If you’ve beaten a path from bed to desk and painted imaginary pictures on the walls of your home office for the last couple of months, we’re right there with you. But the good news is that things are slowly, carefully opening up in the outside world, including wilderness retreats! It’s still prudent to be careful and keep your distance. Still, we’re glad to return to some semblance of normalcy.
To celebrate, we’ve hunted high and low for wilderness retreats that let you trade concrete jungles for the real ones. And there’s no better place to do that than in Madhya Pradesh. National parks in Tiger Town are now open and waiting for you. Read on!
This stunning jungle lodge conveniently rubs shoulders with the Satpura National Park, which is one of the largest tiger reserves in the country. Nature defines and complements this property — the cottages are luxurious yet blend in beautifully with the surroundings. The rest of the area displays similar respect and appreciation for being literally in the lap of nature.
There’s water, there’s land, and then there’s the forest — what more do you need by way of an escape? Denwa Backwater Escape looks out to the backwaters of the eponymous river, across the banks from the Satpura National Park. It’s surreal to imagine that, despite the luxury and the mod cons of the property, the wild, wild world is only a boat ride away. From your rooms, you’ll be treated to mesmerising views of the river as well as the grasslands and the undulating hills.
Forsyth Lodge welcomes all naturalists, ecologists, travellers and wildlife enthusiasts into their eco-conscious jungle lodge at the edge of Satpura Tiger Reserve. We love that they’ve used only 10% of their land for the lodge, leaving the rest untouched and ripe for exploration. They’ve curated some fantastic wildlife experiences — we’re intrigued by the Forsyth and Pachmarhi trails, which trace the footsteps of Captain James Forsyth of the Bengal Lancer, 150 years later.
Plumb on the border of Kanha National Park is Kipling Camp. It was set up way back in 1982 by a family of conservationists. The experience, as a result, is personal and steeped in history and a shared love of nature. They are heralds of responsible tourism, balancing local communities and wildlife preservation with hospitality and know-how. Kipling is also a great place for families with young children who are being immersed in India’s natural heritage for the first time ever. You won’t find TVs or a pool here, but you will find peace of mind. We think that’s worth the trade.
This luxury lodge packs it all. Mod cons and creature comforts mingle respectfully with natural surroundings that are as beautiful as they are humbling. It’s very close to the eponymous Bori Wildlife Sanctuary, which is seeing a growing population of the big striped cats with every passing day. Check off safaris and wildlife experiences from your list. Once done, there are a plunge pool and a de-stressing spa to soak off the dirt and grime of the wild.
Luxury Shikhar tents are pitched along the shores of a lake in Bagh Villas, on the border of Kanha National Park. Each air-conditioned tent has a private verandah that spills out onto the gorgeous surroundings. Birdwatchers will find no shortage of birds flitting between verdant trees; adventurers had best embark on a curated safari expedition through the very same jungles immortalised in Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’. As if that wasn’t enough, there are biking trails to explore as well as a spa and a pool to relax in.
This jungle resort artfully manages that delicate balance between modern comforts and respectful coexistence. The TOFTigers-certified eco-friendly resort is perched at the doorstep of the Panna National Park, close to Khajuraho. They have a curated list of experiences that has the usual suspects — safaris, birdwatching and nature walks. But, surprisingly, they also have pottery, boating and angling on the list of things to do. In that sense, Tendu Leaf is both an escape into the wild as well as a break from the mundane and day-to-day.
This 40-acre property is home to ‘kutiya’ hut-style suites scattered about, complete with handmade roof tiles and private porches. But arguably the best drawcard of this wildlife stay is the fact that you get to choose a regular 4×4 or a literal (kindly treated) elephant for your jaunt in the jungle. If you visit during the right months, you might spot a tiger or two in the neighbouring Bandhavgarh Reserve. You can borrow cycles to wander off on your own a short distance away; the surrounding area is also a birdwatcher’s paradise so pack your binoculars.
Okay, we cheated — this wildlife conservation organisation is technically based in Mumbai. But their projects and experiences in Bandhavgarh, Panna, and Kanha reserves make them worth adding to this list. If you’re keen on immersing yourself in the communities who are formidable gatekeepers of these natural treasures, sign up for one of their many walks and interactions programmes. It’s a wonderful way to see India’s natural bounty from the perspective of those who live in harmony with it. You can also learn the ropes from them.
If you pick any of these Madhya Pradesh wilderness retreats to escape to, let us know! Brownie points if you take photos and tag us on social media @Urbanaut_ because we’d love to (re)share your joy.
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