Just before Christmas I did something I haven’t done in YEARS. I took a bonafide holiday where I had absolutely NO internet or mobile network at all – for 3 whole days! Where is this magical place you might ask? Denwa Backwater Escape in Satpura. A scenic 4.5 hour drive from Bhopal (or a 7 hour drive from Nagpur, which is the way we did it, because the flights were cheaper from Bombay. Btw, if you get queasy on long rides my mom’s home remedy is to suck on a lemon with a little salt, always works!)
Big shout out to the Madhya Pradesh tourist rest stop on the way that had the best god damn Indian food I have eaten in years! So good in fact that I forgot to take any pictures of the food or the place and quietly slipped into a food coma for the rest of the ride. But then we got HERE.
I first heard about the Pugdandee safari lodges from my friends Mahesh & Sushil who (like total rockstars) are spending New Years Eve there this weekend, and as soon as I visited the website, I was pretty much in love. (Like I am with these folks, cue: *awwww*)
What you need to know is that Denwa Backwater Escape overlooks the beautiful backwaters of a dam built on Denwa River in Satpura National Park and that the Satpura Tiger Reserve is spread over 1427 sq km known for a variety of animals and birds including the Tiger, Leopard, Sloth Bear, Crocodile and over 300 species of birds! The lodge has 8 deluxe cottages and 2 tree-houses. The rooms are all air conditioned with running water, coffee makers and king size beds. What you need to see is my photo blog of the 16 (*yes I started with 10 and then I saw all my pictures and ended up with 16) things we loved most, so enjoy! :)
The cottages are super sung and warmly lit. I particularly liked the travel chest inspired furniture that extended to a Hemingway-esque writing table and even the side tables and bed frames!
Most of the focus of Pugdundee living centres around going on various safaris. They have a crack-of-dawn safari (most conducive to seeing leopards, but not for the supremely lazy, like us), an afternoon jeep safari, an evening boat safari, a night jungle safari, an elephant safari and various hiking & biking options. This is kinda awesome because when’s the last time you left the house to see what the neighbouring cast of Jungle Book was up to? Also you get to ride in one of THESE! #Winning
It is rare that you chance upon a scene that looks quite like this. Our guide basically said it was “tea and biscuit” break time and we should hop out of the jeep to the “viewing point” but we were SO not prepared for the breath-taking view that it was…
Like literally something out of National Geographic and the masala chai was pretty delish too :)
I would however recommend, NOT going in with your heart set on seeing a tiger. Although I’m told they have about a dozen (plus a recent littler of tiger cubs I’d have loved to cuddle) they understandably don’t usually venture out near the safari trails to much. Instead try to soak in the lush greenery, spot a wild buffalo, spotted deer, wild peacocks, langurs and sambar deer.
Oh and if you happen to be a bit of a space cadet (on holidays) like me, then chances are you might end up having a conversation like this!
Nowshad: Do tiger’s like sambar?
Park ranger: Yes, very much!
Malini: *most thrilled* The tigers here like sambhar?!
Nowshad: Sambar deer, you idiot.
Malini: Aaaahhh, that makes more sense *sheepish grin* lol
Relax. It’s a pun. I was most pleased with myself (and head stylist extraordinaire) Marv D’Souza for finding me these darling animal motif French Connection sweaters to take on this trip! #SafariStyling
*It means no worries.* Also its the song that played on repeat in my head every time I saw a bunch of wild boar – that looked like Pumba from The Lion King – cruise by!
Later the ranger ominously told us that a tiger had eaten a sloth bear (they’re not very speedy you see) three days ago, leaving behind only one bear foot (oh my!) We believed it when we caught a whiff of the scent one lone Pumba was tracking on our safari trail – a decidedly chilling aroma. Over to you Mr. McFerrin, don’t worry, be happy till you get eaten by a tiger perhaps? *raawr*!
This was also the point at which we started discussing Asterix & Obelix and all our favourite wild boar eating characters that Sujal had never heard of! (Mine was always druid Getafix, Dogmatix and how Cacofonix would inevitably get tied to a tree come dinner time! *lol*)
The boat safari is super cool and leads you to the edge of the jungle, where unfortunately you can’t venture in too far. But if you focus on the banks – after a while, you’ll probably see a crocodile! (See what I did there?)
Interestingly enough we learnt that wild boar never make their own kill. They’re scavengers mostly. Even then, these peacocks didn’t get TOO comfortable.
How can you not love a sunset vanilla sky that looks like THIS? #SatpuraSky
(Especially if you choose to dive into this pool in winter!) Don’t worry though, we have left a recommendation that they have it heated up for luxury brat living :)
But seriously, once you’re back from your daily excursion you basically lay around for the rest of the afternoon doing absolutely nothing. It’s kinda amazing.
Aside from the fact that the cottages and tree houses are nicely spaced out, allowing you to veg out and take in the serene views of nature from the privacy of your deck lounger, there are some really funky design elements in play too….
Like these bar stools made of old cycle chains!
Also who doesn’t love having breakfast to the tune of twittering birds and crisp fresh air? #Sold
I won’t lie. All we did for three days is sleep, safari, eat, safari. Their chefs whipped up some epic meals for us with fresh veggies and some to-die-for desserts.
I think our favourite place to chill (pre and post safari) was the library. A cosy little room tucked away near the dining hall with its own fireplace.
Come dinner time, you’ll be treated to a kindling fire where I recommend you enjoy some yummy wine or even a full-fledged bush dinner!
If you know anything about me, then you know I’m a BIG fan of games. So imagine my delight when I discovered THESE!
We played cards and scrabble (with Sujal giving us clues by torchlight!) and it was all kinds of old-school awesome :)
On the second night we went on a night safari which was a lot more eventful than we expected. For one, it begins almost as soon as you leave the lodge compound! About 5 minutes in, torch-bearers from our jeep lit up jungli rabbits, a wild cat (kinda looked like a lynx), more sambar deer and an owl that had caught and was proceeding to eat a little mouse! (Nowshad enjoyed this part a little too much in my opinion.)
But my favourite thing by far (although I hate to ruin the surprise) was finding a hot water bottle in my bed after a chilly night of adventuring. How incredible is that?! Literally, I wish we lived in a colder climate JUST so I could surprise Nowshad with this sort of thing once in a while. Absolute genius move. Next time you need a serious e-detox, tuck in and try this! xoxo