The Inspiration of India

Laura and Lindsay Green

12 Jun 2017

exploring the beautiful country of india

On arrival at Delhi we were met by Bridge (the local ground agent) who escorted us to our car and accompanied us to the first stop of our trip - The Holiday Inn, New Delhi International Airport.  On the way he chatted away to us and talked us through our itinerary. When we arrived at the hotel, he checked us in and tried to get the hotel staff to arrange something for our breakfast, even though we were going to be checking out at 4AM and we said it was ok and that we didn't need breakfast. We relaxed in the hotel for the rest of the day to help recover from the 7 1/2 hours of turbulence we had during our flight and had a very early night.

The following morning, a representative met us at the Holiday Inn to accompany us back to the airport and help us check in for our 1hr 45min flight to Bhopal.

On arrival at Bhopal we were met by another representative who introduced us to our driver and explained a bit about Bhopal as we drove through it.  He then left us with our driver for the rest of the journey to Denwa Backwater Escape.  The car was very comfortable and had a selection of snacks for us to eat had we gotten hungry on the way.  It also had huge bottles of water.  

 The driver made us feel very safe, even though it appears that there may not be much of a highway code for the roads in India! 

 He also pointed out various things along the way.

When we arrived at the lodge we were met at the welcome area by a number of staff members including the manager and given cool towels to freshen up, a glass of cold lime juice, an Indian Tikka on the forehead and a garland. We were handed metal water bottles that we could fill whenever we needed from the water filling station near the welcome area or at the dining hall. We were then given a small tour of the property and walked to our cottage where we were to stay for the following 3 nights.

The property is situated overlooking the backwaters of a dam and consists of 8 deluxe cottages and 2 tree houses all with views of the river.  There is a building which houses the main office, library and dining room plus a further building next to the pool.

The cottage was very spacious and comfortable with a large bathroom, a balcony and a roof terrace which had good views of the Satpura hills.


During lunch we met our assigned naturalist, Nipun, who went over our itinerary for the next few days going over what we would like to see and what we were expecting from the game drives.  Although there are tigers in Satpura, they are only spotted about once a month and, as he had seen one the previous week, it was very unlikely that we were to be able to see one.  He advised us that although our itinerary was for 4 games drives and a night safari in the buffer zone, if we were to decide that we would rather to a boat safari or nature walks instead, just to let him know at any time and he would accompany us to those activities instead.  He also advised that during the game drives it could get very hot due to the time of year, so if we felt that it was too hot and wanted to end the game drive early we could let him know.  Fortunately, we managed the full time on all of our drives and were back at the lodge before the temperature got up to 38C. 

All the food served was amazing and full of flavour – we have never eaten such amazing meals, it has to be the best food we have ever eaten.  We both started to worry that we weren't going to be able to fit into our clothes if we stayed there much longer as the boys in the dining room were always offering more! 

The staff were all so friendly and cheerful so made the lodge have such a lovely atmosphere that we didn't want to leave. 

To get to Satpura National Park we had a short drive to the jetty where we would pick up our park guide and have a short boat ride across the river.  It was then a short walk up the hill to the park gates where we then allocated a driver and gypsy.  The games drives were very interesting, enjoyable and we were lucky to see a lot of different animals and birds. We could have sat and watched the Indian giant squirrels all morning, they are just so cute.

We were also lucky enough to see a sloth bear with 2 cubs on her back twice in the same day. 

Other animals and birds that we managed to see were; wild dogs, 2 other sloth bears, chital, sambar, nilgai (the males are very pretty), muntjac, gaur (including two big groups), langurs, macques, marsh crocodiles, turtles, flameback woodpecker, pigmy woodpecker, shikras, oriental honey buzzards, white-tailed buzzard, serpent eagles, crested eagle, mottled owls, Indian scops owls, savannah nightjar, racket-tailed drongos, grey hornbills, orange-headed ground thrushes, rufous treepies, peacocks, kingfishers, loads of Indian rollers and quite a lot of other birds.

The park is very hilly so sometimes the drives felt like you were on a bumpy roller coaster which added to the excitement of the drives and it was very scenic with the landscape varying a lot.  


The breakfast area was very tranquil and scenic.  The first morning, we managed to watch the mahouts making huge chapatis for the park elephants and the following morning there was a family of langurs playing. 

The interactions between Nipun, the park guides and drivers were very funny at times and sometimes they would get really excited about we were seeing. Everyone seemed to get on very well inside the park as well as at the lodge. Although we did not see much during our night safari in the buffer zone, Nipun and our park guide tried very hard, and it was still really enjoyable as the sounds in the forest are so different at night.  We did manage to see a civet, Indian hares, sambar, nightjars and a couple of owls.  

On our last evening the staff had arranged for us to have our dinner on a small island across from the main building as they wanted us to have a very memorable final evening.

  The food, as always, was fantastic and it was lovely sitting out under the clear night sky with the sound of frogs and the odd splash from something coming in or out of the water.

Following breakfast, we sadly had to leave Denwa and we were escorted to our car by the manager and a number of staff who also provided a yummy packed lunch for our 5hr or so drive to Pench Tree Lodge. Again, our car and driver were excellent and the drive this time was far more scenic going up and around mountains so the time passed quickly. 

When we arrived at the lodge, we were met by the manager, Amit, and a number of members of staff.

We were again given cool towels to freshen up, an Indian Tikka, a garland and a glass of cold lime juice

We were then taken to the room next to the welcome area and Amit gave us a talk and explained how the resort was built and the rules to stick to while staying there. We were then taken to and shown around our tree house which we would be staying in for the next 2 nights.

The lodge has 6 large tree houses, each built alongside a large mahua tree perched upon stilts. The tree houses are spread out and all are very spacious with large bathrooms, four-poster beds, bay window lounger and large French windows that open out to a deck with table and chairs. There is also a large building which has the dining area, an upstairs sitting area and a pool.

When we went to the welcome area to go on our first game drive later that afternoon, we were met by naturalist Sagar and introduced to nature guide and driver, Shiu. Just before we had our dinner, Sagar gave us a presentation on Pench explaining the history of the park and the flora and fauna that live in it.

Pench Tree Lodge was a very peaceful place to stay and, although occasionally we were woken during the night by either a jungle rat or chivet jumping onto the roof or balcony, this was part of the charm of staying in a tree house.

The tree house was very comfortable with a lot more space than you would expect, and at night or early morning there was always someone waiting at the bottom of the steps to escort you to the dining area or to the welcome area. 

The staff were all cheerful and friendly – one of the boys from the dining area would always shout over to us on our way past to check when we would be coming to eat or to ask how our safari went. The food was really nice and fresh with some unusual but tasty combinations.  There was always a supply of cookies or muffins at the welcome area when we were leaving for the morning game drives or coming back from our afternoon game drives.  

We had 4 game drives in Pench, on 2 of which we were the only guests in the gypsy. Pench was around 15 minutes’ drive from the lodge and had 4 game drives there, on 2 of which we were the only guests in the gypsy.  It was a much busier park than Satpura but we seemed to manage to always be one of the first gypsies to arrive.  The landscape and tracks were very different to Satpura, there was more grassland, the forest far less dense and the tracks a lot wider which allowed us to see much further.

We had a couple of wildlife documentary moments; we came across a shikra trying to kill a nightjar and, while we were waiting for a tiger to come out of hiding amongst the long grass on our left, a large herd of chital decided to run across from the right to the same side.

 The guides then noticed that there was a tiger up on the rocks just behind the area the chital were moving to.  The chital spotted the tiger in the long grass and started moving even closer to the rocks where the second tiger was until they noticed it (it was lying on the rocks watching them the same way pet cats watch birds in the garden) and then they left the area, managing to avoid both of the tigers.

The game drives were interesting but very much focused on looking for tigers – probably because so many people go there with the expectation of seeing them there and, if you are patient, you do see them. Shiu and Sagar both seemed to want to try really hard to make sure we got a good sighting of a tiger and good photographs of one, even though we were happy with just seeing one even if it was far away and in amongst long grass.

On our last game drive, Shiu was very happy as he managed to get us a good sighting of Collarwali, the most famous tiger in Pench.  She is 12 years old and is believed to have given birth to 26 cubs (7 litters).

She was unfazed by all the gypsies and people watching her as she came out from the forest and walked up the middle of the road for a while before going back into the forest.

Although there were a lot more vehicles in Pench, there were still times when you would be the only jeep looking in an area.  In total we saw 4 tigers, lots of golden jackels (including ones with cubs in the distance), wild boar, chital, sambar, langurs, macques, gaur, patrol elephants, monitor lizzard, rock lizzard, serpent eagles, oriental honey buzzards, Indian rollers, golden oriole, common hawk cuckoo, Indian thick-knees, brown fish owl, Indian scops owls, drongos, grey hornbills, jungle fowl, peacocks and lots of other birds.

After our last game drive in Pench, we had a couple of hours to relax before we had to leave.  Just before we left we sat in the office and filled in the guest book which the management use during their monthly meetings to help motivate and cheer up the staff who are a long way from home. When we were ready to leave quite a few of the staff came to wave us off and they also gave us a packed lunch to eat on the way.

We were lucky enough to have the same driver who had driven us there drive us to our next stop, Shergarh Tented Camp, Kanha.  He would point out any wildlife we would happen to come across as well as making very funny comments about the traffic, cows etc.

When we arrived at the entrance to Shergarh Tented Camp we were met by Son Kumar who led us down a narrow path, over a bamboo bridge and past the lake to the main building. Here we were met by Neville and were given cool towels to freshen up and cold lemon water. Neville had a chat with us about where we had been previously, what we had seen and then went on to go over safety at the camp, what insects, spiders and snakes that we may encounter and what to do if we found any in our tent. This did freak us both out a little as both of us are not very keen on normal spiders, let alone ones the size of your hand and hairy!



Son Kumar then took us to our tent, named Neem, where we were to stay for 3 nights, and showed us where everything was and put on the air conditioning and fan. 

When we went for dinner we met Raj, our naturalist and again discussed where we had been previously and what we had seen.  He talked about himself, how he had been there since it opened and about where he worked previously etc. 

Raj also reassured us that it was not spider season yet so we should not come across any huge hairy ones!

We also met Hannah, a gap year student from England who was volunteering at the camp for 6 weeks.

The camp consists of 6 tents and the main building which has a library, dining room and seating areas.  The tents are underneath a tiled roof and are attached to a solid building which has a large bathroom with separate toilet, shower rooms and a large storage space for luggage.  They also have a large veranda with chairs and cushions. 

Other than the management and Raj, the rest of the staff at the camp were all from the local villages.  All of the staff we met were friendly and always spoke and smiled if you passed them. The food was a traditional home cooked style and tasted very good.  Yet again, we ate a lot of things that we had never tried before and probably would not have tried at home.  Lunch and dinner were both buffets.  Lunch was in the dining room which was large and cool after being out in the heat, whereas dinner was outside next to the lake with fire flies darting about.

Kanha was a lovely park to drive around, the lighting was lovely early in the mornings and, as it warmed up, the smell of the trees would get really strong making it nice to just sit while waiting for tigers to come out of where they were hiding.

There was generally more shade than in Pench, so you could wait for longer if you needed to, without feeling like you were cooking!

The jeep was much bigger than the gypsies used at Satpura and Pench, and for 3 out the 4 drives there were 6 guests (including us), Raj driving and a park guide.  At Kanha, the vehicles are allocated zones that they are allowed to drive in for set drives.  We had 3 drives in Mukki zone and 1 drive in Kanha zone.  Raj was very interesting to speak to and knew so much about everything.

During our drives were lucky enough to see 3 tigers (one of which was a 7 year old male named T29 who we watched for 1hr).

We also saw barasingha, chital, sambar, gaur, wild boars, jackals, ruddy mongoose, langurs, lots of kingfishers, peacocks displaying their tails, cormorants, pond herons, drongos, orioles, common hawk cuckoo, shikras, bee-eaters, Indian rollers, Indian thick-knees, lapwings, Indian scops owl, egrets, jungle crows, white-rumped vultures and a few other birds.

The following morning after a lovely breakfast we were advised that our driver had arrived and that we could leave when we were ready.  Neville walked us to our car where our previous driver was waiting.  Again, we were given a packed lunch to eat on the way to Jabalpur. 

Our driver, as usual, was very funny, and when we reached Jabalpur we picked up a guide who explained about the city as we drove through it on the way to the small airport.  

When we arrived in Delhi we were met by a representative who took us to our car and escorted us to the Holiday Inn, New Delhi International Airport. While we were checking in, Bridge, who had met us on our first day, came over to chat about how our trip had been, what animals we had managed to see and what we thought about the lodges/camps. After speaking to Bridge, we relaxed in the hotel for around 5 hours until it was time to make our way back to the airport.

Overall we had an amazing experience, met a lot of very nice people, stayed in fantastic accommodation and ate the most delicious food ever. 

Thanks again to Jessica (who arranged our trip but has now left NWS), Harriet (who took over looking after our booking), all the rest of the NWS team, Bridge and the rest of the team and all of the staff at the lodges and parks for making it so special. 


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