India – Part 2 – Baghvan and Pench National Park
BAGHVAN and the PENCH NATIONAL PARK:
From Mumbai, the flight to Nagpur was 85-minute long, and then the drive to the park was 90-minute long. It’s a lot of fun though! Scenes are so typical it is tough to stop taking pictures along the way.
The Pench National Park is where Kipling found the inspiration to write the Jungle Book. Just imagine all the different animals you get to observe!
Baghvan lodge, handled by Taj and &Beyond, was my first Safari experience. I had never stayed in a lodge completely immersed in the wild! The adjustment took a little while to settle with me. My body was so used to our civilized stress (work, traffic, electronic noises) and all of a sudden, I had to make myself aware of the Nature with all that comes with it: noises I had never heard before, silence I had never heard before, the darkness, the heat, the wildlife. How spoiled are we in our big cities to think that no other animals can be stronger than we are. In Baghvan, I had to watch out for wild cats, leopards, gaurs, wild boars, snakes, spiders, and TIGERS. As the lodge in set in the open, any animals can feel like entering the premises at any time, although usually they are more scared of us than anything else.
The lodge is located not even a 5-minute drive from the entrance of the park. It is made of 12 standalone suites that I would really call homes as they are huge, made of a separate indoor and an outdoor bedrooms (you can sleep outside in your own private king size bed!!), outdoor living room area, and a separate bathroom with indoor and outdoor showers. It is important to understand that the indoor and outdoor space is constantly mixed, enhancing the immersion into the wild. . For those looking forward to feel 150% part of the nature, it is an ideal scenario.
What made Baghvan so special and a place I’d go back anytime was the quality of service. The staff was made of a team of men only (no women on property) constantly looking after your every second needs. They are wonderful, make you feel safe, welcome, special and relax. The chef is fantastic. The open kitchen is set as an interactive dynamic area. On property there’s also a pool (where goats, bats and birds come to drink), a massage room, a library and a great safari shop.
A day at Baghvan starts with an early morning wake-up knock at the door around 430AM when your private butler arrives with coffee, tea, and home-made cookies. Your private Jeep and driver/guide from the lodge take you to the entrance of the park, where all jeeps (I saw a maximum of 10 vehicles on a Sunday) wait in line until a Park guide gets assigned to the jeeps (one per jeep). Baghvan guides know them all and get to pick the best ones. Off you go on your Morning Safari ride. Every day in the Pench National Park is carefully organized to respect the privacy of the tigers. Guides do not use radios to call each other so no tourist commotion around tigers ever happen. However, they use elephants to find tigers. Lucky safari goers can find him/her self on the back of an elephant getting really close to tigers!
Everyone’s back at the lodge at about 930AM for breakfast. Lunch is served around 1PM. Late morning and early afternoon are perfect moments to relax, take a nap, enjoy the pool and the surroundings of the lodge, write postcards (not easy to find in India! This country still has so much to do in terms of developing tourism) have a massage or shop in the boutique.
The evening safari takes place around 430PM. The Baghvan vehicles are allowed in the park until dust.
Each evening at Baghvan is a special event. Dinner under the stars, special cooking class, and the team is so creative.
An ideal stay in Baghvan would include minimum 2 nights, depending on the arrival and departure flight times. Once there it is always so hard to leave as there’s so much to see. I did not get to see a tiger on this trip, but didn’t really care as I got to see where these fantastic animals live. However, we had 2 jeeps in my group, and the other one did see a mother tiger with 2 cubs!!! What a reward.
We also visited a small village in the surroundings of the park. This visit was organized by Banyan Tours at the last minute, as the group expressed the desire to visit the locals. A member of the lodge’s crew has his family leaving nearby so our Banyan escort took care of all the arrangements for us.