“An elegant safari lodge in deepest central India, with top-notch service, sublime food and personable, experienced guides”
The 12 extravagant villas are virtually identical, set amongst the flowering trees and rough scrub of the 22-acre property. Inside they’re vast: a spacious sitting room with an armchair and couch facing a flat-screen TV and DVD player, a double or twin bedroom opening onto a private veranda with loungers, a dressing room, and a WC. But it’s the bathroom that’s the real stunner, with an enormous walk-in shower, a freestanding tub positioned beside a fireplace, and an open-air ‘bath court’ with a further tub and separate shower. It sounds excessive, but there’s nothing like a long soak - whether inside by the fire or outside under the stars - after a 4-hour jeep ride through the jungle.
Décor is eclectic - think African safari (leather trunks, tribal masks, black-and-white wildlife photos) with Indian touches (a marble elephant statue here, a decorative sitar there). The owner has gone to great lengths to incorporate local handicrafts such as hand-woven baskets and quirky metal sculptures, and every bathroom features a stunning Gond-style mural across one entire wall (ours undulated with birds, fish and turtles, and even the black granite in the bathroom was etched with Gond bird motifs). There are some glam details - a shiny chandelier dripping with crystals - but the general vibe is masculine and handsome, though colourful.
All the little luxuries are there for you: a Lavazza coffee maker, an iPod dock, Kama Ayurveda toiletries, bathrobes, almonds and chocolates, even a hand-written note on your pillow at night. The overall result? You may never want to leave.
The more we ate at Samode, the more impressed we grew with the delicious food (all included in the rates) - this is haute safari cuisine.
Breakfast is very good - an expansive spread of pastries, curries, juices and the like, laid out on an open-air deck in one of the central lodges. It’s tempting to gorge, but our recommendation is to remain disciplined - just sparkling wine and fresh fruit for us, thanks very much! - so that you still have room for lunch, which is a delightful, 4-course continental affair. It normally starts with a bright vegetarian soup, followed by a perfectly composed salad (we loved roast corn and onion, and lentil with anchovies, mint and roasted red peppers). For the main course there’s a choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian - we tended to prefer the latter, especially the pan-roasted fish with fresh tomato relish, which was divine. Do save room for dessert - perhaps a creamy banoffee pie or a cardamom-scented panna cotta - and for afternoon tea, served in the larger lodge, where there’s also a bar.
Dinner is even more elaborate, and is served in a variety of locations around the property, including private areas in the bush on request. We found the meals indoors to be overly formal (must the naturalists show up in jodhpurs and cravats?), but the food was delicious, all the way from the aubergine amuse bouche to the masala chai crème brûlée. Our favourite meal was the more casual but utterly delectable outdoor dinner buffet. First, we gathered around a campfire with the other guests, sipping cocktails and nibbling on tandoori-grilled treats as we swapped stories of safari glory. Then we retreated to our private tables, beautifully covered in dhurries and candles, where we feasted on creamy dal makhani and spicy cauliflower, juicy prawns and chicken, piping-hot from the tandoor, and fresh naan, dripping with butter. Lanterns hung from the trees. The wine flowed freely. The stars twinkled above. It was heaven.
Samode Safari Lodge is an elegant - and let’s face it, expensive - safari experience, which tends to attract an older, well-heeled crowd. You might get tired of shushing your kids as they splash in the pool or dash up and down the ramps to the lodges.
Having said all that, our kids absolutely loved their stay. The safaris were a blast, bumping through the jungle in our own open-air jeep - we may not have seen a tiger, but we heard its roar, which put our hairs on end! And what fun to eat breakfast - muffins, hot chocolate and Nutella sandwiches, made especially for the kids - on the hood of our vehicle. Staff had even placed board games and crayons in our villa, and in the evening we threw all the kids in the massive outdoor tub, then wrapped them up in their child-sized bathrobes and let them watch nature DVDs.
Note that children are charged full adult rates.
Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Each villa can accommodate a comfy floor mattress for a child. Baby cots are available, too.
Available on request.
You wouldn’t want to subject kids to Samode’s formal, multi-course dinners, but staff will babysit while you eat, and the chef will prepare special meals (pizzas, pasta etc) for children to eat in the villa. Lunch and breakfast are more casual affairs, and fine for families
The lodge is very remote, but emergency medical evacuation is provided free of charge for all guests under the age of 75 if required.