Kanha Tiger Reserve

Kanha is considered by some as the India’s greatest park, an excellent habitat for many mammals and bird species. Kanha National Park was created in 1955. Today it stretches over an area of 940 km² in the two districts Mandla and Balaghat. Together with a surrounding buffer zone of 1009 km² and the neighboring 110 km² Phen Sanctuary it forms the Kanha Tiger Reserve.

The lowland forest is a mixture of sal (shorea robusta) and other mixed forest trees, interspersed with meadows. The highland forests are tropical moist dry deciduous type and of a completely different nature with bamboo on slopes (dendrocalamus strictus). A very good looking Indian ghost tree (kullu) can also be seen in the dense.

Kanha Tiger Reserve abounds in meadows or maidans which are basically open grasslands that have sprung up in fields of abandoned baiga villages, removed to make way for the animals a number of years ago.

There is a large tiger population in the park and one can also find leopards, the sloth bear and Indian wild dog. Very rarely seen are the Indian wolf which live in the far east of the park.

The most abundant prey species for the large predators is the spotted deer or chital, then Sambar (Cervus Unicolor) which constitutes an important prey base of the tiger. Other commonly observed mammals include the common grey langur, wild boar, gaur (wild cow) sambar  and barasingha or swamp deer (this is the hard ground swamp deer (Cervus duvauceli branderi), found only in Kanha, barely 1200 survive in the wild). The chousingha and the nilgai (blue bull), though rare, can also be found in Kanha.

Other larger mammal species of the park are rhesus macaque, golden jackal, bengal fox, smooth-coated otter, honey badger, small indian civet, indian gray mongoose, ruddy mongoose, striped hyena, jungle cat, leopard cat, indian spotted chevrotain, indian pangolin, indian porcupine and indian hare The Indian jungle fowl, which is the ancestor of domestic hens, is common.

There are also 175 varieties of birds in Kanha National Park including Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) Paddy Bird or Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii), Shikra (Accipiter badius),White-eyed Buzzard (Butastur teesa).

Its impressive size, the size of its tourism zone and its inaccessibility, being some distance from the nearest main cities means less pressure from tourism than some other parks. Besides tiger, the impressive gaur, or ‘wild cattle’, barasingha (swamp deer), sloth bear and leopard are seen, in a beautiful and diverse landscape.

Park timing

Winter: Morning: 6.45 am to 12.15 pm | Evening: 2.30 pm to 5 pm
Summer: Morning: 6.30 am to 12 pm | Evening: 3 pm to 6.15 pm

Present prices for safaris

Kanha zone: INR 3,730 (US$ 62) per gypsy
Kisli, Mukki and Sarhi zone: INR 3,230 (US$ 53) per gypsy

How to book jeep safaris:


Any restrictions and rules:

Non Commercial: No fee
Commercial: Photography and videography - INR 30,000 (US$ 496) per person per day.

Latest information on tourism zones:

Kanha zone: Morning - 23 vehicles | Evening- 14 vehicles
Kisli zone: Morning - 9 vehicles | Evening- 6 vehicles
Mukki zone: 18 vehicles
Sarhi zone: 12 vehicles

Any new activities allowed:

Herbal trail in Chhapri, near Khatia is open to visitors.

Excellent bird trails in the Madhya Pradesh tourism resorts; Baghira huts near Kisli gate and Kanha Safari lodge at Mukki gate.

Night safari en route Aaramtola at Mukki gate is good for sighting jungle cat, small Indian civet, black-naped hare, jackals, wild boars.


Apr 2014 - Kanha has really improved with regards to its wildlife viewing experience this season and the lack of a route system also helps visitors being freer to drive as desired. Smaller numbers of vehicles in each range ensures better jungle drives and less intrusion. Kanha and Mukki have had good sightings of carnivores this year. Inclusion of the Surhi ranges with their large grasslands and great Barasingha populations and the Umapani tigress with four cubs has all helped too.

Elephant safaris are possible again for one hour – but they are not ‘tiger shows’ – from Mukki and Kanha meadows.

Kanha has been hit badly by a ‘borer beetle’ that has taken out a large number of Kanha Sal trees, and its effects are astonishing to see.

Mar 2012 - Sightings appear to be reasonably good, though it is noticeable that many tigresses have young cubs at the moment and are staying hidden in Mukki, Kanha Meadows and Surhi ranges. New burning of the grasslands, with help from South African experts, has meant that the grasslands are in green now and large herds of Barasingha and spotted deer are being seen in the meadows. Sadly wild dog sightings are down from December.

The park’s greatest achievement has been the preservation of Hard Ground Swamp Deer (Barasingha), from near extinction (only 66 in 1970) today the number is more than 400. It is the only surviving population in the wild and are seen best in the new Surhi range. Recently, four sloth bears were killed by poachers in the buffer zone for their body parts. The authorities arrested three locals.

Park Notes

Try and avoid the crowds around the weekends and numerous Indian holiday periods. You may have a longer journey now to/from Kanha Meadows for viewing from the Mukki gate. Ourai, which was once a tribal village that has now been relocated, is a great spot to find herbivores such as the barasingha, sambhar, and gaur. The Babathenga tank attracts many species of birds and sometimes even a tiger. Also the authorities are not allowing TOFT-trained guides to be used outside of the strict rota system.. No new activities have become available this year.

Mukki entrance:

Feb 2011 - Prey species like Barasingha and Sambhar deer remain good, and Mukki is getting excellent sightings of Tigers too this year. 3 separate females, all with nearly adult cubs is making for excellent ‘batch’ sightings. Wild dog sighting are down badly which is worrying. They were a real joy to watch in Mukki - though peaks and troughs in these packs are not uncommon. The continuing decline in herd sizes of chital ‘spotted deer’ is of huge concern too, and most noticeable over the last decade or more. 18 Gaur ‘wild cow’ got moved to Bandhavgarh but the remainder are still in good numbers, and seen often.

Please note: You may have a long journey now to/from Kanha Meadows for viewing from Mukki (and vica versa), so most lodges only doing it with longer stay clients. Also the authorities are not allowing TOFT trained guides to be used outside of the strict rota system, sadly discouraging higher quality guiding.

Dr Latika Nath, with TOFT funding, is coordinating an Eco charcoal project and a Village Schools Environmental Project in the buffer zones of the park, which we hope visitors can visit see next season.

Kisli entrance

Feb 2011 - This entrance in Kanha also seems to be having good wildlife sightings, with a number of females tigresses with sub adult cubs accompanying in and around the Kanha Meadows. Furthermore, a male and female leopard have been spotted quite frequently. Barasingha are doing well but again the grassland management seems to have disturbed the chital herd numbers and they are dispersing widely – often in lodge areas at night! The Surhi range is a new and wonderful range – without any tourism pressure – and good herds of Barasingha can be seen, some beautiful Sal forests and lush meadow drives with noisy woodland bird species, raptors and the occasional predator.

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