My feelings were mixed as I read the mail that I had received from Pugdundee Safaris, a couple of months ago. ‘We invite you to spend a few days at our Kanha Earth Lodge,’ it said. I was thrilled at being given a chance to visit Madhya Pradesh, a place that I had always wanted to go to. I was apprehensive, too, for I was not a big fan of wildlife safaris, which I was invited to do as a part of the stay. Oh, I love watching wildlife in action on Discovery and the like, but I always thought such safaris were invasive of the privacy and space of wildlife. We enter their habitats, their jungles, which are fast disappearing anyways, and force them to pose for photographs and videos, don’t we? But then, I hadn’t been on any proper wildlife safaris, which the e-mail promised I would do in Kanha.
I decided to take up the trip, and see first-hand what the experience would be like. The OH and I set out for Nagpur, from where we would be driving down to Kanha. Little did I know as we started our trip that it would convert our hearts, and make us see exactly why wildlife tourism is important.
Over the next few posts, I will be telling you the stories of what we encountered on our stay at the Kanha Earth Lodge, our safaris into the Kanha National Park and the tiny villages of Madhya Pradesh. Today, I will give you nine good reasons to visit the Kanha Earth Lodge.
1. The decor is worth admiring.
Kanha Earth Lodge is not your typical luxury resort. It is an eco-lodge, built in a rustic yet artistic and modern way. The resort has 12 cottages, set in the midst of a small Gond village called Narna, adjacent to the buffer zone of the Kanha National Park. The furniture, the decor, the overall ambience of the lodge is inspired by the jungle and by village life.
The cottages are built on the lines of the huts of villagers, but equipped with all the necessities to ensure a comfortable stay. Much of the furniture and decor has been sourced from Narna and other adjacent villages. I loved how natural elements have been incorporated into the design to give the cottages an effortlessly minimalistic yet elegant look.
Each of the artifacts used in the lodge has either been carefully handpicked or handcrafted. Each one of them made me sigh and squeal with delight.
2. It is an eco-friendly lodge.
The lodge firmly believes in blending in with nature. From our conversations with the naturalists and other staff there, we understood that the lodge does its best to conserve the forest and the villages that it is surrounded by. It employs several staff members from the adjacent villages, and educates them on the importance of conservation of nature. Local artisans have been involved in the development of the lodge – for instance, the lanterns and cushions adorning the cottages have been prepared by the villagers. The foodgrains, vegetables, milk and milk products used every day for the guests are sourced from the locals. Locals are encouraged to share their cultural practices, traditions and way of life with the guests, so that awareness increases and economic benefit is generated.
There are a number of skylights built into the cottages, to ensure that ample sunlight flows in and the use of electricity can be minimised. The lodge also tries to use organic products in its day-to-day running, as far as possible. Its usage of plastic is as minimal as can be.
The lodge has won several awards for its eco-friendly initiatives.
3. The food is finger-licking delicious.
I licked my plate and fingers clean every single time I had a meal at Kanha Earth Lodge, and I am not exaggerating here. The variety of dishes served during our stay took us by surprise. Everything was cooked to perfection, and tasted wonderful. Straight-off-the-stove rotis, a different kind of curry and dal every single day, a unique soup daily, a different dessert after every meal, a different snack every evening – was it any wonder that we stopped by the kitchen to pay our compliments to the staff at the end of our stay there? We were not surprised to see other guests also doing the same.
I would so visit the place again, just for the food, I kid you not. That, and the warm and smiling service provided so effortlessly by the housekeeping staff.
4. For the safari!
Most guests visit Kanha Earth Lodge for the safari into the Kanha National Park. The lodge serves as a stop-over before and after their excursions into the forest. The safari was the highlight of our trip as well.
The lodge is located a few minutes’ drive away from the Park, quite convenient, considering that chances of animal spotting are great in the early mornings – as early as 5.30 AM. We went for a guided jeep safari twice and LOVED the experience. Did we succeed in spotting the Bengal tiger? You have to read the other posts in this series to find out! 🙂
5. It is a great spot to unwind.
Each cottage in Kanha Earth lodge has a private balcony, overlooking a maze of plants and trees, which have not been landscaped but left to grow at will, to resemble the forest. I fell in love with the balcony in our cottage, spending much of my time there. It is perfect for quiet contemplation, reading and writing. No sounds except for birds chirping and insects twittering = music to the ears of a city-jaded soul like me + a gradual unwinding of nerves that have been rendered tight by days of following a rigid schedule.
The reading nook in our cottage was another perfect spot to unwind, with its comfy window bed overlooking dense vegetation, again, with sunlight streaming in in great quantities. The pink-and-purple sunsets that you can spot from the lodge’s reception area can work wonders on your soul, as well.
We are not much of pool people, and hence, I don’t have much to say about the swimming pool at the lodge. We did see other families having great fun at the pool, which appeared to be very clean and well-maintained.
You can also have campfires on request, and have a relaxed evening talking your heart out to your loved ones.. Many people were doing just that at the lodge.
6. It is a wonderful spot to learn about flora and fauna.
You can easily spot a number of small animals, birds, reptiles and insects around the lodge, not to forget a variety of trees, plants and wildflowers. The lodge employs several nature guides and a couple of naturalists, who are more than happy to educate and guide you and share their extensive knowledge with you. For instance, we got to know that the tall, leafy plants that grew right outside our cottage were lemongrass plants, the leaves of which can heal tired bodies, fevers and achy limbs, if brewed into a tea. We also got to see a plant which gives out a sticky milk-like substance, which heals wounds when rubbed on them. We were introduced to the tendu patta, leaves which the villagers dry, fill with tobacco and roll up into bidis.
You can choose one of the cycles from the lot at the lodge and go around to the adjacent village on a nature trail, too. In fact, cycles are the only mode of transport to the village – the Gypsies there are used only for forest safaris. On request, a trained nature guide can accompany you on the trail.
We had several discussions with the naturalists there, which, I must say, were quite enlightening for us. We learnt how being a tiger is not as glamorous as it appears to be, and why it is not an easy job to do. We also learnt quite a bit about the tiger conservation efforts being undertaken by the Forest Department, which opened us up to a whole lot of ideas. These conversations have definitely upped our tiger quotient, and made us very much interested in more wildlife tourism. Fodder for another post, that is!
7.It presents wonderful photo-ops.
With its stunning design, beautiful artifacts and rich flora and fauna, it is needless to say that Kanha Earth Lodge is paradise for photography lovers. The lodge presents several wonderful opportunities to click-happy people (us, included) to click away. I was super-duper happy snapping away with my camera all through our stay at the lodge, and so was the OH.
8. The village life around the lodge is fascinating to watch.
The good people at the lodge had organised a village walk for us, on one of the days during our stay. A trained guide accompanied us as we cycled around Narna village, giving us a glimpse into the lifestyle and culture of the villagers. We found the lives of the villagers so simple and peaceful, in spite of the daily struggles that they would, inevitably, be facing. Life in a village is always therapeutic, when experienced from afar, I think, and this visit had the effect of soaking us in peace completely.
9. The market visit is another must-do.
Every Friday, Narna is home to a market which is participated in by the residents of four other adjacent villages. You can find a lot of interesting stuff in the market, if you are willing to hunt, including traditional silver and gold jewellery, eatables, mobile phones, pottery and what not. The lodge organises market visits on request, with the services of a trained guide included.
Thanks to a monster of a headache, I was in no position to cycle down to the market, but the OH did. He loved the experience, he said, and that I would have loved it too. Well, I now have a reason to visit the lodge once more!
I must mention here that our stay at the lodge was wonderful, and enlightening in more ways than one. Thank you for the opportunity, Pugdundee Safaris! Highly recommended.
How to reach the lodge: The nearest airports are Jabalpur, Raipur and Nagpur. You can hire a cab to take you to the lodge from the airport. Jabalpur is about a 3 hours’ drive away from the lodge, while Raipur and Nagpur are 5 hours’ and 7 hours’ drives away. The roads are quite bumpy, and parts of them become extremely difficult to navigate during the rains, a point that one should keep in mind while planning a visit.
Jabalpur and Gondia are the nearest railway stations. From the Gondia railway station, the lodge is a drive of 3 hours away.
Disclaimer: Part of our visit to Kanha Earth Lodge was sponsored by Pugdundee Safaris. The opinions expressed in this post are entirely mine.