Header image courtesy of Scott Dunn
The classic The Jungle Book story—both cinematically reworked by Walt Disney in 2016 after the epic adventure based on the writings of Rudyard Kipling, and in the original Disney animated film—reflect on a portion of indigenous Indian wildlife. Set in the unpopulated jungles of central India, an orphaned boy Mowgli is forced to leave his jungle home due to being hunted down by fearsome tiger, Shere Khan. Mowgli encounters all the creatures of the jungle on his journey to safety, not all of whom have his best interest at heart— a protective panther named Bagheera, a free-spirited bear called Baloo, a hypnotic python, charismatic orangutans, elephants, and plenty more.
The best wildlife sightings in central India are between March and mid-June, although the later you leave it the hotter it gets. Here is a suggested itinerary that takes you through central India’s best national parks, following in the footsteps and pawprints of Mowgli and his entourage, to spot incredible wildlife without the trials and tribulations.
Start at Bandhavgarh National Park, the former hunting ground for the Maharaja of Rewa (prior to the kingdom of Rewa merging with the state of Madhya Pradesh in 1947) and the best place to spot tigers in the wild. The park has gorgeous open grasslands, rolling hills, and a unique remote temple in the centre of it. Stay at Mahua Kothi, a boutique Taj property with 12 charming suites, and gorgeous private courtyards to explore. Safaris are offered daily, as are nature walks, tribal village visits and there’s a spa in which to unwind at the end of the day.
Bandhavgarh National Park, Garhpuri, Madhya Pradesh 484661, India | (+91) 97 5240 0702
Mahua Kothi, Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh 484661, India | (+91) 22 6601 1825
Then drive south to stay at a luxury tented camp, Banjaar Tola in Kanha. This is one of the largest parks in India and contains a mixture of meadows, grassy highlands, and bamboo jungle as well as a large population of tigers, leopards, swamp deer, sloth bear, and wild dog. Banjaar Tola's floating verandas, lantern-lit jungle dinners, with only a green ribbon separating it from the lush jungle, is a wildlife enthusiast’s heaven.
Banjaar Tola, Kanha National Park, Manjitola Mukki Tehsil Baihar, Balaghat, 484661 | (+91) 22 6601 1825
Finish up in the vicinity that inspired Kipling’s Jungle Book itself—Pench National Park. Less visited than other national parks, spot tigers and leopards, as well as jackal, jungle cat, wild boar, and more than 300 varieties of birds there. In this park, Baghvan lodge offers 12 sumptuous cottages, where you can sleep under the stars, learn how to prepare traditional dishes with the Baghvan’s expert chefs, have in-room spa treatments, or simply relax around its inviting swimming pool.
Pench National Park, Turia Gate, Pench Tiger Reserve, Kurai, Seoni, Madhya Pradesh 480881, India | (+91) 92 1277 7223
Baghvan, Baghvan, Pench National Park, Village Awargani, Pench National Park, 480881 | (+91) 22 6601 1825