Kanha and Bandhavgarh national parks, in Madhya Pradesh, are two of the top national parks in India. Entry fees became a point of contention in 2011, when the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department substantially (and many say exorbitantly) hiked the cost of going on safari in the parks' premium zones.
The higher fees were aimed at reducing the burden on the premium zones, which had the most tigers and were receiving growing numbers of visitors. However, it really hurt budget travelers and the average Indian tourist who didn't have a lot of money to spend. This was especially the case as the entry fees were charged per jeep, carrying up to six people, not per person. Foreigners had to pay a much higher rate, and the foreigner fee was charged even if there was only one foreigner in a jeep.
Further issues arose in 2014, when tiger sightings began to reduce considerably in the premium zones and increase in the non-premium zones. This resulted in tourists flocking to the non-premium zones, especially as the entry fees were cheaper.
Details of Changes Introduced in 2016
In what was an extremely welcome move, the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department announced sweeping changes to the fee structure for all its national parks in 2016, effective from October 1 when parks reopened for the season.
The changes were as follows:
- No Premium Zones: the concept of premium zones has been abolished. Premium zones no longer exist at Kanha and Bandhavgarh national parks. The safari permit fees are the same for all zones.
- Same Fees for Foreigners and Indians: the different rates for foreigners and Indians have been completely abolished. All tourists will pay the same fees, irrespective of nationality. This is a remarkable step, and the first of its kind in any state in India.
- Single Seat Tickets Can Be Purchased: Entry fees are no longer strictly charged per jeep. Tourists now have the choice of paying per jeep or per seat. What's more, the MP Online booking engine even allows tourists who purchase single seat safari permits to choose the location of their seat in the jeep!
- Wait-Listed Safari Permit Concept: Similar to the Indian Railways ticketing system, if all the available safari permits have already been purchased, a certain number of wait-listed permits will be issued. If the wait-list is not cleared and you're not issued with a confirmed permit five days before the date of your trip, your wait-listed permit will automatically be canceled and your money refunded.
Details of the New Fees
The safari permit fees are the same across all national parks in Madhya Pradesh (Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Panna, Pench, and Sapura). A full vehicle permit is 1,500 rupees per jeep. A single seat permit is 250 rupees per seat. This doesn't include booking charges.
Compulsory forest guide and vehicle/jeep hire charges are additional, and are fixed. The cost of a guide is 360 rupees per safari at both Kanha and Bandhavgarh national parks. The hire charge per vehicle at Kanha national park is 2,000 rupees, and it's 2,500 rupees at Bandhavgarh. All charges are distributed equally between the tourists in the vehicle.
There will be a 10% increase in fees each year.