“A wonderful, personalised wildlife retreat on the fringes of the Satpura tiger reserve in central India”
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.
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.
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.
Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Each cottage can fit 1 rollaway bed. Kids aged 4-5 stay for free; there is a charge for 6-15 year-olds
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