COVID has changed a lot of things for all of us. So much so that I sometimes wonder whether we will ever truly be able to get back to what was normal for us. It seems like a privilege as I think about it now. One aspect of life that got impacted tremendously has been the way we all travel now. Traveling during the pandemic is a different ballgame altogether. Personally, we consciously decided to not plan any trip even after things opened up. With a 6-year-old at home, we have been extra-cautious about our visits to public places. However, it had been almost a year of quietening the wanderer within us and we felt a desperate need to break away from the mundane. This led to our first getaway in the post-COVID era to Jungle Lodges Blackbuck Resort in Bidar. The Blackbuck Resort is nestled next to the Vilaspur Lake, close to the Honnikeri Reserve Forest.
We had two primary reasons for the choice of our destination. Firstly, distance was a factor because the place is at 2.5 hours' drive from Hyderabad. Secondly, the seclusion of the forest would mean we would be away from the crowds, hence making it a relatively safer option. Also, my husband and I had visited the place in the year 2013 and it had been an amazing experience. We felt this would be the ideal retreat for quality family time. The lodge offers three categories of packages for the booking - Lapwing, Harrier and Courser. Because we did a last moment booking, we had to go for the basic lapwing package as the other rooms were already booked and taken. This meant that our cottage wouldn't have the lakeside view but we were fine with it. After all, the excitement of finally getting out of our home for a short trip was all that was on our minds.
Our little one was most enthused about the trip. The year gone by has been tough on children and I was delighted for her. We were all eagerly looking forward to 7th March 2021 - the day we set out on this beautiful adventure. The road journey from Hyderabad to the resort was more or less smooth except for a short stretch of bad and bumpy road in Bidar. The moment we neared the resort premises, the vibes in the air changed. The noise and bustle of the city was replaced by the peace and artistry of nature. We could see, hear, smell, feel and breathe it in literally. At that moment, it struck me how much we needed this to rejuvenate our souls. At last, we had reached!
My daughter went berserk with joy the moment she stepped foot inside the resort reception. She was least bothered about the check-in process. She just ran around exploring and soaking in the aura of the place. She also tried to spot fairies because she believes that fairies can be found in the midst of greenery. I just smiled watching her - content and blissful. While we waited for the check-in in the eating area called the Gol Ghar, we were treated to freshly prepared delicious lemon juice which became our favourite beverage during the course of our stay there. It was invigorating and had the touch of home, and made us feel at home instantly.
Because summers had kicked in, we decided to spend the afternoon in our cottage. In the lap of nature, the heat wasn't sweltering but it was strong nevertheless. The cottages in the resort are pretty, well-maintained and very vintage in feel. The little one immediately compared our cottage with the ones that she had seen in fictional books and this clearly meant that she had given the place a double thumbs up. As a part of our package, we weren't entitled to a lake-view cottage. However, we quite liked the location of ours because some part of the lake was visible along with flora and wilderness which was perfect for a jungle stay. After devouring a hearty meal for lunch, we took a short power nap post which we plonked on chairs in the spacious porch of the cottage. After a long time, it was just us. We and nature. No smart devices because of the minimal network in the area. No day-to-day distractions. No-one and nothing else.
Because we had planned for a 2-night stay at the resort, we decided to sightsee and explore all the activities in and around it at leisure. The first evening was solely dedicated to absorbing our milieu. We went to the lakeside for boating and re-discovered the euphoria of being so close to nature. I feel closer to myself when I am closer to nature. So, it felt like connecting to my inner self again. The resort had the facility of coracle ride as well as pedal boating. We were keen to do both and thoroughly enjoyed the boat rides. It was dusk time, so we could witness beautiful hues and shades in the sky and water and our phone memory was loaded with stunning captures of the breath-taking landscape. My daughter also had a gala time spotting vibrant birds, butterflies and even a peacock at a distance!
Late evening, the resort folks had arranged for viewing a documentary for the entertainment of all the guests. It was about the various Jungle Lodges group resorts from the perspective of a traveller and we found it to be very informative. It got us talking about where we should be visiting next. By then, the clock had signalled dinner time. I believe that food is one of the most important aspects of any tour. It adds to the experience and memories. The food at the resort is homely, hygienic and wholesome. With a kid, this is always a matter of concern but their buffet had a good assortment of delicious dishes, suitable for all age groups. After cramming down food to our heart's content, we headed towards our cottage. There is something about the nights in the jungle. The sound of the insects and animals, the silence of the darkness, the starlit sky - nature just overpowers us and all we can do is surrender to the magic. I wish we could just spend the night sitting and doing nothing. That 'nothing' which meant 'everything' at that point. But we were keyed up for our nature walk the next morning and had to hit the sack early to be able to wake up fresh and energized.
Unlike my husband, my daughter and I are not early risers, but day 2 saw us waking up at the crack of dawn. Being greeted by the chirping of birds early in the morning was the best way to start the day. For the jungle trek, we were accompanied by another family and a guide from the resort staff. He had a set of binoculars with him and we walked through the jungle for a good hour. We saw several kinds of birds and vegetation that we had never seen before and visited a temple at the peak point before going downhill. It was a reasonably easy-grade walk and my 6-year-old was able to do it comfortably. I also kept thinking throughout about how nature has so many facets and layers to it. It can be raw and refined, wild and calm, stray and purposed, powerful and healing, all at the same time.
There were many other activities to choose from but we planned to keep the day relaxed. We continued to bask in the tranquil of the place during the day. In the evening, we were all set for the much-awaited part of the trip. As a part of the package itself, the resort naturalist takes the guests to the blackbuck trails. Blackbucks are endangered species; hence we knew it would be a unique experience to watch them in full glory at their natural habitat. After a little over a half-an-hour drive from the resort, we reached the stretch of land where several blackbucks were roaming and running around. It was truly a sight to behold! We kept our distance so as to not disturb or scare them off but managed to get some worthy clicks of this gorgeous animal from the antelope family. It was an exhilarating escapade for all of us and undeniably the highlight of the trip. On the way back, we stopped at a little nook for relishing fresh sugarcane juice. I noticed during the drive that the city areas of Bidar also had a dainty, quiet charm to it.
After returning to the resort, we went for boating again on the demand of our little one. This time we did not focus on taking pictures and just sat back to appreciate each frame in front of us. Another thing that kids would love here is the presence of a lot of adorable monkeys of all sizes. Watching them jump far from tree to tree or cottage to cottage left us gaping in awe. That this is their home was evident in their demeanour. We did not go for the Bidar city tour option that day, therefore we thought of doing it the next day at our own pace. We spent some time at their campfire area before dinner, though it wasn't lit because of the weather. Fully gratified, we turned in for the night with a tad bit of sadness in our hearts as it would soon be time to leave.
We were supposed to check-out by 11 AM, so we had a peaceful breakfast. We decided to skip the rest of the things keeping in mind the time we had at hand and went straight to Bidar Fort. There were hardly people around and we could take a quick stroll through the gardens and the parts of the fort that were open for access. Bidar Fort is a great place to visit for the history lovers. I also was impressed by its architectural grandeur and immaculately kept lawns. It was getting hotter by the minute, because of which we did not spend a great deal of time there and recommenced our journey back to Hyderabad.
The biggest testimony to Jungle Lodges Blackbuck Resort is that my daughter wishes to visit the place again and again. She still misses it and also penned a poem on Bidar. She doesn't like so many buildings anymore and as a parent, I think this trip has made her more appreciative of our environment. I would highly recommend this place for a short visit with your loved ones. For enquiries and bookings, you can visit this website.