Snapshots – A Visit to Vann Vihar, India’s Smallest National Park

It looks glamorous and I can’t deny it is fabulous, but being on the road on a recci trip is tough. The things you don’t see, although I agree that I am my own worst enemy as I hate to miss out on anything vaguely different or potentially interesting. This results in daily 0530 starts to try out cycling, rafting, photo tours, followed by 5-7 hour drives and then hotel inspections, writing up notes, keeping on top of emails. It’s a schedule I’d never recommend to a traveller or holiday makers and it starts to take its toll.

Today was the one morning in a month when I could have stayed in bed til 0730. But no…… Van Vihar, India’s smallest National Park at a mere 4.45, is a 2 min cycle ride away from where I am staying. So, my alarm went off at 0600, no shower, no make up, some toothpaste was bandied about and I arrived at reception, not so bright and breezy, safe to say, was quite grumpy. There I was greeted by Sayyed.

“Good morning ma’am, how are you?”

“Grrrrumpy,” is my retort and I explained why.

“No, don’t be grumpy, it’s really beautiful and the absolutely the best way to start the day, it’s the one thing that everyone who visits should do.”

I start to feel better about the whole thing. We found me a bike and off I went.

He wasn’t wrong, it’s a beautiful way to start the day, the lake on one side, enclosures on the other, some animals, like chittal and wild boar roaming free. The moon  still in the sky, the sun starting to rise, birds announcing the start of the day with frantic and shrill bird song. Locals were out having their morning walk, some also cycling, all surprised by my cheerful “Good morning!”

I start to smile, for a short spell I have not a care in the world, taking in the beauty of the morning when I hear “Philippa!”

Now this is the centre of central India and hardly anyone one knows I’m in Bhopal. I apply the brakes and turn around only to discover it’s Pramod Sharma whom I first met 10 years ago in Satpura National Park.  I’ve always maintained that India is a village. Wildlife chat ensued, there are never enough hours in the day for that, and then it was time to complete my ride, one end of the park to the other. I returned to the unfailingly wonderful Jeehan Numa Retreat for a typical Bhopali breakfast of poha and jalebi in a stunning setting and actually feeling like I’d earned it!

Now that was much better then staying in bed!

And now, it time to hit the road again for another 5 hours.

Oh and I know purists will say its not a national park, its a zoo, but hey, that doesn’t appeal to my quirky nature quite so much.

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My book, Escape to India, set in the jungles of Madhya Pradesh is available on Amazon.

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