Sept 2011 newsletter link

I was invited by Samode people, who as most of you know run beautiful heritage hotels around Jaipur in Rajasthan, to experience their latest project Samode Safari Lodge started earlier this year in Bandavgarh.

I, along with some close friends from the Industry, took the morning Kingfisher flight from Delhi to Jabalpur (nearest airport to Bandavgarh) departing Delhi at 0620 hrs and Arriving in Jabalpur at 0820 hrs. It was a good two hours flight in an ATR 72 plane. On arrival we were met by our local handling partner and we commenced our 3 hour + drive to Bandavgarh. The Monsoon had already set into this part of the country and hence it was very pleasant drive with a lot of greenery and nice drizzle on the way.

We arrived at the Lodge to a very warm welcome by the team; fresh cold towels were offered and we were escorted to the common area of the lodge which overlooks part of the lodge and has an amazing sofa seating area with two fire places and plenty of books spread across tables, not only of Wildlife but also on India. The common area also has a bar and the deck outside has an open sitting which offers breathtaking views of the entire property and far away villages and the jungle. Our bags were quickly sent to our rooms. A short brief of the property was given to us and each of us was escorted to our private villas (as I would like to call them). The Samode Safari Lodge has 12 such villas.

I was truly amazed to see the villa which has the following:
01. A large living room with an attached powder room, a huge flat TV, a well stocked mini bar and plenty of antiques and several books on Wildlife with a large window for natural light.
02. Bed Room is large with I-Pod docking station, very comfortable bed, a long Sofa to stretch your legs and large windows for natural light.
03. A private sit out area overlooking the country side with two large beds and two sofa seats, a very private space just outside your bedroom.
04. The bathroom area is as big as your living room and bedroom combined...absolutely fantastic.. it has an open air rain shower, an open air bath tub, inside there is a large walk in wardrobe with very tastefully designed furniture, a large marble sink made from a single stone, a hug bath tub inside as well and two rain showers inside a glass cubical... I must admit one of the best bathrooms with a lot of aesthetics sense I have ever seen in any of the hotels I have been around the world and in India.

The villa has been designed keeping in mind the minute details, comforts and sheer Luxury experience in the wilderness. I call this truly attention to details.

After a quick change, we headed back to the restaurant which is as well on a higher elevation and has a private deck overlooking part of the villa. The lunch served was continental with very high standards of food and service, a true Samode signature as I call it. Even the restaurant has been very nicely done with a touch of elegance in the furniture and everything in it. After a hearty meal, we headed into the Park for our afternoon safari. The Safari jeep has been specially customised & designed by the lodge; it can sit 6 clients comfortably with each of them having uninterrupted views and this jeep was open. Each sitting area has a covered box where clients one can store their personal things or even keep their cameras if it rains. We drove to the Tala gate for our ride and it started to rain, pleasantly we had very nice rain coats inside the jeep which we wore and it looked very funny... We were given a particular route and saw a lot of wildlife and birds during the drive, the jungle was fresh with rains and it smelled really nice... the slow drizzle was an amazing experience, although the King of the Jungle eluded this afternoon but the overall experience to be in this jungle was very special. During the drive in the jeep we had mineral water, juices etc. We got back to the Lodge around 7pm and were welcomed by hot steaming tea and Indian snacks on the deck, the weather was perfect with cool breeze flowing.

We went to our villa for a shower and guess what…!!!On entering the villa, in the living room there was a big bowl of hot water kept on the floor for us to wash our feet, this was truly an extra ordinary experience and that’s what I call attention to details, I enjoyed washing my feet in this hot water bowl for about 5 minutes and then ran into the shower to get ready in time for the dinner.

The drinks were served on the deck outside the common area, the whole area was lighted up with lamps, a sight which only one can imagine.. Nice breeze was flowing and this really seemed like a real special evening, the dinner was very smartly laid out on the lower part of the deck with white curtains hanging and we were all around surrounded by these lamps.. Dinner was Indian menu served in Thali style (rounded plate) with warm Indian breads flowing all the time. The food was more than delicious. We retired soon after to our villas after a long day and we had a very early start the next day to have coffee with the King of the Jungle J. In no time of hitting my very comfortable bed, I was fast asleep like a baby (Sweet dreams)

Our day started with a wakeup call at 0430 since we had to head to the park Entry gate at 0500 hrs...Hot steaming tea and coffee was served at the common lounge area and we left for the Park, as we entered the park, it started to rain, this morning we were on a different route and it was truly a special experience to be in the jungle with the drizzle, saw a lot of wildlife and tried to track the King of the Jungle but he shied away from us... It started to pour after an hour so we decided to head back to the lodge... On the exit gate of the park, a very interesting board caught my attention... It had a picture of the King of the Jungle speaking... “DON’T WORRY IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN ME, BUT I HAVE SEEN YOU”... We all left the park with smiles on our faces. Back at the Lodge, we went for a quick shower and later went for breakfast in the restaurant, which was a mix of Indian, Continental, lot of fresh fruits and freshly baked breads. Rest of the afternoon we spent visiting some other lodges in the area (of which I will send you a report separately).

We got back around 5 pm from our visits of other lodges in the area and after a bit of rest and shower we were lead into The bush for a cocktail and to see a film on tigers, the bush setting was amazing again with several lamps lit around the place, cocktails and snacks were good. The 45 minute film on tigers was an eye opener and it truly moved each of us..The naturalist as well gave a 20 minute lecture to us on the Tiger habitat in the park and steps taken on conservation. During the course of the evening we also got to know that the lodge has also employed a lot of local youths from nearby villages and trained them to work in the lodge. The lodge is also actively involved in supporting community projects within the area, we were as well informed that a part of the money which clients pay for staying is directly contributed to the local community.

The best was yet to come... we were lead to the pool side for dinner... the whole place was lighted up with lamps and Bar-be-cue was laid out, the bar was quietly moved here with some nice quiet music, A perfect setting for a romantic evening with your beloved but I had these 3 friends to give company to.... hahaha.. All I can say is the evening was Beyond our expectations, the ambience created, the food, the service.. everything was too perfect. All I can say that It is to be experienced, no words can describe the actual feelings. After dinner, we kept talking with the Lodge team as to what we had experienced over the last two days and for the attention to details that were thought of by them. We soon went to our Villas since we had a rather early morning start to get back to Jabalpur Airport in time for our 0900 hrs flight departure to Delhi.

To sum this up, personally I feel Samode Safari Lodge has raised the bar in the wilderness when it comes to client experience, aesthetics, luxury, services, details & imaginations.

I am attaching herewith a presentation of the lodge which will further give you an insight into this special product.