Review: Reni Pani Jungle Lodge, Satpura, Madhya Pradesh.
Finally, we have begun to claim our lives back from the dastardly pandemic, gone back to work and some semblance of normalcy. After months of having too much time at hand with nothing to do (except baking of course), finally, we can enjoy our free time again – and travel again.
Is it divine coincidence that this freedom of thought comes in October – which just happens to be the month the national park season opens? We think so! Plus, an outdoorsy holiday in remote areas is just about the safest holiday you can take. It is time to return to jungle.
One of great pleasures of travelling is to choose where you’ll stay. A beautiful stay option near the Satpura Tiger Reserve, Reni Pani Lodge is a delight for the nature lover with an eye for design. Browsing through hotel options for any holiday can be confusing but not so in the tiny towns near wildlife parks in India, where luxury accommodation is limited.
Once I decided to return to Satpura for the second time since January 2019, it didn’t take me too long to zero in on Reni Pani, member of the prestigious Rare India list of eco-conscious luxury boutique hotels. The location and rooms looked beautiful and the reviews were practically glowing. It helped that it had the Rare India stamp – I have been to other Rare India properties like Jamtara in Pench and absolutely loved it. So off we went to Satpura for five blissful days, away from the madness of the Indian metropolis.
The first thing that any design lover will note is the stunning architecture. Built using local materials and environmentally sustainable techniques, the rooms at Reni Pani do not compromise on beauty with high ceilings, sloping roof, big picture windows highlight the greenery outside and a large bathroom that included a large wardrobe area. Little paintings, murals and ornaments inspired from the forest and wildlife decorated the room, making me smile each time I noticed something new.
But by far my favourite part of the room wasn’t even inside the room – it was the large sit-out with two easy chairs and a charpoy! Lying with a book on the charpoy, I watched birds in my backyard, saw deer trotting about among the trees inside the lodge and thanked life for the small joys it offered.
Dining at any jungle lodge is when you socialise and meet likeminded people from all across the world. This time I met a hilarious Irishman, a Danish gent who was visiting India and a wildlife park for the first time and an Indian family complete with children. Their dining room, bar and living area at echoes the old world, with period furniture, ornate frames on the walls and wooden interiors.
The food menu changes daily and remains mostly Indian with a couple of Italian and other cuisines thrown in once in a while. Whether it was a quiche or mutton curry, everything I ate was delicious and, more importantly, did not taste like hotel food. Made for a small batch of people, the home-like food at Reni Pani is something to look forward to after a day out inside the forest.
And that brings us to the highlight of any jungle lodge – the jungle. While I admit that on this holiday I skipped a safari I had already paid for and just stayed in to enjoy my sit-out, most people go to jungle lodges only for the national park experience. At Satpura, this experience extends far beyond the usual morning and evening safari – canoe safari on the Denwa river where you can watch hundreds of water birds; night safaris where you explore the dark jungle and spot creatures of the night like Indian civet, nightjar or even leopards, that you rarely see otherwise; and you can even walk inside the national park. People have seen a tiger at Satpura during a walking safari so the adventure here knows no bounds. Reni Pani’s naturalists are all expert guides and have deep knowledge of both the jungle and its species, so you will be in good hands… unless the tiger decides otherwise!
Now we come to the most important aspect during the pandemic – how safe is it to stay here? During the off-season, the lodge has re-trained their staff in hygiene and safety protocols, redefining their standard procedures to take into account additional sanitation as per WHO, FSSAI and MP state government COVID-19 guidelines. All the staff is residential and the location is remote so the only risk of any trouble comes from us, the guests, and we must take care of safety even when we travel and wear our masks in the public areas and wash our hands often.
Reni Pani Jungle Lodge, part of the Rare India list, is located about three and a half hours from Bhopal. The lodge can arrange a pick up for you from the airport and the drive is pretty comfortable. For more, visit their website.