at 7:30 am and ends by 10:30 am.
  • Afternoon Safari – from 2:30 pm to 6 pm

Night safari is available at 6 pm and generally lasts for around 3 hours.

What is the Pench National Park Safari booking price?

The Pench jungle safari prices
The Pench jungle safari prices

The Pench national park ticket prices displayed outside the Karmajhari gate in 2023 are as in the picture. Note that there are three components to the safari booking – the permit cost, the vehicle cost and the guide cost. All these need to be paid for the safari – though you might only need to pay the permit fee online. The rest has to be paid at the entry gate.

To give you an idea, a single-seat booking will cost you INR 1600 while a complete jeep safari in Pench will cost you INR 7500.

How to book Pench Safari?

Chitals or Spotted deer that you can spot when you are out on a Pench jungle safari
Chitals or Spotted deer that you can spot when you are out on a Pench jungle safari

The most convenient way to do a Pench safari booking is using the official MP forest department website. You can book safari in Pench 120 days in advance. There is a limited number of permits per day and per gate. It is highly recommended that you book as early as possible to get the zones and gates of your choice. Naturalists recommend at least 45 days prior to getting your choice.

 The other option is to book one of the Pench jungle safari packages through the resort that you are opting to stay with. These packages include not just the Pench national park permit but the transport to the gates. In the case of Pugdundee Safaris (with whom I had stayed), for a nominal cost, you even get a trained naturalist to accompany you. The benefit of these packages is more if you are booking closer to the safari date and the online permits are exhausted. The resort packages can help you with the Tatkal bookings.

Documents required for the Pench safari booking

You will need a Government Photo ID card for booking a Pench national park permit. For Indians, this could be Aadhar, PAN Card, Voters ID, Driving license or Passport copy. Foreigners have to use their Passports for ID purposes. Kids can use their student ID.

The details of these ID cards have to be entered when doing the Pench Safari booking online. Please ensure that you carry the same ID card when you visit Pench. This will be checked at the gates and can get rejected if they are not the same.

Step-by-step process for Pench online booking on the official website

The online process of booking safari in Pench is actually much simpler today as compared to a few years back. Here is the stepwise process –

  • On the bottom left of the website,  click the button that says “want to log in?”. Register yourself and your bank account with your mobile number first.
  • Next, click on the Book Permit section
  • Choose whether you want to book a single seat in a Jeep or a full Jeep
  • Next, pick the date that you wish to book the permit. This will take you to a screen that displays the available permits per gate and safari slots (morning or afternoon).
  • Select your slot and move to the next screen
  • Here you have to enter the details of the traveler. Remember to fill in the exact ID details and the correct spelling here. Also, ensure you carry the same id on the day of your visit to avoid any rejection due to a mismatch of details.
  • Submit and pay for your permit. This price is only the permit price. You will have to pay for the vehicle and guide at the Pench national park gates.
  • Download your permit and ensure you have it handy when you visit Pench National Park.

Every safari in Pench has an exclusive permit. Hence, you will need to go through this entire booking process for every safari that you book at Pench National Park.

The safari trail road inside Pench National Park in MP
The safari trail road inside Pench National Park in MP

It is possible that you see a waitlist instead of a confirmed permit. Avoid the waitlist as it is unlikely to get confirmed. Instead, if you are not flexible with the dates, you can opt for Tatkal bookings. Do note that this option is available only a day or two prior to the safari dates.

If you do not want to take that chance, you can always reserve a permit through your resort. Sure, there might be higher charges but you are likely to get a confirmed booking along with a few other perks like transport to the gates.

P.S: You can use the same online booking process and the website for the other MP National parks like Kanha and Bandhavgarh.

How many safaris should you book in Pench?

At least 2 – 3 safaris are what I would recommend. Take a mix of morning and afternoon safaris to increase your chances of seeing the wildlife. One safari is honestly too much of a chance.

Which is better – morning safari or afternoon safari?

I would personally recommend the morning slot when you book safari in Pench
I would personally recommend the morning slot when you book safari in Pench

Statistics say that there is an equal chance of spotting the big cats on either one of the slots. Even experts like our naturalist Deepa endorse the same.

However, my personal experience with Kanha, Kabini, Tadoba and even Pench has made me feel that morning slots are always more rewarding than the afternoon safaris.

What is the best time to visit Pench National Park?

Leopards sightings are the other highlight of Pench national park safaris
Leopards sightings are the other highlight of Pench national park safaris

Pench National Park is closed during monsoons – that is from July 1st to October 15th. It is open for the rest of the year, except on two or three public holidays. The best time for tiger sightings is generally from February to May or even early June.

February to March has heat which is a little bearable – making it easy to sit through the entire safari. However, April to June has scorching temperatures. Having said that, this is when the thirst brings out the cats to the waterholes and thus, making the sightings easier.

The winter months too, are not too bad. You are likely to still see the striped beasts and the spotted cats but there are plenty more interesting creatures that are likely to make an appearance.

What kind of wildlife or Pench national park animals can you expect to see on your safari?

Peacock perched against the beautiful backdrop of Pench jungle in MP
Peacock perched against the beautiful backdrop of Pench jungle in MP

You will find almost every character in the epic Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. Over my two morning safaris, I met almost all the Pench national park animals except Baloo (the sloth bear who is known to be elusive).  

My Pench jungle safari even included some rare birds and insects. Let me share some quirky facts about these Pench animals and birds that you will enjoy reading. I am sure that this will increase the curiosity quotient and the wanderlust for Pench National Park.

Tigers – aka Sher Khan

These striped tigers are the reason why this place is called Pench Tiger Reserve. There are over 50 tigers in Pench. The most famous tigress here was called Collarwali – so named as she was the first to be fitted with a radio collar. I was hoping to get to Pench earlier in 2020 to catch sight of her. Unfortunately, she died in 2022.

Collarwali's daughter who made an appearance on my first Pench jungle Safari
Collarwali’s daughter who made an appearance on my first Pench jungle Safari

However, I did get a sight of her daughter and it was such a timely sighting. Following the calls of the chitals and the langurs, we arrived just in time to stand behind the already waiting jeeps. Within minutes, she popped out and walked around a bit before turning into the thickets.

A tiger cub at the Pench National Park
A tiger cub at the Pench National Park

During the second safari, I was rewarded with the sight of 2 cubs (out of the four) and their mom, far in the grassland, near a waterhole. This one was a game of patience. The guides knew that the tigress with her cubs had crossed over into the hill. Staring into the greens, with the warm sun on me, I was almost nodding off when I saw something jump. And then a quick sighting.

Minutes passed and we were finally rewarded with the sight of a male cub walking towards the waterhole. He disappeared for a few moments, only to walk on a small cliff into a shelter of rocks. Patience persisted and finally we not only saw him but his sister walk past towards the hidden mom. Though far, it was truly a rewarding sight!

Leopards – cousins of Bagheera

The leopard cub that I saw on my first Pench morning safari
The leopard cub that I saw on my first Pench morning safari

If it isn’t the tigers, you are likely to bump into the spotted cats – the leopards. However, unlike the tigers, they are likely to emerge from not just the thickets but can be on the tree tops or rock caverns. Technically they are not cousins of Bagheera (the black panther). They are in fact, the same species. It is just that the genetic mutations cause the black spots to cover the whole body, giving it the color black.

There are no black panthers currently in Pench National Park. The famous ones in India are Blacky who is currently roaming around Tadoba and Saya who is in Kabini.

A leopard cub in Pench National Park - one of the many sightings that I got on my visit
A leopard cub in Pench National Park – one of the many sightings that I got on my visit

This time in Pench Tiger Reserve, I got lovely sightings of a leopard cub. In fact, I managed to see him on both jungle safaris – lazing on the rocky terrain of Pyorthadi, yawning and preening and playing with his sister (who I could not spot from the jeep). The 2nd day in fact, was the best when he posed and looked right into my camera.


Jackal in Pench National Park, MP
Jackal in Pench National Park, MP

Found these guys in the early hours of our Pench jungle safari. It was a family with their pups, frolicking around the grassland and not afraid to walk past the jeeps. The interesting tidbit about them is that they are one set of creatures who are known to be monogamous by nature.

Dholes in Pench National Park

Dhole - one of the endangered species in India
Dhole – one of the endangered species in India

Anyone doing a Pench jungle safari booking usually fixates on the big cats. So when a very wolf or dog-looking creature passes the jeep, they rarely stop. This is where I would say, do not underestimate the Dholes.

Always in a pack, they are known to enclose and attack their prey. They can even bring down a leopard. The Indian wild dogs or dholes are endangered species that definitely merit some attention.


Close up of a Gaur in Pench - one of the largest mammals in the world.
Close up of a Gaur in Pench – one of the largest mammals in the world.

The Indian bison or Gaurs are supposedly one of the largest mammals in the world. Staring at one of their massive faces, I felt myself shuddering a little. Just then Deepa quoted – “Their horns can be really huge and if they get angry, they can actually overturn our jeep.” Gulp!


Chitals in Pench Tiger Reserve
Chitals in Pench Tiger Reserve

You might get excited when you see the first one or two herds of these spotted deers or chitals. However, after a point, they will begin to feel like pigeons in the city. They are practically everywhere.

During your Pench safaris, heed to their call and gaze. It is their distress call that will help you track the presence of a predator – likely a tiger or a leopard.

Monkeys – Langurs and Macaques

Gray langur in Pench jungle, MP
Gray langur in Pench jungle, MP

Found in groups, the Gray Langurs are like the sentries who along with the Chitals give out distress calls that are used by the Pench guides to track the predatory cats. Spend a moment or two observing the wise ones. It is interesting to see how protective they are of the mischievous young ones. They tend to climb up high on branches when they hear the distress calls – very evidently to look out for the predators so that they can further communicate to the rest of the group.

The other group of monkeys commonly found in Pench is the Rhesus Macaques. They are not as active guards as the langurs and are just found frolicking around the woods.

Other mammals to look out for

Besides the above, I caught the sight of a few sambar deer and wild boars. I believe there are a few sloth bears lurking around but as Baloo claims in Jungle book, they love their naps and probably were doing so as we made our rounds in the safari.

Birds to spot during the Pench national park jeep safari

If you are an avid bird lover, then you should only opt for a jeep safari as against the canter safari. Since you can control the pace of the drive, you can actually stop and track some real winged beauties during your Pench Safari.

Indian roller - one of the biirds to spot in Pench national park
Indian roller – one of the biirds to spot in Pench national park

Harish, the resort manager at Pugdundee’s Tree Lodge told me – “Look out for the Indian rollers. Whenever I have spotted one, I have always spotted a big cat.”  And so I did. At the start of both the safaris in Pench, I spotted a few rollers and I can say that the myth might just actually be true. While it is a state bird for Karnataka, I always missed spotting it – be it in Sakleshpur or birdwatching in Kabini. Finally, Pench was the place for me to see it.

The dance of the peacock in Pench
The dance of the peacock in Pench

Peacocks are practically everywhere and if you are as lucky as I was, you will see one performing a dance for its mate, right next to you. The Pench terrain is just a perfect backdrop for these birds. You might find them perched on a rocky with the green landscape behind them – the scene almost as if it were a muse for an artist.

Serpentine eagle in Pench forest
Serpentine eagle in Pench forest

Besides these, look out for the swooping Grey hornbills with their tell-tale casque over the yellow beak. I even spotted the Serpentine eagle and the Changeable hawk eagle. Among the owls species (and there are many) – I managed to catch a pair of Mottle wood owl nuzzling each other. And that definitely made me go all “Awww….”

A pair of mottle wood owls in Pench
A pair of mottle wood owls in Pench

Indian Pittas (the bird with 9 colors), starlings, paradise flycatchers – there is plenty happening in the forest that one safari is not going to capture. I will be sharing a complete post on birding in Pench soon but for now, you get the idea. 

What are the common trees or vegetation that you can see in Pench?

The stragglers that have spread like a banyan tree in Pench national park
The stragglers that have spread like a banyan tree in Pench national park

The deciduous forest is filled with teak and sal trees. However, you will see a lot of them covered by parasitic straggler trees. Some of the parasitic growth goes across the trails in the form of artistic canopies.

Ghost tree - with its white bark and no leaves
Ghost tree – with its white bark and no leaves

There are a lot of Ghost trees – easily recognizable by their white color. Originally called Kulu trees, these change color in every season. When they shed their leaves and bark, they turn white and actually shine in the moonlight. In some seasons, the bark turns pink.

Tendu, rock figs, palash, mahua are some common species that you are going to come across. When in season, you will also see the burst of color with the Flame of the forest.

Where to stay in Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh?

The Pench Tree house was a fantasy come to life
The Pench Tree house was a fantasy come to life

There are several accommodation options available for visitors to Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh. These accommodations range from luxury resorts to budget-friendly lodges. It is better to pick an option near your preferred Pench National Park gate.

If you are looking at safaris from Touria Gate, then you can consider Pench Jungle Camp, Tathastu Pench, Tuli Tiger Corridor or the Vannraj resort. I stayed at the Pench tree lodge – a resort that I highly recommend. This was closer to the Karmajhiri gate. Check out my complete experience of this through this link. You can use the same one to book a stay.

I highly recommend booking your Pench stay in advance, especially during peak seasons, to ensure availability. Also, each of these resorts has limited capacity – like the Pench tree lodge by Pugdundee only has 12 options- 6 tree hours and 6 cottages.

How to reach Pench national park in MP?

The nearest airport to Pench National Park is Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport in Nagpur, Maharashtra. The distance from Pench to Nagpur is 88 kilometers. From the airport, you can hire a taxi or use pre-arranged transportation services to reach Pench National Park.

If you are planning to get to Pench National Park by train, then you can opt for Seoni Railway Station which is just 30 kilometers away. However, it has limited connectivity. Nagpur Junction might be a better option as it is well-connected to various cities in India.

Nagpur to Pench National Park is a very comfortable road journey that takes around 3 hours.

Additional tips for Pench National Park safari

I have covered most of the key tips for Pench national park safari booking as well as what to expect during the safari till now. Here are a few dos and don’t that I would like to share for your safari experience

  • Dress modestly in subtle colors. Do not wear bright colors.
  • Cover your skin with long sleeves as it does get quite hot as the day progresses
  • Use a scarf or a hat to cover your hair.
  • The safaris are a raw experience where you will find a lot of dust blowing over you. There is no avoiding the same. It is better to cover your nose and mouth if you are allergic to it.
  • Do not talk loudly or make strange sounds.
  • Listen to the guide at all times. Do not step out of the vehicle unless specifically instructed to.
  • Carry a pair of binoculars. Telephoto lens are highly recommended for photographers. A 100 -400 mm lens is just perfect to get some amazing wildlife shots.
  • Wildlife spotting is a game of chance. No one can guarantee what you will see. It is purely your luck on that day.

Common FAQs about Pench Jungle Safari bookings

How many days in Pench National Park?

With at least 2 to 3 safaris and the other things to do in Pench, you should plan for at least 3 days here.

Can I hire my own guide instead of the one that is allotted when I book safari in Pench?

The guide allocated by the forest department is mandatory. You cannot do a safari in Pench without one. You can however, include an additional naturalist of your choice in the safari. A lot of resorts like Pugdungee safaris provide trained naturalists at a minimal cost.

Are mobile phones allowed in Pench National Park?

Yes, you are allowed to carry mobile phones into the park but only for photography. It has to be put into silent mode.

What not to wear on a jungle safari?

Do not wear bright colors. Keep your outfits muted to natural greens, browns or blacks. Protect yourself with a hat or scarf.

Before you go, pin this

I hope you have found this guide to Pench jungle safari and the booking process informative. Do share the same around and pin one of these to your boards for easy reference.

Pench national park booking guide
Pench national park safari booking guide
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