The car turns off the highway and gets onto the village road. In a while I can see a stretch of low lying, domed structures in the distance. The seemingly sedate construction in light colored brick, is set in a flat expanse of land and appears unlike any other jungle lodge that I have seen before. I am soon to find out that the laid back exterior is merely a veneer for the charm and potential that lies within. And we get a glimpse of the upcoming excitement soon enough, as we are blown away by the large picture window that greets us at first sight, when we step into the entrance of the lobby. The window that frames the hills of the not so distant core zone of the Tadoba National Park whose live treasures we are here to explore with the premium safari brand Pugdundee Safaris, whose hospitality we are about to experience at their newest lodge, the Waghoba Eco Lodge.
Lying conveniently in the buffer zone of the Tadoba National Park, this resort is situated in the Bhadravathi tehsil of the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, India, a region which bears rich forests that are abundant with wildlife and also said to be teeming with tigers.
So did we spot any? Now now, wait patiently because we first have to enter the portals of the hottest destination (pun intended only in summer 😎) of the year and explore the eco friendly and endearing environs of the lodge. I will then take you on the safari, I promise.
A 3 part series featuring my experience at Waghoba Eco Lodge by Pugdundee Safaris, covering The Overview, The Cuisine and The Activities.
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 a total of 7 eco lodges. The first 6 are spread across the national parks of Madhya Pradesh namely Satpura, Pench, Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Panna and they have now crossed the border into their neighboring state, to expand into their 7th lodge 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 Tadoba-Andhari National Park and Tiger Reserve –
Tadoba, which was earlier not a very much sought out tourist destination, has come into the limelight in recent years due to its reputation of being one of the leading parks for tiger sightings.
The 1727 sq km park in situated in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. Easy to access via the city of Nagpur which is 140 km (and 2.5 hours) away and well connected by an excellent highway, the safaris here attract thousands of people from India and the world over.
The Tadoba National Park was created in the year 1955 and was integrated in 1995 with the 1986 born Andhari Wildlife Sanctuary and now together known as the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve.
The 1727 sq km is divided contains 1100 sq km of buffer zone and the rest is the core. 20% of the core is open for tourism and accessible via 20 different gates.
Tadoba is named after the local god of the tribals who is known as Tadoba or Taru. Legend has it that Taru was a brave village chieftain of the Gond tribe, who lost his life while battling a tiger. The Andhari part is named after the Andhari River.
This forest range is of the dry deciduous forest type, with bamboo being the major vegetation. Apart from these rampant clusters, there are teak, tendu, crocodile bark trees, arjun, ghost trees etc. The dense forests are interestingly interspersed with patches of grasslands and it is not uncommon to suddenly emerge from a thicket and come upon an airy open expanse, intermittently throughout the safari.
The forest also has several waterbodies, the more famous ones being the placid Tadoba lake and the Irai river (pronounced E-rai).
The bio diversity of the park makes it a sustainable home for several species of mammals and birds.
More about Tadoba-Andhari National Park and Tiger Reserve coming soon on the blog.
About Waghoba Eco Lodge –
Waghoba Eco Lodge is the newest baby of Pugdundee safaris. With due deference to the main attraction of this location, Waghoba is named after the Wagh which in the local language means tiger and ba which is a suffix denoting respect.
And respect is shown indeed, not just at the lodge but throughout the national park and its associated habitations, where the tiger is revered by everyone. Every village and town and even the actual jungles have Tiger deity statues installed in village squares and temples.
Waghoba lodge is spread over 14 acres of flat, open land and has an equal number of cottages for guests. The construction has been designed by Biome Solutions, to fit well into their environmentally friendly principles.
The lodge is situated in the buffer zone of the Tadoba park and has easy access to the Khutwanda gate which is 8 km (20 minutes) away and is the entry to the core zone. The gates to the Moharli buffer zone are also around 45 minutes away.
This is the first upscale resort that has come up in this region and it has also boosted the social and economic development of the surrounding localities.
Features of the resort –
A wooden post bearing the sign Waghoba Eco Lodge, indicates that our destination is nigh.
A short dirt track leads to the entrance and further to the Reception area where the cutest ever pugmarks lead guests into the lobby, in case they are really wondering which way to go 😀 The guests are greeted here by the smiling staff, all set with refreshing cold towels and a lemon ginger drink.
The Reception area –
The lobby is also the general assembly point where most of the activities take off from and also the gateway to the rest of the property like the dining hall etc.
We were greeted on arrival by the friendly Manager Ghanshyam and the naturalists Mayuresh and Gaurav who were to be our guides during our stay. Gaurav was known to me from my earlier trip to the Pench Tree Lodge in 2020 February.
As is the custom at Pugdundee, we were given a quick briefing about the place and upcoming activities, with the help of the property map and the safari map. It always delights me that they give much importance to familiarizing the guest with details that include orientations for upcoming programs and experiences and other structured forms of conveying information that would assist in having an optimal stay.
In order to promote their eco friendly policies, they also gift the guest with a cute steel bottle. I am making quite a collection of those with my visits to Pugdundee properties 😃
The other features of the Reception area are a waiting area, the Manager’s office and souvenir store to the left and a wash room and small counter for dispensing pre-safari snacks and beverages, to the right.
The lobby is also flanked by the map of the Tadoba National Park and a pictorial story of the creation of Waghoba Eco Lodge.
Dining and Kitchen –
Further right within the lobby, is the dining hall and kitchen. Yes those ever helpful pugmarks continue to ensure that you are guided correctly 😀
The lobby is also connected to the dining area via a little bridge.
The restaurant overlooks a charming water body which attracts quite a few species of birds, some of which even make their nests right there.
Photography Hide –
A portion of the pond is also segregated so as to be visible from the photography Hide which is further to the left of the dining hall. Above the hide is an open deck which can be used on occasions as an Al fresco dining space too.
Library and presentation lounge –
Further left is the next block with the main lounge on the first floor. There is a library, a bar counter to dispense food and beverages and comfortable seating options. The room uses air coolers instead of air conditioners.
There is also a drop down screen, where documentary presentations are made every evening while the guests enjoy their starters and drinks.
Guests are usually advised to watch the short films because the selection consists of well structured presentations that give an idea of the geography and biodiversity of the local region and also of the star attraction, the tiger.
They also have a choice of wildlife films and documentaries for those who would be interested.
There is a verandah outside the lounge with charming views of the hills and of the organic garden.
Swimming pool –
The ground level of this block is where the swimming pool and changing rooms are located. This is accessible through the lounge by a fleet of stairs. All these locations are ramp enabled to make wheelchair access possible. The lounge serves as an overhead cover for the pool, thus protecting guests from the direct sun in summer, when temperatures rise to near 50 deg c.
The path to the right of the reception block, leads to the cottages which lie on either side of it. Shrubs of Tuvar line the path and local grass grows wild, filling the spaces between the cottages. An idol of the tiger deity peeps out through the grass and can initially be mistaken for a real tiger 😎
Organic Garden –
Behind all these buildings lies the organic garden which is 4.5 acres of lush space that bears local as well as exotic vegetables. One can visit this space and talk to Mandar ji who is in charge. More on this in the post on Activities.
Solar energy plant –
Behind the garden is their Solar energy plant which copes with nearly all their power needs.
The accommodation –
Their 14 identical cottages are well appointed with all amenities and indulgences. Spacious and airy, their design makes for a very luxurious and comfortable stay.
The front porch leads into the entrance lobby which has a wardrobe, a safe, luggage racks, and a wooden cabinet and counter for cookies and beverages.
To the far right is a very large bedroom with a very comfortable king sized bed and a writing desk and chair behind it.
An alcove in the wall serves as a cozy sitting area. The bedroom exits into a charming verandah with a pleasant view of the trees and grass and birds of all kinds pose on the branches and overhead wires to please you.
The entrance lobby also connects to the wash area which is again a very generously sized space with a separate toilet, a large counter with 2 washbasins and toiletries from Just Herbs, a bathing room with rain shower and hand shower and a pebbled strip with indoor plants and a skylight for an outdoorsy feel.
All the cottages are equipped with features like air conditioning, geysers, hairdryer, torches, hawai (rubber) slippers, organic toiletries and bathroom essentials, curated local wildlife art framed on the walls, cookie jar, tea and coffee maker etc. Thankfully there are no TVs.
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. The dental kits contain bamboo toothbrushes and toothpaste pellets made of natural ingredients.
Dining Options –
The meals are had at the dining area which is a charming space with light colored wooden tables that are great for food photography 😍 The dispensing counter and kitchen are adjoining the hall.
The food is well crafted to suit a range of palates and tries to incorporate a range of cuisines. As always, the food will have its own proud space in an exclusive blog 😃 So read here for the Dining story of Waghoba Eco Lodge and Chef Ark Bagchi who runs the show with aplomb.
In-Room Dining service is available if you are not in the mood to socialize or if you are tired after a strenuous safari.
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.
Of course, safaris are the highlight and there are morning, evening and night safaris to choose from.
Read all about their various activities in this post on Experiences offered by Waghoba Eco Lodge.
A quick video glimpse –
Phone and internet connectivity –
Connectivity is quite unreliable with the usual service providers like Airtel and Vi. However they have excellent WiFI with speeds that are impressive for remote locations and hence wasting time on social media is not very difficult 😎 Kidding apart, it is very useful for travel writers like me, to have the ability to back up data and pictures on a frequent basis.
Visitor profile –
The lodge is opened to all visitors. It is suitable for a range of guests right from families, to to photographers, to wildlife enthusiasts and so on.
There are no age restrictions but be aware that noisy, partying kind of crowds are not permitted here.
There is ramp access through the common areas and only in Cottage No. 1. But since the safari is the aim of most of the visitors, 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.
It is also not advisable for any guest to venture out on their own outside the premises. Remember you are still in the jungle, buffer area notwithstanding.
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. This is their first lodge which has been conceptualized and designed entirely by the Bangalore based Biome Solutions who specialize in eco friendly constructions and systems. Tadoba temperatures soar to near 50 deg c in peak summer. So the fabrication incorporates material that helps to reduce the need for excessive power, in order to maintain a comfortable ambient temperature in all seasons. Some of the noteworthy features are –
The bricks used to build the place are called Adobe bricks and are made from the local soil which is fortified with certain materials for greater strength. These are sun dried and unbaked.
Usage of Guna vault roof tiles for the ceilings. These are semi cylindrical hollow pipe like earthen tiles that interlock into each other. The air in the hollow pockets serves as an insulation and keeps the rooms a few degrees cooler than what a regular roof would. The shape of the tiles result in a domed structure for the roof. Bits of ceramic are also fused into a mosaic and act as a veneer over the domes. This also helps to deflect the sunlight.
The domes also make for a great photo op with the setting sun.
All the cottages are all built such that the bedrooms face east and the bathrooms face West. This ensures that the living quarters do not get too hot, thus reducing the energy needed for power based cooling.
The success of these methods have resulted in the usage of 2 ton ACs rather than 4 ton in the rooms, which is a substantial saving.
Water sources are wells and borewells. The Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) is gravity based and uses minimal machinery for the filtration and purification. 95% of the water is retrieved in this method.
One time use plastics are shunned and steel water bottles perform the job ably. 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 from garment factory discards, by NGOs employing village women.
The khaki colored tissues are from recycled paper.
Dustbins are labelled for appropriate waste segregation and are lined with news paper.
The dental kit has bamboo toothbrushes and toothpaste pellets using natural ingredients.
Rubber slippers are provided instead of disposable footwear and are sanitized for every guest.
Their target is to achieve zero plastic by 2025.
The only downside is that there are no shower caps provided but research is underway for an appropriate solution.
As a part of their social commitment, they are also dedicated to the upliftment and development of their surrounding habitations. They maintain a symbiotic relationship with the inhabitants of the surrounding villages. Most of their employees are from the nearby localities. Even the labor involved in the construction was largely local.
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 Waghoba Eco Lodge is open through the year.
Likewise, the park is also open throughout, other than some routes including the core area which close from Jul 1st to October 15th. However, safaris do go on in the buffer zones.
There are 4 seasons and the timings of the park vary accordingly.
Do check on the official website for exact safari timings and weekly closures.
October sees a lot of visitors due to school holidays and November to February are also pleasant months to visit.
March, April and May see very high temperatures 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.
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 the terribly hot summers will require light, cotton wear and winters drop to around 10 deg c, so a layered set of warm wear will be appropriate. Is does get pretty cold in the open safari jeep inside the jungle, especially early mornings and late evenings.
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 Waghoba Eco Lodge 😀 and that includes torches, umbrellas, hawai (rubber) slippers, insect repellents, bath toiletries, basic medications and all those things.
Getting there –
Waghoba Eco Lodge is accessed quite easily via Nagpur which is an important city 140 km away. 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.
From Nagpur, the most convenient way to get to Waghoba is by cab or private vehicle.
The highway is excellent and the drive is very smooth. The journey takes around 2.5 hours. One has the option of a reasonably clean Pee stop at a place called Jamb which is an hour away from the lodge. Make sure you have Rs 5 in change to pay the washroom keeper. This little town also has shops selling pen drives and SD cards in case you need them for your photography.
The nearest major railway station is at Chandrapur which is 55 km (1.5 hrs) away and is well connected by rail to a few important cities.
One can also take the bus from Nagpur or Chandrapur to the nearest bus station at Bhadravathi (the Maharashtra one, not be confused with the Karnataka place of the same name).
The lodge can arrange for transport on prior intimation.
However, the most convenient way is to get to the lodge by cab from both Nagpur or Chandrapur.
Booking and contact –
Waghoba Eco Lodge,
Wadala Tukum Village,
Maharashtra – 442906
Phone – +91 – 9516100136, 9516100135
Email id – email@example.com
Website of Pugdundee Safaris / Website of Waghoba Eco Lodge
Facebook Page of Pugdundee safaris
Facebook Page of Waghoba Eco Lodge
Instagram of Pugdundee Safaris
Twitter Handle of Pugdundee Safaris
For more pictures see My Facebook – Waghoba Eco Lodge by Pugdundee Safaris Also catch me on My Facebook, My Facebook page, My Twitter and My Instagram
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.
Dec 2nd – Dec 5th, 2022
Lovely write up about the lodge and beautiful photos too. I loved those tiles with the pug mark prints!!
Thank you so much. Yes those tiles are the cutest 😀