What’s as exciting if not more, when you are out for a wildlife adventure? Well, considering the fact that you’ll be somewhere deep in the wilderness, in somewhat direct contact with creatures of the wild, it is anybody’s guess that it is your accommodation that shall play a major role in your expedition of the wildlife. Even more so here than any other holiday, because out there in the wilderness, your accommodation tends to be more of an extension of the experience of the wildlife in a way. So, if by any chance, you were thinking that there isn’t much on the plate when it comes to a wildlife stay, then we just have two words for you “think again”!
Oh! Yes, we are all either finicky or we just don’t care and some want an authentic realistic experience while others just want to be pampered with a lot of tender love and care. There’s a certain charm in roughing it out in the jungle, or a sheer indulgence to have a cushy stay in the middle of nowhere. So, believe it or not, our top 5 national parks have places in and around them, that take care of every need, all you need to do is to decide which one to start with.
JIM CORBETT NATIONAL PARK
Dhikala Forest Lodge
The most sought-after place to stay inside the Jim Corbett National Park, the Dhikala Forest Lodge is a government forest guest house. Now, don’t look the other way, we know what you’re thinking! But this place is all set to prove you wrong. The edge that it has over the others is that it is situated in Dhikala which is the core area of the Tiger Reserve. For instance, you might just end up saying “Hi” to a tiger right from your window! Not to mention, the other denizens of the park may pay you a visit too. Now, there’s nothing to worry about, the guest house is well protected with proper fencing that ensures that your visitor maintains a friendly distance. To top it all, it is only the guests at the Dhikala forest lodge that enjoy the privilege of the elephant and jeep safari in the entire Dhikala Safari Zone (which happens to have the maximum Tiger sightings) ahem! There are 32 rooms in the guest house with attached bathrooms and 2 dormitories as well. The rooms are clean and well maintained, the facilities are basic, but you will be well looked after. Just make sure you book way in advance. Oh! And not to forget the beautiful surroundings. So? Who’s ready to share some space with the Jim Corbett Tigers?
Paatlidun Safari Lodge
Sheer luxury at the lap of mother nature, the Paatlidun Safari Lodge exudes the rustic charm of traditional Kumaoni architecture teamed with the right amount of modern influences. The resort blends into its natural surroundings (well, it’s separated from the Corbett Tiger Reserve by a narrow stream). The 12 luxury cottages tend to romanticize the entire concept of a jungle stay; think, private plunge pools, open-air bathrooms, star windows over your bed (for star gazing obviously!) and as if the star window wasn’t cool enough, they even have a sky bed (an additional outdoor bed) to soak in not just the sun but the entire surroundings. The resort ensures utmost privacy if you want to be left alone. It also organizes jeep safaris (Hello! It’s Corbett after all), nature walks and trips to local villages, should you want to venture out and explore. This 13-acre property is located at the periphery of the Corbett Tiger Reserve and is just 3 kms away from the Durga Devi gate and 13 Kms from Dhikala.
GIR FOREST NATIONAL PARK
Gir Jungle Lodge
Located at the entrance of the Gir Forest National Park, the Gir Jungle Lodge is as convenient as it can get. Spread in an area of 4 acres or more, this resort is a crowd favourite in all its simplicity and warm hospitality. Its proximity to the National Park, its natural surroundings and the umpteen mango trees provide the most authentic jungle experience. The resort has 40 standard AC rooms, 12 Swiss tents and 1 AC bungalow to choose from. The rooms have all the basic amenities and are well maintained. There’s a swimming pool, an outdoor playing area and Wi-Fi for those moments when you are not on a safari.
The Gateway Hotel, Gir forest
A luxury hotel at the periphery of the Gir Forest National park? A big yes to that one! Especially when the view from the luxurious comforts of your room gives you a glimpse of the jungle life. Overlooking the Hiran River and the greenery of the Gir Forest, the Gateway Hotel has all the right ingredients for a pampered and comfortable wildlife stay. The 26 aesthetically decorated rooms, the executive suite and the deluxe suite leave you spoiled for choice. Oh! that feeling of tranquillity as you sip your tea by the balcony overlooking the river and the forest. Not to mention the welcoming comfort of the hotel facilities (not just the spa but the comforts of your own room) after a day out in the jungle; complete bliss we say!
HEMIS NATIONAL PARK
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that this is not your regular wildlife safari. So, it goes without saying that even your accommodation shall not be common place, especially when the national park in question is some 3000-6000 above sea level (think cold weather and rugged conditions)! This is one of those places where you need to rough it out and trust us, it isn’t all that bad, especially if you are a nature or wildlife enthusiast. If you are looking for hotels, then please be informed, the closest of them are at least 30 km from the park. Besides, the 4000 square kilometres of mountainous terrain and the elusiveness of its chief attraction the Snow Leopard and other rare denizens of the park are reasons enough to state that this safari may last longer than any other of its contemporaries elsewhere.
The best way to experience all that the Hemis National Park has to offer is by living in the homestays in the 6 villages inside the Park, or in camps or in the famous Hemis monastery.
The Himalayan homestay programme is an initiative undertaken by the Snow Leopard Conservancy Trust and UNESCO which enables the tourists to experience the local Ladakhi way of life and the lifestyle of those few who stay within the confines of National Park. These homestays provide breakfast, packed lunch, dinner, tea and filtered water. The rooms are traditionally rural yet comfortable and cosy and the hosts are most friendly and welcoming. Not to mention the eco-friendly dry compost toilets (which means no western style toilets) All these cost around Rs.2100 for a couple. The only way to book these homestays is through a tour operator, the designated homestay coordinator (Maitriya Tours – 01982 25 1466) or website ladakh-tours.com.
The next option is the Hemis Monastery itself. The humble yet clean 18 rooms at the monastery are also once in a lifetime kind of experience. The charges for the room are between Rs.400-500. To book a room, you need to contact the Manager, Hemis Spiritual Retreat (mob- 09419178197)
If you are in the mood to set up camp, a nominal fee of Rs. 100 is charges. You either get your own camping equipment or can ask your tour operator to make necessary arrangements.
SUNDARBANS NATIONAL PARK
Sundarbans Jungle Camp
A place built with the utmost respect for the fragile eco-system of the area, the Sunderbans Jungle camp, located on the Bali island, (yes! There’s one Bali in India too) is in a close proximity to the Sunderbans National Park. The 6 cottages and the 2 Bungalows are built and inspired by the ethnic architecture of the region and come with attached modern bathrooms. Overlooking a pond that is surrounded by palm trees, these thatched mud cottages are in perfect harmony with the natural beauty of Sundarbans. The resort is an initiative by the NGO called ‘Help Tourism’ which specializes in building sustainable and eco-friendly travelling environments in the East and North-East India. The camp also has its own ‘nature interpretation centre’ (should you want to delve deeper into the workings of the mangroves and its eco-system), there are boats for cruises, trained guides for excursions at the national park, guided village walks and local fishermen for country boat excursions. This place literally takes care of everything that a holiday in Sundarbans can offer.
Sundarbans Tiger Camp
One of the most well-known and in-demand resorts in the Sundarbans, the Sundarbans Tiger Camp is located on the Dayapur island. It has won several awards in hospitality and is well applauded for its services and facilities. The resort has some canvas tents, deluxe rooms, executive rooms and AC\Non-AC rooms. Surrounded by greenery, the rooms are comfortable and have large attached balconies that are ideal to soak in the natural surroundings. The room walls are painted upon by the beautiful works of wildlife by a local artist. The private lake at the resort is an ideal spot to observe the migratory birds that are known to inhabit the area. The library at the resort is replete with books that will educate you all about the Tigers and the life at Sundarbans.
KAZIRANGA NATIONAL PARK
First things first, this resort is just 300 metres away from the Kaziranga National Park. Secondly, it is managed by two very passionate wildlife photographers and conservationists. Technically, this means you will be in good hands. Therefore, be prepared to experience the wildlife of Kaziranga in the most authentic way. This eco-resort believes in responsible tourism and seeks to benefit both the locals and tourists alike. So, it not just organises safaris to the national park but also lets the visitors enjoy bits and pieces of the rural life of Assam. Bullock cart rides, tribal village tours, traditional dance and music; there couldn’t be a better way to learn about the local culture. But wait! This isn’t all when it comes to experiences, the open sky picnic and the starlit dinner organized by the resort is something that would stay with you forever. As if this wasn’t enough, the resort also houses within its premises a Wildlife Library which has all the books you could read about Kaziranga, wildlife and Assam. The Photo Gallery exhibits some of the best pictures from Kaziranga (the managers are professional photographers, remember?). Besides, they also run a full-fledged photography workshop in the resort. We must say, this is one hell of a multi-faceted resort. Coming to the rooms, there are suites and deluxe rooms, each with an extended veranda and furnished with bamboo and cane furniture. The rooms are comfortable and have all standard facilities and have an earthy charm about them.
Diphlu River Lodge
Well, Lonely Planet said that the Diphlu River Lodge is one of the top two wildlife resorts in India. Having said that, this lodge also happened to have hosted the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their visit to India in 2016. Ahem! Just saying! On top of that, it is at the periphery of the Kaziranga National Park separated only by the Diphlu River after which the resort is named after. The resort has 8 individual cottages and 4 semi-detached cottages. The raised cottages are made of natural materials like bamboo, wood and have thatched roofs. The rooms are spacious, well equipped and are furnished with cane and bamboo furniture. The rooms have wide foldable glass doors that open onto a veranda that provide a beautiful view of the river Diphlu and the surrounding Kaziranga forest. Imagine sitting on the cane recliners and sipping your favourite drink as your senses soak in the rustic surroundings of the resort. The resort allows two safaris a day, accompanied by their well-trained naturalists which are included in the cost of your stay. The resort also offers a wide range of activities like the Brahmaputra cruise, Dolphin Boat safari, elephant bathing in the Diphlu river, Tea garden visit, Village tours etc. So, if you thought that a trip to Kaziranga National Park was only about safaris within the park, think again!
Did you hear that? We do! The call of the wild just got louder. We have already told you about the National parks and now we are telling you about where to stay. Now all you need to do is make up your mind and start with one of these right away.