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.
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.
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.