Three distinctively unique lodges that we recommend as real gems in the Indian jungles of Kanha.
If you’re travelling to Kanha National Park in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh – the so called ‘Tiger State’ – there are numerous choices of jungle lodge that almost litter the roadside near both Kisli and Mukki entrance gates.
In our opinion Kisli gate has now become overcrowded with both lodges and people queuing in jeeps to enter the park – and whilst Mukki gate can still be busy, for us, it’s the better choice currently if you’re going to stay at Kanha.
The choice of gate still doesn’t solve the problem of where to stay, as there are numerous choices and standards of accommodation.
We’ve made our simple selection of three camps based on type and style of accommodation and more importantly the welcome and personality of both camp and personnel – it’ll make such a difference to your level of enjoyment.
Two of our camps are under canvas and one within a cottage style, which in itself might bias your choice.
Nevertheless there’s a lot of difference between the old Shikhar, or hunter’s tent with its hot and cold running reptiles and that of the tastefully equipped and completely comfortable accommodation on offer here.
Judge for yourself.
Singanawe Jungle Lodge – Cottage style
This well established series of luxury lodges and bungalows radiate from the central reception and dining lodge. We know Singanawe of old, when under different ownership and are impressed how the standards have continued whilst its warmth and friendliness has bloomed into a thoroughly genuine welcome and enduring standard of care.
Unusually, for a lodge that we recommend, the owner doesn’t live on the premises, which can lead to a ‘softening’ of service and standards but the manager and staff at Singanawe go the extra distance to ensure that all needs are met and that every guest is comfortable and well catered for.
The staff act as an harmonious team whose good humour and friendliness rubs off on the guests
The bungalows themselves are solidly built cottages with all the conveniences that are now expected rather than to be remarked upon, tastefully decorated with images to reflect the individual animals after which each is named.
Ours, ‘Tiger’ sports a number of photographs and images around the walls, whilst tribal art materials and objects add an authenticity to the room and its en suite facilities. It seems to be a tell-tale trademark of lodges under Indian ownership that pictures on walls never hang straight, which is the case in both our room and the main dining area lodge.
This main area still enjoys its centrepiece of a dead tree surrounded by the sweeping staircase, – which is more dramatic than it sounds – leading to the comfortable interior and exterior dining areas and lounge/bar/library, again adorned with wall-sized colourful murals of tribal art.
As with most lodges, dining under the stars is a welcome option and we spend an entertaining evening with David Raju, talented naturalist and co-author of the superb Photographic Field Guide to the Wildlife of Central India. Lets hope his hunt for a wife is as successful as the research for his wonderful book!
Within the grounds of Singanawe is a tribal art museum – a little incongruous perhaps – but a foible of the owner and remarkable in its colour and diversity of image.
You’ll stay at Singanawe Jungle Lodge if you want the stability of a brick built lodge around you but still wish to be in close proximity to the jungle, as Singanawe’s grounds are both extensive and abut the national park buffer zone.
Bagh Villas – stylish tented
The first we saw of Bagh Vilals was in a photograph where a broad expanse of concrete was fronted by a swimming pool and it seemed anything but environmentally friendly.
We were wrong! Whilst the photo didn’t do Bagh Villas justice, the resident partners Anhilesh and his wife Lia more than surpass any reservations and quickly dispel any illusion that this camp is anything other than sensitive to nature.
The concrete reception/dining area is in fact a stylishly minimalist space that ‘floats’ on a full width pool in front of a lake and jungle vista. Twelve substantial tents nestle alongside the lake and are deliberately adequate and comfortable, rather than ostentatious and over-equipped.
It’s easy here to participate with fellow guests or seek tranquillity alone at several places around the site. Dine indoors or in the carefully laid out vegetable garden but always dine exceptionally well, as Lia oversees the food preparation and excels at every step.
We found that we had many acquaintances in common with Akhilesh from our conservation days and if you ever fancy a chat about anything wildlife then he’s your man – but be warned – you might find that your day has gone in easy conversation, when you had planned to do so much more!
The emphasis here, other than comfort and outstanding menus, is very much on wildlife and you’ll definitely benefit immeasurably from a stay here if you’re a serious wildlifer, rather than simply a ‘tiger chaser’ tourist who has little empathy for the forest and its full complement of wildlife.
The true measure of a jungle lodge, for us, is if we’d like to spend time here even if it wasn’t a place to stay before visiting the jungle – Bagh Villas is such a place.
Stay here if you seek a true wildlife experience in tranquility and comfort.
Shergarh – ‘rustic’ tented camp
For those who might remember the famous ‘Kipling Camp’, one of the first ‘colonial’ camps set up at Kanha, then a stay at Shergarh will echo with memories of it.
Situated around a tree-lined lake, Shergarh is a basic no-frills camp that exudes authenticity, with comfort.
Each individual lodge is a hybrid of mud walls and canvas, protected by a more robust tiled canopy but located sufficiently distant from the next to give both separation and a sense of adventure. The more random and haphazard layout of the site differs from our earlier two lodges and adds authenticity as a consequence.
That’s not to say it’s lacking in any way, more that it provides a genuine experience of life in the jungle without many of the exuberant trappings that high-end visitors now seek – irrespective of the natural environment within which they are staying.
Shergarh makes you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time to when explorers and colonial agents toured the country with their belongings on donkey back, setting up camp wherever their travels dictated or there pleasures desired. You certainly won’t lack anything by staying here but you will be more at one with the jungle.
The communal lodge offers a comfortable and sociable meeting point, dining area and quiet place to read between safaris – overall a thoroughly colonial experience.
The reason Shergarh has made it into our top three is the simple and genuine approach, not only of the camp but of its hosts. Jehan and his English wife Katie are both originally from Kipling Camp, hence perhaps its heritage showing through in their own camp.
Stay at Shergarh if you seek an authentic jungle experience without too many frills but lots of warmth and welcome.
If you simply want more information about these three unique properties then follow these links – Singanawe Jungle Lodge – Bagh Villas – Shergarh – or why not ask us to arrange your own tailor-made travel throughout India – see below.
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