A Pench’ant for the wild.
The mighty Mahua sends forth its branches to embrace the slender columns of the wooden deck of your tree house. The only sounds you hear are the rustling of its foliage and the gentle, near silent swishing of dry leaves as they giddily spiral to the ground. A light breeze caresses you, as you sprawl languorously on the comfortable chair. You are so far from the big bad city, that it barely figures in your thoughts. All you want to do is to breathe deeply of the forest scented air and never ever move from there.
But move you will, for there is much excitement that lies in wait. So gather around and listen to the tale of Pench Tree Lodge, that is lodged firmly in the legendary land of Mowgli, the little man-cub from the The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.
Pench Tree Lodge is a jungle resort run by Pugdundee Safaris and is located in the Seoni district of Madhya Pradesh, a richly forested state in the central region of India. The Pench National Park and Tiger Reserve is the main attraction in this region.
Do you have a Pench’ant for the wild? Well then, the perfect destination awaits.
Step into its eco friendly environs and explore its enthralling trails with me.
About Pugdundee Safaris –
A little over a decade old, Pugdundee Safaris is one of India’s leading safari brands. An initiative of 2 friends Manav Khanduja and Shyamendra Singh, this was created purely out of a passion for wildlife and to help in environmental conservation and social development of rural areas. Today they are a 350 personnel strong team, with six eco lodges that are spread across the national parks of Madhya Pradesh namely Satpura, Pench, Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Panna and the 7th upcoming one at Tadoba in Maharashtra..
With their responsible environmental policies and practices, their lodges are the popular choice of discerning visitors from the world over, who seek out their stays and return time and again to delight in the warm hospitality and enthralling experiences that encompass wildlife safaris, birding, photography opportunities and a taste of village life.
More about them in this post on Pugdundee Safaris
About Pench National Park –
Said to be the setting of The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling who apparently never actually visited the area but gleaned his information from various writings of the British, this park is also popularly referred to as Mowgli Land.
Straddling the 2 districts of Southern Madhya Pradesh namely Seoni and Chhindwara, this park is named after the river Pench which runs through it.
Interestingly the National park also straddles the 2 states of Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Maharashtra and the portion in the latter has its own gates and safaris.
What we are going to be focusing on here, is the part that lies in MP.
The park is home to a wide range of flora and fauna and of course the majestic tiger which draws visitors from all over the world.
More about Pench National Park in this post.
About Pench Tree Lodge –
Sprawling over a generous 45 acres of land, Pench Tree House is one of the 6 eco lodges from the Pugdundee Safaris bouquet. Established in 2017, this lodge lies in the ambit of the nearby village of Sarrahiri (pronounced with the rasping ‘r’ and all :-D)
This is the first resort that has come up in this region and their presence has helped in the social and economic development of the surrounding habitation.
The resort –
An imposing dead tree bearing the sign Pench Tree Lodge, directed us to go off the main road.
A short dirt track led us to the gates within which we arrived at the Reception area where we were greeted by the smiling staff, all set with a necklace of gold … ok marigold garland 😀 and a hot lemon ginger drink.
I was met by Harish the highly affable and pleasant Manager and the naturalists Himani and Gaurav who were to be my guides during my stay.
Harish gave me a quick briefing about the place with the help of the property map. Being a map enthusiast who depends a lot on visual aids, I was truly delighted that at Pench Tree Lodge they give much importance to familiarizing the guest with audio visual details that include a property overview, safari map briefing, orientations for upcoming programs and experiences and other structured forms of conveying information that would assist in having an optimal stay.
Food not being permitted in the rooms due to the danger of attracting rodents, any such item is collected at the reception and placed in the dining hall for the guest to access at will.
In order to promote their eco friendly policies, they also gift the guest with a cute steel bottle which can be refilled from the water filling station.
Well that was certainly a substantial welcome, after which I was escorted to my tree house.
Features of the resort –
The reception lobby is also the general assembly point where most of the activities take off from.
A counter laden with cookies, beverages, garlands and steel water bottles and manned by cheery staff, is the typical scene here.
There is also a bright and cheerful waiting area and wash room to the left and the Manager’s office and souvenir store to the right. The store is due to shortly get its own space near the dining area.
The lobby is also flanked by the map of the Pench National Park and the Pench Tree Lodge, with the aid of which the briefings are conducted for guests who are eager to learn what lies in store.
A purified water filling station lies adjacent to the lobby where one can fill the steel bottle that has already become a prized possession.
The resort is built on only on 10% of the entire space and the rest of it is left as nature intended it to be. In fact better than that, for they have afforested the grasslands and turned the place into a small but impactful island of trees. Mahua, Tendu, Jamun, Teak and so many other trees that are indigenous to the environment, are labelled for easy identification. They are also homes to the nearly 100 species of resident avian life. The patches of tall grasses also attract smaller mammals like civets, boas, hares etc but then one has to be very lucky and/or very quiet to spot any 🙂
A short lantern flanked dirt track leads from the entrance building to the cottages that are lined in a row. Beyond that lies the central unit which encompasses the dining area, the pool, the library and the audio visual presentation hall.
The tree houses are scattered at a distance from each other and are likewise accessed via fixed trails that one is always requested to stick to.
An organic garden lies on the other side of the dining complex via an entrance that has been crafted to resemble a typical Gond (local tribe) dwelling, complete with adornments of local crafts. This is also where frequent barbecue dinners are organized.
The Stay –
6 tree houses and 6 cottages are the rustically luxurious stay options at the lodge.
All of them provide features like air conditioning (cooler cum heater), tea and coffee maker, hairdryer, torches, hawai (rubber) slippers, organic toiletries and bathroom essentials, curated local wildlife art framed on the walls etc.
Some of the items like tooth brush, shaving kit etc can be specifically asked for if needed. In order to reduce plastic and wastage, they have common dispensers for the bath toiletries and steel bottles hold drinking water that is refilled by the staff daily.
There is a helpful booklet which one should go through, which gives an idea of what is available.
The Tree Houses –
The tree houses are actually wooden houses built on tall stilts and entwined with the branches of their very own Mahua tree. Perched 18 feet high, these are made of the local Sal wood and offer a jungle ambience that is infused with the subtleties of modern luxuries.
The heavy wooden doors have cross sections of tree trunks as their handles which resemble tiger pugs to those who are besotted with thoughts of the beast (like yours truly). There is a small hatch next to the door through which one can pass things … I do not really know to whom but it is a cute feature nevertheless 😀
The entrance passage has the tea, coffee, water, torches, umbrellas etc on the counters on either side and further inside is the luggage area with racks and cupboards.
To the left of the entrance is a large washroom with a bathing cubicle, wash basin, mirror and for some reason a comfortable chair too 😀
The bedroom is to the right of the main door and is a spacious one with a double bed (or 2 single), writing desk, a little alcove scattered with colorful throw cushions, that doubles as a day bed and wooden walls bearing framed birds and butterflies of the region.
The star of the show is the wooden deck to which the Mahua clings. One can cling onto the chair and sit there just gazing out into the vastness and hoping to spot something exciting. If you are lucky (as I was) your tree house will also give you your own personal show of the sun descending into the horizon (psst ask for Tree house 3).
The cottages are built on the ground and are on 2 levels. The lower floor has the king size bed, lounger, writing desk, some casual seating, an open deck, wash room etc. A wooden stairway leads to a mezzanine floor with stone walls and wooden flooring, where there is another queen sized bed.
My Tree House –
Everyone has a tree house but I had a Three House 😀 At the lodge they certainly made me feel like a Pench 3 person, which to me is way more fun than a Page 3 person 😀
My Tree House Number 3 had a bedroom with 2 single beds and 2 chairs on the balcony, which they reduced to 1 chair after seeing that I was alone 🙂
My room was super comfortable and so was my bed. The gentle thumping sounds of the branches of my Mahua were my lullaby and the scraping and rustling were apparently the branches, for I did not see any small mammal or bird even though I hoped really hard. Of course in all fairness, I was barely in the room in the daytime and the night of course is pitch dark in the jungle to really be able to spot life without artificial light.
However, the safari in the jungle more than made up for it and if you wait patiently, I will take you there soon.
Dining Options –
Food is not permitted in the rooms and hence there is no In-Room Dining service either. The meals are had at the dining area which is a cheerily bright and beautiful space adjacent to the swimming pool.
The cuisine is well crafted to suit a range of palates and I was so delighted with it that I am going to give it its very own story. So read here for the Dining story of Pench Tree Lodge.
Swimming pool –
The beautiful blue waters of the pool are a soothing sight to dine by. A mighty mahua stands sentinel by the water. Luckily this one was budding and I had my first ever glimpse of the blossoms. The changing rooms are adjacent to the pool.
The pool is not temperature controlled so swimming is preferred by most guests only in warmer weather.
Library and presentation hall –
From the restaurant, a wooden stairway spirals upwards to the first floor with its verandahs and rooms brightened with throw cushions. The library has a small collection of books on wildlife etc. Wooden stools fashioned out of tree trunk cross sections are lined up against the parapet and one can perch on them and gaze at the trees and pool.
There is also a little hall with a TV where orientation slides are presented by the naturalists and guests are usually advised to watch this before a safari. It is a good idea to do this because it is a well structured presentation and gives one an idea of the geography and biodiversity of the country as well as the local region.
They also have a choice of wildlife films and documentaries for those who would be interested.
Organic garden –
For someone like me who loves farms and fields, the organic garden is a veritable paradise. Spread over a couple of acres, this lovingly nurtured space generously springs forth healthy and vibrant herbs and vegetables that find their very short way to the kitchen everyday. Just a few feet between the plot and the plate, so to speak.
In a bid to be as self sufficient as possible, they grow everything from potatoes, onions, garlic, chikpeas, sweet peas, Sem and Barbatti (local beans) and also exotic vegetables and herbs like dill, pakchoy, broccoli, varieties of lettuce, asparagus, celery and many such flourishing plants that seem to really thrive under the care of their attentive gardeners.
The garden is also a favorite haunt of birds and one can easily spot several species here.
Adjacent to the vegetable garden is the fruit orchard where pomegranate, lime, oranges etc are on their way.
Experiences and Safaris –
One mostly visits a jungle lodge for the wildlife and related rural and adventure activities. Pugdundee specializes in curating every possible permutation and combination of programs that will be of interest to visitors with a range of interests.
Read all about their various options in this post on Experiences offered by Pench Tree Lodge.
A quick video glimpse –
Phone and internet connectivity –
You are in the middle of a jungle and connectivity should be the last thing on your mind 🙂 However, in case you are like me and cutting off your internet is like cutting off your blood supply, fear not, for the the lodge provides you with your personal portable Jio wifi router that you can cling on to. Regular phone signals for Vodafone are quite non existent. However, the staff is ever ready to help out in case of any necessity. The router itself is not the epitome of reliability but is not too bad either.
Visitor profile –
The lodge is opened to all visitors. It is suitable for a range of guests right from families, to solo travellers, to photographers, to wildlife enthusiasts and so on.
There are no age restrictions but be aware that the place is fashioned to blend with the rusticity of the region. Though the cottages and tree houses have all the modern luxuries, the approach trails are dirt tracks and those who might have disabilities or difficulties in such terrain, may find it a challenge. Cottages are a great option for those who will not be able to climb the steps to the tree house.
Also if it is the safari that is the aim, then please know that it requires some level of mobility to clamber in and out of the jeeps.
If it a a quiet holiday that you seek, then the place is ideal for people of all abilities and agility.
Children should be supervised at all times and it is not advised to walk around on paths other than the designated. Night time movement is always performed with torches and the assistance of the staff.
Social and environmental commitment –
Pugdundee safaris as a brand is committed to safeguarding the environment and this in fact is their raison d’etre. Hence they leave no stone upturned in achieving their goal.
The lodge is fashioned after the concept of sustainability and safeguarding of the environment and certified with ‘Eco practices audits’ by Travel operators for Tigers (TOFT).
Natural materials like waste and repurposed wood and stone and local labor are used in the construction. The built up area is a mere 4.5 acres which is barely 10% of the entire space. One time use plastics are shunned and steel water bottles perform the job ably. The water filter is maintained as per norms. The coffee and milk powders are provided in bottles rather than individual sachets and likewise there are common dispensers for bathing toiletries. The laundry bag is of fabric and handcrafted by local women from garment factory discards.
Likewise, they are also dedicated to the upliftment and development of their surrounding habitations. They maintain a symbiotic relationship with the tribals and other inhabitants of the surrounding villages. Around 80% of their employees are from the nearby localities and they also support traditional arts, crafts and other cultural elements by partnering with artisans and artistes.
Local schools are supported frequently with stationary, books and other items and they also participate in small development works in the villages.
Guests are also welcome to contribute to these school and village projects, in any form if they so wish to.
More about these initiatives in this post on Pugdundee Safaris.
Best time to visit –
The park and lodge are open for only 9 months a year. July 1st to Sep 30th is the monsoon and breeding season during which the animals are left undisturbed and the park remains closed.
However do check on the official website for exact opening and closing dates.
October sees a lot of visitors due to school holidays and November and December are also good months to visit. January is a bit lean due to temperatures that drop as low as 4 deg c. Feb and March are very pleasant and also produce good sightings of mammals and also birds.
April and May see temperatures of around 45 deg c but are still popular months among hardcore wildlife lovers and photographers since this is the optimal time for wonderful sightings because the animals come out to the watering holes. Also, the dry deciduous forest is rather barren and offers hindrance free views.
Keep in mind that the park is closed for evening safaris every Wednesday.
What you should carry –
A sturdy pair of walking shoes, a cap, sunglasses, sunscreen, a backpack, a camera etc are the things I carry without fail.
The type of clothing you need, is weather dependent and the lodge circulates very clear and detailed instructions to every guest during booking. They are super diligent and organized like that.
So summers will require light, cotton wear and winters drop to 4 deg, so a layered set of warm wear will be appropriate.
Also make sure to carry the same id with which your safari has been booked eg passport, aadhar card etc.
For everything else, there is Pench Tree Lodge 😀 and that includes torches, umbrellas, hawai (rubber) slippers, insect repellents, bath toiletries and all those things.
Getting there –
Pench National Park is accessed quite easily via Nagpur which is an important city 80 km to its south. This is well connected by air, rail and road to many major parts of India. The airport also has direct flights to some middle eastern countries.
The Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport at Nagpur has a comfortable lounge, sufficient retail outlets and restaurants that are priced quite reasonably. They even have a spa and a bar and a luggage store in case you suddenly realize the need for a suitcase while you are at the airport 😀
There are also food stalls outside the terminal area.
Jabalpur which is around 200 km to the North, is also another option. It is also connected by air, rail and road but not as well as Nagpur.
From Nagpur and Jabalpur, the most convenient way to get to Pench is by cab or private vehicle.
My journey –
I flew into Nagpur from Bangalore by the 8.40 am Indigo flight and arrived at 10 am (despite the scheduled arrival saying 10.20 am).
I was picked up at the airport by the cab arranged by Pugdundee Safaris and we left immediately for Pench.
The National Highway 7 (NH7) is a beautiful stretch of road and is excellent for the most part. The ongoing construction of an elevated road over a stretch of wildlife corridor closer to Pench, currently slows you down but once completed, it will make the journey even more comfortable and faster. The 140 km drive took us 3.5 hours which included a rest room and snack stop.
The MHKS Plaza is around 40 km from the airport is pretty much the only decent place for a wash room stop. It also has a restaurant with a good range of items and a store where most essentials are available.
After this there was really no appropriate place for such facilities, so I would suggest stopping over here en route Pench.
Likewise on the return journey, I was taken back to Nagpur by cab. Do note that there might be unforeseen traffic jams and factor in an extra hour or 2 if there is a flight to catch. I was staying over at Nagpur and hence I had no time constraint.
So when we got caught in a jam caused by a huge container carrier truck that delayed us by an hour, I could sit back and not panic. Oh the joys of booking your flights smartly.
My driver also spotted a bullock racing event that was taking place and I also managed to click some pictures of that. This is apparently an annual event called Patt where the winning pair of oxen fetch a price of Rs 30 Lakhs.
My return flight to Bangalore was a 9.40 am GoAir that reached by 11.15 am.
Booking and contact –
Pench Tree Lodge, Village Sarrahiri, Seoni, Madhya Pradesh.
Email id – email@example.com
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Please Note – This trip was made in collaboration with Pugdundee Safaris. The narrative is based on the inputs that I received from various sources as well as my own experiences.
This itinerary was specially curated hence some of the features might have been personalized accordingly. Before booking, please check the facilities offered in your package.
Feb 12th – 15th, 2020