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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in India

On Safari in Panna National Park

Panna is one of the less busy but no less wonderful wildlife destinations in India…

By Dr Raghu Chundawat and Joanna Van Gruisen
Owners of the Sarai at Toria

Central India has always been high up on the list of wildlife destinations because you have a large number of tigers and national parks. The wonderful thing though about Panna Tiger Reserve is it’s one of the less crowded. In places like Kanha National Park, you must book ahead to reserve a safari because it tends to get fully booked whereas here, even if guests haven’t planned a safari, we can usually organise an outing last minute.

Raghu, a biologist conducted a 10-year study on tigers in Panna which is how we came to be in this area. The entrance to the reserve is just 1.5 kilometres away from the lodge and all our game drives are done in open-air jeeps. It’s a stunning park with very different landscape. We’ve got the river and there’s three precipices with escarpments in between so it’s quite hilly. Once you’re on that higher level you get fantastic views across the river and over a mix of rocky outcrops, grassland, scrubland and thick forest. Every corner you turn there’s a different view. Even one of our guests who’s an African wildlife expert could appreciate this diverse landscape that changes every few minutes on the drive.

Royal Bengal tigers are the obvious attraction although never guaranteed. The other day we saw a serpent eagle catching a snake and a leopard taking down a deer. People see amazing things all the time not necessarily carnivores. You may spot long-tailed langur monkeys, antelopes, sambar deer, sloth bears, also birds like king vultures and beautiful paradise flycatchers. Someone saw a porcupine the other day, we were very jealous about that.

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Alfred & Dr Raghu Chundawat and Joanna Van Gruisen

Hailing from Madhya Pradesh, Raghu is a conservation biologist and ran a 10-year study on tiger ecology in the Panna Tiger Reserve. He is author of ‘The Rise and Fall of the Emerald Tigers,’  and runs a wildlife conservation trust, Baavan - bagh aap aur van, as well as the Sarai at Toria alongside his wife Joanna. Born in the UK, Joanna has lived in India since 1981 and has been a wildlife filmmaker, writer, and conservationist.