The 2.5-hour drive from Katni Railway Station to Kings Lodge in Bandhavgarh National Park was full of anticipation and excitement. It was the first time I was in Madhya Pradesh and the eagerness comes as a natural precursor to a new journey.

I reached in the darkness of the night and my first impression of Kings Lodge was their warm hospitality. Sure, the earthy decor is a successful distraction but the attentive staffers supersede it all.

The two following days were spent in jungle safaris and getting acquainted with the impeccable properties of Pugdundee Safaris. As a prominent and trusted name in the business of jungle lodges, they spoil their guests with luxuries of the spa, swimming pool, books on wildlife and ample of open spaces.

The landscape of Bandhavgarh.
The landscape of Bandhavgarh.

However, what I loved about Pugdundee was their attention to detail. Whether it was the artwork in the common spaces (most done by the local tribes) or the packed meals during the safaris, they leave no room for discomfort. During our morning and evening safaris, the breakfast and evening tea, respectively, were packed and served at designated, permitted pockets within the forest. The food was varied, wholesome and sufficient. We also got delicious chocolate muffins!

As all travels, my experience in Bandhavgarh also introduced me to new aspects of the place, people and life.

The kids I met in Racha.
The kids I met in Rancha.

The camera connects us

During my short visit to Rancha, a small village about a kilometre from Kings Lodge, a large number of villagers only spoke to me because I had a camera! It broke the ice and I grabbed the opportunity to chat with them on the pretext of taking their photos (which I did, of course).

Recycled wood is inescapably charming

While Pugdundee and conservation go hand-in-hand, it was commendable to know that most of the wood furnishings in Kings Lodge has been made from recycled wooden logs. These include the rustic tables, unique lights, chairs and wooden artefacts, amongst others.

The exquisite and unique decor.
The exquisite and unique decor.

Forests are therapeutic

Tala, zone 1 of the national park, is magnificent. The tall Sal forests, the brown earth rising to the sun and the isolated caves makes it an ideal green paradise.

A good naturalist can save the day

Even in a forest as substantial as Bandhavgarh, the experience can deter if the naturalist is not as instinctive. I would have missed the Grey Hornbill and the Oriental Honey Buzzard (both lifers) if not for Karan, my naturalist that day.

Driving past the mahout.
Meeting the mahout.

Treehouses are spectacular living spaces…

But a little frightening at night. Treehouse Hideaway, true to its name, has five rooms perched on five separate trees and named respectively i.e. Peepal, Tendu, Mahua, Palash and Banyan. But I must admit, waking up to the morning light through the leaves, with the birds’ chirp, will be right out of a fantasy story.

The Gond tribals have glowing smiles

Apart from being evidently shy, the Gond tribals of central India are popular for their traditional songs and dance. In the cultural performance they put together for us, I realised how most of them were hesitant to make eye contact. While I did eventually speak to a few others (at Kings Lodge and Rancha), a larger percentage of them continued to hide their words behind their infectious smiles.

High energy performance by the Gond dancers.
High energy performance by the Gond dancers.

Goals are not ultimate

Bandhavgarh is equivalent to the sighting of the Royal Bengal Tiger and there is enough and more pressure around this experience. This is so overpowering that often we miss the opportunity to enjoy a complete jungle safari, in one of the richest habitat and bio-diverse forests of the country.

Empathy makes a difference

When I was on my way to the Nagpur Airport, Pugdundee had packed a small box of everything yummy for my breakfast en route. This kind of clairvoyance is not only admirable but also worth inculcating.

Scrumptious lunch before we left for Kanha.
Scrumptious lunch before we left for Kanha.

Read: Realising Tiger Dreams

What are your lessons from the wild?

Note: I was invited by Pugdundee Safaris and as always, it did not influence my review.

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Amrita Das

I have been a travel and culture independent journalist. My bylines have appeared in many publications worldwide including National Geographic Traveller India, Lonely Planet Magazine India, The Indian Express and World Travel Magazine. A fellow of Media Ambassadors India-Germany 2019 program by Robert Bosch Stiftung and Centre for Media Competence, University of Tübingen. Currently, I am the photo editor for RoundGlass Sustain, a wildlife and conservation e-publication. I live in India.

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8 thoughts on “8 Things I Learnt in Bandhavgarh”

    1. I remember our talk while walking to the Treehouse. It was a beautiful trip :) Thank for stopping by, Ankita.

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