As I gently swayed back and forth in a wooden rocking chair in the dead of the night, my mind kept revisiting films and social media. While I heard nothing but crickets and the occasional hoot of an owl, a booming inner voice seemed to reproach my social media cravings, declaring “yeh sab moh maaya hain”. I checked my watch yet again: what had seemed like forever had just been fifteen minutes. The sound of my growling stomach seemed to be drowning out the voice of my inner self, and so I headed out for dinner—daal, roti and sabzi.
Chitvan Jungle Lodge is not your regular luxury retreat. Located just three kilometres from Kanha National Park’s Mukki Gate, the resort appears out of nowhere after a drive through a kutcha road, lined with a smattering of traditional Gond huts. Upon my arrival, not too long before the aforementioned moment of epiphany, my host, Rohit, along with his German shepherd, welcomed me.
Though it was dark, I could see the surrounding vegetation. Words from a self-composed poem returned to me in a fresh way—“I forgot how crickets sound/forgot the melody that/termites produce on wood/forgot the smell of grass.” This green solitude was indeed a forgotten luxury.
I was shown to my cottage (aptly named Aakash)—a luxurious suite with an open courtyard, a sitting room with a good view of the tall green trees surrounding the property, a spacious bedroom with a large glass window facing forest and field, and an attached changing room-cum-bathroom. Generous with space and traditional touches like handwoven bedcovers, cushions, and clay tribal figurines, I felt at home. The absence of confusing knobs in the room and the toilet was a refreshing change.
Snooping around my ‘little’ accommodation, I made a mental note to convey my appreciation to the host about the minimal use of plastic on their property. Even the toiletries came in tiny reusable bottles.
Out of habit, I checked my phone for messages—NO SERVICE! This meant three days without social media notifications, calls and work emails—not that any of those were terribly missed. As they say at Chitvan, “a retreat where a person would free himself from all illusions”. I must say, the lodge’s 20 gracefully appointed cottages helped me achieve this goal efficiently.
Accompanying me for dinner, the in-house naturalist advised me to keep an open mind about tiger sightings (they had arranged two safaris for me—one to Kanha’s buffer zone, and the other to the Mukki zone).
Even though sightings happened almost regularly, most visitors tend to react differently when they’d miss the big cats, I was told. “How can you concentrate on just one thing when in the forest?”I wondered.
As my phone lay useless, I fiddled with the next best thing—my camera and the tripod. The real purpose of that spacious private sit-out finally became clear—stargazing! The deliberate usage of low lights in and around the lodge offered a spectacular view of the night sky.
The next day, I paid a visit to a nearby village. As Rohit guided me around, I received a briefing on the local Gond and Baiga tribes. I found out that Chitvan has adopted a village school to provide free education to the local children and scholarships to the meritorious. This ensures that the youth can explore the tourism sector for employment, instead of depending on the forest for their livelihood.
I cannot deny the fact that the desire to see a tiger was prowling at the back of my mind. Luckily enough, on our second safari to Mukki zone the next day, we spotted Link-7, lovingly called Linku. Nature conservation takes centre stage at Chitvan; I understood this better when I was told how the lodge bought failed agricultural farmlands and redeveloped them into mini forests. These little hotspots are now home to over 100 species of birds and butterflies.
Rohit asked me if I missed social media or even watching television. And I actually didn’t. From stargazing, to having birds visit my doorstep in the morning—there was already so much to see and do in my own little space.
For anyone who needs a comforting retreat from city life in a place mindful of nature and conservation, Chitvan Jungle Lodge is not your average luxury property, but a home away from home.
Location: Kanha National Park, Tehsil Baihar district, Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh
Accommodation: Jal Cottage from ₹10,000; Prithvi/Aakash Suite from ₹14,000; Mahasagar Suite from ₹24,000
Contact: chitvan.com; 011-4566-5201