Jeep reservations open now…hurry to get the best seats in Bandhavgarh and Kanha!
Each summer we wait with baited breath for the safari reservation systems to reopen across India, and usually they tend to roll out between August and mid-September, and once they open we need to move very fast to secure winter jeep bookings.
In fact this year Ranthambhore has not closed, with jeep bookings now opened a full year in advance. First to open was Maharashtra (Tadoba etc) and Sasan Gir (more in the next update), followed by Madhya Pradesh - it is now important to make your jeep bookings in Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Pench, Satpura and Panna to avoid missing out (for reservations 120 days in advance).
The Madhya Pradesh safari jeep reservation system is now live for visits in October, November, December and until mid-January. The parks of Madhya Pradesh open from the 1st October in a slightly staggered fashion – some zones of Kanha don’t open until the 16th October and opening of the core zones of Satpura has now been postponed till the 16th October due to heavy late monsoon rains.
The Wednesday afternoon closure remains, and all the MP parks will close for Diwali on 27th October and again for Holi on 10th March. Good news – the morning safaris have been officially extended by 30 minutes (exit before 11:30AM), the entry timing will continue to follow seasonal sunrise variations.
All zones of Bandhavgarh are scheduled to open on the 1st, being the 3 core zones (Tala/ Magadhi/ Kithauli) and 3 buffer zones (Dhamokhar/ Johila/ Panpatha). Availability is currently good between the 1st and 26th October, but reducing steadily between the 28th October and 26th November. Particularly for those wanting a private jeep, the availability of jeep safaris at Bandhavgarh is better between mid-November and 22nd December. Anyone booking late for a visit over Christmas/ New Year will need to be ready to focus on private jeeps in the buffer zones and hope for last minute seats from the waiting list/ cancellations or finding seats in an existing shared jeep booking. For visits between October and February you must firm up your plans without delay.
At Kanha the Kisli and Mukki zones open from 1st October along with the 4 buffer zones (Phen, Khatia, Khapa and Sijhora), but the Sarhi and Kanha zones don’t open till the 16th. Jeep reservations in early October, a few days either side of Diwali (26th Oct to 3rd Nov) and Christmas/ New Year are nearly sold out in the most popular zones (Kisli/ Kanha/ Mukki), and jeeps for late October/ early November dates are reducing rapidly. Similar to Bandhavgarh, the availability of private safari jeeps at Kanha is currently best between 26th November and 24th December and from 4th January onward.
At Bandhavgarh and Kanha there will now be the new option to book a full day jeep safari (as at Ranthambhore), but the quota is very small just 2-4 jeeps per zone, and remaining in that zone. Despite the premium cost this is likely to be in extremely high demand for passionate photographers! Equally the option to take an organised night-safari at Pench and at Kanha is a welcome addition, more to enjoy the different sounds, sightings and atmosphere than for photography since 'high beam' lighting is not permitted.
All zones of Pench National Park open on the 1st October, being 3 core zones (Turia/ Jhamtara and Karmajhiri) and 2 buffer zones. Jeep availability is currently OK for the most popular zone of Pench (Turia), except for the first week of October, but reducing between 25th Dec to 5th Jan. The quieter Jhamtara zone (maximum 5 jeeps allowed) is nearly sold-out each morning from mid-Nov until 10th Dec and again over Christmas/ New Year. For any weekend visits or stays in late December, it is crucial to firm up your plans ASAP.
It’s worth mentioning that the Maharashtra side of Pench (Tiger Reserve) is not yet open for bookings however we are hopeful to it will again possible to book jeeps in the delightful Khursapar zone here on Wednesday afternoons, or for a welcome break from peak period crowds in the Turia zone.
While bookings are also open for Satpura and Panna, the lodge availability is a more crucial factor currently than the jeep availability. For stays in late December and mid-February to end March it is still important to firm up your plans ASAP.