Panna National Park - The Gemstone of Indian National Parks
Old teak woods, indigenous colourful rocks, clear, pristine waters of the Ken River, the Vindhya mountain ranges and two amazingly high waterfalls make up the setting of one of the most renowned national parks in India. Rich in biodiversity and wilderness, the national park also hosts Asia’s only active diamond mine.
The Panna National Park is generally not overly crowded with tourists compared to the other neighbouring national parks, which makes it a surreal, quiet and soothing environment to be in. The wildlife here is diverse and includes deer species like Sambars (which are listed in the ‘Vulnerable’ category of the IUCN red data list), wild dogs (Dholes), jackals, Indian Gaurs and Nilgai (the largest antelopes in India), and of course big wild cats like leopards and tigers, among others. Not many know this, but Panna is also home to the oldest female elephant, called Vatsala, who at present is around 96 years old.
Panna National Park was considered as one of the best managed and maintained national parks in India by the Ministry of Tourism of India and bagged the Award of Excellence in the year 2007. However due to poaching and other practices, the number of tigers in the park reduced to only 2-4 in 2008. An efficient team headed by IFS Officer, Mr. R. Shreenivasa Murthy, reintroduced tigers from other national parks to Panna with proper monitoring and protection. They achieved successful breeding and thereafter the number of tigers satisfactorily rose up, reaching to 35 today. Panna is thus now mostly known for its incredible tiger conservation.
The park also houses a variety of forest birds including 6 types of vultures, Paradise Flycatchers, and Savanah Night jars. These colourful, feisty birds are an absolute treat to the eyes. While the adult male Paradise Flycatcher, which is also the State Bird of Madhya Pradesh, has fine white feathers and is aptly called Dudhraj (milk-king) in Hindi, the Savanah Nightjar is a master of camouflage, and is difficult to spot.
If one is not completely engrossed by the scenic beauty of the park, one can also visit tourist places like Ken Gharial Sanctuary, Raneh Fall, Pandav Fall, Dhubela Museum, Ajaygarh Fort, Kalinjar Fort and Khajuraho Temples.