Tata Jungle Experience front

Tata Motors Full Throttle along with Cougar Motorsports organized an event called the “Jungle Experience” which comprised of 1260 kms of driving through the heartland of India, Madhya Pradesh, and experiencing the Indian wilderness. MotorBeam participated in this six day event, driving the incredible brute, Tata Xenon. Tata Motors organizes many such events all year round for Tata UV owners that include trials, rallies and experiences. These events are an adventurous holiday where you can re-discover your Tata SUV with amazing drives in challenging conditions.

The “Jungle Experience” was flagged off at the opulent Taj Palace in Delhi on the 23rd of March 2013. The drive began through Delhi city, driving towards the historic city of Gwalior, 350 kms away, passing through Agra. A big chunk of the drive was covered on the recently opened Yamuna Expressway which is a driving experience you can barely have anywhere else in the country. The quality of the road surface and the drive leaves you speechless as you pass the Buddh International Circuit, trying to keep your exhilaration under control, having to remind yourself of the innumerable speed cameras.

Yamuna Expressway

The Tata Xenon performed pretty well on the straights feeling very stable at expressway speeds. Not much body roll can be felt, so changing lanes is not scary. The engine was quite tractable but it lacked the punch one expects on the expressways, possibly due to its weight and may be also because the gearbox was not as smooth.

The drive proceeded towards Agra, where the convoy stopped to re-group and drove past the beautiful Taj Mahal. On the way to Gwalior, the road runs through a mish-mash of conditions as we enter and exit many states. Within a margin of couple of hours, the convoy made their way through Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, back to Uttar Pradesh and then finally Madhya Pradesh. The road is an amazing mix of big wide straights, country roads and dual-carriageways.

Tata Jungle Experience

Finally after reaching Gwalior in the evening, a visit to the historic Gwalior fort was in order which invites sheer awe due to its size and beauty. The city looks particularly beautiful at night from the fort, where a light and sound show takes place every night which tells the history of the fort.

Tata Jungle Experience Gwalior

The next morning, 24th March, the convoy left for its first Jungle destination of the trip, Panna, which lay about 300 kms away. The convoy would pass through the city of Jhansi with a visit to the historic Jhansi Fort. But before that lay the biggest challenge of them all as we would find out. The roads were a massive disaster between the patches where there were no roads at all! All the machines were put though a harsh test with every one of them overcoming every crater, mound, stone and mud patch with flying colours. Well, except the Xenon. Rather the interior of the Xenon. The centre console of the beast simply fell off, but it was ingeniously put back in place with a nice punch between the A/C vents. The vehicle has been put through gruelling conditions in most of these events so that was bound to happen.

The Jhansi fort was staggeringly beautiful and after a visit there, we requested the organizers and got ourselves a Safari Storme. Lunch spot was scheduled at the Usha Kiran Palace in Orchha. The town of Orchha and its surroundings are extremely beautiful. The drive and the views of the river, the palace as well as the temples were breathtaking.

Tata Jungle Experience Jhansi

Tata-Jungle Experience Orchha

The road from Orchha to Panna was a big improvement and though they were smaller two lane highways, they atleast looked and felt like a tar surface rather than an excavation site. The Storme was a massive improvement in comfort, refinement, ease of driving and of course driving pleasure. The Safari Storme feels very responsive and better put together. There is more body roll than the Xenon but the soft comfy suspension and better driving position make up for it. The rest of the road to Panna was a good driving experience and we reached the destination at about 7.30 PM.

Tata Jungle Experience Safari Storme

Next morning was the first Jungle Safari and at 5.30 AM all the Gypsys were lined up outside the gates of Panna National Park with high anticipation for spotting the big striped cat. The safari was quite an experience and quite a few groups got lucky spotting the Bengal Tiger. Many other animals like the Deer, Sambar and a few species of birds too were spotted. A few groups did not spot the tiger so the excitement was high to get to Bandhavgarh grew manyfold, which has quite a reputation for Tiger spottings.

Tata Jungle Experience deer

Tata Jungle Experience eagle

Tata Jungle Experience Elephant

After lunch the convoy left for the Bandhavgarh which lay about 190 kms away. The roads were much better than the previous day and the convoy moved pretty swiftly. The initial drive was pretty good until about 30 kms from Bandhavgarh where the roads suddenly went into ‘Stone Age’ mode and bruised the backs of the occupants and gave the cars a real shaking. But one car at the back of the convoy actually spotted a tiger on the road after dark on the way to the hotel. After a relaxing time at the resort, it was time for the next safari the next morning to visit the anticipated Bandhavgarh National Park.

Tata Jungle Experience tail lamps

At about 6 AM, our Gypsys were let in the National Park with excitement rising to a new high, expecting to see a larger number of Tigers given the reputation of Bandhavgarh, yesterday’s spotting as well as spotting of pugmarks on the way outside the protected park area. But ultimately all animals seem to have decided to boycott the extensive tourism and not even a stray dog was seen. But this did not deter the convoy too much as what lay ahead was a scenic and very beautiful 400 kms drive from Bandhavgarh to Pench National Park.

 Tata Jungle Experience pugmark

Tata Jungle Experience Safari

The drive consisted of brilliant ghats, twists and turns as well as amazing straights with a surprisingly good road surface. The drive from Umaria to Mandla is particularly breathtaking with beautiful landscapes, amazing roads and a drive which will put a smile on any petrol heads face. The Xenon was out of its element here because of its awkward handling, making it quite unpredictable to drive. On curves, it understeers heavily and then on accelerating out of curves the rear has a tendancy to become unstable, having no weight on the rear wheels. But the rear does not slide, probably due to lack of power. In spite of having firm suspension and minimal body roll, the Xenon is pretty average in the handling department.

Tata Jungle Experience convoy

The next half of the road is mostly very good quality two lane straight roads passing through towns and villages where keeping high average speeds is easy. The drive from Seoni on the empty and soothing NH7 is again a wonderful experience. After a tiring day of driving, it was good to know that the next day being Wednesday, was a day off because in Madhya Pradesh a new rule makes it compulsory for all National Parks to stay closed on Wednesday.

Tata Jungle Experience road

Tata Jungle Experience Safari sunset

The off day was spent driving ATVs, off-roading, lazying around and then having a bit of fun with the cars on dirt! The evening had an even more amazing experience to offer, a ride in a hot air balloon. Watching the balloon being filled with air, making it upright and then see it fly up was quite a sight. The ride was even more breathtaking, but the landscape consisting of just plains and brown jungles, the view on the ground seemed a bit monotonous.

Tata Jungle Experience off road

Tata Jungle Experience balloon burner

Tata-Jungle Experience Xenon dirt

Tata Jungle Experience balloon

The next morning was the final Safari into the Pench National Park which again went well for a few groups while most went without spotting a Tiger. But many other animals made an appearance at really close quarters. The Pench National Park is quite beautiful and is fun to be driven around.

Tata-Jungle Experience deer male

Tata Jungle Experience bird

Tata Jungle Experience monkey

The whole ‘Jungle Experience’ was very amazing, spent connecting with nature and watching wild animals in their natural habitat and of course experiencing at close quarters the breathtaking sight of a majestic yellow striped cat. The whole event was very well organized by Tata Motors and Cougar Motorsports. The convoy was headed by a lead car at the front and three cars at the rear consisting of an ambulance with doctors and first aid, a maintenance car with tools and mechanics to tend minor problems and a tail car which makes sure nobody is left behind. The resorts were very nice with all comforts and luxuries as well as maintaining proximity to nature. So for a nature lover with a taste for adventure and love for driving, this event is an amazing experience to be part of.

Tata Jungle Experience sambar

Tata Jungle Experience sambar big

Tata Jungle Experience Xenon side

Tata Jungle Experience Xenon lights

Tata Jungle Experience sunset