About Pugdundee Safaris –
A little over a decade old, Pugdundee Safaris is one of India’s leading safari brands. Strategically scattered across the national parks of Madhya Pradesh which is a forest rich state located right in the heart of India, their various eco lodges have made their way into the hearts of visitors not only from across India but also from the world over.
A classy blend of luxury and responsible tourism, this award winning brand presents to its guest a range of intimate wilderness experiences and has also pioneered many unique wildlife programs.
With their responsible environmental policies and practices combined with modern comforts that do not compromise on sustainability and ethics, their lodges draw discerning visitors 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.
The people behind Pugdundee Safaris –
This initiative of 2 friends Manav Khanduja and Shyamendra Singh, was created in 2009, purely out of an intense commitment to wildlife, environmental conservation and social development of rural areas.
Today they are a 350 strong team, with trained naturalists, guides, hospitality staff and administrative personnel across their six eco lodges namely Denwa Backwater Escape at Satpura, Pench tree Lodge at Pench, Kanha Earth Lodge at Kanha, King’s Lodge and Tree House Hideaway, both at Bandhavgarh and Ken River Lodge at Panna.
The Waghoba Eco Lodge at Tadoba in neighboring Maharashtra, will be their first one outside Madhya Pradesh and is slated for an October 2020 opening (the lodge opened in Oct 2021 due to covid).
Pugdundee translates to a forest trail that is used by animals and humans and is quite representative of where they intend leading their guests.
Their logo of 2 consecutive pug marks with their 4 toed and 3 lobed pads, needs no explanation and is symbolic of the main attraction that leads visitors to these jungles of central India, namely the mighty tiger whose footprints are eagerly tracked to obtain at least a glimpse of … or if one is blessed, an entire majestic sighting.
Can you see what I can see in the picture?
Of course it is not just about the tiger, for the jungles are much deeper than that and Pugdundee Safaris offer an entire host of programs and experiences that showcase the allure of the jungles with their considerable species of flora and fauna.
Environmental commitment –
All their lodges are 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. Their lodges have small built up areas with a large percentage left untouched.
There is a conscious and tenacious effort to shun non bio degradable elements and hence steel water bottles replace plastic, paper liners coat their bins, fabric based bags made by local women hold the laundry, large dispensers pump out bath toiletries like soaps, shampoos and moisturizers and glass containers hold milk powder and coffee powder, instead of individual sachets. The resultant reduction in generated waste, is considerable. They believe that sowing a tiny seed of awareness will someday result in a massive change.
Even the food is served at the table and not on buffet counters that are likely to end up generating much wastage.
Dining Options –
Speaking of cuisine, there is a strong leaning towards locally sourced ingredients and every lodge has a flourishing organic garden that is just bursting with healthy and well cared for vegetables that find their way to the table without leaving a carbon pug print.
Their highly innovative chefs add their own twists to the local fare and even come up with unusual creations from exotic elements that the forest bountifully provides.
I was greatly enamored by the tales of their Mahua and Palash flower based concoctions that the Chef Pankaj of Pench Tree Lodge revealed to me and I was disappointed that I had visited them in the wrong season when the Mahua was still budding. Fortunately that’s a matter that can be easily solved with another visit 😀
Social and economic impact –
Recognizing the role of tourism in uplifting the life of the locals who are the true essence of the hinterland, Pugdundee maintains 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.
Experiences and Safaris –
The guest can indulge in various activities in all the Pugdundee Safari lodges. The in house team of naturalists are ever ready to curate bespoke programs of interest and accompany the guest on village walks, nature walks, bird walks, cycling trails, photography tours etc. The guides are qualified and well trained and the sessions are highly informative and delightful for those who seek out the hyper local.
The highlight of these lodges are of course the safaris and the timings and procedures vary according to each national park.
What is highly commendable is that the programs are well structured and there are helpful orientation sessions and map displays which are a great way of familiarizing the guest with what is forthcoming.
In fact the reservations team diligently sends across fact sheets and important information to the guest at the time of booking itself, so there is a clear sense of what to expect.
Apart from this, they also have various curated group activities and fixed departure tours that include walking safaris, cycling safaris, photography tours, camping, jungle cooking etc. Their website is well structured and all the information can be obtained from there.
Special programs –
Heeding the need of the hour for trained professionals in the lodges and forests, they have come up with interesting programs at their Satpura location.
Begun in 2018, their highly successful conservation oriented career courses have now resulted in training several aspiring naturalists of whom many have even been employed in their own lodges.
Apart from the professional curriculum PRONAT, there is also the ANAT which is an opportunity for amateurs who are passionate about learning about nature and wildlife.
Catching them young, Pugdundee has also curated a very exciting and educational program for children between the ages of 12-16. The Junior Naturalist Training Program is a 5 day course in June and aims to sensitize children to the environment and provide valuable information on topics like mammals, reptiles, birds, butterflies and even photography.
Pench Tree Lodge –
Booking and contact –
Unit – 404, The Address, Baani, 1 Golf Course Road, Adjoining Double Tree Hilton
122011 Gurgaon, Haryana
Phone – +91 11 4013 2680
Email id – firstname.lastname@example.org
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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