India’s top wildlife resorts

Spotting the tiger is tough; deciding where to stay need not be

Monsoon Forest

A romantic name like that evokes nature and untrammelled wilderness, and this resort achieves that. Nature lovers will enjoy the tranquil strolls through a lush canopy that is home to busy and mellifluous birds. Well-versed naturalists will lead you through their vast back-yard on jeep and elephant safaris. The best part: each of the cottages and tents are in the shade of the versatile mahua tree, excellent for providing shade and a delicious, intoxicating drink.

United 21 Grassland Resort

Home to the protected one-horned rhino and a healthy density of tigers, Kaziranga is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so it is fitting that you stay in a resort that prides itself on being eco-conscious, without losing out on luxury. After a day of watching wildlife from a respectable distance, it feels nice to come back to a pool, a spa and an ayurvedic treatment centre before sun-downers. Ask for the heady mahua cocktail before settling down to a delicious dinner.

Royal Tiger Resort

This resort downplays the whole chic-in-the-middle-of-wilderness concept by keeping it simple, yet elegant. There are just 16 cottages built mud-hut style, but with humming air-conditioning, on the banks of a gurgling river. The verandah overlooks to Kanha Wildlife Reserve; imagine waking up to bird-calls, walking to a nearby tree and breakfasting on organic produce high up in a machaan. In between safaris, lounge by the pool and get a relaxing head-massage.

The Windflower Resorts and Spa

Network drops off automatically in this ringtone-free zone, allowing your ears to reconnect with nature. After a safari through a mist-laden forest amidst peaceful, gargantuan tuckers grazing, it is a treat to return to a succulent, home-cooked buffet, but not before a relaxing dip in the infinity-pool or paddling in the pristine waters of the Mangala reservoir. The cuisine straddles the best of South India, and the accommodation is plush and snug. No better way to fall off the grid.

Chitvan Lodge

Keeping in harmony with the elements, the furniture here is made out of raw materials found on the property, and the cottages segregated by the five elements—earth, fire, water, air and ether. The food is classified by its effect on mind and body (satvik, rajasik and tamasik) and the produce hand-picked from its own garden. Activities include milking cows, grinding your own flour and tree planting. Every cottage has an uninterrupted view of the forest beyond and all its mysteries within.

Khem Villas

This haven of luxury, skirting raw jungle, blends opulence and nature effortlessly. Whether you choose the private, secluded cottages, the swank tents or the well-appointed rooms, you will be pampered by the best of resort hospitality. Given that the Ranthambore Reserve is named after the owner’s father, you could not put yourself in better hands; whether or not you spot the elusive tiger, the lonesome leopard or the rare lynx, your experience will be memorable.

The Corbett Hideaway

Named for the legendary hunter who made the Kumaon Hills his home, this ‘hideaway’ boasts several spacious, well-appointed cottages. Multiple cuisines are on offer here at creatively-named restaurants. Gurney House throws out the popular fare of Mughlai, Chinese, Continental and local Kumaoni. The High Bank offers dining on the banks of the swift Kosi River. Jim’s Grill is a machaan perched atop a tree, and the Tusker Bar is where tourists swap tall tales over taller cocktails.

Spice Village

This hotel, true to its name, looks just like another village, with cottages built in the style of the local Oorali and Mannan clans. You need a footstool to get up onto the massive four-poster bed from the terracotta floor, the walls are white-washed and the verandah is a wrap-around, ensuring bird sounds and jungle views from all sides. Safaris on Lake Periyar at sunset and day-treks in the deep forest are the winners, as are the cookery classes for authentic Kerala cuisine.

VanyaTree House

You will have this resort all to yourself, if you are willing to be driven into a jungle and then trek 700m up into the dense forest. One beautiful tree-house, on one gigantic tree, with a 360 degree view of misty forests and the wild beasts that forage within; all this while you are treated like a king of your own domain, waited on hand and foot and fed delicious Kerala home-food. Vanya means wild, and there truly was never an aptly named vacation spot.

Taj Mahua Kothi

This jungle lodge prides itself in being rustic in appearance, with all the inner layers of the legendary Taj warmth and friendliness present. Twelve cottages (kutiyas) guarantee solitude and exclusivity, along with creative fine-dining choices that include breakfast on a bullock cart, picnic lunches and dinner under the stars. Evening cocktails are from the sap of the butter-tree (mahua), combined with roasting spits, folk-dances and ethnic thali cuisine.