Barely an hour from bustling Bhopal, a pleasant drive through forests and fields gets us to the deliciously secluded Ratapani Jungle Lodge. Tucked into the fold of a native teak jungle and situated high on a hill above the Kolar Reservoir, 23 independent rooms, cottages, and tents are scattered across five acres of wilderness.
Walking along sun-dappled paths in the shade of amla and teak trees, I check into my cosy room which has large windows and a sit-out overlooking the forest and reservoir below. In shades of pale green, the rooms and tents merge seamlessly with the surrounding trees. Exploring the property, I walk by the pool, pick up books on local art from the Club Room, and stop to check out the papier-mâché artefacts handcrafted by a tribal women’s group from the nearby Bamnai village. The lodge works closely with the local communities, employing a majority of their staff from the surrounding villages and using locally made craft as part of their decor.
The result is an immersive cultural experience as well as a wilderness holiday. During a boat ride as the sun sets on the reservoir, the local staff regales me by pointing out native achar and khakar trees on the banks and the abundant birdlife. All of the lodge’s activities – boat ride, wildlife safaris in the Ratapani Tiger Reserve, night drives in the buffer area and treks to historical points – are designed to highlight Ratapani’s wealth of wild and cultural offerings.
The lodge’s uniqueness lies in its accessibility for all. With paved paths, ramps leading to rooms, family friendly buffet meals and activities, guests of all age groups will find something or the other of interest at the lodge. On day trips, visitors can enjoy homely meals of Malai Matar, Sev Bhaji, and cauliflower subzi served in the ‘Gol Ghar’. Creature comforts are plenty for those who just want to relax: a pool to splash in, a lovely outdoor deck overlooking the water, drinks and snacks by the bonfire, a Club Room with a pool and TT table. I chose to walk down to the water’s edge for some much needed solitude. With only dragonflies and butterflies for company, my wilderness holiday felt complete.
Getting there: Ratapani Jungle Lodge is located 50km/90 minutes from Raja Bhoj Airport in Bhopal and 41km/80 minutes from Bhopal Jn. Railway Station
Ratapani Jungle Lodge
Address: Kolar Dam, Panchayat Veerpur Lawakadhi, Madhya Pradesh – 466111
Tariff: Double room starts at ₹4,000/- inclusive of breakfast