India's little-known forest resthouses

India's little-known forest resthouses
The Garkhet forest resthouse in Kumaon, Photo Credit: Tribhuvan Tiwari
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We asked experts to pick their favourite forest resthouses across India


September 15 , 2014
04 Min Read

Pradip Krishen, Naturalist
I have seen a few really beautiful forest resthouses in Central India: Bori in the middle Satpuras. Dhoopgarh on top of the hill. Tamia on a steep cliff overlooking the Denwa valley. Pachmarhi’s Bison Lodge... Alas, all of these have either become decrepit or been pulled down and rebuilt (eeek!). The Forest Department is not very good at knowing what to do about its heritage buildings. Supkhar resthouse in a restricted zone of Kanha Tiger Reserve still has a steep thatched roof so somebody is still saluting the past, but once inside, the interior décor reverts to Forest Department un-chic. If I had to pick one resthouse above all others in this part of the world, it would be for its superb location and aspect, not the state of its upkeep. My vote goes to the FRH at Palpur-Kuno, a little-known wildlife sanctuary that sits just south of MP’s border with Rajasthan. The resthouse sits high up on the west bank of the Kuno river from where you look down on magnificent dry forest. Highly recommended if you like solitude and deciduous forests.

Bikram Grewal, Naturalist
If God wanted to settle on earth he would choose Manas, and the Mothanguri forest resthouse would be his abode. Nestled on a hillock and overlooking the pristine blue waters of the Manas river, and Bhutan beyond, Mothanguri is easily the prettiest forest resthouse in India. The nation watched helplessly as Manas was butchered for close to 18 years by the Bodo uprising. Now things have calmed down and we can watch flocks of wreathed hornbills cross into Bhutan in the mornings and return in the evenings, while the golden langurs frolic in the Simul trees.

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Pankaj Khullar, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Himachal Pradesh
How does one decide which is one’s favourite forest resthouse? Is it the location, the design, the surroundings or the service that decides the qualities of a place? Each of Himachal’s 300-odd FRHs is so beautifully located and so well laid-out, that it becomes extremely difficult to play favourites. I would, however, list Gahan, Mandli and Sangla (in that order) as my favourites. Gahan (Kotgarh) because of its history, lawns and gazebo — just 80km from Shimla (and easily approachable) — is easily the best in my book.


Anur Reddy, Chief Conservator of Forests, Karnataka
One good four- to six-day trek would be from the BR Hills forest resthouse, which has a spectacular view of almost the entire district. From here to K’gudi (Kyathedevaragudi, a tribal goddess, is housed behind the FRH). This is a 103-year-old FRH with four rooms and an old Mysore maharaja’s cot to sleep on and an occasional female ghost for company. It’s a very serene and quiet place. From here there are two treks — one to Seematti FRH and then to Honnametti wireless station, the highest point in the sanctuary, and then from there to the quaint old FRH at Bedguli, a tribal colony. There is an alternative direct path from K’gudi to Bedguli which goes via Jodukere, a forester’s camp station amidst the shola vegetation and tall elephant grasslands.

Another favourite walk of mine is from the Talacauvery FRH in Coorg to Tadiannamole peak, the highest peak in the area. It’s a three-day trek passing through dense virgin tropical forests and some breathtaking landscapes.


Our pick
Some of the oldest and best-known forest resthouses in the country are in Kumaon. Foresters and naturalists like F.W. Champion and Jim Corbett frequented these resthouses — if you were to look through old resthouse registers you’d probably come across entries by them. Ritish Suri and Minakshi Pandey of Camp Forktail Creek (05947-287804, www.campforktailcreek.com) organise trips to the forest resthouses of Kumaon. They know most of the resthouses of the region, and will be able to tailor-make an itinerary for you. They will also take care of getting the permits — a complicated process, and organising everything from the food to the linen for your trip. They do an excellent job of making your stay comfortable. The food is excellent, staff helpful — but expect no luxury. Costs vary depending on the itinerary.


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