The last time I was in Bandhavgarh National Park, B2 was one of the dominant male tigers, a fading shadow of once powerful feline. A lot has changed over the last two years. New players are ruling the jungle now. But something that hasn’t changed over the years is our choice of the resort we check-in: Tree House Hideaway in Bandhavgarh.
A two-hour drive from Katni in central Madhya Pradesh—the nearest railhead to the national park—took us to the resort that comprises five tree houses. Each one is named after the living tree that they are built on. I was betting on getting a Mahua tree this time. I lost the bet but was happy nonetheless. After settling our luggage in a ‘Banyan’ tree house, we strolled towards the dining hall. We were elated to see the tree still standing right in the centre of the hall, happily balancing a patio that doubles up as a lounge named ‘Watering Hole’. “It’s the same 100-year old Mahua tree you saw last time,” Vinod, one of the naturalists from the resort said. Interestingly, they haven’t cut a single tree in and around the property. Everything has been built around the trees and not the other way round.
We ordered our vegetarian lunch and decided to indulge in bird-watching as we knew the food would take a while. Not because of a sluggish service but because everything is freshly cooked using farm fresh vegetables, locally bred chicken, indigenous cereals and spices. The simple lunch that included both Indian and continental cuisines, was served with much fanfare, as the waiters‑—mostly local men—know their job well. We have earlier enjoyed our lunch out in the open when we visited last winter.
On our way back, we met smiling staff members who suggested using torchlight after twilight. “Better still, give us a call if you need to go out for dinner,” one of them said. We know what they meant as we spotted a baby wild boar scurrying away in the bush near our tree house. This, however, should be counted as one of the USP of this resort. It’s as close to the nature as one can imagine.After our evening safari—where we spotted animals and birds including the royal Bengal tiger—we enjoyed our sundowner in our balcony. We observed how well the room was designed, harmonizing jungle living and contemporary amenities. The room, furnished using local wood, was decorated with understated accessories in earthy tones. Reading a book in the balcony was coupled with birds’ tweets (the real ones!). Our discussion was interrupted with a call for dinner. We were ushered to the lounge on the upper level of the dining hall where we enjoyed barbequed platter and drinks with other guests staying at the resort—mostly foreigners. “You must try the local drink made with mahua flowers some day,” one of them suggested, much to our pleasant surprise. A romantic candle-lit dinner by the watering hole – frequented by wild animals – was an ideal closure to our stay. Next morning after our morning safari, we bid adieu to everyone at the resort only to make mental plans of coming back soon.