Think Madhya Pradesh for wildlife safaris and one hears of the renowned Reni Pani Jungle Lodge, a closely shared secret by avid travellers and wildlife enthusiasts. It fringes (11km away) on the Satpura National Park and Tiger Reserve. Fly down to Bhopal and take the road for 217km. The closest train station is Suhagpur. And there, a beautiful lodge awaits you.

The structure is simple, being divided into three distinct divisions – the nallah, the forest, and hill units. Twelve luxury cottages promise to make you comfortable with their luxurious interiors, equipped with verandahs and decks. Not to forget

the lodges’ luxury tents that are so well assigned around a watering hole, the experience of sighting animals takes it to a different level altogether. They definitely make sure you don’t miss the foliage or the animals and birds that watch us from afar. The view from my deck provided monkeys and deer gazing at me. A personal butler is assigned to take you from the cottage to and fro and one is definitely not encouraged to loiter around.

Completely equipped to entertain and thrill – the lodge’s accent is on the game drives. Safari lovers are more than welcome on this terrain. As one takes in the evening relaxation in the Gol Bahar (the Central Meeting place)

sometimes swimming in the shaded jungle pool, and giving into traditional massages, one realises this forest retreat actually spreads over 30 acres.

Into the wild

Awakening to bird calls, the day starts pretty early at the lodge. Taking drives into the forest, (2,200 sqm) proved to be a private game viewing experience, as only 12 jeeps are allowed in the tourism area at any given time. I sighted the remnants of a huge kill, the wild dogs, boars and flies feasting greedily on it, the main predator had obviously moved on to its next adventure.

One also gets to sight the sloth bear, Hyenas, giant flying squirrels, and of course the eternal favorites – the deer and the antelope. And by luck, you might just end up sighting the elusive ones – the leopard and the mighty Tiger. The beautiful thing about this forest was the diversity of the flora, replete with Saal and teak trees. Some of the Reni Pani guides are equipped to take you on walks through the forest and it is the only one that allows a Safari through Tiger country on foot. So along the trail, one gets to sight butterflies, dragonflies, arachnids, and the wild country. Bird watching is a dream in these parts as we discovered the grey hornbill, black-shouldered kites, etc. The Denwa River provides a perfect habitat for these winged visitors.

The elephant Safari also takes you where jeeps cannot even venture. In the time I spent we conversed about how important it was for the mahout to have a relationship with the animal. During the season time, when the rains are robust, boat and Canoe Safaris play a good part in taking you across the vast Tawa Reservoir. This lodge is one of few that actually inspire night drives and I enjoyed mine as the expert naturalist led it. You can see the Indian Porcupine, the Jungle Cat, honey badgers, the sloth bear, wild pigs, dholes, blackbuck, sambhar, and antelopes. An interesting way to sight game amongst the cacophony of the calling nightjars and the footsteps of some animals prowling.

Another beautiful retreat

On the way, out to catch a flight back, (18kms from the airport) one owes a visit to the Jehan Numa group’s next property in Bhopal called the Jehan Numa Retreat, a rare and exclusive getaway. Sharing a wall with the Van Vihar National Park, it is sheer comfort and luxury imbibed. Being both a retreat for the business traveller and the adventurous ones, it offers village style units with private courtyards, restaurants with delicious cuisines, whether it is the easy dining Under the Jamun Tree or a fine dining restaurant called the Coriander Leaf. It actually offers high tech conference facilities (2500 sq ft) as well in this unusual setting. A completely organic and natural retreat, it offers a luxurious spa and swimming facility, it is not devoid of birdsong and animal sounds and houses 3,000 jungle trees spurring its guests in the season time to actually pluck the fruits off the trees.

My touristy side always heightens on trips like these. I experienced the Van Vihar National Park, which is blissfully spread over 5km and is a modern zoological park. On my list were the Taj-Ul Masjid, the lake, the Bharat Bhavan (art haven), the informative and amazing Tribal Museum, Gauhar and Rani Mahal and many more.

Madhya Pradesh is indeed a Safari haven and a land of many adventures and cultures.

Maya Lalchandani