Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve Trek
Trekkers too often think of Himalayan Treks as the ultimate trekking bastion. That would be a mistake.
This trek in the Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve of Madhya Pradesh is a stunner. For one, we are in the buffer zone of a tiger reserve. This area is teeming with wildlife — things that you can see only on treks and if you camp in such locations.
More than anything else, you get to trek through forests of a different kind. These are the central India forests that our country is famous for — forests which Rudyard Kipling wrote about, on which the famous Jungle Book is centered. You don’t get to see these forests every day. These are thick forests with extensive birdlife.
There are streams to cross and river beaches to camp beside. We pass by large reservoirs where animals gather. Each day of the trek presents different scenery.
This trek in Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve is run in collaboration with the forest department and Madhya Pradesh Tourism. These are restricted areas so trekking is done only in the presence of forest guards. While trekkers are invited to join this expedition, please note any wildlife activity that can harm trekkers or bring animals in danger may require us to change the route or curtail the trek midway.
➤Table of Contents
Use these pointers to navigate through this extensive trek guide:
➤What I Like and Don’t Like
The Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve trek passes through the Marwas and Beohari Buffer zones of the park. This is a blessing in disguise as you get an opportunity to witness the untouched forests and wildlife away from the chaos of wildlife safaris!
Being a part of the exploration team for this trek, I hold it close to my heart. I can probably list hundreds of reasons to love this trek but here are my top 3:
1. A chance to experience wildlife in its true habitat: Despite being a Tiger Reserve, the Sanjay-Dubri conservation area witnesses considerably lesser footfalls as compared to its more famous counterpart, the Bandhavgarh national park. This works beautifully in favor of a better experience as the wildlife is not yet affected by the commotion of a stream of jeeps zooming around at all times of the day. This gives you a better chance of witnessing them in their natural habitat. In fact, coming across paw marks of bears is not uncommon!
2. Sehra Dam- a bird watcher’s paradise: Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve is famous for being home to over 300 species of birds. A majority of them, you’ll be able to spot at the Sehra Dam. The trek has a short day 2, which enables you to spend considerable time by the dam’s backwaters. This presents a golden opportunity to click those great pictures of the birds you’ve always wanted!
3. The meadows of Birchuli: If you thought that a trek through a tiger reserve was going to be all forest, then you couldn’t be farther from the truth. The Sanjay Dubri Tiger reserve trek has all the variations in terrain you can possibly think of-hills, backwaters, gullies, streams, and meadows! The Birchuli Dol is a meadow you wouldn’t imagine finding in a place like this and yet it is there! Secluded from the outside world and protected by forests on all sides, it’s a treat for sore eyes.
What I don’t like about the Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve trek
- The deforested patch near Khatola Naal: Right before you reach the bliss that is Khatola Naal, you’ll pass through an extended deforested section. This is due to illegal cutting down of trees by the local tribals. Although the forest officers patrol the area occasionally, it hasn’t been enough to dissuade the rampant culling of trees. While this is a short stretch, it still leaves you a bitter feeling.
- The short day two: This is nitpicking but when you are putting together a trek, you want all parts of it to be just perfect. The day 2 of the trek from Narayan Ghati to Sehra Dam, is a rather short one with only 5 km of the trek. This is necessitated by the lack of an ideal campsite before Narayan Ghati. Although I am putting it down as a downside, the extra time spent at the Sehra Dam more than makes up for it!
- The abundant wildlife: Yes, it’s ironic to find this in the cons of a trek through a tiger reserve. However, the fact that the wildlife in this region of the tiger reserve isn’t used to the presence of humans, makes them even more dangerous. It is essential to follow the Forest ranger’s instructions to a T to ensure your safety on the trek. As the trek becomes more popular, I hope this changes and the wildlife gets used to the human presence without being affected by it.
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➤Trail Information on the Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve Trek
Day 1: Drive from Beohari to Jamdhar Gate
Beohari is the closest major railway station. If you are coming in from metro cities, Jabalpur is the closest airport. Jabalpur is also better connected by railways than Beohari.
Take a train or flight to Jabalpur and board a connecting trail to Beohari. Indiahikes will pick you up along with other trekkers from Beohari.
Farms on the way to Jamdhar gate. Picture by Saurabh Sawant
The drive is61 km longand will take about 2 hours to cover.
Start the trek from the Jamdhar checkpoint of Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve. The trail to Jamdhar is a dirt track that can be tackled by any 4WD. However, lined by beautiful trees on either side, walking this 10 minute stretch to the dam is very much recommended.
The Pleasant Walk from Jamdhar gate. Picture by Saurabh Sawant
This stretch of the trek is being developed as an ecotourism spot, but until the surrounding infrastructure is in place, it isn’t possible. The trail itself climbs up gently, as any 4WD track is meant to be.
Enjoy this 10 minutes long stretch of solitude through the forest. Soon you’ll reach a small clearing of sorts, beyond which is the crest of the Jamdhar dam. Camp here for the night.
Day 2: Jamdhar to Narayan Ghati
Distance: 13 km
Duration: 5-6 hours
GPS Coordinates of Jamdhar: 24° 4’24.93″N, 81°48’56.88″E
GPS Coordinates of Narayan Ghati: 24° 4’40.94″N, 81°44’56.21″E
Wake up in the morning to the calls of the birds flitting in and out of the forest.
The clearing you camped on last night is proposed to be used as a parking spot for vehicles when this place is opened for the public.
Walk up the trail to reach the top of the crest. In front of you is the expansive reservoir of Jamdhar Dam.
The Jamdhar Reservoir. Picture by Jeet Singh Arya
Surrounded by hills on all but one side, the beautiful view of Jamdhar dam is the perfect start to the trek. On your left, you can spot a tower on the hill, beneath which is a temple. Walk across the top of the mudwall and turn right to undertake the steep climb to the tower.
The tower, perched atop the tallest hillock surrounding the dam, gives a 360-degree view of the entire region.
View of Jamdhar Dam from the top. Picture by Jeet Singh Arya
After clicking a few pictures of the reservoir, climb down and trace your route back to the crest. Continue walking past the top of the wall turn slightly to your left. The trail will circumvent the northern bank of the reservoir, skirting around the edge of the forest.
One of the peculiarities of the trek is the rare opportunity to walk so close to the reservoir of three dams. Sehra and Belaha are the other two dams you’ll come across during the trek.
As the trail dips to the edge of the reservoir, it disappears into the wet bank of the reservoir. Keep following the forest guard and do not veer off their path.
Walking along the edge of the reservoir. Picture by Saurabh Sawant
About 10 minutes from the crest, the trail turns right and climbs up into the forest. The trail here is maintained by the patrolling beat chowkidars and therefore, is hard to miss. In early summer, the forest floor is lined by auburn leaves, shed by the trees that stand sentinel over the trail in this region.
Trail entering into the forest section. Picture by Saurabh Sawant
As you walk further away from the dam, the trail gradually narrows down and the trees are replaced by bushes.
While the pristine forest around you might tempt you to go discovering on your own, you’re strongly advised against any such misadventure.
The benign-looking forest is home to bears that regularly trudge across these paths to drink water from the reservoir. Allow the forest guard to lead the way and look out for any activity on the periphery of your trail.
The climb is short but steep and ends at clearing out of which multiple trails emerge.
The big clearing on the trail. Picture by Jeet Singh Arya
Follow the one leading to the west and keep to the most prominent trail.
A 15 min walk across the level ground from the clearing will lead you to a short forest wall made out of stones. You’ll notice an offshoot of the trail heading north from here. This leads to the tribal village of Dhanav in the plains below.
The trail leading to Dhanav. Watch out for the stone wall. Picture by Jeet Singh Arya
Continue walking straight ahead for a short distance before turning sharply towards your right. You’ll hear the occasional horn of a train passing by in the plains below.
As you reach the edge of the plateau, you’ll be treated to the gradual unfolding of a stunning view of the valley below.
The View of the valley below you. Picture by Jeet Singh Arya
The valley is enveloped by fog during peak winters and that only adds to the mystical feeling of the place. Even though you’d be tempted to relax and spend a bit of time here, quickly turn around and walk back into the forest.
Hundred-odd steps will get you to a small depression in the center of which lies a small pond which, according to the forest guard, has potable water.
A small pond in the forest. Picture by Jeet Singh Arya
Refill your bottles if you must and again turn right towards the valley.
You’ll find a slightly challenging trail entering the valley here. If you feel comfortable negotiating it, a 5 min descent will lead you to a small depression in the rock face. Locals say that wild animals are often spotted taking a nap in this rock shelter, shielded from the harsh sun in summers.
The Big Rock shelter. Picture by Saurabh Sawant
Scramble back up the plateau and choose the most prominent trail through the forest heading west. The forest here predominantly consists of Bamboo and Sal trees.
This section is also where you’ll come across a lot of tree stumps, illegally cut by the locals for the lucrative price of its wood fetches.
Sal Trees throughout the trail. Picture by Jeet Singh Arya
This stretch of the trail is also one of the hotspots for wildlife. It isn’t uncommon to come across leopard pugmarks and scat on the trail every now and then.
Pugmark of Leopard spotted during our exploration. Picture by Saurabh Sawant
As you move farther away from the deforested stretch, you’ll notice a change in the terrain as well as the vegetation.
The ground beneath your feet transforms into form rock and the sparse forest is replaced by a denser, more vividly green forest. Shortly after this transformation, you’ll enter a dry stream bed. This is Khatola Naal.
Khatola Naal is a seasonal stream that feeds the smaller pools further down the trail. While the stream itself dries up by the start of the summer season, the pool stores potable water deep into the summer season.
The seasonal stream that feeds the smaller pools further down the trail. Picture by Saurabh Sawant
The trail follows the Naal, crossing several pools of water before turning back from the other side of the stream. As you start climbing up the stream bed, the trail gets a little difficult and some acrobatic jumps across the small streams feeding the Naal are essential.
The rock walls here have weathered due to extreme temperature fluctuations throughout the year and molded into peculiar shapes by the seasonal streams. These formations, along with abundant availability of water through the major part of the year are responsible for this section being a wildlife hotspot.
Rock Caves in the forest section. Picture by Saurabh Sawant
Be careful here as you’ll often spot Leopard pugmarks in the sandy banks of the stream and also of the odd bear as well.
The trail now rapidly climbs out of the stream bed and passes high above the edge of one of the largest pools of this section, called the Magardaah pool.
About 5 minutes after the pool, you’ll start hearing the vehicles passing by indicating you are close to the road cutting across Narayan Ghati. Climb a hillock and continue walking in the west direction to spot a forest patrolling hut across the road.
Forest Hut on the trail. Picture by Saurabh Sawant
The patrolling hut is constructed beside a huge solitary tree on a flat grassland. Sit down under the shade of the tree and pitch your tents here.
Day 3: Narayan Ghati to Sehra Dam
Distance: 5 km
Duration: 3 hours
GPS Coordinates of Sehra Dam: 24° 4’46.03″N, 81°42’57.70″E
After the considerable exertions of the first day of the trek, today’s going to feel comparatively shorter.
Start the day with a leisurely breakfast and set off in the direction of the forest along the east with the Forest Guard.
As you enter the forest, the trail is a barely visible path through the trees.
Trail from Narayan Ghati. Picture by Jeet Singh Arya
You’ll descend through the foliage and hop over another short forest wall indicating the boundary of a beat. A 5-minute walk from the boundary will lead you to a surprisingly wide track splitting the forest into two.
This track is used by officers of the forest department for their patrolling duties. Although short, this is no less memorable a day from the other two days of the trek.
The wide track used by officers for their patrolling duties. Picture by Saurabh Sawant
The settings of today’s trek are something few, if any, will associate with Madhya Pradesh. A straight as an arrow track, carpeted by leaves and flanked by trees on either side, it’s difficult to find an equivalent from other treks, even our much-beloved Chhatisgarh Jungle Trek.
The terrain is gently undulating, helping one maintain a brisk pace through the forest. About two kilometers from the Narayan Ghati campsite, veer left from the track and follow the trail going deeper into the forest. We are now heading towards the second dam of the trek-Sehra Dam.
Trail in the forest to the Sehra Dam. Picture by Jeet Singh Arya
15 minutes after leaving the forest track behind, you’ll catch the first glimpse of the dam’s reservoirs. The trail will skirt around the periphery of the reservoir before turning west to reach the crest of the dam.
Turn left and appreciate the largest dam reservoir of the trek. Sehra dam is probably one of the most picturesque dams you’ll come across.
Trail going around the periphery of the reservoir. Picture by Jeet Singh Arya
The reservoir lined on three sides by a green wall of dense forest and on the western end of it, lies an expansive grassland.
The Beautiful Sehra Dam. Picture by Saurabh Sawant
Sehra Dam is a paradise for bird watchers. One of the first things that’ll strike you here is the sheer number of birds around the dam. Indian rollers, kingfisher, fork-tailed drongo, and over 20 other species of birds can be counted by an untrained eye.
Walk across the crest and past the dam watchtower. Trace the south-western edge of the dam waters to reach the grasslands at the far end of it. Choose a suitable spot and pitch your tents here.
Day 4: Sehra Dam to Karwahi village
Distance: 12 km
Duration: 5-6 hours
GPS coordinates of Karwahi: 24° 3’34.86″N, 81°41’13.54″E
Wake up early today, preferably before sunrise, and keep your cameras ready. Mornings are a great time to capture the birds near the dam in the golden light. In the early winters, the grassland is a beautiful, vibrant shade of green and the reservoir looks rejuvenated too.
Start the day’s trek around 8 am and set off along the right arm of the reservoir now. About 5 minutes from your campsite, you’ll notice a faint trail cutting across the forest. Take this and enjoy nature’s sights and sounds in this pristine, untouched part of the forest.
Grasslands near the Sehra Dam. Picture by Jeet Singh Arya
The trail emerges from the forest on the other side of the mound. Turn right and walk around the edges of the shrinking backwaters.
This part of the reservoir being especially shallow, the ground is moist and your feet would be prone to sinking in the trail. Therefore, walking a little higher than the actual trail is recommended.
Moist Trail near the Sehra Dam – Indiahikes – Jeet Singh Arya
You might have to be careful of your footing on the dry, crumbling mound but it’s any day better than walking around with wet shoes!
As you walk further away from the reservoir, a stunning landscape opens up in front of you. Flat, unending grasslands stretching as far as you can see. This is Birchuli Dol.
The Meadows of Birchuli. Picture by Jeet Singh Arya
Dol means meadows. The locals bring their cattle to this part of the tiger reserve for grazing and it’s always a nice experience to converse with them. You’ll also spot an elaborate hut built right in the middle of the grassland. This is the forest department’s patrolling hut used by the rangers to keep an eye on the region.
Forest hut on the grasslands. Picture by Jeet Singh Arya
While the settings may make you complacent, be mindful of the fact that you are walking in wildlife territory.
A little beyond the patrolling hut, towards the farther end of the meadow, lies a marked bear den. If the previous night has witness slight rainfall, you might even be able to spot paw marks of the wild animal walking across the sandy beds!
Continue walking along the dry stream beds for another 10 minutes until the tallest hill of the region, Giddha Pahad, comes into view. While it may look the hill is approachable from this point, you’ll have to turn around and walk along a faint trail going northwards. Continue walking away from the hill for about 500 meters and lookout for a fork climbing upward in the hill’s direction. The trail becomes rocky and steep from this point onwards.
Ascending to the Giddha Pahad. Picture by Saurabh Sawant
Climbing up this path might be a little difficult if the region has witnessed rainfall recently. In that scenario, you can bypass the hill and continue walking straight ahead to join the Tindhariya Naal.
Back to the climb up Giddha Pahad, as you approach the shoulder of the hill, the trail will merge into a broad dirt track coming up from the other side.
Right near the top of the hill, you’ll be able to spot the patrolling hut of Birchuli Dol and a little ahead is the forest hut on Giddha Pahad. There’s also a watchtower near the hut but it’s crumbling and climbing on it is not advised.
Forest hut and the watchtower. Picture by Jeet Singh Arya
The forest hut is usually manned by a beat guard and so rarely does anyone come by in these parts of the reserve that they’ll greet you with a warm, familiar smile and insist on a cup of black tea.
Take off your backpack and rest here for a while before starting again.
For the descent, take the trail down the other side of the hill. You’ll reach the dirt track again after crossing a small patch of forest.
Walk along the track for about 7 minutes and take a trail on your right going downhill through the forest. This trail reaches the Tindhariya naal, passing along a cave in the hillside which according to the forest rangers, is a favorite haunt of the forest’s carnivores.
A Cave en-route to Tindhariya naal. Picture by Saurabh Sawant
Scramble down the hill and reach the wide stream bed of Tindhariya naal. The settings will remind you of Birchuli Dol with the forest decked in autumn colours.
Walk westwards along the stream bed. You’ll be able to spot spotted deers in this section. The shy herbivore is notoriously difficult to capture on camera. You can try your luck nevertheless!
Tindhariya naal stream bed. Picture by Saurabh Sawant
Soon enough you’ll reach the wooden barrier of this section of the tiger reserve. A road separates you and the Vangram Karwahi conservation area.
Walk around the barrier and enter Karwahi area by the gate lying a little to the north. Karwahi is a model village habituated by the tribals. You’ll walk past a few fields lining the track to reach the sole school in the village.
Karwahi School. Picture by Jeet Singh Arya
Besides the school stays the Pradhan of the village, who’ll be more than happy to let you stay for a night.
Belaha Dam reservoir. Picture by Jeet Singh Arya
If you aren’t tired by the day’s exertions, you can also choose to walk a little further to visit the Belaha Dam reservoir. Otherwise, a quick visit tomorrow morning is just as good too.
Day 5: Travel back from Karwahi
Start early morning from the village and reach Beohari by Indiahikes transport. The drive is 44 km long and will take about an hour and a half.
From Beohari, you’ll catch a connecting train to Jabalpur.
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➤Plan Your Travel for the Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve Trek
How to get to the basecamp- Jamdhar Gate
1. By Train
Beohari is the nearest major railway station. However, there are few trains connecting
Beohari directly to the major cities of the country.
Flying to Jabalpur airport and boarding a connecting train to Beohari would be a more convenient option.
Indiahikes organises transport from Beohari to Jamdhar Gate. This is not included in the trek fee. It is to be shared amongst trekkers and paid directly to the driver.
2. By Air
The Jabalpur airport is the closest airport from Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve.
It is well connected to the major metro cities of the country, viz. Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Bengaluru.
Getting back to Beohari after the trek
Indiahikes will arrange transport from Karwahi to Beohari railway station. The drive is 44 km
long and takes about 1.5 hours. You can board a connecting train to Jabalpur from Beohari.
Reaching Jamdhar using Public transport
Jamdhar is in the interior region of the state. Hence it’s not well connected by public transport.
Majhauli is the last major point connected to Beohari by public transport.
You’ll find buses and cabs going from Beohari to Majhauli via Chamra Dol and vice versa at regular intervals. Jamdhar is at a distance of 27 km from Majhauli.
From Karwahi, Chamra Dol is the closest junction well connected by public transport.
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➤Difficult sections and Safety on the Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve Trek
The good news is that Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve Trek trek is not a difficult trek. It is not a high altitude trek, nor are there any steep or risky sections on this trek. But by virtue of it being in the Tiger Reserve, there is a chance that you might encounter wild animals.
Terrain wise, it is not difficult. However, there are some of the sections you should watch out for on this trek.
- Trekking in a Jungle: Trekking in a jungle has its own set of difficulties. Wild animals, insects, and maybe forest fires too. You might also lose your way. You must not trek alone in the jungle. This trek can only be done with certified forest guides.
Indiahikes Safety Protocol: The Indiahikes team is accompanied by forest guides who have spent years exploring these trails. They are highly trained and qualified to tackle any emergency in the forest – be it from wild animals, or any other such emergency.
- River crossing post-rain, or during monsoons: We do not run the trek during the monsoon season, but in case of untimely rains, the river crossing on the trek can become slightly more difficult.
Safety Advice: Our Trek Leader suggests that you wear loose pants that can be rolled upto your thighs, or trek pants that can be converted into shorts. We suggest that you carry loafers, or crocs for this section. If your shoes get wet, the rest of the trek will become difficult, especially because you will be trekking through sand.
Indiahikes Safety Protocol: Your Trek Leader is the best person to assist you during the river crossing. You will be taught the technique to hold hands firmly and form a human chain. You will be under the watchful eyes of your Trek Leader, trek guides, and forest guides.
Closest hospital on the Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve Trek
If a medical emergency occurs on the Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve Trek, the nearest hospital is the Government hospital in Beohari. Depending on the injury and location on the trek, it can take up to 3 hours to reach hospital from the farthest point on the trail.
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➤Places to visit after Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve trek
The Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve is located in the eastern part of the Madhya Pradesh, bordering the state of Chhatisgarh. This region is yet to see the development of tourist attractions.
Here are a couple of things you can do after your trek in the Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve:
- Go for a Tiger safari in the core zone of Sanjay Dubri tiger reserve: Although the population of tigers is not as great as Bandhavgarh, the Tiger Safari through the core zone of Sanjay Dubri is one of the best wildlife tourist experiences you can treat yourself to in this part of the state. Sloth bears and tigers are a common sighting during the morning safaris.
- Visit Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve: Located about 90 km from the Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve, Bandhavgarh is the perfect place for a Tiger Safari if you don’t mind the recent commercialisation. A Tiger sighting is almost guaranteed if you get a knowledgeable guide for the safari.