I recently had a chance to spend a few days in Kanha, where I stayed at the Kanha Earth Lodge. Think of a small boutique resort right in the middle of a forest. Add to it the comfort of a home away from home. Throw in warm service, smiling faces and great food. And there you have Kanha Earth Lodge.
This is one of the nicest places I have ever stayed in during my travels. Here are my ten reasons why you should choose Kanha Earth Lodge when you go to Kanha National Park.
1. Getting to the lodge
Your Kanha adventure begins from the time you turned off the main highway from Jabalpur into the forest road towards the resort. It is an unforgettable experience, driving through the thickets, with barely some signs of civilisation on the way. You drive on and on inside what seems like a forest in itself, then a sudden sharp turn, and there you are.
2. Being part of the environment
The lodge is part of Pugdundee Safaris and has won several awards for its eco-friendliness and unique stone architecture. One quick tour of the property and it is easy to see why. There are only twelve cottages in all, six set on either side of the main common area, in a mild curve. The of the lodge is entirely in harmony with the environment, and feels seamlessly connected to the wilderness around. Don’t be surprised if you see a snake on your way to the cottage or hear the cries of a wild animal from far away. They also work closely with locals, training and employing them at the lodge or procuring food supplies from them when possible.
3. Eco-friendly cottages
Each cottage is warm and beautiful in its simplicity. I loved the smart use of earth and wood, offset by the warm reds and oranges of the furnishings. The outside is brought into the room in many ways: the verandah at the back that opens out to the bushes, the shower area with a skylight and just the general sense of being surrounded by greenery.
4. Friendly staff
Here, there are smiling faces all around, from the first welcome with a cold drink and hot towels, to the help in planning your stay so you get the best experience. And then there are the little thoughtful touches like hot water bottles in bed and in the jeep for morning safaris, that really enhance the “home away from home” feeling.
5. Warm and inviting common spaces
This is possibly one of my favourite things about the lodge and one reason I would strongly recommend it. The common spaces are beautifully designed and furnished, with several interesting curios with a local theme, and several indoor activities for adults and kids. When I was not out on a safari or walk, I was torn between sitting in my room with a book and heading to the common area to find people to talk to.
6. A chance to make friends
The common spaces are created in a way that encourages (and sometimes, subtly forces) socialising with other guests. For instance, the dining are has a long table where all guests set together at mealtimes. Here the conversation flows easily, travel stories are shared, common interests and acquaintances are discovered. Then there is the bonfire at night, where guests meet and swap their wildlife tales from the day. I made a few friends here and enjoyed sharing my jeep with them during my safaris into the forest. Kanha Earth Lodge is a great place to meet likeminded people, especially keen photographers and travel enthusiasts.
7. Superb, sinful meals
The food here is absolutely delicious, the kind that will make you forget all about diets (but hey, you are on holiday). It starts at breakfast (assuming you have not headed out to the jungle really early), with a wide spread, from alu parathas and achar, homemade peanut butter and fresh muesli. Apart from the taste, the lovely thing is the way dinners are served at different locations each evening – right in the middle of the bush, by the pool and on the morning of my departure, in the open verandah under the mild early winter sunlight.
8. The perfect base for safaris
The area around the lodge is part of the buffer zone of the Kanha forest and offers plenty of opportunities for excellent birdwatching and chance animal sightings. Naturalists from the lodge take you on exploratory walks or birding rambles into the buffer zone.
9. A slice of village life
I went for a local mela and walked into village homes to see their traditional way of life. This was the annual Kartik Purnima mela, held a few kilometres from the lodge, across the river, which I crossed on foot. Otherwise, there are regular weekly markets that make for great excursions, especially if you want a break from the forest drives.
10. Leave your urban worries behind
You don’t have a choice: you leave behind all thoughts of mobile phone signals and internet connections at the highway. And when work, in its own annoying way, interrupted even this wilderness experience, I managed to find a phone connection (tip: if you plan to travel into the interiors of India, go BSNL) and quick email access at the main office.