Dudhwa National Park, Pallia Kalan, Uttar Pradesh. A relatively small and lesser known national park in comparison to big names like Kanha, Jim Corbett, Bharatpur etc, is in the tarai belt of Uttar Pradesh. Though being a tiger reserve since 1879 it gained prominence only in 1977 and after acquiring Project Tiger in 1988 it gained more fame. Located on the Indo Nepal border the weather can be a spoil sport in summers but in winters and spring it is a must for all the nature lovers.
Around 230 Kilometers from Lucknow it is a 5 hour drive. The route is a mixed bag, where till Sitapur [around 80 Kms] is a smooth toll road. Thereafter the drive to Bhira [around 100 Kms] is a double road with moderate traffic whether you take Gola Gokharan Road or the Lakhmpur Kheri Road. After Bhira, as you leave the highway for the park, the 30+ kms road is narrow and with occasional jams.
With no knowledge of the park I was lucky to come across a website of Karavan Heritage and Nature Society [www.karavanindia.org]. They provide package tours to Dudhwa. This later proved to be an excellent option as they provided unmatched stay, unbelievable food, exuberant guides and kept all of us busy throughout our stay. It is advisable to book the stay beforehand as the reserve provides very few options.
We reached the park and were welcomed with a hot tea and breakfast. We were then shown our Luxury tents, which we had booked for Rs. 2000 per piece [official price, In India you can always negotiate]. The tent had 2 cozy beds, mobile charging points, windows and attached toilet with zippers. The western toilets were surprisingly spick and shining. The front shade of our tent had 2 resting chairs for casual seating. The other options
are a jungle tent, for Rs. 1000 with thick mats on floor, public toilets and a bench outside and a supper luxury tent for Rs. 3000. The other good stay options are Dudhwa Jungle Lore, Dudhwa wilderness camp and Elite Inn. The rest, I do not know of or locals don’t approve. Also, there is acute network problem in Dudhwa unless you have BSNL or Vodafone sim.
As per the itinerary we went for a refreshing walk in the jungle with our deputed guide. He showed the variety of flora and fauna of the park which mainly comprised of Sal and Rohini trees. He told us that they usually are found together. Being the outskirts we only could see the birds and occasional monkeys. The guide left us alone for some time to learn few survival and path finding exercises.
It was just path noon and we were back from the tiring but at the same time rejuvenating walk. We were served a simple, wholesome and tasty lunch comprising of Dal [or pulse], roti [Indian bread], mix veg, rice and sweet. We rested for a while before we were called out again for some fun games including tug of war along with other members of the camp. As the sun set the and cold engulfed the camp site the campers enjoyed the warmth of fire camp. We all participated in some surprising cultural events and had a gala evening. After some delicious dinner we all withdrew to the warm coziness of our tents.
The morning was bright and sunny with unusual chirping of birds. After quick morning snacks we rushed off to jungle safari. The 3 hour safari by jeep costs Rs. 1000 per head with seating for 5 in each jeep. There are two safaris in a day and we had the booking for the morning trip which leaves at 7 am. The afternoon safari leaves at 3 pm.
The safari takes us through small ponds, Sathiyana area, a museum, Suhali Interpretation centre which houses some carcasses, stuffed animals, pictures with the details of wild animals and some interesting facts about them. Don’t expect to see some wild animals at Dudhwa except for few elephants. For that you need to go to Kishanpur and there too you need to be an extremely fortunate individual to get their glimpse. The guides, very wise souls, will show you some old pug marks and some excreta to satisfy your curiosity.
The flora of Dudhwa speaks volume of the serenity of the place. 2 days of living close to the nature we returned home fully content and satisfied. Its an excellent place for a calm, serene and peaceful family outings.