Close your eyes and try to think up your ideal jungle lodge. Set in a location surrounded by forest, of course. Accommodation made of natural material, that both gives you comfort and lets you experience the great outdoors. A river or a stream nearby. And a chance to see wildlife.
Checking every box on that list is the wonderful Tendu Leaf Jungle Resort. Appropriately, the name roots this resort in the land it is located in. Tendu, as most people know, provides the dry leaves used to roll up tobacco flakes to become the humble beedi. It is a resource that that Madhya Pradesh is famous for – almost 25 per cent of India’s Tendu leaft harvest comes from this state.
Situated near Panna National Park, Tendu Leaf Jungle Resort is quite the ideal wild getaway. Sprawled across 13 acres, this establishment is certified by TOFT (Travel Operators for Tigers) as an eco-friendly resort, and it is a wonderful way to experience the beauty of the Panna range. At the very outset, the large reception cottage sets the tone. An open plan with no walls, this lit with mellow lamps. There are a couple of seating clusters and sofas made of log wood. A table at the centre is a slice of a large tree trunk, the roof is tiled and thatched, and you hear a squirrel ferreting about in the hay above you. There is a bookshelf with books, magazines and animal figurines.
Soon, you’re being led down one of the numerous mud paths to your cottage. This turns out to be a charming affair, an elevated cottage made entirely of wood planks. There is a beautiful sit-out verandah, with a cosy two-chair and table… morning coffee or even an afternoon siesta is possible here. The room is inviting. A writing table to one side with a lamp, writing supplies and a handsome edition of the Bhagavad Gita. A plush double bed, air-conditioning, a kettle and supplies for beverages, a centralised lighting console, a walk-in wardrobe complete with a mirror, mesh cupboard and dressing stool. This is jungle living in its most luxurious mode. If you want to let the daylight in, just roll up the chick curtains, open the insect mesh and let the outdoors in.
Tendu Leaf has three types of rooms: deluxe, luxury and family. Some cottages are named after birds, and others, delightfully, after trees standing in the vicinity. So Jamun, Arjun, Ber or then Myna, Bulbul… it’s fun. The family rooms are absolutely stunning and made of stone (as against the smaller wooden cottages) and are beautiful two-levelled apartments.
The resort is located on the banks of the scenic Ken or Karnavati. Making full use of its location is a nice look-out as well as the pretty restaurant Riverview. The menu serves the best of a variety of cuisines, the views are really special. The seating on the ground floor looks out to leafy vistas while the first floor is open to the sky, looking out on to the flowing water. Morning coffee on the look-out ledge is a must: it comes with cookies on the side, which should sustain you also through a serene boatride on the river. The resort’s in-house nature guide is Swami, who hails from Panna’s local fishing community. Completely at home on the water, he will also take you out on the river on a boat or a raft. Ask him to show you the large colony of swallows that have built a complex system of mud-nests on the underside of the bridge!
There is much to do at the resort: take a few pottery lessons, under the expert guidance of our master potters, and carry your masterpiece home. Take a village safari into the local villages, go trekking or birdwatching. You can also hop on a bicycle and traipse along the village roads, and for anglers, there is always the gorgeous river, flowing so temptingly near.
And of course, one of the best things about the resort is its proximity to the Panna National Park. Drive to Madla Gate, which is less than a kilometre away, across the bridge. The resort provides the safari jeep, which is compliant with the park’s specifications, and it also smoothes over the ticket-buying and other logistics. You must be accompanied by a forest guard and guide to enter the park, and he sits in a designated seat in the vehicle. And then, once the formalities are done, you enter the park, cruising past woods of natural sal, on the alert for fauna. The trails lead into higher levels of ground, and you can stop for a packed breakfast at the picturesque Dhuandhar Falls, where the water falls in sheer drop. It goes without saying that spotting the tiger is a matter of luck. However, with the reserve having as many as 55, you might just get lucky. But if you don’t, just enjoy the forest. There is magic in the trees, streams, spider-webs, butterflies, birds, deer, canyons and the river.
Tendu Leaf Jungle Resort is 20km/30 minutes from Khajuraho airport and about 43km/1.5 hours from Maharaja Chhatrasal Railway Station in Chhatarpur.
Tendu Leaf Jungle Resort
Near Panna Tiger Reserve, Panna, Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh – 471101
Tariff: Rs 7,000 onwards
The Riverside restaurant caters in-room service and the staff is amiable packing you picnic meals for your daily expeditions.
Hours: 6:30 am to 11:00 pm