Within 30 minutes of entering The Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge, we have seen three tigers. There’s a painted portrait of the big cat by the reception, a miniature brass sculpture on the door to my villa, and a gorgeous, life-size mural of Shere Khan in my bathroom, just above the wooden treasure chest that holds the hand towels, face towels, and fluffy full-body towels. A few feet from the chest in the spacious bathroom, is a glass door that leads to an al fresco porch with a bathtub surrounded by bamboo plants. It’s the perfect place to unwind after a dusty evening safari. Better still, the tub is large enough for two.
Like our room, the rest of The Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge is designed to deliver a luxurious and immersive experience of the outdoors. The resort has a mix of villas, chalets, and rooms, and is a 10-minute drive from the Korala Gate of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, spread over 1,700 square kilometres in eastern Maharashtra. The tiger is the star attraction of the national park, and of the lodge. There are stripes everywhere: on the upholstery, on the covers of photo books in the library, even on the paved paths that connect the villas in the lodge. Breakfast at the lodge is served on an outdoor deck with a view of the village lake and its many inhabitants— kingfishers, cormorants, egrets— swooping in and out of the water. Buffet lunches are laid out in the handsome dining room, which has a vibrant wall mural of leopards, sambar, and langurs. At tea time, guests are encouraged to go up to the machan, which has sweeping views of the lake, cotton fields, and villages nearby.
The Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge is a 10-minute drive from Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra, home to big cats like the tiger and leopard, and smaller creatures like the bee-eater bird. Photo: Neha Sumitran
Keen to see the animals in the flesh, we rose early on Saturday for the morning safari, with our guide Akshay, the resort’s chirpy naturalist from Bengaluru. Wrapped snugly in blankets in our souped-up safari jeep, we watched shades of pink creep into the inky sky, and the forests of Tadoba slowly come to life. Unlike jungles along the Western Ghats, Tadoba barely has any green in the months preceding the monsoon. We drove past swathes of platinum-blonde grass on mud tracks the colour of rust, scanning the bamboo thickets on either side for pug marks, birds, and other animals. Within the first hour, we saw a handsome barasingha male, a sloth bear digging into a termite hill, and a peacock trying (and failing) to woo two unimpressed peahens by a waterbody.
For breakfast, we parked near a forest guest house in the national park, in the raucous company of jungle crows that seemed to have much to chatter about. In jeeps around us, families sipped from juice boxes, munched on sandwiches, and examined the photos they’d taken on their cameras. Everybody was caked in dust, just a little bit sweaty (the sun is fierce after 9 a.m.), and looked as happy as the squirrels running up and down the trees.
The following day, we were lucky enough to encounter the star of Tadoba: Maya the tigress and her three cubs rolling around like puppies. The animal sightings were thrilling, of course, but just being in the forest, far from the city’s blaring horns, WhatsApp notifications, and decisions about bills, meals, and meetings, was rejuvenating. We returned to the resort ravenous and beaming from the morning’s experience.
Meals at The Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge are rather elaborate buffet spreads, with lots of North Indian fare. The kitchen serves up an especially good jungli maas (mutton cooked in red chillies and ghee) and a variety of crisp, tandoori parathas, with generous lashings of butter.
Most guests spend their mornings on safaris, and their evenings discussing tiger (right) and deer sightings at the resort’s outdoor restaurant (left) over meals of indulgent North Indian fare. Photos: Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge (restaurant); Neha Sumitran (tiger)
Lunch is generally the heaviest, designed to ensure that guests nap for a while after, which is exactly what we did. We woke up in time for a long soak in the tub, and spent the rest of the evening stargazing while lying on our backs on the grassy porch of our villa.
By early Sunday evening, when we had to leave to catch our flight back to Mumbai, we were relaxed, refreshed, and ready to take on the urban jungle we call home.
Appeared in the April 2016 issue as “Wild Remedies”.
The Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge is 7 km/10 min from the Kolara Gate of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in eastern Maharashtra. It is 115 km/2 hr from Nagpur, which has the closest airport. Mumbai is a 90-min flight from Nagpur. The closest railway station is Warora, 40 km/1 hr by road.
The Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge has lakeside villas ideal for couples, and chalets with connecting rooms that are suited to families with children. The rooms in the chalet can be individually reserved. All accommodation is luxurious. The lakeside villa has a four-poster bed, and a porch. The roomy bathroom has a rain-shower cubicle (great for a hot, post-safari shower), a counter of Kama bath products, and an open-to-sky bathtub. The Bamboo Forest Safari Lodge does not serve alcohol. (www.bambooforest.in; doubles from ₹20,000, including all meals; safari costs extra.) Between 30 June-30 Sept (monsoon), safaris run only when weather conditions permit.
loves exploring food markets or better still, foraging for new kitchen ingredients. She hopes to have a farm near the mountains someday. She tweets and instagrams as @nehasumitran.
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