February 18, 2020
Wildlife touring in India has many facets to it. It’s not only about being on safari, the wildlife and the chance to spot the majestic Indian tiger, though this is a major part of it. Wildlife experiences are never complete without great accommodation on your private tour of India. Selecting places to stay is a personal choice and can often be some of the toughest decisions when people plan their travels. With more than two decades of travel in India and tour planning, we’ve visited many national parks, wildlife lodges and taken many safaris. To help you plan your India wildlife tour, we’ve put together this new list of some of the best hotels or lodges to stay during a wildlife safari in India.
What are the best places to stay to take a tiger safari in India?
Having spent several weeks in recent months revisiting only national parks and wildlife lodges in central India, here is our pick on some of the best places to stay. In this India travel blog we discuss six great wildlife safari lodges in India we love. Five of them are in Central India where arguably some of the greatest wildlife sightings take place. The sixth can be considered if you are visiting the Golden Triangle in Rajasthan and want to add a tiger safari in India to your tour.
4 things to consider when selecting a wildlife lodge in India
#1 Tents, hotels, lodges – different types of accommodation
There are different kinds of accommodation from traditional hotels to safari lodges to luxury tented accommodation. We prefer the safari lodges and luxury tented accommodation because these types of accommodation give the best feel of the jungle and the natural environment. Of course, there is a mix of properties from high end to midrange creating different platforms of luxury and comfort levels. It is about what you would enjoy most and how much you are willing to spend for that experience.
#2 A good safari depends on your naturalist
The quality of the tiger safari in India is paramount to your overall experience. We recommend choosing safari lodges that provide safaris with their own expert naturalists. (The one exception is in Ranthambhore where the park controls the safaris. In this instance the game drives are outsourced.) In all other instances the quality of your experience is really in the hand of the naturalist. We recommend you to always go on a safari with a naturalist except in rare occasions where the park provides a guide; i.e. Ranthambhore National Park.
#3 Nature walks, cycling tours – more than just safaris
While the focus of your stay is likely to be on wildlife safaris – these tend to be early morning and late afternoon, leaving free time during the day for other activities. While you may wish to relax and enjoy the free time and the facilities at your accommodation, for those of you who prefer more activities than less during your day, look for lodges that offer cycling tours, nature walks, village walks, spa treatments etc. In a lot occasions we found that there is extra time away from safaris to go on nature walks or experience the intriguing rural villages that are yet untouched by modernisation.
#4 Pools and spas – like we said, more than just tiger safaris!
It is important to find out the facilities safari lodges offer. Almost all the lodges have swimming pools while some have onsite spas. Wi-Fi is available in all the properties, however in some properties it is restricted to common areas such as the lounge to help you to enjoy and relax in nature during your stay.
6 of the best wildlife lodges in central India
#1 Pench Tree Lodge, Pench National Park
Pench Tree Lodge is situated in the village of Sarahiri close to Karamajhiri Gate of Pench National Park . It is on 16 hectares of private forest with six cottages and six tree houses. The tree houses are dispersed within the property. The lounge, library, restaurant/ dining areas are in the main section giving guests an extra space to relax during the day. The outside verandah of the dining area is fabulous for bird watching as the birds fly from one tree to another taking an occasional dip in the swimming pool nearby.
The Cottages and Tree Houses are great accommodation options. Cottages are modern in interior with large French windows providing uninterrupted views of the forest. They are spacious and great for families. We loved the attic bed and the spacious balcony. The tree houses are unique and give an insight and a feel of the forest.
We enjoyed the safaris here. The lodge has experienced naturalists who are excited to share their experiences and expertise. Our safari with Gaurev was one of the best we’ve experienced as he was keen to share and show beyond what the park offers including insights to the tribal village life of the Gonds in the surrounding villages.
Wildlife experiences do not have to be limited to wildlife sightings. The cuisine at Pench Tree Lodge is the ultimate for a foodie. Pankaj, the chef on site, is so multi-skilled and talented that he can turn around anything from French pastries to North Indian delicacies. There is a strict No to plastics policy at the lodge and a lot of their food including herbs are sourced from their own organic garden.
This property is great for families, couples and solo travellers and one of our top preferences.
#2 Jamtara Wilderness Camp, Pench National Park
Jamtara Wilderness Camp is yet another property that we really love. It is situated in the village of Jamtara close to Pench National Park in rural India. A luxury Tented Safari camp with 10 exquisite tented accommodations all with beautiful interior, air conditioning and en-suite bathrooms. This property is wonderful for wildlife lovers as it gives a true feel of the jungle.
The main lodge consists of the lounge, dining area and a library overlooking the swimming pool. The library is filled with books on wildlife especially some related to the current owner’s grandfather’s experiences. Kailash Sankhla is one of the founding members of tiger conservation efforts in India. As you can imagine although the property is new it has history that is truly connected to the Pench Tiger Reserve.
We love the star beds that resemble the traditional Machaan the villagers use to watch their crops overnights. If you are the adventurous kind a good night sleep in the star bed is guaranteed and sure to be memorable!
Another unique feature of the property is the huge Banyan tree across the swimming pool that provides a great resting place for birds and Hanuman langurs during the day and serves as a beautiful backdrop for evening drinks and meet ups.
The lodge has well-experienced naturalists who will accommodate the guests on safaris. They are on hand during your stay to share their experiences and discuss the wildlife and jungle. We love Jamtara for its exquisite accommodation, unique facilities and the ability to stay close to nature.
#3 Kanha Earth Lodge, Kanha National Park
Kanha Earth Lodge is situated with near access to the Khatia Gate of Kanha National Park. Set in a 16-acre forest area this lodge’s architecture and interior designs are inspired by the tribal homes of the Gonds villagers. Gonds tribal communities live in this region and are famous for their artistic talents. What’s unique to this property is that it has minimum interference with the natural environment and blends so well.
The 12 bungalows are equipped with spacious bedrooms, large en-suite bathrooms, and an outside verandah opening up to the forest. The lounge and dining areas are equally lovely with earthy interior and unique pieces of furniture. There is a foyer that is used for evening presentations by the naturalist where guests are served with drinks and canopies, all too lovely to miss out on.
The property has a large pool of experienced naturalists who accompany guests on safaris, make evening presentations and do nature walks and village walks. If you stay in Kanha Earth Lodge a walk to the nearby tribal village should be on your list of things to do. We will assure you that it is such an amazing experience.
The food at Kanha Earth Lodge is special. The chefs come up with the most diverse menus from North Indian to South Indian to continental cuisine. Even a fussy eater cannot resist. The little souvenir shop in the corner of the main lodge sells some amazing little souvenirs. There are paintings done by local artists if you wish to purchase and contribute to the community around.
Once again, this property is an environmentally conscious one and has a strict NO for plastics. You are likely to get your own drink bottle to use throughout your journey and carry back home. All in all, great for families, couples and solo travellers.
6 unforgettable stays at wildlife lodges in India
#4 Kings Lodge, Bandhavgarh
Kings Lodge is situated in a 16-acre Sal forest land just 10 minutes away from the main Tala Gate in Bandhavgarh. It is tastefully designed creating an ambience of relaxation and adventure. The 12 cottages are dispersed throughout the property with some on stilts with more insight to the bush and some on the ground. The rooms are simple, elegant and comfortable with a homely feel. The cottages on stilts have a private balcony that is ideal to sip a cup of coffee and watch the birds fly by.
There is great Indian cuisine and a lush organic garden from which fresh herbs are picked for daily cuisine. The pool and the SPA are additional facilities the property offers to its guests to chill after long days of safaris.
The team of naturalists take turns to create exciting evening presentations and discussions. No wildlife lover can resist these even after a tiring afternoon game drive. The Indian delectable served with your favourite drink is another reason to take part in the evening presentations that generally commence at 7.30 p.m.
The staff are great and customer oriented. The lodge is great for families, couples, solo travellers alike.
Our suggested itinerary Wildlife Tours of Madhya Pradesh includes a stay at Bandhavgarh. For more details, see the itinerary in detail here.
#5 Samode Safari Lodge
Samode Safari Lodge is an upmarket safari lodge in Bandhavgarh. It is in every sense luxurious however with a sense of ruggedness. Located near the buffer zone of Bandhavgarh National Park, Samode Safari lodge has 12 independent villas spread across the property. The villas are spacious and elegant with living rooms, bedrooms, outdoor verandah, dressing rooms, en-suite bathroom and outdoor bathtub and a shower. All villas are unique in interior and elegant in appearance.
The main lodge has ample space to relax. If you are more of an outdoor person you may use our decks for sitting and dining options. A well-equipped library, spa and billiard room are some of the other facilities. The pool is inviting after safari and even more when it is lit up to serve dinner under the stars.
The game drive is exemplary at Samode Safari Lodge with their experienced naturalists and spacious 4 x 4 safari jeeps. Great for families, couples and individuals. All the luxuries come with a price tag, but they are fully worth.
#6 Khem Villas, Rathambhore National Park
Nestled amongst the lush greenery with the mighty Aravalli Mountain Range as a backdrop is Khem Villas. Set amid of an array of flora, the property attracts visitors such as jungle cats, hyenas, and a vast range of bird life to name a few.
The elegantly designed cottages, villas and tents give the guests the true luxury of Rajasthan. The interior of the accommodation units is adorned with the softest cotton sourced from Rajasthan. The interior is simple and elegant, with bedroom, en-suite bathroom and outdoor bathtub and shower in some instances. All the units overlook some parts of the greenery and just to sit out and relax is one of the advantages in staying in Khem Villa.
This is also a very special place for foodies. The lodge sources all its food from its organic farm. Although meat is not on the menu, we will assure you will never miss the meats. The home-made cheeses, pastries, bread and fusion food is exemplary.
The lodge offers nature walks around the property which is great for any wildlife enthusiast. Note: The property does not offer safaris as per the common practice at Ranthambhore, however this can be arranged with prior notice.
Those are six of our favourite wildlife lodges in India. Our senior travel planners can design a custom made itinerary for a private tour of India that will take you to the best national parks of India and can include a stay at any of the properties listed here that appeal to you. If you are visiting India, here are some other travel tips about wildlife tours and travel in India.
Three of the best national parks for a wildlife safari in India
You may also be interested in our other India travel blogs:
Top 5 places in India you should visit in 2020