There are few lesser known places on the world’s map and Melghat might be one of them. Many folks outside Vidarbha region (or even from the region) did not know about this place for many decades. But with the increase in number of ‘wildlife photographers’, it got some popularity in the last few years.
Geographically, Melghat is situated in Western Ghats, in Amravati District, very close to Madhya Pradesh borders. Melghat’s history goes back to 1400s when Berar (also known as Warhad) Sultanate was founded. (Ref: Wiki). The historic fortress of Narnala (also known as Shahanur fort) still stands high on one of the cliffs giving you the hint of the grand architecture, wealth and prosperity ancient India has once experienced. The fort was first established in 10th century A.D. by Gond Kings and then was captured by Mughals and Rajputs (Narnala Singh) (Not sure in which order). In 1800s, this region was captured by a British Colonel – Arthur Wellesley – from the Marathas.
Melghat is now a tiger reserve and is home to many Korku tribes. There are tiger safaris which are organized by forest department twice a day. You can also opt for night safaris and ‘Machan’ overnight stay. You will get a driver and a guide (mostly from Korku family) for your expedition. The wild life is in abundance and the forest department has done a great job to maintain the discipline of Jungles. The forest is too dense and you are allowed to explore only few acres of the land – which means chances of sighting the big cat are rare. However, the jungle is charismatic and the landscapes are beautiful. If you are lucky you might see leopard and tiger. (Obviously, I was not lucky enough – even this time.) Nonetheless, really enjoyed the rides through the grasslands and the hills.
I also wanted to know more about Korku lifestyle, so managed to visit a nearby village with a tribesman (who was our guide for one of the safaris). It was a good experience. However, in spite of the reach of technology and approachability, the region is not developed to the extent it could have been.
Overall, it is a great experience, especially if you want to explore the Vidarbha region.
Few details if you would like to visit –
Routes 1 (Less time, supposedly better road) – Amravati – Daryapur – Akot – Popatkhed – Shahanur Gate – Narnala
Route 2 (More scenic, longer route – but worth taking Gullarghat) – Khatakali – Turubanda, Harisal, Kolkhas, Semadoh, Ghatang, Paratwada, Amravati)
Stay option – Shahanur Eco Resort
(Clean and reasonable stay facility – except the food quality was really average)