October 30, 2013

Pugdundee Safaris...!!

The long noisy train journey from Bangalore to Katni was followed by a bumpy drive to Bandhavgarh. However, all the vivaciousness of the journey till then turned into serenity as soon as we stepped into Kings Lodge at Bandhavgarh. Peace prevailed everywhere along with warm hospitality from everyone at the lodge. Set amidst greenery and away from the line of lodges in Bandhavgarh, this resort from the house of Pugdundee safaris provides you with luxury, quality service and delicious gourmet. Kings lodge is spread over 32 acres with 19 cottages (some on stilt) and has frequent wild visitors like langurs, birds and numerous colourful butterflies to give you a feel of what lays ahead in the national park. The organic farm from where they procure most of their vegetables is something which is uncommon and the effort needs to be lauded. The small dining area amidst the farm with spectacular views of hills and greenery is definitely an ideal spot to have a romantic breakfast. The sprawling main dining area, the peaceful library (they also have wildlife screenings here), the luxurious spa and the activity area are sure to bring back the visitors to Kings Lodge. The resort has also made their best efforts to stay plastic free and their next mission is to have solar energy for all their cottages. The best thing about Kings Lodge is the rustic charm it displays even as it is dipped in luxury. What I loved the most about this aspect was the disfigured woodwork everywhere, be it chairs, door frames or hanging bulb holders. Creative! It was wonderful to spent some memorable wild moments learning, spotting, sighting and understanding the flora and fauna of Bandhavgarh during the drive inside the park and on nature walks outside the resort premises with the highly knowledgeable naturalists, Mr.Gudda and Mr.Aman. It was nice to hear to the lovely stories of the lodge and the national park from Mr. Varun, the general manager at Kings Lodge. Most of their employees are from the nearby villages and that is a commendable effort. On the downside the premises does not have high mobile and internet connectivity and the approach road ( the last stretch of 10-12 kms) is a rough ride. Hopefully the rough ride would get smoother soon to make your stay at the wonderful Kings Lodge a memorable one.

A stilt cottage

Dining area
The organic farm
A few kilometers drive through the village took us to the Tree House Hideaway, another luxurious property from Pugdundee safaris. Spread over 21 acres and perched on 5 different types of trees (mahua, pipal, palash, tendu and banyan), these luxurious tree houses give you the charm of exclusivity, wilderness and isolation. The balconies open into the greenery and all you see is the green canopy and all you hear are the chirping of the birds or the chatter of a monkey. The shower room has a door opening into the balcony and this gives a feel of having a bath in the wild. Now that is quite exciting, though I could not experience it. The dining area is located at the base of an old mahua tree and the bar perched on top of it. Mr.Ajith, the manager at Tree House Hideaway, an avid angler from Khatmandu who shuttles between Bandhavgarh and his home in Nepal was quick to point out the efforts of his team and himself to make sure the premises are devoid of plastic and also the new activities that are gearing up for the season ahead. You can also listen to his interesting wildlife and trekking stories during your stay here. Almost all the staff is from the neighbouring village and their courteousness and warm hospitality does need a special mention. The exciting wilderness within the premises with a plethora of flora and avian fauna is another exciting aspect of this beautifully perched hideaway.

Inside one of the tree houses
If your idea of a wild life resort is a hunting lodge in its complete rustic charm, then Ken River Lodge of Pugdundee safaris by the Ken river in Panna is where you should head to. This does not have the luxury of Kings Lodge or Tree House Hideaway, but what it does have is wilderness spread over 50 acres. Spiders and lizards crawling over the glass panes, langurs chattering on your roof top, wild boars digging within the premises, colourful avians chirping instead of your mobile alarms and vibrant butterflies accompanying you all along the resort gives the perfect setting of the old time hunting lodges which have become a rarity these days. Now isn't this exciting enough to head there? The dining area of Ken River Lodge, I was told is quite famous and brings in a lot of day visitors who enjoys lunch by the lovely Ken river. When I did see the place, I was mesmerised. Anyone who sits there would love to sit there forever gazing at lovely red rocks, glazing river, gorgeous birds and a few lovely crocodiles. It is on a machaan and the sunset view from the restaurant is undoubtedly the icing on this delicious cake. A boat ride on the river can be organized by the resort and would give you a closer look at the life on Ken river. Mr.Bejoy Issac, the manager on duty who is a naturalist himself is a jovial person who is always quick to spot a bird soaring high or a crocodile popping up from the river. The senior naturalist, Mr.Shukr with whom we went for a nature walk and for our park drives is an encyclopedia of wildlife who can pass on many interesting informations. The brilliant rustic setting of Ken River Lodge is sure to take me there again.

The path that leads to Ken River Lodge

The unbeatable view

P.S.- I was hosted by Pugdundee safaris at their resorts, Kings Lodge, Bandhavgarh and Ken River Lodge, Panna. You can find more details about their resorts and lodges on their website  http://www.pugdundeesafaris.com. They also have resorts in Kanha, Pench and Satpura.
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