Glamorous Getaway: Roughing it Out in Style at Jamtara Wilderness Camp

Grasslands can be groovy too.  
Jamtara Wilderness Camp, Madhya Pradesh
Jamtara Wilderness Camp’s Star Beds are a glamorous twist on the machans farmers sleep on in the middle of their fields at night. Photo Courtesy: Jamtara Wilderness Camp

Since I was a child, I’ve considered the grasslands a sinister place. It’s probably the result of dozens of trips to Jim Corbett National Park, during which my mother told stories of tigers and other dangers lurking among the tall grasses. Unlike trees, which very obviously have hiding spots, grasslands are beguiling spaces. They can usher an animal in with their soft undulating movements in the breeze, only to spring a nasty surprise.

So, I was a little taken aback when my luxury tent at Jamtara Wilderness Camp, near Pench National Park’s Jamtara gate, turned out to be surrounded by a sea of beige grasses as high as my waist. I swallowed back the sudden uneasiness I felt, and followed my husband down the snaking path that led to our home for two nights. Ignoring the grass brushing against my sides, I focused instead on that tree in the distance from which I could hear a bird whistling, and gurgle of the stream that ran just beside the tent.

This was my first experience of glamping, and I must confess I was surprised by the number of comforts that can be crammed inside a structure that, come monsoon, can be disassembled and packed away. In one corner was a wooden desk, stocked with writing paper and a stack of postcards with colourful tiger motifs. Besides the bed, the tent also has a sofa in a corner with an inviting pile of soft cushions, an antique-style oval mirror, and bright rugs covering the wooden floor. The only permanent part of the set-up is the bathroom, in which everything is stored during the monsoon.

Jamtara Wilderness Camp, Madhya Pradesh

Luxury tents at Jamtara Wilderness Camp are surrounded by a sea of beige grasses. Photo Courtesy: Jamtara Wilderness Camp

In the lethargy that crept up on us in the heat of the afternoon, we flopped on the beds, not asleep but not quite awake. Small details flitted in and out of focus. The gleaming slimy underside of a snail creeping up the tent flap. The loud buzzing of a bee somewhere beyond it, just out of sight. The tiny purple flower atop a nodding frond of grass. A warm wind blew in, rustling through the grass and carrying indecipherable whispers to our ears. When I woke up in the early evening, the grassland seemed like a less intimidating space.

Besides embarking on jeep safaris into Pench, visitors to Jamtara can stroll through the village the camp is named after. Plump gourds grew on vines that climbed up whitewashed walls and onto tiled roofs of the single-storey cottages. Their courtyards overflowed with corn cobs turning into a shade of orange as they dried in the sun.

Pench National Park, Madhya Pradesh

The tents are a great base for safari excursions into Pench National Park. Photo Courtesy: Jamtara Wilderness Camp

Our guide from the camp waved out to several people we passed; many of the men from the village work as guides and drivers in the national park. They told us tales of tigers that creep out of the jungle in the cover of the night, and prowl on rooftops and back alleys in search of easy prey like poultry and cattle.

Back at the camp, we settled into chairs around a bonfire that’s organised most winter evenings. Snacks and drinks made the rounds as we exchanged stories of animal sightings in the park with other guests in the light of the dancing flames. When we went in for dinner, the dining room’s rustic décor caught my eye. The floor is made from scrap wood, the walls have a rough, bumpy finish, and the dining table is fashioned from a long cross-section of a tree trunk, with all its natural twists.

For a special experience, guests can opt for a night on the Star Bed, and sleep on a raised platform under the stars. But honestly, it is not necessary to opt for anything extra to feel special. The camp’s staff made us feel that way all the time with thoughtful little flourishes. Like the hot water bottle tucked into the blankets that awaited us in the safari jeep, and the candlelit tea they surprised us with when we returned from an evening walk.

ESSENTIALS

Getting There Jamtara Wilderness Camp is located near Pench National Park’s Jamtara gate, a 1.5-hour drive from the park’s better known Seoni entrance. It is 208 km/4.5 hr southwest of Jabalpur and 150 km/3 hr north of Nagpur, the nearest airport.

Accommodation Jamtara Wilderness Camp has 10 tents on a 10-acre property bookended by two streams. The landscape is a mix of grassland and trees. There’s no television, Wi-Fi, and limited phone signal, giving visitors an opportunity to disconnect from their routines. Tents are bright and airy, with forest-facing porches.  (91906 18805; www.jamtarawilderness.com; doubles from Rs 39,501; including all meals, two safaris, buffer zone and village walks; lodge open mid-October to mid-May).

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    Neha Dara is the former Deputy Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She is happiest trotting off the beaten path, trekking in the Himalayas, scuba diving in Andaman & Nicobar, or exploring local markets in small towns. She tweets as @nehadara.

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