Seeking Safari in India, India… Incredible India… land of contrasts. Exquisite beauty, filth, grinding poverty, fabulous wealth, pomp and ceremony, magnificent palaces, families living on the street, colorful saris and scarves, gray dusty landscapes, charm and politesse, patience, acceptance, corruption, cruelty… all are juxtaposed at any one moment. Add a heady mix of incense, flowers, chants, sitars, drums and car horns. Not insistent, not saying “get out of my way” but rather, “toot toot, I’m behind you, passing on left.”
This time my daughter and I sought out a quieter India and the type of experiences I look for in Africa. We found them in spades.
Gorgeous tented camps and expansive game parks filled with spotted deer instead of impala, tigers instead of lions, bear, elephant, sanbar, wolf, fox, gaur and a host of birds and small animals that are similar to those found in Africa.
AndBeyond (with Taj Hotels) has four gorgeous properties that adhere to the winning formula of their camps in East and Southern Africa: great guides, gracious staff, lots of excellent food, and beautiful “wow” accommodation. Baghvan Jungle Lodge in Pench NP and Banjaar Tola Tented Camp in Kanha NP are pictured below.
Jamtara Wilderness, just outside Pench NP, is a real Africa-style tented camp, complete with a sleep-out platform a short hike from main camp! And there are many others, each more beautiful than the last! Our amazing guide and lovely drivers helped me see wildlife I would have otherwise missed, get great photos and actually learn the names of birds that are slightly (and facinatingly) different from their cousins in Africa.
We ended our exploration by languidly floating along the canals and backwaters of Kerala province. We had a beautiful boat complete with kitchen, chef, boat pilot and butler all to ourselves: sheer bliss. Along the way we visited a Christian community founded by St. Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century and saw dragon boat races, school boats instead buses, temples, mosques and the quiet life of farming communities.
I fell in love with the food of Kerala and with Ayurvedic massage, meditation and yoga. Accommodations were gorgeous and beautifully reflected the areas in which they were built. Our last day spent in Cochin was fascinating, including a visit to a Jewish synagogue in 1568 by a community that arrived in Cochin 1500 years earlier. I felt the deep roots in the cultures that live here and I love the deep connection to nature and a spirituality that transcends religion.