Adventure, India, Luxury, Madhya Pradesh, Offbeat
Comments 27

Wandering in the Wild with Taj Safaris.

I woke up to a distant roar, and felt a chill run down my spine. Sitting up, I slowly moved the curtain behind me, half expecting two fierce eyes staring back. Much to my relief, the only glow in the pitch black night was from the million stars twinkling above. A cool breeze tingled my face, and the stillness of the surrounding forest washed over me. I oriented myself in the dim light of a lantern, reminding myself that I was sleeping in a machan in the buffer zone of Pench National Park.

Baghvan Pench, Taj Safaris

Relaxing in the wilderness of my machan.

My love affair with Central India’s forests began a couple of years ago, when I lost myself in their wild ecosystem, and discovered why encroaching on tiger territory on safari may not necessarily environmentally irresponsible (Read: Wildlife Tourism: Are We Saving the Tiger?). So when Taj Safaris‘ invitation to experience the dramatic forests of Pench landed in my inbox while I was away in Central America, it went right to the top of my India cravings.

Now, with a friend in tow, I was tucking back into the comfy machan of our hut at Baghvan – a wilderness lodge that took me completely by surprise. Having indulged at Taj in Delhi and Bombay (Read: There’s Something About Taj), I expected to be pampered and wined and dined, which we were, even in the middle of the forest. What I didn’t expect was the rustic yet classy way in which the lodge is built; the logwood huts with private machans, the lantern-lit pathways, relaxing khatiyas by the swimming pool, a little library with wildlife books, open air dining at the edge of the forest… As someone who loves the wilderness as much as creature comforts, this was like my handcrafted version of heaven.

taj safaris, baghvan pench

Our private hideout at Baghvan.

Baghvan Pench

Who would’ve imagined eating a mezze in the forest?!

Baghvan swimming pool

Relaxing by the pool and the wilderness beyond.

At the first light of day, we jumped into our custom fitted land rovers (I remember envying them from the backbreaking seats of our regular gypsy on past safaris!) and entered the core zone of Pench National Park. Breathing in the pure forest air, gazing at the teak trees looking over me, hearing the sounds of the jungle, I felt alive. Unlike Panna, Bandavgarh and Kanha, the forests of Pench are younger and drier, letting us peek deep into the forest, witnessing more intimate moments (Read: Kanha National Park: Stories from the Wild). We saw a newborn, hairless langur baby clinging on to its parent, another digging into the soil for minerals to replenish itself in the dry heat; a solitary jackal stride down the road after casting us a shy glance; a male sambhar trying desperately to unentangle its antlers from a twisted branch; a bald sea eagle plunge into the sea and catch a fish; peacocks open up their magnificent feathers and dance to attract females, for this is their mating season!

Pench national park, Pench madhya pradesh

The young and dramatic forests of Pench National Park.

Pench national park madhya pradesh

Dramatic skies on a cloudy morning in Pench.

Pench national park

A male sambhar deer crosses our path.

The closest we got to Collarwali, the most fearless (and hence most popular) tigress in this forest, and her cubs, were fresh pug marks and a sambhar deer call. But the feline creatures came alive in our imagination through our naturalist’s wistful stories; he once witnessed a showdown between a tiger and a pack of wild dogs, which after much roaring and threatening, ended in a truce.

Penning this post at a Starbucks in Bombay, I almost skipped a heartbeat thinking of the forest come alive with warning calls of langurs and spotted deer, indicating that a big cat is on the move. The call of the wild, as much as those candlelight dinners in the wilderness and hikes in the buffer zone, lingers in your mind long after you’ve said goodbye.

Taj Safaris, Baghvan pench national park

An afternoon of words in the wild – the verandah at Baghvan.

Is Pench National Park on your wildlife wishlist?

Note: I was hosted by Taj Safaris in Pench; lucky me!

Join The Shooting Star on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more travel stories.

Get my latest blog post in your inbox!

Join 20,404 other subscribers

Shivya Nath

I quit my full-time job in 2011 with a dream of travelling the world. I gave up my home, sold most of my possessions and embraced a digital nomad life. I'm passionate about going off the beaten path, solo travel, sustainable travel and veganism. I'd love to connect with you!


  1. Rajmita says

    splendid writing.. for a moment i was teleported to the scenic greens of Pench! 🙂

  2. Luxury never hurts even in the wilderness 😀 Just got back from a trip to Manali with a complimentary stay at the most royal resort ever! And I have to say, it was a welcome change from the budget 500 per night hotels I normally stay at 😛

  3. The mix of modern amenities amidst wild life still astounds me. It’s amazing that you were able to enjoy all that wilderness and wildlife while still being comfortable and well-sheltered. Thanks for sharing your great adventure. Looking forward for more posts!

  4. The Traveloholic says

    Wonderful forests. It has definitely on my travel wishlist now. Thanks for writing this 🙂

  5. Wow, that was indeed beautiful! I never thought that nature and luxury can mix in such a perfect way. This is certainly on my wish list now.

  6. Splendid writing, very few writers can help people ‘visualize’ with their excellent use of words, you definitely are one such brilliant wordsmith !

  7. Amazing, Visiting National Park always excites me. to get a chance to enrol with nature is truly an amazing experience and can’t be expressed in words. But you have done amazingly expressed those experiences. very nicely done.

  8. Shivya, you have done such a brilliant job on portraying your outdoorsy experience. Your love affair with Central India‘s Wildlife seems like something you could write a novel about. I can only sit and wonder how exciting your trip may have been!

  9. Sayli Deshpande says

    Hey Shivya,
    Excellent photography and I fell for the first one the deer looks so serene and solitary. The Machan (I hope that’s the thing) is sooo cool.. and oh how I envy you! the food set on the table is like some five- star cuisine. The trail,… seriously is out of the world…. Under the ready to precipitate dark clouds. This blog site has all what it needs to one of a kind!

  10. Dear Mam,

    It is great that you was very near to my place Nagpur.
    I want to say one thing this area (safaris, forest) have many issues like venery, illegal activities also.

    The government not looking towards development of rural people around this area.

Liked this post? Have some thoughts about it? I'd love to hear you.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.