A cool place to hang out after the wild safari. Good combination of traditional and international cuisine is an add on.
- Free Parking
- Breakfast included
A cool place to hang out after the wild safari. Good combination of traditional and international cuisine is an add on.
We stayed at Baghvan in January for 2 nights over the republic day weekend.... The lodge is located in close proximity to the park gate and overlooks a nallah (dry river)..The staff at the lodge are great.. .our naturalist Dipu was was very skilled and we saw 2 tigers besides a host of other animals.. the rooms could have been better appointed and are not as plush as Banjaar Tola (the Taj Safaris property at Kanha) The machan was our favorite place to hang out during the afternoons and is a great idea... A special shout out to chef Shinde who prepared some of the better meals i've had in my life... a great wildlife experience overall!!
We arrived at Baghvan on 29th December 2009 at around 2:00 PM, and stayed for 3 nights, bringing in the new year. We were 3 couples, each with one child, making it a total of 9. It was a memorable experience and one that I would highly recommend. What follows is an account of what we loved, and what we felt could be better, intended both for researchers who may be considering visiting, as well as for Taj/Baghvan management, should they be interested in the feedback.
Things we loved
1. The Rooms
I think the best thing about Baghvan was the rooms. I absolutely loved them. Spacious, rustic, tastefully done, very comfortable indeed. The bathroom is a delight, especially when one lifts up the blinds behind the twin sinks/mirrors, something I discovered only on the last day. The jungle practically comes into the bathroom. The outdoor bathing area was used by my friends, though I didn’t venture there for fear of lizards. (for lizard phobics I would say don’t worry too much, I saw a few, but my wife was always by my side to protect me.) The “Machan” was the icing on the cake. What a thrill it was to hang out there, in day or night, amongst the trees, and amongst the sounds of nature. I will leave the rest to your imagination, but there’s tons of fun to be had on these machans. And I don’t just mean Breakfast in the machan, which was also fantastic. In my travels I have seen a lot of “hang out areas” in luxury hotels (“Salas” in Thailand for example) but this "machan" was the best by far.
2. Yes there are tigers there
Even though I didn’t see one, my cousin and his family saw 2 beautiful tigers playing with each other, in the forest from elephant back. My other cousin, also saw a single tiger, right after it had killed and eaten a deer. I suggest you be in touch with the hotel in advance to book your safaris. If you are late to provide your names to them (as we were) you risk having to go in one of the smaller, rather uncomfortable vehicles (Maruti Gypsy) instead of the specially modified Tata Mobiles, which are really nice for the safaris. The forest is beautiful, and though we didn’t see a tiger, we saw lots of deer, neelgain, sambhal, boar, jackal and some really beautiful trees and general forest scenery. As luck would have it, my cousin, who was assigned to the Gypsy, and was very unhappy about it, saw tigers, which was great. Even though we didn’t see one, it was a pleasure to see the pictures others took, and to rejoice in the knowledge that there is hope for this species.
3. The Staff
The staff was really nice. They were friendly without being overbearing. It was a pleasant change from the luxury hotels like the Vilas properties where the staff is almost sickeningly and unnaturally sweet and eager to please. On the whole the entire staff from the GM to the naturalists, the chef, the waiters, together succeeded in creating a really nice warm, friendly and “homely” atmosphere.
We were never discouraged from having our own drinks, anywhere on the propery. So go ahead and bring your own. This was great. Something you can’t do at most hotels, in the common areas. We enjoyed some great Aberfeldy single malt which I had brought along.
5. Common areas
There was some disagreement here. All of us didn’t feel this way. But I really liked the common areas. While some of us felt that the area was too small and crowded, I felt it was just right - cozy, casual and intimate. The outdoor deck overlooking the Nullah was really wonderful. And the tree under which we had new years dinner, was also a lovely area, which I feel could be used in routine course also, and not only for special occasions.
Areas for improvement
1. General Areas for improvement
• The pool could and should have been heated ( I think it even mentions on the web that its heated but its not, or even if it is, the heating is inadequate and ineffective). It would have been wonderful, as the setting and the construction of the pool area is great.
• The common areas, though beautifully appointed, could have been a bit larger. I personally was quite happy with them and found them to be cozy and intimate. But others felt very cramped in them.
• Massage area needs more privacy and space.
• A pool table and a table tennis table would be welcome additions, but should not be in the main common area. Instead should be in an “outhouse” of some kind.
2. The biggest area for improvement – food
Overall, I would say the food at baghvan needs a serious relook. Both in the quality of food that is served and also the variety. The variety and type of food may be a "philosophy" issue ( although I don't buy that argument one bit). But there's no excuse for bad food. Here is some specific information on some of the food we had.
The muesli: too many nuts, not enough cereal. Net result - BAD
The eggs: I ordered a ham and cheese omlette. I was served an underdone omlette which was really, really and I mean REALLY bad. The ham was given by the side saying "we only put the cheese in the omlette and give the ham by the side" - I didn't bother asking why. Come on guys. You can do better than that.
The jams: the attempt was to have "natural and fresh" purees instead of the usual preserves. But they were not upto the mark. Should either be improved or its better to serve some nicer bottled stuff.
The deserts: shahi tukra, savian kheer, other kheer and custard were excellent. Gajar halwa was below average and served absolutely cold.
The "curries" and food in general : the saag chicken and mutton curry were really very good. Saag was very good. Some of the salads were nice. Other than that the indian food was quite ordinary.
The "barbeque" on new years night was not upto the mark. There were seekh kababs, which were very ordinary. The fish lemon butter was nice. One night we asked for grilled chicken. I think it would have been better if they had politely said "that's not in our repertoire". It was really really awful. Tough and tasteless.
Now about the variety and content of the menu. The food was largely home style indian food. This is a welcome thing, especially for foreign guests as home style cooking is rarely available in restaurants. But hello Baghvan, you also have indian guests. And for them you need to give them a little more than aloo gobi (which by the way was very good one evening). I am not suggesting here that you depart from your "basics" strategy. Work within that. But be more imaginative. Borrow some things from the menu of "machan" at the taj delhi (kanha delight Kathikababs, thai red curry chicken with rice, sandwiches and burgers, a simple but nice chicken steak etc). And have a far far higher standard for quality. You have a great place, great and willing staff (including the chef) - and even despite the very so so food we had a great time. But this can so easily be improved that I am tempted to push you to do so.
Other suggestions to the property
I would have welcomed an information booklet on Tigers. There were some booklets in the room with information on the birds of the forest. Similarly there could be one on Tigers in general (population, conservation status, project tiger etc). Most people who visit here, I imagine, would appreciate such a booklet. Many I am sure (like me) would want to know if in any way they can get involved in saving this species from extinction.
Get more Safari vehicles
Clearly when there is a full house, there are not enough vehicles to take everyone on the Safari. So for the “excess people” , or “the last to have sent in their details”, get bumped down to the not so nice vehicles. That is a bummer and anyone will feel horrible seeing others go to safari business class, while they get to go coach. Its not fair. It happened to us, and Baghavan gave us many reasons and excuses. The point is that it will always happen to someone, whenever occupancy is high. And that person wont be happy. So either get more vehicles. Or if this level of occupancy happens very rarely, and you have to hire out a Gypsy, for gods sake don’t stuff 6 people in a Gypsy. No more than 3 people should be put in a gypsy.
Finally, I would also suggest to Taj, to set people’s expectations right from before hand. In my case, I done some research, and I came there expecting a lodge, not a resort. My cousin somehow had in mind, the benchmark of Vanyavilas in Ranthambhore. Though over 3 days he grew to like Baghvan, he was initially very disappointed. Vanyavilas and Baghavan can’t be compared, they are very different experiences. They are both excellent but very different in their basic values, and the experiences that they endeavor to create. I loved and enjoyed both. If I had to choose one, I would go with Baghvan, just because the rustic, back to basics edge, is a real refreshing change.
About Banjaar Tolla/Kanha
If anyone is considering whether to visit Pench or one of the other properties (Kanha, Panna, Bandavgarh), the following may be useful. My cousin visited Kanha after visiting Pench. I don’t know all the details, but I do know that he preferred Pench to Kanha, both the property as well as the forest. They didn’t get to see any tigers in Kanha. Also others at Banjaar tolla didn’t see many tigers while they were there. Based on this and some of the other conversations I had with naturalists, I concluded that it’s a myth that the likelyhood of seeing tigers in Kanha is higher than in Pench
This is the most exciting place and holiday i have ever experience. The property is marvelous, with the minutest attention to detail. Taj has given it a very ethnic Indian look. The rooms and bathrooms are huge. There is also an open air shower area and a "machan" where one can spend hours in solitude. The staff and the game drivers are simply superb. The food is also fabulous. When one considers that all this is in the middle of a dense forest one just cant help but take a bow !
The main purpose of this trip was to see the tiger and we were lucky to see it 20 ft away from our jeep ! it was an exhilarating experience.
This ones the best lesser known places in the world. Get there before it gets crowded !
From the view of a 13 year old
I am 1 of 4 children in a family of 6. We took the Indigo flight from Mumbai to Nagpur we were then driven 2 hours down the Baghvan safari lodge in Pench national park. We arrived at 7:30ish then sat down in the lounge where our guide was waiting for us. He introduced himself as Vrushal and told us about the safety rules at the lodge and we organized tomorrow’s safaris. At the time we were the only people at the lodge. We started our dinner at 8:15 and it was amazing. They escorted us to the pool deck where we had the barbeque of our lives. They cooked grilled chicken and fish along with salad and other vegetables. At 9:00 we finished dinner and went to our room then fell asleep straight away. In the morning we woke up at 5:30 and walked to the lounge where we had some tea and cookies. We set off on our first safari at 6:00 and drove around the park in our 3 tiered jeep. Each morning safari lasts about 4 hours and each afternoon safari lasts about 2 and a half hours. That morning we saw an owl, lots of storks, tons of deer and hundreds of grey Langurs (monkeys). When we arrived back at the lodge around 10:00ish, we had an amazing breakfast of eggs, Indian breads and fruit. After we finished they asked us about lunch but our reply was “no way” after that breakfast. We had four and a half hours to relax before our afternoon safari at 3:30 or 4:00. The hotel has a solar heated pool, internet services, cable TV and a massage center to pass the time. On the afternoon safari all we saw was more deer and monkeys along with a ton of birds. 3 more people had arrived that day so that night we had dinner in the usual spot just outside the lounge on a veranda. It was slao very good that night. The next morning we woke up again at 5:30 in the morning and headed off on our morning safari. Nothing more today just more monkeys and deer. During the 5 hours break in between the safaris I was by the pool and there were monkeys everywhere! They were playing on the lounge chairs and drinking from the pool. It was quite entertaining watching them wrestle each other and throw each other off the chairs. There were also quite a few over protective mothers there so don’t get to close or they will run away and possibly defend against you. That afternoon we went to the same spot we had been going to because of a report that a mother tiger had made a kill and was just not moving. Nothing else was spotted that afternoon except for more interesting birds. That night we ate with the couple that had arrived the other day. They were very nice and we charted about our travels around the world. (Visit [--]for more information). Next morning, same thing, nothing except monkeys, deer and birds. Though in the afternoon our entire patient sort of paid off, we spotted a leopard high up on some rocks just lounging. But it was so far away that I couldn’t even see it with my bare eye. My dad had to use his powerful camera to get close enough to see it. It was far away, but it was still a leopard. The next morning we went out on our last safari before we moved on, but it was the best. We went to a new place and saw 5 jackals, one up close trying to chase a deer. We also got to see the dried up river Pench along with some new pretty birds. Although we did not see any tigers or other animals that would have hoped to see it was an amazing experience just being out there in the national park and to make it better we were staying with Baghvan which made it totally worthwhile. The experience was amazing and I would definitely recommend this lodge.
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I can't say enough good things about Baghvan. First, the pictures don't do it justice. The main spaces are just beautiful and decorated with antiques from all over India (lanterns from Rajastan; tables from Kerala; etc.) and the suite of rooms everyone gets are spectacular. Second, the food is absolutely delicious. Each meal has something surprising about it, and no meal is the same. I came to the lodge a bit sick, and the chef was able to customize food for me. Third, the service is incredible. Everyone knows your name, quickly learns your morning tea preferences, your evening cocktail preferences, etc.
Finally, the wildlife is awesome. Our various guides (Deepu and Vrushal (whose name I might be mis-spelling)) were knowledgable, talkative, and enthusiastic. We saw all sorts of things we never expected to see, including jackals, leopards, spotted deer, sambhur deer, nilgai, eagles, owls, vultures, storks, cranes, lizards, a civet, a mongoose, and of course a tiger (from elephant back)!
I can't wait to go back. This vacation offered us a much needed romantic respite from our otherwise hectic (though wonderful) trip to India.
The pool is amazing too (you see kingfishers and rollers, and a tribe of monkeys hanging out while you hang out).