Many of India’s wildlife lodges offer an immersive, diverse and highly rewarding experience, with naturalists to rival any found in India. Here we list our personal go-to favourites in the 10 wildlife parks we recently blogged about. A collection of superb properties, each of which has the common thread of having a highly sustainable ethic at the very heart of their being. From 5* uber deluxe lodges to glamorous and chic tented camps to family owned and run properties who offer a home away from home in the Indian jungles, there is something for everyone.
SUJAN Sherbagh, Ranthambore National Park
One of the original tented wildlife camps in India, SUJÁN Sherbagh is located on the family estate of the Singh family who established this delightful and authentic wildlife lodge in Ranthambore. Exuding an old world, Raj-era atmosphere, the 12 luxurious white canvassed tents really capture a bygone era. Enjoy evenings around the camp fire, comparing sightings with fellow guests, tuck into delicious Raj-style lunches and delectable Indian dinners and then sink into your canopy bed, surely one of the most comfortable beds in Rajasthan. If you are feeling particularly extravagant opt for the uber-romantic Royal Burra Suite, with its private, heated swimming pool and your own butler, who will cater to your every need. When you can drag yourself away from your stunning accommodation, you will be accompanied into the park by expert naturalists, who have over 40 years of experience in the jungles of Ranthambore. Visit the 8th Century Ranthambore Fort, maybe with a picnic lunch. It’s important to point out that alongside the elegant luxury you’ll enjoy at Sherbagh, is a deep commitment to sustainability and conservation, which is deeply ingrained in the philosophy of the SUJAN resorts. Operating in an environmentally conscious way at every level of the business – is at the heart of the SUJÁN ethos.
Shergarh, Kanha National Park
Located in a much less developed side of the park, Shergarh is one of the most eco-friendly resorts in Kanha. With just 6 luxury, yet environmentally-conscious tents, on 20 acres of reforested land, Katie and Jehan have created something very special here. The couple are very passionate about ensuring that they have as little negative impact on the environment, and as positive an impact on the local community, the Gond and Baiga tribals, the original guardians of the forest, as possible. The atmosphere is most definitely informal, and the charm of the property lies in the home from home atmosphere that the owners, along with their two children, have created.
The resident naturalist, Raj, has been with them for the 15 years they have been operating, and his knowledge and passion is obvious from the off. As well as being totally in tune with the movements of the tiger, he will also bring the rest of the forest’s flora and fauna alive. Kanha has a healthy tiger population, as well as leopards, sloth bear, dhole (wild dog) and over 300 species of birds. Katie and Jehan encourage their guests to experience local life by either walking or cycling through the villages or visiting the colourful, bustling tribal markets, which are so integral to local life in Kanha.
Taj Mahua Kothi, Bandhavgarh National Park
Mahua Kothi is a Taj wildlife property, and exudes all the attention to detail and service that one would expect from the Taj Group. The 12 luxury cottages known as ‘Kutiyas’ are constructed in the traditional way using mud and daub to blend with the surroundings in an attempt to recreate a village feel. Each room has a private courtyard to enjoy chilling out in between game drives, and the rooms feature large bathtubs for a welcome soak in the chillier winter months. In keeping with all the Taj wilderness properties, the naturalists are a superb wealth of knowledge, and the Taj jeeps offer the best and most comfortable viewing opportunities in India. Bandhavgarh has one of the densest tiger populations of all the parks in India, however it also has sloth bears, deer, leopards, dhole (wild dogs) and 250 species of birds. Join the expert naturalists for a nature trail and bird watching walk in and around the 45 acres of wilderness the lodge is located on, or join them for evening stargazing forays and village visits. Guests at Mahua Kothi will be spoiled for choice by the dining options available in the evenings – from candlelit dinners under the great Mahua tree to private dining in a guestroom courtyard to their Chaupal Village Style Dining Experience, where an intimate table is set up for guests, a bonfire with charpoys for relaxing, is arranged.
Forsyth’s Lodge, Satpura National Park
Named after the British officer, James Forsyth, who established the Forest Department in Central India, Forsyth’s is located on 40 acres of reclaimed jungle, a small stylish lodge set within 44 acres of wildlife filled jungle sitting on the edge of Satpura National Park. The 12 luxury cottages have been constructed using local materials and traditional methods, and they blend seamlessly into the surrounding environment. The focus of Forsyth’s is very much upon offering a highly considered, sustainable wildlife stay for guests. From the construction of the rooms and living areas, to the wildlife interactions and the emphasis on supporting local communities, Forsyth’s is a very holistic approach to wildlife tourism. They have a young and highly passionate team of expert naturalists, who conduct excellently guided jeep safaris where leopards and sloth bear are the main attraction. Forsyth’s offers much more than just jeep safaris, with Satpura being one of the few national parks in India where walking safaris are permitted within the park boundaries. The early morning or sunset boat rides on the Denwa River are also a super way to experience the beauty of this park. Forsyth’s also organise overnight camping in the buffer zone and have a fabulous Junior Rangers Programme for families with kids who are really keen on learning more about nature and wildlife.
Diphlu River Lodge, Kaziranga National Park
Without doubt Diphlu River Lodge is Kaziranga’s best accommodation. It’s located on the doorstep of the park entrance, and sits on the banks of the Diphlu River. Offering 12 stilted bungalow accommodation with thatched roofs in traditional Assamese style, this is a simple yet very stylish eco-lodge. Each bungalow has a private balcony which in between safaris offers a wonderful spot to spend lazy days. The lodge has no fencing and has been purposefully designed to blend seamlessly into its green surroundings while their in-house team of weavers from neighbouring villages are responsible for all the woven objects of the lodge. The emphasis on responsible tourism is one of the reasons it is our favourite lodge in Kaziranga – they have their own organic farm, the staff are all mainly from surrounding villages and they have a great recycling programme. The lodge’s naturalists are wonderfully trained to accompany guests into the park where one horned rhinos, elephants, tigers and a myriad of birds are the highlights. As well as wildlife safaris we highly recommend you spend time exploring the local area – take a river safari on the mighty Bhramaputra and perhaps if lucky spot river dolphins, or visit local tribal villages or one of the many tea estates that abound in the region.
Evolve Back Kabini, Nagarhole National Park
Inspired in design by ancient tribal villages, this picturesque lodge gives you a wildlife experience like no other. Located on the banks of the Kabini River, Evolve Back Kabini allows you to get close to the spirit of a land that is steeped in tribal folklore and cultures that are still very much practiced today. A range of great activities based on your activity level are available, set against this wetland which is abundant in wildlife. Being in such close proximity to Nagarhole National Park will allow you sightings elephants and, if very lucky, the very elusive tigers and leopards, in what is considered to be one of India’s most beautiful and pristine national parks. The park is well known for the beautiful black panther which is also often seen by lucky guests. Evolve Back offer a great number of activities from the expected game drives, to nature walks, boat safaris and traditional coracle rides on the Kabini and when all you want to do is relax they have their Ayurveda Spa where you can enjoy a simple rejuvenation massage or get more in depth with a therapeutic treatments package.
Mary Budden Estate, Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary
Mary Budden Estate is a true hidden gem, located at 8000ft in the very heart of beautiful Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary in the Kumaon hills of Uttarakhand. It is an ideal escape from hectic city life, and is a haven for birders. The estate dates back 150 years, and was run by Mary Budden as a school and hostel for orphaned children. In 2011 it was opened as a chic, boutique homestay by photographer Serena Chopra, who has created a stylish, yet cosy mountain hideaway. Binsar has miles upon miles of nature trails though rhododendron forest (particularly stunning in March when the flowers are in their full glory), and is a place where you can truly get back to nature. Spend time ticking off some of the 250+ birds that reside in the sanctuary and of course sit and wonder at the breathtaking views of the snowcapped Nanda Devi Himalayan Range, which gleam in the distance.
The estate has two bungalows: Mary Budden’s Cottage is the original structure and has 3 charming bedrooms, while the newly built Rhododendron Cottage has 5 romantic rooms and a shared living room, and each bungalow is perfect for a small group retreat or a family or friends travelling together. The estate has plenty of spacious sit outs, where you can sit and enjoy the sound of bird song, take in the views and breathe in the cool, refreshing air. The cold evenings are a perfect excuse to get a bonfire going, and to retire at the end of the day to a room with a roaring open fire. Chef prepares delectable meals with homegrown vegetables, salads and herbs, and their breads and pastries are to die for – making high tea a real treat.
Taj Bagh Van, Pench National Park
Bagh Van’s spacious, rustic standalone suites are perfectly attuned to the concept of luxury in the heart of wilderness. These contemporary-style bungalows each has a large courtyard, private shaded sit-outs, outdoor showers and a romantic rooftop sleep-out on a private machan, or jungle platform. A very unique and romantic experience.
As with all Taj Wilderness properties your safari experiences will be exceptional, with their highly knowledgable and enthusiastic naturalists, who will ensure you really make the most of the entire jungle experience, from the tiger to the smallest insect, they will bring the entire spectrum of the forest alive for you. Bagh Van offers a wide range of interesting and varied experiences outside of the park, so even for those who are not all about the wildlife, will be happily occupied. Visit the Alikatta Elephant camp where the elephants which patrol the park and their mahouts live. Cycle or walk through Turia Village, past lush fields and find yourself at the tranquil Kohka Lake. Ask the hotel to organise a picnic hamper and watch the waterbirds as the setting sun colours the sky hues of orange. There is an excellent junior ranger programme, for adventurous youngsters with a love for all things wild.
The Sarai by Toria, Panna National Park
With just 8 comfortable, rustic rooms Sarai at Toria is the creation of Joanna and Raghu who run this charming, environmentally sensitive wildlife lodge in Panna National Park. With Joanna’s background as a conservationist and Raghu’s background in conservation biology the property has been sensitively designed blending in with the tall grassland and overlooking the the Ken River. This is definitely a home away from home stay, with delicious home cooked meals, taken communally, which is the perfect time to swap stories of the day’s adventures in the park. Its riverside location also allows for dawn or dusk boat trips which are highly rewarding for ornithologists and those who just want to enjoy a tranquil sunrise or sunset on one of India’s most pristine waterways. Joanna and Raghu encourage guests to visit the local village of Toria to see experience Indian rural life, and there are bicycles on site for the more active. If guests want a break from wildlife then just half an hour away are the UNESCO World Heritage Khajuraho Temple complex
SUJAN Jawai, Jawai
The ultimate in luxury camping in India, Sujan Jawai offers classic, elegant accommodation for guests who want to experience one of Rajathan’s most magical wildlife experiences. The tents are spacious, luxurious, bright and colourful with wide canopies, sumptuous beds and all tents have wraparound verandas for enjoying the views of the surrounding countryside. The interiors are sophisticated, with a beautifully blended mix of contemporary and Out-of-Africa style. The Royal Tent offers unparalleled luxury with a private, heated swimming pool, private butler and a private jeep for all your game drives into the wilderness. The camp also has a dining tent, a lounge tent, a spa offering wellness therapies and treatments and a swimming pool. Located between Jodhpur and Udaipur, the Jawai Bandh (reservoir) is making a name for itself as one of the best places in India to see leopard – but this is a wildlife experience with a difference. A rural environment where leopards and humans co-exist in harmony. The local Rabari community, distinctive with their bright red turbans, are a pastoralist community who have lived peacefully alongside the leopards for generations. When not exploring the surrounds by jeep, we highly recommend either doing a guided walk with Rabari guides, through the rugged, rocky landscape and through their villages, visiting local temples or explore the area by cycle. We can guarantee you that by the end of the day you’ll be well rewarded with a delectable meal and chilled glass of your favourite tipple round the camp fire.