A CAMPING WE WILL GO
WORDS PARITA PATEL
PHOTOGRAPHS HIMANSHU PANDYA
GREAT FROM Bhopal, Mumbai, New Delhi
GREAT FOR A weekend of adventure
The morning fog has begun to disappear and you’re trudging along on the nature walk. The langurs on the teak tree are swinging from the branches and a couple of racket-tailed drongos are chirping away. But what happens next breaks the spell you’ve been lulled into, and you remember you’re in an actual jungle, where encounters rarely end amicably. There’s dried blood on the walking trail. You walk into the bushes to investigate and come across the bony remains of a sambar; the tree nearby has leopard claw marks all over its trunk, suggesting the cat dragged the deer up the tree to devour it. The brutal beauty of nature is one of the many things you experience on the camping and nature walk, organised by the Reni Pani Jungle Lodge in the Satpura Tiger Reserve.
The programme includes one or two nights of camping, depending on your preference, as well as half- and full-day walks. Located at the confluence of the Nagduari and Denwa rivers, Reni Pani’s Jamanidev Under Canvas Mobile Camp is nestled in a splendid valley. The fun begins with a drive to the campsite from the lodge. It’s a bumpy 22km ride in a 4×4 that will get you ready for the adventure ahead. On the way, the forest guard accompanying you keeps a look out for animal sightings while the in-house naturalist peppers the conversation with titbits about the jungle and its inhabitants. Depending on how sharp your eyes are, you might see leopards, deer, nilgai, sloth bears and boars in the abundant foliage.
Once you reach the campsite, it’s time for some pampering. You’re welcomed with a hot towel that instantly makes the chill in your bones disappear, and the tents remind you that the term ‘glamping’ was invented a few years ago for a reason. Equipped with everything you might need for a couple of nights under the stars – toiletries, a torch and a whistle, in case you need help in the middle of the night, or if an animal comes visiting – the tents are spacious, but cosy. After a sundowner, a simple meal of dal, rice, curries and parathas awaits. An after-meal coffee around the bonfire later, you’re ready to be tucked in along with a hot-water bag – a lifesaver in the winter months.
The next morning, it’s time for a full day (about 7km) of nature walks. Taking muffins and sandwiches along, you’ll begin a day full of surprises. You’ll stumble upon deer and nilgai, who are startled by your presence. You’ll hear sounds you never have before from beautiful birds you didn’t know existed. And you’ll learn more about the forest than you did in your geography class at school. By the end of the day, you’ll know the crested hawk-eagle from the grey-headed fish eagle, and the satin wood bark tree from the crocodile bark tree.
By night, you might even hear an alarm call ringing out from the woods that breaks the laughter around the bonfire, and puts everyone on high alert. Is a sambar going to be killed? Is the predator likely to come sniffing around the campsite? The naturalist laughs off your questions, assuring you there’s nothing to worry about. The first question is answered the next morning during the morning nature walk, when the guard from the anti-poaching camp informs that all is well with the deer.
As you’re walking past large meadows and ponds, home to kingfishers, and you hear the songs of the white-browed wagtails, you realise you need to come back.