If Mowgli had a trust fund, he might have designed a hotel like Samode Safari Lodge: a flock of private villas set in wild Bandhavgarh National Park, where tigers roam and David Attenborough recently filmed Dynasties. Inspired by local villages, the hotel’s wood-and-mud dwellings harmonise with their forest-and-prairie surroundings; there’s also a relaxed, cosy lodge building, where mealtimes take place and a well-stocked library awaits. Winding pathways and bridges connect the huts, the pool and the main house; get deliberately lost in the wild gardens, where head-high grasses dance in the breeze. Additional enticements for tired explorers include a pampering spa and delicious dining, with meals served in surprise locations.
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A traditional local gift, early check-in and late check-out
2pm; earliest check-in, noon. Both are flexible, subject to availability. Guests arriving early or leaving late can use the shower room.
Double rooms from £213.45 (INR22,000), including tax at 18 per cent.
The hotel’s Jungle Plan package includes accommodation, all meals, daily soft drinks, some alcohol, twice-daily safari activities, park fees, photography fees, forest guide fees and more.
Samode Safari Lodge has a well-stocked awards cabinet, featuring in ‘best safari’ and ‘best honeymoon hotels’ hot lists from the likes of CNN and The Telegraph.
Samode Safari Lodge is closed from July until September.
At the hotel
Wild surroundings; cosy lounge with a view-toting deck; library; gym. In rooms: TV; iPod dock; air-conditioning; minibar; free bottled water; kettle, tea and coffee.
Our favourite rooms
It’s a democratic setup here: all the sleeping-quarters have the same design and facilities; only the hue of their walls and the individual Indian artworks vary.
Cool off like a bathing wildebeest in the large pool, amid the green garden and its high grasses. Wave at the monkey sculptures while you’re splashing around.
Unwind with a scrub, rub or beauty treatment in the diminutive spa. You’ll want to look your best for those tigers, after all.
Bring bug spray and your keenest pair of eyes.
Leave little Smiths at home – this wild-at-heart safari camp caters to adults only.
The hotel has its own organic kitchen garden; additional produce is sourced from a local town. Samode Safari Lodge’s design features natural materials, sourced from the region. The hotel has a compost plant, a sewage treatment plant and a solar power plant. Staff run awareness classes for children from nearby villages to educate them about flora and fauna, and guests can visit village schools and interact with the children.
Take your cues from the weather and sit inside the dining room or on the terrace. By night, put your trust in the hotel staff and see where you land up.
Keep it cool and casual. Leave your tiger prints at home.
Enjoy breakfast and lunch in the dining room, which is connected to the main house via a wooden walkway. It’s elevated with wooden stilts, so you can eat at treetop-level. Guests can also sit out on the terrace on cooler days. Dinner takes place at a different location each night, so as to surprise and delight guests: you could be eating by the pool, in a tent in the garden, or up on a raised platform. Flickering candles and glowing lanterns raise (already high) romance levels.
You won’t find a bar here – instead, drinks are served in the main living area or at dinner. Spirits and wine are set up safari-style on a table.
Meal times take their cue from the game drives and the times that guests return.
There’s no formal room service, but if you’re feeling peckish, obliging staff will rustle you up a sandwich.
You’ll find Samode Safari Lodge in the Bandhavgarh National Park, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
Jabalpur Airport is a three-hour drive away. Give the obliging Smith24 team a call – they can help with your flights.
The closest station is Katni Junction, a two-hour drive from Samode Safari Lodge. Indian Railways services connect Katni Junction to Delhi, Mumbai, Jabalpur, Bhopal and Jaipur.
The city of Jabalpur is three hours away by car; the hotel has plenty of onsite parking.
Worth getting out of bed for
As backyards go, the Bandhavgarh National Park is pretty impressive… According to a local saying: ‘In most parks you have to be lucky to see a tiger; in Bandhavgarh you have to be unlucky to not see a tiger.’ Formerly the private game reserve of the Maharajas of Rewa, Bandhavgarh is also home to panthers, wolves, hyenas, wild dogs, gaurs, cheetahs, barking deers, sloth bears, birds, butterflies and more. Swap creatures for culture by visiting the hilltop Bandhavgarh Fort, which is thought to be around 2,000 years old. Or, watch local bamboo weavers in action and visit a villageschool or two. You’d be bonkers to go home without setting off on a tiger-sighting drive in a customised 4x4, with one of Samode Safari Lodge’s expert guides.
You’re in a national park, with all meals included – so kick back and relax in the hotel’s relaxed restaurant. You’ll never have far to stagger to bed after dinner…
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 adventurous hotel in India and unpacked their binoculars and bush shirts, a full account of their safari break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Samode Safari Lodge in Madhya Pradesh…
How many wild tigers have you spotted lately? Unless the answer’s ‘a lifetime’s worth’, it’s probably time you hot-footed it to Samode Safari Lodge in the rugged Bandhavgarh National Park, a setting worthy of Bagheera and co. This 400sq km expanse of pristine wilderness is home to the highest density of tigers in the world. Samode Safari Lodge is utterly in tune with its surroundings, from its sympathetic, eco-conscious design to its emphasis on conservation and education. (For heart-melting moments, try to catch one the hotel’s classes with local children, in which they’re taught about local flora and fauna.) If you’re in any doubt that Mother Nature is chief muse here, join the hotel’s twice-daily games drives, featuring Samode Safari Lodge’s customised 4x4s and expert local guides. Naturally, you’ll also need to factor in sufficient time to dunk yourself in that peaceful pool, swot up on local birds and beasties in the little library, swing by the gym and spa, and make the most of Samode’s all-inclusive dining – with dinners dished up in a mystery, candlelit location each night.