A fat monitor lizard scurries into the foliage. Langurs inspect us warily, but continue snacking on bamboo shoots. At the edge of a stream, a huge snake lies cleverly concealed. I am not on a jungle safari, but it’s been a spectacular hour sighting birds, reptiles and other small critters in the company of excellent resident naturalist Jasen T Das.
At the Reni Pani Jungle Lodge, in the buffer zone of Satpura National Park, the wilderness experience is not restricted only to safari timings. Spread across 32 acres of native forest, with a seasonal stream and rugged hill trails, the lodge is a microcosm of the Satpura habitat. Twelve cottages and four luxury tents fit seamlessly into this wilderness, cleverly concealed amidst swathes of bamboo and teak to afford absolute privacy as well as an unhindered jungle experience. At my nallah-facing cottage, I spend afternoons, on the charpoy outside, watching dragonflies and butterflies hover above the water. What I like most is the fact that the rooms are built in the traditional architectural style with mud-plastered walls, sloping bamboo-thatch roofs, and local wood beams, each with sit-outs offering verdant views of either Satpura hills, forest, or the water reservoir. Interiors too are comfortable and luxurious with wooden furniture, colourful throws, woven bamboo lamps, bell metal crafts, a large dressing area as well as both outdoor and indoor showers.
Thoughtful touches like a mosquito repellent by the bedside and steel flasks of water instead of disposable plastic bottles go a long way in the jungle. I am particularly grateful for the French Press and cookies in the room, and I often sit with a hot cup of freshly brewed coffee at the cosy window nook overlooking the stream.
The lodge strives to have a minimal footprint in the forest and in keeping with this philosophy, lighting is done optimally. I am escorted to dinner by a member of the staff, most of whom are employed from surrounding villages and possess innate knowledge of the forest should you encounter a wild citizen. In the evenings, guests gather for drinks and snacks before dinner. We sit under a sprawling teak tree in the warm glow of paper lanterns, swapping stories with the resident naturalists about safari sightings and leopard movements near the lodge.
Meals are lavish and are served at the communal ‘gol ghar’ or as a barbeque under the stars. I feast on homely chicken and vegetable curries one day, and a delicate Broccoli Soup and Grilled Fish with Lemon Butter Sauce the next. The setting every evening is different and just like a day in the jungle, you never know what adventures lie in store for you!
Getting there: Reni Pani Jungle Lodge is located 144km/4 hours from Raja Bhoj Airport in Bhopal and 15km/25 minutes from Sohagpur Railway Station.
Reni Pani Jungle Lodge
Address: Reni Pani Village, Sohagpur, Madhya Pradesh
Tariff: Double room starts at INR30,000/- inclusive of all meals