Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh is known for its tigers and many people generally don’t go beyond a safari, but there are other interesting options available to visitors. If you’re staying beyond one or two nights, you might want to step out and experience the unusual.
Let’s take a look at six things to do in Kanha apart from the tiger safari –
1. Visit the Kanha Museum of Life and Art – If you’re interested in art or are looking for something to do on Wednesdays when afternoon safaris don’t operate at the Kanha National Park, go see the Kanha Museum of Life and Art. Built on the premises of Singinawa Jungle Lodge by art patron Tulika Kedia, this tribal art museum has an interesting little collection of paintings and sculptures. Discover the story of ‘Chote’ the rat and ‘Liti’ the bird, and the bizarre one of the Bamboo Maiden (Baasin Kanya) in Suresh Kumar Dhurve’s paintings or marvel at the intricacy of ink work in world renowned, deceased Gond artist Jangarh Singh Shyam’s birds. You can visit any day between 9 am to 9 pm and the cost of a guided tour is 500 rupees per person (including a free non-alcoholic drink).
2. Meet local tribes – Madhya Pradesh state ranks first in the country for its population of special tribes. The main ones in M.P. are Gond, Bhil, Baiga, Korku, Bhariya, Halba, Kaul, Mariya, and Sahariya. When the Tiger Reserve was formed, the indigenous tribes were moved out of the core area into the buffer zone and elsewhere.
Among the lot, members of the Baiga tribe still live in the buffer zone. In close touch with nature, this tribe has coexisted in the jungles with tigers for several generations. You could go to their villages and meet them. Try to visit before sunset as some of them either shun the use of electricity or just can’t afford the cost. Take something along as a courtesy, but don’t give them cash as it risks being spent on liquor.
3. Shop to your heart’s fill – Whether you want to support a cause like rescuing animals or just want to take home a tiger paw shaped ashtray, shopping at little stores attached to upscale hotels in Kanha will allow you to do both. For a cause, buy merchandise that NGOs like Wildlife SOS stock at these shops. Apart from this, there is a whole world of enticing knick-knacks from bath salts to brass sculptures, items of clothing to shopping bags, and Gond art decorated funky stuff to more traditional marble Ganesh idols.
4. Try your hand at tribal art – If you speak to your hotel, they might be able to arrange for tribal painters, potters and wood carvers to teach you a bit of their art. Singinawa Jungle Lodge arranges a visit for its patrons on request. It’s fascinating to see painters fill up each paper/canvas with an intricate web of strokes, dots and dashes to produce creations that are so connected with nature and all that the artists see around them. If the Gond artists have travelled a good distance to reach your hotel, they expect to be compensated accordingly. If you don’t wish to tip them, you could buy some of their work.
5. Hit the trails – Kanha National Park has trails for walking, cycling and bird watching. After a jeep safari to sight tigers, enjoy the beauty of the park on one of these trails. Look for the hard ground Barasingha, the only subspecies of swamp deer in India exclusively found in the Park.
Leopards, foxes, jackals, wild boars and a variety of deer including Black Bucks are among the other species of animals found here. It’s also believed to house around 300 species of birds, including a few globally threatened ones, and over 1,000 species of flowering plants.
Guides are available to take you around on these trails. However, it’s best to pay for the services of a naturalist to ensure you see and learn much more than you would on your own. If there’s enough water, the Banjaar river and small lakes in and around the park make for good observation and resting spots. Chhapri and Batwar Ghat area are suited for bird watching and the best months for this activity in the Park are November-February.
6. Visit the Kanha Museums – The Kanha Museum, near the entrance of Kisli Gate, has skeletons of reptiles, carnivores and herbivores which might interest a science enthusiast. The museum is open from 9 am to 6 pm daily.
The Tribal Museum in village Baherakhar (near Mukki Gate) set up by The Corbett Foundation introduces visitors to interesting facets of tribal lifestyle through information panels, photographs and everyday accessories like pots, utensils etc. It might have artists at work when you visit and you could also buy handicrafts made by the Gond and Baiga tribes at the curio shop.
NOTE: The below pictures are meant only for illustration and are not of artifacts at the Tribal Museum
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