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CCAfrica in India : Baghvan lodge, Pench National park

CCAfrica in India : Baghvan lodge, Pench National park

Old Nov 13th, 2007, 01:38 AM
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CCAfrica in India : Baghvan lodge, Pench National park

Hello!!!

I just had a fabulous 3 night stay at Baghvan lodge, Pench national park - the new CCA property. As is the case with their African lodges, they really do provide attention to every minute detail. About the lodge itself - well managed by lodge manager Rati and quite honestly the lodge: for ambience, food and lodging can match the best in Africa - East or Southern. I won't go into the details, but, happy to answer any specific questions .....

Most important reason for me to stay with CCA is the game drive experience ...... their naturalists (guide/rangers) are above and beyond anything i have experienced in India. We had Harsha a young, energetic and extremely enthusiastic naturalist. I have the feeling that all of them should be very good. Some of them trained at Phinda and others trained along similar lines adapted to Indian jungles.

Pench national park - extremely pretty. If you've read, Kipling's "Jungle Book" then the setting was right at Pench NP. Spectacular park with teakwood forests, some open grasslands (provided me some memories of Africa).

Tigers - This is not a bad park for tiger sightings. However, don't be fixated on it. Once you get to a sighting, it is bound to be extremely crowded and you guys are not going to appreciate the way things happen at sightings here in India. Not a fault of CCA - don't misinterpret, but, a part of our parks ......

The most common sighting is of a Tigress with Four fully adult cubs. They have all split up recently, and are all being seen induvidually. Four cubs (two females and two males). Male cubs are still together. They can be approached easily on elephant back. Elephant back safari is our way of off-roading to see the Tiger. The Elephants go off tracking early in the morning and then all the jeeps in the park take turns to get on the elephant to get a "glimpse". As you can imagine, Murphy's law strikes me again ..... the Two male tigers were tracked down this morning, and just before it was our turn to get on the elephant, the tigers deceided to move on!!! The show was over ... oh well!!! Next time ......

Another Tigress with three cubs have been seen, but, they are skittish. All in all there are 54 tigers in Pench NP and 19 tigers in the Tourist zone of the park. So, your chances are good .......

Leopard is good here. Had three seperate sightings of different males ........ Lots of rocky outcrops in one section of the park. However, bring a good pair of binocs ......

Dholes(wild dogs) i saw a pack of 11 dogs - very endangered and had the sighting of well over a half hour to myself (everyone was obsessed with Tigers). Alpha female is heavily pregnant. Some of them are inflicted with the mange. Awesome!

Great birding including, Indian roller, Pied Kingfisher, Malabar hornbill, greyhornbill, Hawk Eagle and many many more.

Lots of jackals .... Haven't seen in our Southern parks.

General game here is disappointing compared to our southern indian parks. Pretty sparse in comparison. You can see Spotted deer, Sambhar deer, Nilghai antelope, Gaur (the largest wild cattle), wild boar and couple of primates ..... no elephants in any of the parks in Central India. Felt weird without them!

All in all great trip, feel free to ask questions ...... will answer them tomorrow.

Cheers,
Hari
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Old Nov 13th, 2007, 01:48 AM
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A couple of tips:

Morning drive timing right now (winter) 6 AM to 11 Am (Longer if Tiger sighting)

Afternoon 3 PM to 5 45PM (park closes)

So, don't leave in the morning and miss the gamedrive. I notice lots of westerners doing this to make a flight in Nagpur. Instead, overnight at Nagpur at the "Pride Hotel". This makes more sense, keeping in mind all the money you spend on safari.

Try to get to the park gate ten minutes before they open - DO NOT DELAY. You will regret later with the crowds

Do not go on safari on weekends or during public holidays - Severely crowded

Take good binocs. Need it as much or more than a good camera.

Be patient and don't be fixated with "Tigers"

CCA will have fly in safaris when the other two lodges open at Kanha and Panna.

Bandhavgarh can be driven in 4 hours time from Pench. Recommend doing this!

The 4 x 4 transfers from Nagpur to the lodges are by Pajero SUV and superb, very comfortable transfers ........

Will have a few pics over the weekends .......
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Old Nov 13th, 2007, 02:28 AM
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Typo: Meant to read....four hour drive from Pench NP to Kanha NP, not Bandhavgarh as stated above....
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Old Nov 13th, 2007, 03:19 AM
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Hi Hari

That is wonderful that you had such a great stay at the new CCA property. That is amazing that a tigress raised 4 cubs to adulthood, especially two of them males, I cannot begin to imagine what she had to kill for them all to eat well enough to make it to adulthood!

I would be obsessed with the tigers, but certainly plenty of other viewing to be had!

I watched a repeat show tonight on Animal Planet of Yala National Park in Sri Lanka, some spectacular leopard viewing.

Kind regards

Kaye
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Old Nov 13th, 2007, 03:58 AM
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Hi Hari,

I've been looking forward to your report and it didn't disappoint! There are more tigers there than I thought. Very interesting about the 4 adult cubs.

A few questions: How far is the transfer from Pench to Nagpur? Is the CCA camp right outside the park? When does the park open?

Glad you had a great trip. Thanks.

CW
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Old Nov 13th, 2007, 05:05 AM
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Thanks for the report Hari. Glad CCA maintains its high standards in India. I hope we'll be able to stay at Mahua Kothi in February (and see tigers!)though getting there is certainly difficult.
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Old Nov 13th, 2007, 07:05 AM
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Hello!!! first of all, after a fabulous few days in the park, i'm stuck right now in Nagpur waiting for my flight tomorrow morning..... first of all, CCA was very understanding and allowed for a late check out today, as we hv nothing to do in Nagpur as we are in transit.

Hi Kaye,

Interestingly, the Tigress and four cubs have been recorded by the BBC crew ... and can't wait to watch the documentary when released. Harsha was amazed by her success too and they have been watching these tigers from very young cubs. Apparently, the two male sub-sdults will be kicked out soon from the territory by the Dominant male (their father). The two females are trying to establish their own territory. The other female with the three tiny cubs is another encouraging sign for tigers in the park. For leopards, this park is pretty good ..... i have only seen fleeting glimpses on the highways en route to our southern parks before this! and Oh! i will be in your favourite SA lodge in about 53 days time and i really look forward to that!!!

Hi CW,
Pench is 2 hours (Max) transfer from Nagpur. We booked thru Ibex expeditions who handle the CCA transfers in the Pajero SUV's..... however, whoever your travel agent is will be able to organize the best possible transfers thru Taj safaris.....

Yes, park gate is two minutes from Baghvanlodge. Park right now opens at 6 15AM. Our Leopard sighting happened when we were the first one thru the park gate. We left the lodge at 5 50 am sharp. You get your morning coffee and cookies with wake up call, so no waiting around. I think this is something all Africa operators should consider doing so that people in shared vehicles don't delay the others. I shared the jeep with some British birders and they were happy to head out a few minutes early. They were birders with a Tiger obsession (long story). A very nice couple, regardless!

Main clientale seems to be from the UK, rest indians, Australians and from the USA.

Hi Marija,
If you are going in Feb/March then perhaps the Kanha lodge will open? That is a 4 hr drive from Nagpur and you can then transfer from there to Mahua Kothi ........ that makes more sense really. Kanha is a bigger park and less crowded, although i hear Bandhavgarh is renowned for the quantity of tiger sightings with several relaxed cats. I'm sure you may get one or two relaxed sightings free from the crowds.

As embarassed as i am to type this, i have to say our Indian crowds don't behave appropriately at sightings so ........ you may be frustrated at times. Imagine the worst MasaiMara sighting and compare that to any average sighting. Also, the elephant back safari ...... you draw lots to take your turn to go see the cat. I think Bandhavgarh and Kanha hv more working elephants than at Pench. Pench only has 3 elephants. One is on maternity leave right now.

Hope this helps!

Hari
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Old Nov 13th, 2007, 07:21 AM
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Forgot to mention this ......lunch and dinner is all Indian food. Very well prepared and simple without being too spicy and heavy. You guys will like it(part of the India experience). CCA style cookies and other baked goods. Breakfasts are both Indian and Western.

You return at 5 45, so you do afternoon tea when you return. Then cocktails and dinner as usual whenever you wish ..... our hostess, Rati was awesome!!!

But, India has so much more to offer than mere wildlife ..... History, culture, heritage, art, sports and food and you should should check it out and add the wildlife onto your trip!

Cheers,
Hari
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Old Nov 13th, 2007, 07:31 AM
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Pictures pictures pictures please!
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Old Nov 13th, 2007, 07:38 AM
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Hari,

thanks for all the info,
I was actually planning to go feb end march beginning,to maximise the tiger sightings, but after reading about your trip, I am extremely tempted to go earlier !!!!!,

sonali
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Old Nov 13th, 2007, 07:39 AM
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Glad to hear your experience at the CCA property was so positive. Certainly when we encountered the CCA vehicle in Bandhavgarh (during training and then on their first ever customer game drive) it struck me that they were well-trained and understood what I would consider professional safari behaviour and etiquette both towards the wildlife and other park visitors. This was NOT case with most guides/drivers we met. Ours seemed to be the exception.

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Old Nov 13th, 2007, 07:46 AM
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Thanks Hari. I like the coffee and cookies with the wake-up call. That's how they did it at Ngala Tented. No wasting time in the dining room waiting before going out in the morning.

You're so right about India having much to see. The tiger safari would be an add-on.

CW
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Old Nov 13th, 2007, 12:36 PM
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Thanks for the feedback Hari.

All things considered and bearing in mind that you have been to other Southern parks in India, would you say that the CCA experience guarantees better viewings and a better overall experience?
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Old Nov 13th, 2007, 05:35 PM
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Hi Amol,

The CCA experience in India is head and shoulers above any standard safari experience here. It won't guarantee tiger sightings or whatever, but, they will do everything in their control to provide you the kind of experience you are looking for! For example, if you want to avoid the crowds, your naturalist will drive you to other parts of the park that are quiet and away from other vehicles ..... you will still have birding and some general game. With luck, something like pack of dhole (happened to us)or with better luck, a private tiger sighting!!! Perhaps, there are one or two small owner run properties in Bandhavgarh and Kanha that operates with proper guiding etc etc.,??? i don't know.....

Bear in mind, Bandhavgarh being a small park has something like 40 plus hotels around them and think about everyone rushing around to see the tigers .....

CCA lodge experience is same as anything in Africa .... so, it is good to go between Africa trips!

Southern Indian parks i.e.,Kabini, Bandipur are MUCH MUCH better in terms of general game. During the right season, you will find massive numbers of elephants and Gaur (much bigger than the African buffalo). They don't do the elephant back safaris there ...... due to probably the huge elephant numbers there and also, probably our Tamil Nadu and Karnataka Governments? who knows ....

Hari

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Old Nov 13th, 2007, 05:42 PM
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Kavey,

They have an on-going training program before their opening dates of the next two camps. Met someone from their SA office who is stationed here for the initial phase, to ensure that the four camps are run according to the CCA way of things .....

Hari
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Old Nov 13th, 2007, 06:38 PM
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Hari,

Great report on Baghvan Lodge. Wonderful you had a pack of wild dogs to yourself. That is good to know that the guiding is top notch at CCA. Thanks for being our pioneer to this new location. Looking forward to some photos.
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Old Nov 13th, 2007, 06:50 PM
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Hi Hari

We will be gameviewing the afternoon of Dec 16th at MM and I cannot wait. The gameviewing in recent cyberdiaries has been fantastic! A little bit keen to see the Eyrefield Males, but greatly worried about the cubs of both the Eyrefield Pride and the Styx Pride. Last saw them December 2005, though that did not include the oldest of the Eyrefield Males! Although looking at the photos of the 2 males fighting, the older and the younger, brought back memories from Sept 2001, when that male, the oldest Eyrefield Male,was in the process of being kicked out. I never saw the actual battles, but they were brutal by both the females and the West Street Males. He never went which is highly unusual, but he was always very submissive for years - the little cubs could do anything!

So yes, I to am looking forward to being back at MM!

Kind regards

Kaye
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Old Nov 14th, 2007, 12:31 AM
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Hi Lynn,

Thanks .... will post a few pictures from the park in a couple of days.

Hi Kaye,

I haven't been upto speed with the cyberdiary in recent weeks but will take a look shortly. I'm keen to see the Big male lions too ...... and cheetah and wild dogs will be a bonus!!!

Rgds,
Hari
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Old Nov 14th, 2007, 12:04 PM
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Thanks Hari

I have heard good things about the southern parks and plan to set aside a week to those parks on myh next visit to India.

For now, counting down to Botswana in March
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Old Nov 14th, 2007, 05:46 PM
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Amol,

For Kabini - i recommend March or early April before the rains.

For Bandipur/Mudumallai - Between the two monsoons i.e., September/early October.

and yes, i can't wait for my next Africa trip too!!!

Hari
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