You check into a jungle resort for the love of wildlife and nature. What you want is to feel the forest and its ways around you all through – not just when you go on game drives or safaris. Especially when you are in Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh in central India – made famous by Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. And the hotel you could book for yourself is The Riverwood Forest Retreat, a part of the Waxpol Hotels’ portfolio.
Why Waxpol Hotels?
Before I write about my experience at this property, a word about Waxpol. The promoters love, respect and care for the natural world – and this reflects in their business practices. I have not been to their other properties (yet) but if the one at Pench is any indicator, I am likely to have only good things to say about their hotels. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for much of their competition, with greed and recklessness being the driving force – but let’s leave that for another discussion.
The Design and Functioning
Don’t be surprised if you are confined to your room because a herd of Spotted Deer are milling just outside. Savour the moment! Of course, if deer can come, so can other species – and that could include even the big cats or wild boars. Don’t worry – you will not be charged extra for these views!
The design of Riverwood Forest Retreat does not draw boundaries between the property and the surrounding forest and fields – they just merge into each other. I went in the dry season, but a rivulet running along the retreat can be a delight when filled with water during the monsoons. Go atop the watchtower – especially at night in the company of fireflies – and you can smell and hear and feel the silence of the jungle even as stars shine at their brightest in the darkness. Be nice to the chef, and you will be served a candlelight dinner with soft music and wine atop the tower.
The lodge has a no-fuss, no-opulence approach in its functioning without compromising on comforts and the joy to keep consumption footprint to the minimum. You will get clean rooms, fresh sheets and towels, enjoyable showers, tasty food and all that you would expect for an enjoyable holiday!
Let’s Talk About People at Your Service
The hospitality industry thrives on good service – it becomes even more important when you are out in the jungle. Waxpol has invested in a team of naturalists and guides across its properties who are not only knowledgeable and experienced, but also know the ways of the jungles they work in. This can make all the difference to your time in the forests – whether on safaris in the regulated zones, or even when out for nature and village walks or talking around a bonfire. If you ever want to have a fulfilling time in a forest, ask about the staff your hosts have – this is more important than the hotel itself.
All the staff are courteous, ever ready to serve with a smile, and will go that extra mile to make your stay comfortable and enjoyable. They will even entertain your children while you want a little time off for yourself!
The Hotel Itself
The retreat has many categories of rooms, you can choose one to suit your requirements and budgets when you call them. I would strongly recommend the tree house – it is only one of its kind, on raised stilts, and recently built. It is spacious, has its own balcony overlooking the rivulet and the trees and gives you all the privacy you need.
The restaurant usually serves a buffet at meal times, but the chefs would happily put together anything a-la-carte for you. You will be spoilt for a choice of cuisines from across India, each prepared to pamper your taste buds. When you go for safaris in the morning, breakfast is packed in the forest – you can order anything you prefer.
Getting There, When to Go and Other Stuff You Need to Know
The most efficient way to get to Pench is to fly to Nagpur and drive for about two hours. There are enough flights to choose from major airports. You can go anytime of the year but the core area is closed during the wet months of July to September. Each season brings its own charms! Do make sure you check for availability of safaris if that’s on your to-do; slots get sold out especially if you want to go in a jeep and not in a canter (open mini bus).