Guests enter eco-friendly resort Jamtara Wilderness Camp under the spreading branches of a banyan tree and begin a romantic jungle adventure, with nights spent under the stars or in white tents shielded by clusters of arjuna trees. In true Kipling style, furred, feathered and clawed creatures prowl and swoop by this fairy-tale safari-break spot (courtesy of Pench National Park next door), safely viewed on a game drive, and by night stories are swapped by a campfire.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 1pm.
Double rooms from £467.38 (INR45,675), including tax at 18 per cent.
Rates include two safari drives, all meals, a welcome juice, snacks, and tea in the morning and evening.
Guests will feel lavishly looked after here. When they return to their tent from an excursion, a welcome drink will be waiting for them. The library is a great chill-out spot with mid-century modern leather seating, lovingly battered luggage chests, and wildlife photographs, art and maps displayed. Guests can order s drink and head here to flip through books on local flora and fauna.
The hotel is closed annually from 10 May to 10 October, during monsoon season.
At the hotel
Outdoor and indoor lounges, library, valet parking, laundry, wellies to borrow. In rooms: free bottled water, tea- and coffee-making facilities, hot-water bottles, air-conditioning and Soultree bath products. There are no TVs and no WiFi or mobile signal throughout this remote, eco-friendly camp.
Our favourite rooms
Sleep on a machaan (a four-poster bed set on a platform) in neighbouring farmland. Inspired by farmers who slept under the stars to protect their crops, these are a little more romantic, with secluded four-poster beds, star maps and a naturalist guide. After dark the bed is lit with softly glowing lanterns and overhad there are showers of stars; from your perch you can spy passing animals and birds, and the fee goes directly back to the farmers whose land the bed rests on. All of the tents are comfortably outfitted and similar in style, but numbers six to 10 are larger in size.
Set by the white-washed lodge, the freeform pool overlooks a panorama of higgledy-piggledy jungle trees. A few low cushions are scattered over the wooden deck for guests to relax on and there are shaded loungers by the lodge.
Bring a portable speaker to pump up the ambience in your room. Bug spray will come in handy, too. It’s illegal to hop out of the jeep when on safari, so bring binoculars for that once-in-a-lifetime animal spot.
Entemophobes should steer clear; hotel staff do their best to keep bugs away, but in the rural surrounds they’re inescapable.
For older kids, this is The Jungle Book come to life (at a safe distance from the park’s Shere Khans). An extra bed (or two baby cots) can be added to tents (free for under-6s, INR2,400 a night for older kids). There are bikes to hire (but no helmets).
Food is grown onsite and in the surrounding farmland. The camp has very little impact on its surroundings: in May, everything’s packed up until it reopens in October. Furnishings are made from recycled wood, all-natural products are used where possible, and guests are given a stainless-steel container for filtered water. The Star Bed experience (where guests snooze atop a raised platform) is a source of income for local farmers, and 80 per cent of the staff are hired from surrounding villages. The resort also supplies school desks and solar panels to the community too and support conservation by contributing to the Tiger Trust (www.indiantiger.com/trust).
Opt for an intimate, private-dining table set up in a sheltered glade, where servers wheel over a tray of tasty dishes and drinks, then leave you to the romantic setting, set to a soundtrack of jungle babble.
Back-to-nature khaki, moss and cream togs, with a sturdy pair of boots.
Chef Omkar takes inspiration from the sizzling and spiced dishes of the region; he crafts delicately spiced vegetarian curries with eggplant, okra and pumpkin; a range of meat dishes (laal maas mutton curry, coconut-laced fish curries and Hyderabadi-style chicken; and some global picks, such as pasatas and salads, using fresh organic ingredients, many grown onsite. Guests dine in convivial style at a long wooden table under a thatched, open-air pavilion, or out in the open, under the branches of the banyan tree, during the day. By evening, the friendly atmosphere and campfire makes it feel like an exclusive club, but couples wishing to dine alone can book a private, candlelit dinner in the bush. Picnic-style safari breakfasts include sandwiches, farm-fresh eggs, cake and muffins. Otherwise, a generous Continental, English and Indian spread is laid out in the lodge’s breakfast room.
The bar is a motley mix of liqueur, wine and beer. Take a leisurely tipple in the library or on the pool deck. Or, drink alfresco in the tree-shaded sandy clearing (there’s a cache of hot-water bottles for chilly evenings) strung with fairy lights. The staff shake up a mean mojito, and the sangria is refreshing after a sizzling-hot afternoon.
If on safari, tea is served at 5am, with a picnic en route, or full breakfast when guests return, followed by a light lunch at around 1pm. Otherwise, times are flexible, with lunch from around noon and dinner from 8pm.
There’s no in-room dining – food may attract hungry animals – but guests can bring drinks back to their tent.
Jamtara Wilderness Camp
Pench National Park
Village : Jamtara,
Post Office : Chand
Tehsil : Chaurahi
District : Chindwara – 480110
The camp is on the north-eastern border of sprawling, green, tiger and elephant sanctuary, Pench National Park. There’s little around except a babbling river, undisturbed wilderness, lush farmland and country villages.
Nagpur’s Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport is the closest to the camp, a three-hour drive away – the hotel can organise transfers from INR7,000. From major cities in Europe, Asia and Australia, arrive via Mumbai or New Delhi; from the US, stopover in London before flying on to Mumbai, then on to Nagpur (around a 90-minute flight), Air India and IndiGo run a frequent service from Mumbai and New Delhi.
Driving in India can be a chaotic experience; drivers play fast and loose with road rules and there’s a good chance you’ll contend with cattle. If you’re determined to self drive, you can rent a car from Savaari in Nagpur, or they run a less nerve-jangling taxi service.
Hire a private jet from Taj Air to fly from Mumbai or New Delhi in style, landing on the hotel’s private strip, a 45-minute drive from the camp. Jet hire for a one-way trip starts at US$14,000.
Worth getting out of bed for
On-site activities tend towards the sedate: swimming laps in the pool, following trails through the trees or relaxing with a drink and a book. Pench National Park is in India’s gloriously green hinterland, at the heart of the subcontinent, so guests will spend most of their time heading into the wilderness in a jeep with one of the resort’s knowledgeable naturalists; two safari drives are included in your room rate. Four to six guests are ferried around the park on a game drive (there are up to two a day, depending on which package guests have booked) as the guide points out the crouching tigers and hidden (or quite apparent) elephants and other flora and fauna. Majestic fish owls and hawk-eagles will excite twitchers too. Off site, the resort can arrange trips to Jamtara village: a quiet, low-key spot, with colourful and thatched buildings. Its farming community grow sugar cane, and guests can watch as it’s turned into jaggery while learning about local culture.
The camp is miles away from the nearest restaurant, and meals are included, so you’re unlikely to wander. However, if you want a taste of something local, take tea at the dhaba (roadside stall) by the park gate.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this jungle-set camp by Pench National Park and unpacked their bird-watching binoculars and downloaded their snaps of deer, macaques and more, a full account of their really wild safari break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Jamtara Wilderness Camp in India…
Jamtara Wilderness Camp is petite, with just 10 tents, so attention is lavished on guests, and its intimate nature fosters a friendly air. You may find yourself clinking a glass of wine with fellow wilderness-seekers over dinner or bonding over a rare leopard sighting on a shared game drive. Loved-up couples can easily find alone time, too – the luxurious tents, with real double beds, wooden flooring and comfortable bathrooms are set in leafy seclusion and, on request, the hotel will send you off with a star map, snacks, drinks and a guide (who keeps a respectful distance) to a four-poster bed on a platform below the open sky. The camp’s quirky nature (we love the vintage rocking horse in the lounge and the wooden flooring made from recycled ships) and dedication to conservation and supporting the local community, enhances this scaled-down safari experience.