Into the forest
There’s nothing like living in the middle of the jungle to feel close to Mother Nature. But for those who love their creature comforts like hot water showers, warm multi-course meals, attentive staff and high-thread count bed sheets, a jungle holiday may seem a tad too adventurous. There is, however, no reason to fret. You can choose from a number of safari lodges and jungle resorts spread across the country that are located deep in the jungles, follow RT practices and know a thing or two about luxury! Here are 11 such luxury jungle stays:
1. Denwa Backwater Escape, Satpura, Madhya Pradesh
Pugdundee Safaris’ 10-acre forested Denwa Backwater Escape is separated from the Satpura National Park by the Denwa River. A boat ride is all it takes for a traveller to get to the Park and its wealth of flora and fauna, including Sloth Bear, Black Buck, Four Horned Antelopes, Crocodile, Malabar Squirrel (this is its northernmost habitat), Leopards and the Tiger. The Lodge offers eight cottages and two tree houses, all with stunning views of the River. The cottages have large picture windows, so you can take in the beautiful views while relaxing on your bed. In-house naturalists and guides take the guests on walking, boat and jeep safaris into the Park. Also on offer are night safaris, cycling, camping and kayaking.
2. Diphlu River Lodge, Kaziranga, Assam
Located on the edges of the Kaziranga National Park, the eco-lodge is set on the banks of the Diphlu River and almost seamlessly merges into the surrounding jungles. Guests stay in one of the 12 stilt-cottages built from locally sourced bamboo, wood and thatch in the traditional style of the Mishing tribe of Assam. The cottages are luxurious and fit for royalty—the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Catherine Middleton, stayed here in 2016. Here you are in the heart of the jungle—watching birds and animals having a drink of water from the River while you enjoy a delicious Assamese lunch on the deck of the restaurant, Machan. The National Park is right at the Lodge’s doorsteps and the wetlands offer a rich habitat for hundreds of species of birds, mammals and reptiles. The Lodge’s in-house team of naturalists, mostly from local villages, will ensure you have a fruitful safari experience.
3. Kipling Camp, Kanha, Madhya Pradesh
No fence separates the low-impact 25-acre Kipling Camp from the surrounding forest, which is part of Kanha National Park’s buffer zone. A guest here becomes, in a way, a part of the forest—unobtrusively watching the shenanigans of the jungle’s true residents, from deer and babblers to leopards and tigers. Apart from safaris at the National Park, guests at this almost four-decade-old property can go birding, visit nearby villages and local markets and experience the songs and dances of Baiga artists at the Camp.
4. Svasara Jungle Lodge at Tadoba, Maharashtra
Svasara, which means ‘nest’ in Sanskrit, is a conservation-focused lodge offering just 12 luxurious rooms in 10-acres of land near the Kolara Gate of the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra. Svasara’s owners had taken a land devastated by intensive farming and overgrazing and under constant pressure from the mining industry, and turned it into a sanctuary of indigenous jungle trees and plants. Over the last few years, Svasara’s team has planted over two thousand jungle trees and plants and are growing a nursery of thousands more. There are numerous nature-focused activities that guests at Svasara can indulge in, like jungle safaris and naturalist-led walks with a focus on birding and butterfly observations.
5. The Sarai at Toria, near Panna, Madhya Pradesh
This eight-room eco-lodge is set on the banks of the Ken River close to the Panna National Park and the temples of Khajuraho. The ethnic-chic and spacious cottages are made of packed mud and bamboo ensuring the rooms are always comfortably cool. Safaris at Panna and trips to Khajuraho are easily done from the lodge and the Sarai will arrange knowledgable local guides and naturalists. Travellers can also choose from a wide range of nature-based and cultural experiences from bird watching and village walks to yoga and cooking demos. But, the best experience at the Sarai is the boat ride on the Ken. From the boat you get to see birds of all sizes and hues, from cormorants to eagle owls. Do watch out for the crocodiles that might come up to get a good look at the guests to their abode.
6. Khem Villas, Ranthambore, Rajasthan
The jungle is right at your cottage’s doorstep at Khem Villas, with animals ranging from deer and porcupines to tigers and crocodiles ensuring they make full use of the property’s grounds whenever they feel like it. In fact, there is a strict no-wandering-at-night policy here and for good reason. The 25-acre property lies close to the Ranthambore National Park and less than one percent of the land has built structures; apart from the main building there are 13 tents and eight cottages. The rest is mostly forest and water bodies, all manmade, as this was mostly barren wasteland in the past.
7. Flame of the Forest, Kanha, Madhya Pradesh
Located on the banks of the River Banjar just outside Kanha National Park’s buffer zone, Flame of the Forest offers just four intimate cottages in its 10-acre property. Built in the local style, the cottages have eighteen-inch-thick brick walls, plastered in mud and cow dung and coated with white limestone, which provides excellent insulation from heat and cold and acts as a natural insect repellent. Done up comfortably, with a verandah and courtyard and with many seating niches, the walls are embossed with friezes of vines and flowers. The striking features are the outdoor but secluded shower area and the outdoor day bed. The day bed is likely to become a favourite spot for listening to the calls of the wild or to count the stars at night.
8. Spice Village, Thekkady, Kerala
CGH Earth’s Spice Village is a stone’s throw away from the Periyar National Park. Trees and plants dominate the 14-acre property on which just 52 thatched roof cottages have been built. You do not even have to leave the grounds to go enjoy the bounty of nature—a naturalist-led walk in the grounds will serve as a crash course about the flora and fauna that are found here including the Malabar Giant Squirrel. Trekking through the Periyar Tiger Reserve with forest guides drawn from the local tribal communities is among the highlights of a stay here. Coming back to a meal of delicious local dishes like muringaela (drumstick leaf) coconut soup, pot-roasted pork chops, mutton curry, honey baked yogurt and chakka varatti makes a stay here even better!
9. Evolve Back Kuruba Safari Lodge, Kabini, Karnataka
Located right on the banks of the Kabini River, the Kuruba lodge affords great views of the river and the surrounding forests. The thatched roof cottages here that resemble the local tribal village homes are luxurious affairs with designated living, dining and sleeping areas and large bathrooms. All rooms, including the bathrooms, have large picture windows so a guest doesn’t have to really step out to enjoy the glorious views. The forests and the river, right on the resort’s doorsteps, ensure that guests can pick and choose from a variety of wildlife-focused activities, ranging from boat safaris to nature walks, all helmed ably by in-house naturalists.
10. Mela Kothi – The Chambal Safari Lodge, Jarar, Uttar Pradesh
The Mela Kothi, built by zamindaars of yore, is located right in the heart of Chambal. The Chambal 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. At Mela Kothi, guests can go on boat, camel and jeep safaris into the protected zone and excursions to the nearby heritage towns, temples and villages.
11. Elephant Valley Eco Farm Lodge, near Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu
Set in a 100-acre bio-diverse plantation just 20km from the beautiful hill town of Kodaikanal, the Dune Wellness Group’s Elephant Valley Eco Farm Lodge is a perfect blend of nature and creature comforts. It is the last settlement on the border of the National Forest that extends into wildlife sanctuaries of Kerala. The surrounding jungles are home to hundreds of native birds along with leopards, deer, bison and the elephants that give this property its name. There are just 20 bungalows on this property, each unique and secluded. The plantation grounds are a joy to explore. There are a number of nature trails within and outside the property boundaries on which to observe wildlife. The Shola forests, the pride of the Palani Hills, are as worthy of wonder as the wild animals. From wild orchids to ageless palms, there is a wondorous plant world right at your cottage’s doorsteps.