| Nature inFocus

Kuno National Park

One of the more unexplored national parks from the state of Madhya Pradesh, Kuno has recently emerged as a bona fide crowd-puller in wildlife circles

Ajay Gadikar

Kuno National Park

The state of Madhya Pradesh is known for its tiger reserves and popular tourist destinations. But rarely does Kuno National Park, located in the northern part of the Central Indian state, feature on this list. Dominated by grasslands and scant forests abundant in thorny trees, Kuno is home to several species of mammals, reptiles, birds and butterflies. The park is fast becoming a highly sought-after wildlife destination.

Spread across 748sq.km., the park lies within the Kuno Wildlife Division. An additional area of 500sq.km. is treated as a buffer zone of the national park. Kuno was upgraded to National Park status from a Wildlife Sanctuary in the year 2018. More recently, Kuno has been in the news for its selection as the most suitable site for the Cheetah reintroduction programme in India by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII). The programme aims to introduce 12-14 cheetahs into the National Park and monitor them using satellite radio collars. That apart, Kuno is a place where you can photograph a range of animals like the Four-horned Antelope, Spotted Deer, Sambar, Wild Boar and the Indian Leopard.

Plan Your Trip

Getting There

Air

Gwalior Airport (207km; 4 hrs 30 min) is the nearest airport. Other airport options are in Indore (466km; 9 hrs 18 min) and Bhopal (371km; 7 hrs 36 min), both of which are international airports.

Rail

Shivpuri Railway Station is the nearest station (61km; 1hr 16min). The Indian Railways operates a train from Hazrat Nizamuddin Station (New Delhi) to Shivpuri once every day.

Road

Sesaipura is the nearest village located in the Sheopur district and is accessible from Shivpuri (61km; 1 hr 16 min). The park gate (Tiktoli) is about 16km from Sesaipura.

Best Time To Visit

October-February:

It is the best time to visit Kuno. The park is most beautiful during this time of the year, the growth of tall grasses giving the landscape a savannah-like appearance. During these months, the climate remains pleasant and it is easy to explore the region.

March-June:

This is when the weather conditions are harsh due to excessive heat. However, sightings are better at this time as animals often congregate near waterholes.

July-September:

This is not the best time to visit Kuno. During this time of the year, rain-filled clouds passing over the various hillocks give the park a dramatic makeover. But the cloudy and overcast conditions make photography difficult, and many places get waterlogged, limiting movement.

History

It is believed that in the year 1564, the Mughal emperor Akbar captured a herd of elephants in a forest area near Shivpuri. Lord Curzon (the Viceroy of India between 1898 and 1905) was so awed by the forests of Kuno that he suggested turning the place into a haven for lions. Although Gwalior’s first emperor, Madhavrao Scindia, did take significant steps to turn Curzon’s vision into a reality, the project hit quite a few roadblocks. In the end, just seven lions were released into the forests of Shivpuri, but attacks on cattle and humans put an end to the dream of making the woods a dedicated site for lions.

Although Kuno continues to be debated as the second destination for the Asiatic Lion, the National Park is now on its way to welcoming cheetahs, chosen as the most suitable site for the reintroduction programme.

Stay

Stay options are limited near Kuno, but the park area has four rest houses that can be booked by getting in touch with the Office of Kuno.

The Palpur Rest House, which is located beside the magnificent Palpur Fort overlooking the Kuno river, is one of the best places to stay at the national park. This is also one of the most scenic areas of the park.

The MP Tourism Hotel at Sesaipura is another property located along the Kuno river and provides some of the best views of the landscape. The property houses a beautiful, large garden and a restaurant. There are about ten air-conditioned rooms in the hotel. Sesaipura is located at a 60km distance from Shivpuri and is on the main road between Shivpuri and Sheopur town.

Gallery

See | Do

  • Opt for both morning and evening safaris to make the most of your visit to Kuno. The drive through the park is very pleasant with limited safari jeeps, and there is not too much crowd as seen in other wildlife parks.
  • Leopards are the apex predators here. Camera traps have revealed a wealth of information about the leopard population in Kuno and images confirm that the national park could be among the regions with the highest density of leopards per sq.km in the country.
  • Apart from the big cats and animals like Sloth Bears, Kuno National Park is also home to carnivores such as wolves, jackals, Indian Foxes and Striped Hyenas. You can also see Spotted Deer, Sambar, Nilgai, Wild Boar and Blackbucks.
  • Kuno National Park is also known for its lush meadows, namely Manakchowk, Lankakhoh, Pipalbaodi and Kairkho.
  • You may come across very large herds of Spotted Deer in the vast meadows, so be prepared to photograph them.
  • Kuno is one of the best places to see vultures. You will find critically endangered species like the Red-headed Vulture,  White-rumped Vulture and Long-billed Vulture.

Don't Miss

  • Ranthambore National Park is located at a distance of 150km from Kuno and can be reached in 3.5 hrs. One of the popular destinations in the country, Ranthambore hosts a wide diversity of wildlife like Barasingha, Blackbuck, Chousingha, Royal Bengal Tiger and Indian Leopard, among other megafauna species, birds and reptiles.
  • Madhav National Park in Shivpuri is also worth a visit. Dotted with several ponds, including the Sankhya Sagar reservoir, the park plays host to a number of resident and migratory birds.
  • Palpur Gadi is an old fort along the banks of River Kuno. This is an ideal place for bird watching and bird photography. Apart from vultures, Kuno is also a place to photograph cranes and raptors like harriers, eagles and owls.
  • The forest in Kuno itself is very scenic and the riverfronts are a paradise for birds, visiting and resident species alike.
  • Take a walk along the Kuno river for a chance to sight crocodiles and Gharials. In order to increase the resident Gharial population, several juveniles are released into the Kuno waters every year.


What To Pack

  • Be sure to carry a good pair of binoculars as you will be spending many hours bird watching.
  • Sturdy shoes are necessary, especially when you are exploring the landscape on foot and visiting the other national parks nearby.
  • Carry light-coloured clothes that will blend in with the surroundings.
  • Pack dry food items and snacks with you as you will be spending several hours outdoors.
  • Keep essential medicines and drinking water with you at all times.
  • If you plan to visit during the monsoon season, pack protective rain gear.

For Photographers

  • Carry a wide (14-200 mm range) lens for photographing large herds of deer and the beauty of the Kuno landscape. Also carry a medium telephoto (200-400 mm) lens to photograph wildlife while on safari.
  • During the monsoon season, overcast conditions may make photography challenging.
  • During your stay, make the most of daylight to photograph the diversity of Kuno.

Good To Know

  • There is limited mobile coverage, so plan accordingly.
  • The recommended driving speed inside the park is 20 km/h.
  • There are no ATMs in the area, so keep sufficient cash at hand for all expenses.
  • The park has a public restroom, but other than that restrooms are limited.
  • The National Park has a souvenir shop. Visit to purchase keepsakes as a reminder of your trip.
  • There are no registered safari jeeps at the Madhav National Park, so you will need to arrange for a vehicle if you plan to visit the park.
  • The Shivpuri Government Medical College and Hospital  is one of the closest medical facilities to the park.

Budget Per Person

  • A two-night stay is highly recommended for the complete experience at Kuno.
  • A one-night stay at the MP Tourism Hotel, Sesaipura costs ₹3,000 onwards, per person. The price is inclusive of stay and meals, and excludes transportation.
  • The forest permit fee is ₹750 per gypsy ride. Six people can be accommodated in one gypsy. Gypsy owners charge ₹2,250 for taking you around the park. For a trained guide you will have to spend an additional ₹360.
  • For Ranthambore National Park, gypsy prices are ₹1700 per person for Indian citizens, and ₹3500 per person for foreigners.
  • Vehicle fees at the Madhav National Park is ₹1500 per vehicle, and guide charges are ₹350.
Ajay Gadikar - Birdwatcher and Conservationist

Ajay Gadikar

Birdwatcher and Conservationist

Ajay Gadikar is an IT entrepreneur and an avid birdwatcher based in Indore. An active member of the NGO "The Nature Volunteer", he takes a lot of interest in creating awareness about nature and conservation among children. In 2012 and 2013, he was honoured by the forest department for his efforts to conserve the depleting avi-fauna in the Malwa region. He is actively involved in bird surveys across the state and a member of the IUCN-Species Commission for Hornbills.