INTO THE WILD
GREAT FROM New Delhi, Lucknow
GREAT FOR Rhino-spotting
GO NOW for spectacular bird life.
They said it would be rustic, they said it would be beautiful, they said it had an untamed location like no other. But when you sit in your tent in Jambolana Safari Camp, excitedly trying to identify the alarm calls of barasingha and spotted deer, or the soft splash of elephants as they cross the river and the unmistakable growl of a predator, you realise that they woefully undersold it. There’s never a moment’s silence at this jungle camp on the periphery of the relatively-unknown Dudhwa Tiger Reserve (DTR) in the terai region of Uttar Pradesh, but then again, these are sounds you want to hear, of animals you may hopefully even catch a glimpse of.
Named after the grove of wild jamun – eugenia jambolana – it is set within, Jambolana Safari Camp has six comfortably-appointed safari tents and two luxury tents. Perched on a deck on the banks of the Suheli River, the luxury tents are well worth the extra dough. If you’re lucky, you might see a shy deer poke its head out of the bushes across the river or see an elusive Bengal florican fly by. Even meal-times in the charming dining area are difficult for the decisions you must make. Should you stuff your face with the marvellous food or abandon eating to follow the whimsical flutter of the racket-tailed drongo, and the very precise diving of the pied kingfisher into the river? Jambolana’s owners, Kismat, Gurab, Sanjay and Jamshed, are wildlife enthusiasts who will tell you about the inhabitants of the forest around, making your trip all the more memorable.
And of course, there is the DTR to explore. What makes this national park so special is that you’ll feel like you’re stumbling into a wild jungle, not your regular government national park. The animals are shy, unused to visitors, and quick to startle. Climb onto an elephant for the early-morning rhino safari, which takes you through the surreal savannah-esqe grasslands of the national park where you are most likely to bump into one of the resident one-horned rhinos (00-91-5872-252106; dudhwatigerreserve.com; Dist Lakhimpur-Kheri; summer: 6m – 9am, 4pm – sunset, winter: 7am – 10pm, 3pm – sunset; entry: Rs 100, vehicle entry: Rs 300).
Mornings not your thing? Opt for the evening safari through Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary, a part of the DTR, where you will have the chance to spot many swamp deer sunning themselves on the tiny islands that dot this park’s marsh lands. If luck favours you, you might even spot a tiger or two.
One of this region’s best-kept secrets is a boat ride from Katernia Ghat, where you might come upon the largest gharials you’ll ever see. It’s not unusual to chance upon 15- to 18-footers, so watch your back and don’t topple off the boat. Spotting the so-rare-it’s-almost-mythical Gangetic dolphin is also not uncommon here, provided you make an early start. Jambolana will arrange this trip for you with a guide, vehicle and even a packed lunch (vehicle hire: Rs 2,200, vehicle entry fee: Rs 200, motorboat rental: Rs 450, petrol costs: Rs 500, entry fee: Rs 50 per person, guide: Rs 750 per day). As you meander down the river, your ears tuned to the tiniest of sounds and your heartbeat quickening in sync, you’ll wonder why you haven’t done this before.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS TRIP HAPPEN – IN THE APRIL 2013 ISSUE OF LONELY PLANET MAGAZINE INDIA