Imagine a row of hut-like cottages on the banks of a quietly flowing river. Now, step into one of these huts and realize that you are in a boutique hotel room designed with the theme of stones. You open the balcony and see the same river. Between you and the river are the sandy banks that are home to crocodiles and gharials. When the water is shallow, Rhinos cross the river like we cross our city road on a rainy day. On the rooftops, some birds are nesting and you are their temporary neighbor. This is Barahi Jungle Lodge at Chitwan National Park in the Terai region of Nepal.
I spent 4 days at this lovely jungle lodge managed by Pugdundee Safaris. I have earlier done central India with them and have always come back with fond memories both of the Jungle and their warm hospitality. Let me walk you through my favorite parts of this jungle lodge.
The common area
As soon as we landed at Barahi on a pleasant February evening, we were greeted in a welcome room that enticed us with lovely photographs. We could not wait to meet the elephants that almost gave us an impression of being professional models.
We walked a bit to be welcomed at the reception that wore a very earthy look. The floor had large stones bound together by a row of small stones. I would later learn that these extra smooth small stones are found in abundance on the bed of Narayani River that flows not too far from here.
Furniture was made of raw wood with no color or polish. My favorite part of this spacious reception was the glass board that was the common activity log for both the Barahi team and the guests. It was a pleasure to read what everyone is doing the whole day. More than anything else, I loved the rustic bamboo frame.
To visit the jungle and then come back and read all about the trees, birds, butterflies you saw there is like a wish coming true at the perfect time. I think it is very thoughtful of the Pugdundee Safaris to have the relevant books in their library. I am sure they come very handy to their naturalists when they have to refer to a new species of birds or animals seen.
We saw this lovely orange colored berry, locally called ‘Sindhure’, in the wild and we debated what its powdery color could be used for. I even posted it as a quiz on my FB Page and Twitter Handle. However, it was one of the books in the Barahi Jungle Lodge that gave us the answer. Curious? Well, it is used to dye soft silk.
The lodge has many well-designed places to sit overlooking the river.
My favorite is this long corridor with chairs overlooking first the swimming pool and then the river.
You can, of course, get closer to the pool if you like as we did for one breakfast. There is a fig tree that was laden with figs when I visited in February. Alas! I was there a month too early to enjoy these figs.
The lodge organizes cultural evenings with dancers of local Tharu tribe performing their folk dances. We enjoyed these simple folk dances that gave us a glimpse of the cultural life of Tharu people. More on them later.
The food at Barahi Jungle Lodge
The stone décor continues in the large dining hall. We enjoyed Nepali Thai that is served on a brass plate. The chef there surprised us with his Thai cooking, even when he was limited to serve only vegetarian dishes to us.
You have an option to sit out and eat but I was too scared of eating mosquitoes and insects, so stuck to the indoor dining hall.
One evening we had a surprise dinner in the Bush where the whole area was lit up with oil lamps around a bonfire. The slight chill in the air made the warmth of fire just perfect. It was a perfect setting for a romantic dinner or for a gossip session with friends.
Eating in the Jungle
My favorite food experience with Pugdundee has always been that of eating in the jungle. In this trip, we had one breakfast in the middle of the jungle sitting leisurely on a fallen tree. We had no idea that while we were eating peacefully, a Rhino and her young one were within 100 meters of us. We spotted them as soon as we finished packing our breakfast remains. As soon as I saw them I wondered if they would have attacked us for the food – they are also fellow vegetarians after all.
On the Jeep Safari, we had lunch on the banks of Narayani River. The bonnet of our safari jeep became our table and a plank of the tree became our bench. It was surreal to have lunch with 10s of lazy gharials in view. Wonder what they think of us when they see us eating out of plates.
Rooms & Cottages
The lodge has 34 rooms. I stayed in Room no 34 – the last room. I would later discover an owl nest on top of my roof.
The room had stones everywhere. The shower cabinet has its wall and floor full of stones. I liked the small creatures on the headboard of the bed. The balcony looked out in the wild and Rapti’s moods were mine to enjoy. In the mornings it would be wrapped in mist, that would slowly start raising itself as soon as the sun rays fell on it. With mist gone, boats would start showing up. If you are lucky some animals would come to entertain you.
Rapti River & Barahi Jungle Lodge
The lodge is located on the banks of Rapti River. For any activity in the jungle, you have to cross the river. There are normal boats that take you across the river. But we enjoyed the scary & adventurous ride on a long narrow dugout canoe. This canoe is carved out of a single trunk of Semal or cotton silk tree. We crossed the river for each of our safaris. But we would remember our boat safari to the confluence of Rapti & Narayani River for sunset.
The lodge arranged and high tea/drinks for the sundown at the perfect spot. This sunset would remain in our memory for a long time.
Play with the Elephants
The lodge has 4 elephants. All females named Sundar Kali, Rang Mala, Madhu Mala and one more. You can go on an elephant safari on them to see the Rhinos from the safety of their height. You can spend relaxed time playing with them, feeding them sandwiches or bathing them in the Rapti River.
Naturalist at Barahi Jungle Lodge
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Exploring the rich forest of Chitwan National Park #withpugdundee and the naturalist @sakiinwild – we walked good 5 hours this morning spotting birds, butterflies and and almost coming face to face with a Rhino. #inditales #chitwannationalpark #chitwan #nepal #nepal???????? #nepaldiaries #naturalist #naturewalk #naturewalks
Now let me tell you what I like most about Pugdundee Safaris – their naturalists. They enrich your jungle experience with their knowledge and hand-holding.
Read my post on – How to be a Naturalist
Thank you for a lovely time Barahi & Pugdundee