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Resort Review: Chitvan Jungle Lodge, Madhya Pradesh

One of Kanha’s best kept secrets, Chitvan Jungle Lodge lets you soak in the rustic wilderness while keeping you snug. Sarita Santoshini loved it. 

I alight from a local bus at a small village called Mocha in Madhya Pradesh, looking around for the driver who is supposed to take me to the resort from there. Moments later, he greets me with a grin, quickly launching into a charged-up narrative of his tiger spotting efforts. “There’s a tiger lurking close by,” he breathes. His excitement is contagious.

We are more than 50 km away from the core zone of Kanha National Park, yet already seem to be quite close to it, with the concrete world left far behind. I take it as a sign from the wild, inviting me to hurry up and explore its territory.

Chitvan Jungle lodge

I reach Chitvan Jungle Lodge, a sprawling resort that lies nestled between the village of Samnapur and the buffer zone of Kanha, standing out from the wilderness that surrounds it. Spread across 14 acres, the jungle retreat has been thoughtfully conceptualised around the five elements of nature. Prithvi, Akash and Jal are the elements inspiring the design and décor of the 10 suites and 8 standard rooms, the Common Hall is inspired by Vayu, while the huge dining area and kitchen by the fifth element of Agni. I am ushered by the efficient and chirpy Manager, Ashwini Agarwal, into one of the four Prithvi suites, my abode for the next three days. Adorned in shades of green and beige, the walls are lined with framed photographs of predators staring back at me. Vintage mirrors reflect the golden sunbeams streaming in through a glass wall—a perfect space to catch up on both sleep and that half-read novel.

Chitvan Jungle lodge

 

Chitvan Jungle lodge

I am informed that I can have lunch either in the high ceiling dining room or in the garden area outside it. I, of course, choose the outdoors. The head chef, Aashish Kumar, spreads out a scrumptious meal made from fresh vegetables that grow in the organic farm surrounding my make-shift dining area. As I quickly indulge in the homely food, Ashwini fills me in about life in Kanha. He set up the resort in 2007, and it was not an easy go—the remote location presented quite a challenge! Today, that is a USP. Guests enjoy the technology-free experience that the resort offers. It helps that the 40 staff members belong to nearby villages, and bring with them a natural friendliness, which keeps guests happy.

Chitvan Jungle lodge

It is relaxing enough to spend all your time wandering around the lush property or playing with the resident German Shepherd puppies. But push sleep aside at 5:30 am, brave the cold and get yourself on a jeep. You will be too enticed by the green meadows and clear lakes to want to ride away from the enchanting Kanha National Park. I still feel a thrill running down my spine as I share stories about driving from dawn to dusk across narrow forest roads in search of tigers and leopards, and the moment of complete awe at finally having spotted these predators. If luck, however, keeps you from spotting one, you will still have generous sprinklings of the once-endangered Barasingha, Spotted Deer, Langur, Jungle Babbler and Spotted Dove to capture on your lens.

Chitvan Jungle lodge

Do go on a morning nature walk with the naturalist, Sanjay Thakre, pushing your way through dense forest cover, learning about spider webs and animal pug marks on your way. Cycling or walking across the neighbouring village of Samnapur, all the way to Bandha Tola, the main source of water in the area, is another interesting option. The village visit gives you glimpses into the life of the many tribes that reside together in the vicinity of the forest, relying on agriculture and wildlife tourism as their main source of income. These villagers willingly share gripping stories of close tiger encounters but brush away my concerns about safety. The forest has been their lifeline for generations, they say.

In the company of the locals and unspoilt nature in Chitvan, it is easy to lose track of time. Just don’t get too attached to the healing routine there—the one that involves waking up to the sound of bird songs and gazing at the stars before turning off the bed lamps at night. But the memories of the wild that you carry back, will definitely keep you whistling at your desk for a long time.

Chitvan Jungle lodge

Chitvan Jungle Lodge, Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh

www.chitvan.com

What are Some of the Best Camping Sites in India?

We took the question to Aloke Bajpai, Founder and Partner of The Explorers. A certified mountaineer and skier, Bajpai has also trained in river rafting. His advice:

Being a city dweller with not enough time for extended vacations, I find camping by a lake or in the woods with friends to be a perfect getaway. Fortunately, one is never too far from a great camping spot in India.

camping

Maharashtra, according to me, provides abundant camping opportunities that lie only kilometers away from the bounds of its capital city Mumbai. I have fond memories of a weekend in Tikona Fort that sits on a scenic hill and is accessible through an easy 45-minute trek. Once there, we had uninterrupted views of Pawana Dam and Tung Fort in the day and a clear sky for star gazing at night. Peth Fort in Karjat also makes for a great site owing to the presence of Peth village at the base and the ample open space available to pitch a tent at the top. Tandulwadi is another camping site located very close to Mumbai.

Tandulwadi Image: tandulwadi2013.blogspot.com
Tandulwadi Image: tandulwadi2013.blogspot.com

Those in Bangalore can drive to Madikeri in Coorg for a weekend of camping amidst coffee plantations or to Chikmagalur if you are looking for some adventure and great sunset views. The best experience, however, can be had in a camp site in Bheemeshwari where you can go for fishing, birding and wildlife spotting by the majestic Cauvery River.

Bheemeshwari Image: www.junglelodges.com
Bheemeshwari Image: http://www.junglelodges.com

From Delhi, you could drive to the hill station of Dhanaulti in Uttarakhand. There, you will find established camp sites on the meadows with a backdrop of the beautiful snow-capped Himalayas. If you are looking for some place even quainter, the valley of Rajgarh that lies 40 kilometres from Solan in Himachal Pradesh is the best option. Longer Himalayan expeditions like Parvati Valley trek and Chandratal trek also provide excellent camping opportunities.

Dhanaulti Image: www.packngo.in
Dhanaulti Image: http://www.packngo.in

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
• Study the map carefully to have an idea of where the motorable roads will lead you.
• When looking for a secluded spot, remember to ensure that there is a water body in the vicinity.
• If possible, camp close to a village that can provide you food as well as safety in case of any emergency.
• Check if your camping spot requires permission of the Forest Department.
• Reach the camping site at least 3 hours before sun down. Once there, get a clear perspective of the surroundings to be able to navigate later in the dark.
• Practise how to pitch a tent well in advance; remember to mark a snake pit around it and light a fire only at an adequate distance.
• Carry essentials like sleeping bag, a good torch, first-aid kit, adequate water, Swiss knife, as well as a stove and food supply if you plan to cook.

 Visit www.explorersindia.com to pick your adventure  trip!

Input: Sarita Santoshini

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