1.Mary Budden Estate, Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, Uttarakhand
Binsar Willife Sanctuary is a gem of a middle Himlayan forest. Straddling a giant 9,000-foot-high ridge called Jhandi Dhar, it is home to thick stands of deodhar, oak, chestnut and rhododendron forests. The two cottages of Mary Budden Estate, enjoy the privilege of inhabiting five acres of forest land, and are a delightfully luxurious way to enjoy the wilderness. The main building is the old Mary Budden Cottage, and then there’s the newer Rhododendron Cottage. Powered by solar energy, yet with all the comforts of true luxury, the estate is a great place to leave your care behind, and be pampered silly, especially with great food. However, this is great base to explore the forest, including walks up to the ridge-top Zero Point for breathtaking views of the Kumaon Himalaya and Nanda Devi. The forest is renowned for its leopards, wild boars and barking deer, among other wildlife, so be sure to keep a look out!
Tariff: â?¹22,900 plus taxes
The first time we visited the estate was way back in 2009, when the second cottage was being built. It was a glorious experience.
2. The Sarai at Toria, Panna National Park, Madhya Pradesh
The lovely Sarai at Toria, perched beside one of the loveliest rivers of MP, the Ken, is brilliantly situated. Equidistant from both the storied temples of Khajuraho and the wilderness of Panna National Park, you could go there to satisfy either your yen for culture or wildlife (or both!). Consisting of 8 large, independent cottages with verandahs and private courtyards, they are perfect to stretch out in. Fabricated with mud walls and thatched roofs, the cottages are naturally insulated for both old and hot weather. Great food, a sit out by the river complete with a fire pit, for sundowners after a long day of wildlife sightings, The Sarai is absurdly idylic. If excurions are not for you, then you can just curl up with a book from the well-stocked library. The resort arranges for safaris in the park, and in Dr Raghu Chundawat and Joanna Van Gruisen, The Sarai has two extremely knowledgable and peronable owners. The best bit? A dawn boat ride on the Ken!
Tariff: â?¹16,600 on double occupancy
3. The Serai, Kabini, Nagarhole National Park, Kerala
On the banks of the Kabini River lies The Serai, a resort surrounded by 60 acres of wilderness—from fruit trees to wildflowers and deep forests. Each villa in the resort faces the river and is tastefully done up with a combination of earthy colours and wooden furniture. On the other side of the river lies the magnificent Nagarhole forest with an impressive density of 108 animals per square kilometre. From the Royal Bengal tiger, leopards, wild dogs to elephants and birds, the forest is a wildlife lover’s paradise. The resort offers all kinds of activities from kayaking in the Kabini, jungle safaris into the deep recesses of the forest to trips to an old temple from a bygone era. As expert in-house naturalists take you around on guided safaris, you will definitely come back better informed about wildlife and forests. They even arrange special romantic dinners on the riverfront with a crackling bonfire and lanterns all around.
Tariff: From â?¹12,000 for a waterfront villa
The last time we visited The Serai was in 2011 when there was a tigress prowling about in the resort grounds!
4. Denwa Backwaters Resort, Satpura National Park, Madhya Pradesh
What could be more romantic than living in a treehouse that overlooks vast expanses of rolling hills and grasslands? With a host of cottages and a few tree houses that face the gurgling waters of the Denwa river, the Denwa Backwaters Resort in Satpura National Park fits right into the bill. Surrounded by sal and teak forests teeming with wildlife—from leopards, tigers, bears, wild dogs and black bucks to flying squirrels and hornbills—the resort falls in one of the richest biodiversity areas of the country. It maintains a sustainable environment by sourcing local materials, employing local people and even using indigenous methods for building. The variety of activities available here, such as walking safaris, boat safaris, kayaking, elephant safaris and the traditional jeep safaris ensure an exciting holiday. You could even sleep under the star-studded skies if you want: the good people at the lodge set up your bed complete with mosquito nets on the terrace of the cottages on request. The lodge also arranges for night safaris and camping. If you happen to visit the park around April/May you might be treated to the comic chaos that sweeps jungle as monkeys, bears and cheetals get drunk on fermented mahua fruits!
Tariff: Doubles from â?¹17,000
Our first visit to Denwa was in 2014 when we bathed an elephant.
5. Svasara Jungle Lodge, Tadoba Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra
Svasara Jungle lodge is a conservation-focused lodge nestled in the north end of Tadoba Andhari National Park and it provides great wilderness experiences for wildlife enthusiasts from all over the world. Built over 11 acres, the lodge is surrounded by lush green forests. The area around the lodge has the best terrain for walking safaris and birding.The lodge even has a play area for children equipped with all the art and craft supplies making it a safe and fun place for children of all age. This boutique resort aims to provide a luxurious stay to its guests while contributing to the local community development. The ‘Teakhouse’ which is a new addition to the resort is made of recycled wood and other organic material. Open-air cinema and dining under the stars makes the holiday experience an unforgettable one.
Tariff: Doubles from â?¹14,639 approximately
6. Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
Located on the edge of Ranthambore National Park, Oberoi Vanyavilas makes their guests experience a royal stay and gives them an opportunity to see Royal Bengal Tiger in its natural habitat. The park is famous for its heritage site and wildlife making it a big tourist attraction. The resort takes its guest on jungle safaris in open jeeps and also takes them on elephant ride around the hotel. It is the perfect place for a detox from the hectic city life and is popular for its luxury tents which are comfortable and beautifully decorated. Couples can indulge in a romantic spa therapy at Oberoi Spa after an eventful day. With 24 hour room service, private garden and swimming pool along with a breathtaking view, all one has to do is relax and get pampered. This place is perfect for those who want to explore this tiger country without giving up on luxury.
Tariff: Doubles from â?¹32,702
7.Diphlu River Lodge, Kaziranga National Park, Assam
Traditional mud-and-thatch lodges on stilts by the riverside, cottages surrounded by grasslands, rhinos right next door: you’ll find all these in the eco-friendly Diphlu River Lodge in Kaziranga National Park. A perfect getaway for wildlife enthusiasts and adventure lovers, you can go for elephant and jeep safaris, nature walks, bathe elephants, go birding and visit local villages. Located right next to Diphlu River, the views from the lodge are just great! Apart from the wildlife you can also observe local weavers and craftsmen. Enjoy the traditional Bihu dance and other regional performances at the lodge’s cultural shows. Finally, you can also take a guided tour of the rubber and tea plantations. If you are lucky, you will spot playful river dolphins too.
Tariff: From â?¹9,000 per person per night plus taxes, on a twin sharing basis (November to April); from â?¹6, 058 per cottage per night plus taxes Monsoon Package (May to October).
On our first visit in 2010, we had a bit of a hard time locating the lodge.
8. Vanghat—The Eco Lodge, Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand
Leave the city’s hustle-bustle behind and go for a jungle retreat. Vanghat is the perfect destination for a wildlife getaway. The lodge can only be accessed by first a two-kilometer hike from the roadhead and then on a bamboo raft across the river! The lodge has only five cottages, including one researcher’s quarter. The cottages are made of locally sourced mud and thatch, there are fans instead of AC’s and RO filtered water instead of bottled ones. The main activities that you can undertake here are birding and walking safaris; the naturalists and guides from the lodge will help out with spotting birds and animals as they lead you into the forest. Vanghat lodge is a perfect place to reconnect with the nature and also to enjoy the laidback lifestyle of the local village. The walking safari is done on the Corbett Tiger Reserve, the national park’s buffer zone.
Tariff: From â?¹7,117 for double occupancy
Vanghat’s prime focus is towards conservation of nature and is actively working towards responsible tourism. Here’s our most recent experience (February, 2016)
9. King's Lodge, Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Surrounded by the sal forest of Bandhavgarh National Park, Kings Lodge sits right in the middle of tiger territory and in close proximity to the park’s Premium Safari Zone which is at the Tala Gate. Location-wise, it doesn’t get any better than this. The lodge’s 10 cottage rooms and 8 stilt-cottage rooms come with all mod cons and offer spectacular views of Bandhavgarh. While you are at the tiger territory and being brave and all, the stay could be quite rewarding. From multi-cuisine dining to being pampered at the in-house spa facility to the swimming pool with a sundeck! And if you are a birding enthusiast, the lodge is the right choice. The lodge’s team of experienced naturalists ensures that you get the most from the birding tours on offer.
Tariff: from â?¹16, 000 on double occupancy. The Jungle Plan, from â?¹27,000, includes two shared safaris. You can also go for an Exclusive Safari in the Tala Zone for â?¹10,500 and in the Magdhi/Khatauli Zone for â?¹7, 500.
Here’s how we enjoyed our stay at Kings Lodge back in 2013
10. Cardamom County, Periyar National Park, Kerala
Perched on a hill close to the border of Periyar National Park is Cardamom County. The first ISO-certified resort in Kerela, the resort has been aesthetically designed to blend in with the jungle. Bordered by a spice garden, the cozy cottages of the resort offer great views of the natural surroundings. The Periyar Cottage has a view of the Tiger Reserve and the County Cottage faces the spice gardens. The resort offers a wide range of activities like the nature walk which is a 5km hike through the reserve and is excellent for bird watching. You can go rafting, a tribal heritage visit, wildlife safaris and much more. After a long day you could opt for a soothing massage at Ayura, the resort’s Ayurvedic wellness centre. The pool-side restaurant All Spice serves delicious ethnic food made with organic herbs and spices.
Tariff: â?¹12,997 approximately (Doubles)