When I got an invite from Forsyth Lodge at Satpura for a solo weekend getaway in Satpura Tiger Reserve, I was both excited and apprehensive. Excited because I love travelling to offbeat destinations ,away from the crowds (that’s why I have never been to Goa yet – the prospect of crowded beaches is a nightmare for me). Apprehensive because I have never been on a wildlife reserve/national park for a holiday. But I thought to myself, that, in keeping with my unexpected travel experiences this year (see my Gol Gumbaz and Jim Thompson House posts), I should definitely take a chance and this weekend getaway at Forsyth Lodge Satpura may turn out to be the year end travel highlight of an awesome Travel Year, 2015 has been for me. So I promptly booked my tickets for journey to Forsyth Lodge Satpura in Madhya Pradesh, India.
I arrived in Bhopal (state capital of Madhya Pradesh) by an early morning flight and car from Forsyth Lodge was waiting to pick me up. The drive from Bhopal to Satpura is around 3 to 4 hours depending on traffic; it took me 3 hours to reach Forsyth Lodge as I started early morning from Bhopal and missed the morning rush hour traffic while getting out of the city.
The Forsyth Lodge is a 9 year old property and has 12 luxury cottages. I liked the sophisticated rustic look of the main building (which has the common dining area, bar, safari shop, library and spa). I got to stay in the ‘Goonja’ cottage and loved the décor – every furniture felt a basic part of the cottage yet exuded luxury and I simply loved the verandah attached to the cottage, out looking the grasslands (me and fellow travel blogger Akansha spent one lovely afternoon lounging and catching up here). The property is managed by a small but very warm team and it was a pleasure interacting with them for the next 2 days.
On the first day, I arrived around 11:40 am and after checking-in to my cottage and freshening up, it was time for a brunch. I liked the fact that all meals at the Lodge are served in the dining Hall, which is a good opportunity for the guests and Forsyth Management Team to interact with each other, share safari stories (sightings etc) of the day. In fact, chatting with fellow guests and Forsyth team of the first day over brunch dispelled all of my apprehensions about getting here.
I went on an evening Jeep Safari with a Naturalist from Forsyth Lodge (Varun) and a local guide, inside the buffer area of Satpura Tiger Reserve. It was an interesting safari for me as I learnt to use binoculars to spot birds. Although Varun kept telling me that the birds we spotted were less that day, I simply loved going into the forest while it was dark, listening to the sounds and most of all the lovely starry sky with no urban lights to cramp the views.
The dinner on first night was in the outdoors and it was a bespoke luxurious experience. There was a bonfire lit to dispel the cold and over drinks we could hear the sounds of wildlife around us. The food was simple yet delicious; the Manager (Rishi) told us that all the ingredients are sourced locally from surrounding villages, including dairy and poultry. No doubt, it tasted so good!!<
The next day we went inside the core area of Satpura Tiger Reserve on a morning Jeep Safari with Naturalist Varun and it was an incredible experience for me and needs a separate post. However, to sum up, Satpura is the largest tiger reserve in India with the lowest tiger sightings. Therefore, if one goes with the expectation of sighting tiger here, it will be a sorely disappointing experience. However, the reserve has a diverse wildlife and we spotted sloth beer, spotted Deer, Sambhar, Langurs, Wild Boars , many birds, Crocodiles and also heard Leopard calls (our tough luck that one guest couple took a different safari route and actually spotted leopards on the same day). It is an extremely enriching yet humbling experience to see the animals in the wild.
In the late afternoon, we went for a walking safari inside the park and it was quite an experience for me. It is one thing to spot animals from the relative security of a jeep but to see the same animal on foot (for example Wild Boar) gives goose bumps!! We spotted fresh tiger pug marks but were not lucky enough to spot one. Nevertheless, it was a great experience for me as I love hiking in forests/nature trails.
The next day was our last day at Forsyth Lodge and they had saved the experience for us, which was a morning Canoe Safari. I was quite apprehensive about this and even thought of skipping it, but having fellow travel blogger & friend Akansha on the trip somewhat inspired me to do this. The Canoe Safari turned out to be an incredible experience for me; watching the sunrise on Denwa River, spotting birds and just soaking in the beauty of the river & wilderness all around us was simply one of the best travel experiences I have had till date. The canoe safari definitely needs a separate post!!
Back from the canoe safari, it was time for us to head home and I so much wanted to stay back and enjoy a couple more days at Forsyth Lodge. I loved everything about Forsyth Lodge and Satpura Tiger Reserve. I knew in my heart, I will be coming back here for sure; next time will be with my family!!