Forsyth Lodge

Satpura National Park, Madhya Pradesh, India Book from

Reviewed by Kate Darnton
A wonderful, personalised wildlife retreat on the fringes of the Satpura tiger reserve in central India
We’ve safaried all over India. Other properties may be more luxurious - and boast more tigers - than Forsyth Lodge, but none can match the sheer enthusiasm and sincerity we found here. These people are on a mission to bring you closer to wildlife, and they’ll find any way to do it: perch you atop an elephant for an hour-long trample through the jungle; paddle you in a canoe along the Denwa river; even walk you through the tiger reserve on foot - a rare experience in India. And all of this is in addition to jeep rides: forays that take you deep into Satpura National Park. There are so few tourists here, you may have the whole park to yourselves - well, besides the deer, sambars, gaurs, nilgais, boars, crocodiles, monkeys, leopards, sloth bears and tigers, that is.

At the end of your safaris, return to the lodge's leafy surrounds and stretch out on a charpoy beside the eco pool or sit watching birds from the porch of your private cottage. The serenity that surrounds you is bewitching; you'll totally switch off from the outside world. Come evening, there are cocktails around a bonfire, where guests swap safari stories, followed by delicious Indian dinners under the bright Milky Way. We absolutely loved it.

Highs

  • A paradise for eco enthusiasts and nature lovers: the lodge is set in 44 acres of scrub and brush, criss-crossed with walking trails and full of birds, butterflies and dragonflies
  • Outstanding service from charming managers, smiling local staff and a fabulous team of passionate, knowledgeable naturalists
  • Privacy: just 12 standalone cottages, some of which have rooftop areas with a second kingsize bed for sleeping under the stars
  • Well-priced rates, which include all meals and 2 guided safaris a day, as well as wilderness walks and canoeing
  • Popular with friends and couples, but fun for families, too: a 'Junior Rangers Programme' teaches kids how to identify and track different species as well as the basics of ecology and nature photography

Lows

  • Off the beaten track: a 3.5-hour drive from Bhopal, the nearest airport
  • Be aware that Indian safaris are a very different experience from African ones - you won't see masses of wildlife, and may not find a tiger
  • The accommodation is simple and comfortable in keeping with the Forsyth ethos; no silk bedding and marble bathtubs here!
  • No TVs, mobile reception or WiFi
  • Barking dogs at night

Best time to go

The best time to visit is from November to February, when days are sunny and nights chilly, though visitors also enjoy October, March and even April. Like most places in central India, Satpura National Park gets uncomfortably hot in the summer so the property is closed annually from July to mid-October.

Our top tips

Wildlife enthusiasts can include Forsyth Lodge on a trip through the game reserves of central India, including Pench, Kanha and/or Bandhavgarh, in order to maximise their chances of seeing the elusive tiger. For those who'd like to add culture to their tour, we recommend several nights at Ahilya Fort in Maheshwar, as well as a visit to the crumbling ruins of Mandu, where a sultan once housed his 15,000-woman harem.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Safari Lodge
  • 12
  • Full board (meals + activities)
  • 4+ year-olds welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room: Cottage

Rooms

There are 12 simple and comfortable cottages set in the brush and scrub that surround the main lodge. Their walls are made from packed straw, mud and cow dung (as is the local building style) and painted with wild animals and flowers, giving them a whimsical touch. (We had a bright yellow tiger above our bed and flowering vines around our windows.) There are cotton linens, dhurrie rugs, stone floors and solid-wood furniture - a clean and rustic look that suits the Forsyth experience. Gond paintings and wildlife photos taken by the staff hang on the walls. Bathrooms are spacious and spotless with rain showers (no tubs) and white robes.

Each cottage has a small veranda with a comfy daybed and a plantation chair - you could lounge for hours, reading, bird watching and gazing out over the landscape. Four cottages have a rooftop area (machan), too, for sleeping under the stars (there's an additional kingsize bed, wrapped in a mozzie net). These are the same price as regular cottages, on a first-come, first-served basis, so ask for one when you enquire. We'll always remember the night we spent on ours, falling asleep to the night murmurs of the surrounding jungle, hot-water bottles warming our toes.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Daybed
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Mosquito net
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries

Eating

You'll eat very well here, and meals (included in the room rate) are served in various locations around the grounds - under trees, by the pool, on sofa'd torchlit terraces. Tables are normally communal, but you can ask for privacy too. There are Western and Indian offerings at each meal, but we far preferred the latter. Lunch, for example, was cooked by local village women over outdoor, earthen ovens: a wonderful spread of smoky aubergine, spicy cauliflower and earthy lentils served with local bread balls called bhati. Dessert was creamy kheer custard, dotted with tart apple shavings.

Breakfast was equally delicious and plentiful: fruit and fresh-pressed pomegranate juice, followed by eggs cooked to order, grilled tomato, bacon, mushroom ragout and multigrain toast. The manager’s Kejriwa eggs are superb: fried and smothered with grated cheese, chopped tomato, onion, coriander and chilli powder. Wash it all down with strong coffee and fresh sugar doughnuts that arrive piping hot from the kitchen. Out on an early safari? Then it’s a packed breakfast in the middle of the tiger reserve for you. The food is fine - simple sandwiches and pastries - but it's the setting that really wows: a crystal lake surrounded by immense boulders and rolling hills.

Afternoon tea, with its fresh-baked cookies and cakes, is nice, but it’s dinner when Forsyth pulls out all the stops: cocktails and nibbles around a roaring bonfire, followed by dinner under the stars, either on a terrace in the main lodge or out in the bush with oil lamps hung from the trees (the bar was set up on a bullock cart!). You start with a soup, then move on to succulent meat curries and fragrant vegetarian dishes served with Indian bread. We particularly liked the red spinach - a local variety - and the lovely lemon cream for dessert.

Features include:

  • Afternoon tea
  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Communal dining
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

    Rates include 2 daily safaris in Satpura National Park, and you can choose the method of transport: jeep, elephant, canoe, bicycle or walking. Hopefully you'll see a tiger, but even if you don't, you'll meet other wildlife, including deer, sambars, gaurs, nilgais, boars, crocodiles and monkeys
  • Night safaris are a thrilling way to find rarely seen nocturnal species like owls, civets and rusty-spotted cats, as well as the biggies like leopards and sloth bears
  • Take a guided nature tour or independently hike around the 44-acre property, which includes mixed forest, scrub, grassland, watering holes, a treetop lookout, a butterfly garden and a lily pond
  • Get out your binoculars and identify indigenous flying objects: there are 330 species of bird, 127 species of butterfly and 68 dragonfly varieties
  • Dip in the eco-friendly pool (unheated and there’s hardly any chlorine), or borrow a book from the library and laze on a charpoy
  • Star-gaze with the help of a resident naturalist, who can identify all the major constellations and recite their mythology, too. You'll see the entire Milky Way!
  • Visit the local village, Sarangpur, with its silk farm and grammar school

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Elephant rides
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Safaris
  • Star-gazing
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Wildlife

Kids

Forsyth Lodge is heaven for nature-loving older kids. On the safaris, naturalists go to great lengths to keep children interested, regaling them with fun factoids about the local flora and fauna. There’s even a 3-day 'Junior Rangers Programme' that teaches children how to handle equipment such as binoculars and telescopes, how to track animals, and how to identify various species by using field guides and making sketches. Kids also get tips on nature photography. The course completed, they receive a Junior Rangers certificate.

Even without the course, there’s loads to do at the lodge. My 8-year-old daughter loved the butterfly garden, where a naturalist helped her to identify the various species. At night, the same naturalist gave her a tour of the constellations, so rare a sight in her normal city life.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Each cottage can fit 1 rollaway bed. Kids aged 4-5 stay for free; there is a charge for 6-15 year-olds

Kids Activities on site:

  • Junior Rangers Programme
  • Butterfly garden
  • Star-gazing
  • Swimming pool

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Guided wildlife safaris / walks / bike rides / boat trips

Families Should Know:

The pool is not fenced. This is a very remote location with no shops nearby, so bring everything you need with you. It's a fair distance to the nearest hospital, but there's a doctor on call and the lodge staff are trained in first aid

Distances:

  • Airport: Bhopal (3.5 hours' drive)
  • Hospital: Hoshangabad (1.5 hours' drive)
  • Shops: Pachmarhi (2.5 hours' drive)
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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Rates for Forsyth Lodge