The Chambal is the stuff of legends, with its maze like ravines having been home to many a rebel and brigand over the years. What better place to bring these stories alive than in a heritage safari lodge set in sprawling reclaimed woodlands close to the meandering Chambal River. The Mela Kothi, built by zamindaars of yore, is located right in the heart of Chambal. The surrounding country is ancient. Dry and arid in parts, the area has bursts of greenery where the Chambal River and the nearby Yamuna flow. The River and the lack of industrial development in the region have ensured rich biodiversity with the Gangetic River dolphin, gharials and marsh crocodiles making their home in the Chambal’s waters. Hundreds of species of birds too can be found in the National Chambal Sanctuary, a protected area that covers a 400km stretch of the Chambal River and between one and six kilometre swathe of ravines on either side.
The Mela Kothi is the ideal redoubt from where to make forays into the National Chambal Sanctuary. The owners, who are descendants of the zamindaar who built the lodge, will arrange for boat, camel and jeep safaris into the protected zone and excursions to the nearby heritage towns, temples and villages. The Lodge, open only from October to April, is a thing of beauty. The rooms are large and airy, kitted out in bright and comfortable furniture and furnishings, and most have verandahs attached. Large courtyards and gardens make the lodge a cosy haven.