We crossed a bridge over a narrow stream, and meandered through untamed woods, to arrive at Shergarh’s central camp house. There was little sign of human presence. We were, after all, minutes from Kanha National Park’s Mukki Gate— the entrance to one of the forest reserve’s four core zones.

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On a nature trail inside the property guests are sure to spot numerous birds. The wild grasslands within the property are a prime habitat for lapwings, partridges, and jungle cats
On a nature trail inside the property guests are sure to spot numerous birds. The wild grasslands within the property are a prime habitat for lapwings, partridges, and jungle cats

Shergarh is Jehan and Katie Bhujwala’s labour of love—a carefully restored 20-acre property where indigenous jamun, mango, arjuna, and fig trees thrive; where the wild grasslands have returned, providing a habitat to lapwings, partridges, and jungle cats. Today, it’s hard to imagine the native woodland was once an unkempt eucalyptus plantation. The non-native species had sapped the area of groundwater, cramping the growth of the indigenous trees. As Jehan cleared the foreign species, the forest gradually came back to life, and today provides a blanket of green cover, amidst which the camp’s six lavish tents are cleverly concealed. Tents have roll-up windows, a zip-up door, verandas, large dressing rooms, permanent bathrooms, and are equipped with electricity, charging points, and hot showers.

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Once a scruffy plantation of eucalyptus and degraded farmland, Shergarh is now a beautifully regenerated private grassland
Once a scruffy plantation of eucalyptus and degraded farmland, Shergarh is now a beautifully regenerated private grassland

Shergarh’s commitment to reviving the native ecosystem is indicative of their broader approach as responsible hosts. Other things of note included: minimal use of plastic; native architectural styles, with wood columns and baked-earthen-brick roofs; employing local staff; organic, homegrown produce for meals; locally made woven bamboo mats and furniture.

Shergarh is closely involved with the local community and focuses on immersive experiences. Guests are encouraged to take nature walks with informed naturalists, go on cycling trails to the Gond villages, or even visit a local village school to interact with children.

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Outdoor breakfasts, overlooking the grassland and waterbody, enhance the safari experience
Outdoor breakfasts, overlooking the grassland and waterbody, enhance the safari experience
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Inside one of Shergarh’s six cosy tents
Inside one of Shergarh’s six cosy tents

Contrary to common belief, a low-impact holiday does not necessarily entail sacrifice on the traveller’s part. At Shergarh guests get to rise in a fluffy bed of their canvas tent, filled with rustic jute and bamboo furnishings and lovely photos of the wild. Rolling up the windows, one can stretch out on cushions on the mud porch with a masala chai at hand, and savour the forest’s soundtrack: birdsong, the call of frolicking langurs, the rustle of leaves. The five-hour-long morning game drives with in-house naturalists Raj Gurung and Son Singh Ayam are eminently satisfying learning experiences, complete with a hearty breakfast. Creature comforts are aplenty: hot showers in the expansive bathroom—the only permanent part of the accommodation; hot water bottles on cold nights; lavish meals under the stars, or in the mustard fields bordering the property.

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At the centre of the property lies a spring-fed waterbody
At the centre of the property lies a spring-fed waterbody

For the Bhujwalas, Shergarh is also where they raise their 13-year-old son Kai and 10-year-old daughter Ella. In this intimate setting, it’s easy to bond with the hosts and other guests. Before a communal dinner, we sit by the fireplace in the cosy, book-lined camp house, the surrounding forest an orchestra of cricket and frog calls. Jehan recounts the time a five-year old tiger settled in the camp’s grasslands for a number of days.  True to its name, Shergarh did indeed play home to the big cat. As a guest, I too felt welcome in this homely and friendly atmosphere. It is precisely this familial vibe that sets this camp apart.

THE INFORMATION

 Getting There: Shergarh is located 4 km from the Mukki gate of Kanha National Park, along the Baihar-Mukki Road. The closest airports are at Jabalpur (180 km/4 hrs) and Nagpur (260 km/5.5 hrs). The closest railhead is at Gondia Junction (120 km/3 hours).

Shergarh

Address:  Kanha Tiger Reserve, Village Bahmni, Post Kareli, Tehsil Baihar, District Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh 481111

Open: Oct 15-May 15 only.

Website: www.shergarh.com

Tel: +91 9098187346

Tariff: Luxury tented doubles cost 15,000 per night, including meals, plus taxes. Shared jeep safaris cost 5,800 per couple and 4,200 for a single person.

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