How many of us can swear to love travel, especially that which is mostly left at the mercy of nature? Fixed and structured itineraries of touristy destinations chalk out every aspect of what to see and what to miss, but the itineraries dependent on nature and wildlife are full of surprises. My visit to the Satpura Tiger Reserve was one such trip.
We were following the Panchmarhi trail in Madhya Pradesh. A unique walking safari organized for us by the Reni Pani Jungle Lodge. Our journey began with a 3-hour drive from the airport towards the jungle lodge. On reaching the lodge, we were briefed by a naturalist about our stay, the terrain, and the campsites.
Located deep into the wilderness, the Reni Pani Jungle lodge has no network, internet connectivity or dial-in telephone. But they have an old-fashioned horn, which can be used to alert staff members in case you need a dental kit or want to shoo away an insect or lizard, which is quite common, given it’s a jungle. The amenities and services of the Lodge are nothing short of top-notch. Natural, organic and luxuriously built cottages, the freshest produce to eat, knowledgeable staff members and unique wildlife expeditions, Reni Pani Jungle Lodge makes sure their guests have the ultimate wilderness experience.
After settling in, we headed for our first expedition in the buffer zone of Satpura. It was late in the evening, and the sun had set by the time we reached the watering hole. We waited patiently to spot a tiger, but no luck. Just when we were about to leave, we received a tip. The other jeeps had found something. We rushed to the spot and spotted a leopard relaxing in the bushes, unaware that we watching him from afar.
The next morning, we lazed around the premises, soaking in the natural beauty and prepared for our 2-day long trek. We began our expedition in the afternoon and embarked on a three-hour drive towards our first base camp in Manchakkar. Our tents were pitched near a breezy stream in the core forest area and portable bathrooms were set-up some meters away. The tents were always pitched within a kilometer’s range from the forest department office. As we sat by the stream, we looked up at the million stars and listened to the sounds of crickets and water flowing, before heading to sleep in the jungle.
The trek officially began the next morning at 5 a.m. We hiked for approximately 5 kilometers before we took our first break. By 10 a.m., central India’s harsh summer heat began to take its toll on us. The trek was going to be more difficult than we anticipated. But we preserved and continued hiking deep into the forest. On the way, we sighted deers, antelopes, woodpeckers, and the India giant squirrel. To beat the high afternoon heat, we also took a dip in the gorge and then got back to our trail. Day one ended with us exhausted, and our tents looked like a piece of heaven. We quickly freshened up in the open-ceiling shower erected for us and sat under the night sky talking about the day and what awaits us tomorrow.
Day two was less taxing, both mentally and physically. We were now well acquainted with the weather and the number of hours we would have to walk. We paced ourselves and took intermittent breaks to enjoy the views of the wild. We reached Dehelia, and the staff members had already pitched our tents for the night near the dried Denwa river bed. In those two days, we trekked a total of 21 kilometers in the dry and dangerous tiger territory – Satpura Tiger Reserve.
It was a tough adventure, but also charming given that the camp staff of the Reni Pani Lodge would magically appear at our pit-stop waiting for us with delicious food and drinks, which we would relish under the stars and before a bonfire.
This trek was full of surprises. The tough terrain, long walks, hopeless stamina, wilderness, starry skies, delicious food, and lovely conversations. Spotting a tiger would have been a cherry on the cake, but I think that is a surprise waiting to happen for the next time we visit the Satpura Tiger Reserve.
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How to reach Satpura Tiger Reserve:
Duration of the trek: 2 days (The trek can be customized as per your convenience or thirst for adventure)
Getting here: The closest airport is in Bhopal, 160 kilometers away. If you are traveling by train, the nearest railway station is Pipariya or Itarsi.
Best time to visit: October to March is ideal. The forest is closed from June to September due to the monsoons.