Satpura Tiger Reserve

Satpura National Park is one of India’s finest Tiger reserves, and was the winner in 2010 of the TOFT Wildlife Tourism Award for ‘most visitor friendly’ wildlife destinations. Located south of Hoshangabad it is part of India’s Central Highlands, and gets its name from the Satpura Hill ranges, or Mahadeo hills.

These Highlands were one of the last places to be ‘uncovered’ by the English Raj’s authorities in the early 1860’s, but also, due to the rapid Teak deforestation at the time, one of the first reserves in the world, Bori Sanctuary, to be formally declared. Satpura National Park, today covers an area of 524 km, and along with the adjoining Bori and Panchmarhi Sanctuaries to form the Satpura Tiger reserve, provides a total 1427 km² of unique Central Indian Highland ecosystem stuffed with wildlife.

The striking terrain of the national park is what gives it its beauty, from extremely rugged hills and mountains with sandstone peaks, narrow water filled gorges, deep ravines, dense Sal and mixed forests, and thanks to the Tewa lake bordering the park, some delightful coves and bays, which you can explore by kayak. The altitude ranges from 300 m on the plains of Marai and Churna to Dhoopgarh peak as high as 4500 feet (1400 m).

Satpura National Park, being part of a rich Central Indian forest ecosystem, is rich in biodiversity. The wildlife comprises tiger, leopard, sambar deer, chital deer, nilgai, four-horned and chinkara antelope, Gaur (wild cow), wild boar, packs of wild dog, good sloth bear sightings, fox, porcupine, flying squirrel, mouse deer, and the colourful Indian Giant squirrel. Mugger crocodiles bask in the many coves. There are a huge variety of birds including lots of waterbirds, hornbill and peacocks aplenty. The flora consists of mainly of Sal and famous Bori Teak forests, but also includes Tendu, Mahua and Bel trees, a variety of bamboo species, and a variety of grasses and medicinal plants.

Satpura is a little visited park in Madhya Pradesh, but it’s one distinguishing feature is the ability to walk within its boundaries, accompanied by local guides, something not possible to do in most Tiger reserves in India. Do not visit Satpura if you are only after Tigers, but do come here if you want to see just what else Central India has to offer in both wildlife and birdlife.

The nearest town to the national park is the old Raj hill station of Pachmarhi. The nearest railhead is Piparia at a distance of 55 km and the state capital, Bhopal is situated at a distance of 210 km or 4 hour’s drive away.

Park timing

Winter: Morning: 6 am to 10 pm | Evening: 2.30 pm to 5.30 pm

Summer: Morning: 5:45 am to 9:30 am | Evening: 3 pm to 6.30 pm

Present prices for safaris

INR 3,800 (US$ 63) for Indians | INR 5,800 (US$ 96) for Foreign Nationals

How to book jeep safaris:

Booking counter is located on the bank on Denwa river along the Madhai entrance gate. Booking can also be made through lodge owners and travel tour operators.

Any restrictions and rules:

Non-commercial photography and videography is free.

Latest information on tourism zones:

Satpuda has only 1 zone where 12 vehicles are allowed in the morning and evening.

Any new activities allowed:

Elephant safari in buffer zone- Rs 600 (US$ 10) per person.
Canoeing in Denwa river to Tawa reservoir – INR 1000 (US$ 16.5) per person
Night safaris in the buffer zone are arranged by local resorts. These are great for leopard sightings

Park Updates

Satpura continues to gain a reputation as a destination for the alternative nature traveler away from the multitudes and for those who prefer walking and water based activities on the Denwa river and the reservoir bordering the reserve. Walking trails which can last two or more days are now being encouraged and great for those who love this style of travel – in Forsyth’s footsteps. It’s also a great special interest for birders, with 6 pairs of nesting skimmers and good river and little terns and a host of waterbirds to add to one’s list.

Recent relocations of villagers from core areas mean better viewing with villages like Churna now moved, making this area good for wildlife with its rejuvenated grasslands and good sightings of leopard and sloth bear and gaur. A male tiger was recently relocated here too.

Satpura also has a good cycling area in the core zone which is also unusual; The Daba region, which can be reached by boat.


Mar 2012 - Satpura, TOFT’s Visitor Friendly Wildlife Destination of the Year 2010, continues to be great for two or three hour walking trips and sightings have included leopard, sloth bear, mugger crocodiles and wild dog whilst on foot safaris. Game drives can go further and visit stunning landscapes and gorges, with elephant back rides (no tiger shows allowed) being very good too. There have been some great sloth bear sightings on the walks and even close approaches to tigers and leopards. Birds also remain excellent, with lots of water-birds on the Tewa reservoir. They can now be spotted from kayaks that are allowed on the lake and up the scenic creeks. Mugger crocodiles are commonly seen basking on the shoreline.

Park notes

Satpura has no afternoon closure and full day safaris are available from 6:30 am to 5 pm. A professional photographer’s hide has been donated to the park which is a great addition to for anyone wanting to spend a few hours peacefully trying to photographs animals and birds without disturbing them.

Feb 2011 - Satpura continues to be great for walking trips of two to three hours and sightings have included leopard, sloth bear, muggers and wild dog whilst on foot safaris. Game drives can go further and visit lovely landscapes and gorges, with elephant back rides (no tiger shows allowed) being very good too. Birds also remain excellent, with lots of waterbirds on the Tewa reservoir. They can now be spotted from Kayaks that are allowed on the lake and up the scenic creeks. A wild dog ambush has been witnesses whilst some visitors were kayaking. Mugger crocodiles are commonly seen basking on the shoreline.

Please note: Two new lodges have passed PUG audits with flying colours and are providing a very good template to show how responsible tourism can be developed.


April 2014: There have been good tiger sightings in the park, especially along Route B in Old Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary. Currently, the park supports a population of 12 tigers, including 3 one year old cubs. This family of 3 cubs and the mother are often sighted near the Umarghari gate in New Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary. The Nagzira lake is a busy water body, with herds of nilgai, sambhar, chital and wild boar, crowding around it towards the evening. Apart from the Nagzira lake, there are several other artificial water bodies that attract wildlife, including birds, and are popular spots for tourists to stop at during safaris.

The old saying, a forest never sleeps, is true for Nagzira and its inhabitants. Two action packed sightings are proof of this. A few months ago, on a cold winter morning, a few safari vehicles got lucky as they encountered a pack of wild dogs out on a hunt. One of the dogs caught sight of a spotted deer that had strayed away from the herd. Within seconds, the gang came into position, and launched a coordinated and strategic ambush to bring down their prey. The entire episode lasted not more than 10 minutes, in broad daylight, giving the audience an experience of a lifetime.

On another day, as the sanctuary gates opened in the morning, the tourists going on the route Tiger Trail in the Old Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary would have never dreamt of witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime scene. The air was filled with the songs of the early morning birds, when suddenly the melodious rhythms of the forest were pierced with growls and barks. As the vehicles sped towards the sounds, they saw a distressed adult tigress surrounded by a gang of 10 wild dogs, with their teeth bared towards her, snapping their jaws at any body part they could. Just when it looked like the tigress had exhausted her energy reserves, and would lose the battle, a huge male tiger walked out from the nearby bushes, and jumped right in the middle of the action, throwing the dogs off guard, and tilting the scales in favor of the big cats. Few wildlife lovers can boast of witnessing such a sighting, but Nagzira is full of surprises!

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