For a traveller, the time between a recently finished trip and the one approaching in the near future, can seem like an eternity.
I was experiencing a similar period of eternal waiting, counting down the days and hours to my next long travel, and feeling appalled at how much time was left.
But then, like a wishing star shooting through a dark sky, a getaway to the never-heard-before Dudhwa Tiger Reserve landed on my lap.
I had a memorable experience at Tree of Life, Jaipur in August. And now my stars were blessed again by a trip to one of the only remaining natural grasslands in India, Dudhwa National Park, and an exquisite lodge near the forest.
The Tree of Life, Jaagir Lodge is situated in Palia, a Sikh township situated on the peripheries of Dudhwa National Park, Kishangarh Wildlife Sanctuary and Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary.
At Tree of Life, Jaagir Lodge, Kamaljit Singh, the property owner, makes sure that your experience there is as personalised as possible: from drinks with other guests around a bonfire to endless conversations that unravel the majestic history of the lodge.
Before entering The Tree of Life, Jaagir Lodge, endless fields of sugarcane and mustard captured our attention. It felt as though within a few kilometres, we were transported to the heart of Punjab. A sharp right, and we were surrounded by lychee orchards that mark the entrance of Tree of Life, Jaagir Lodge.
The isolation of the property is realised through the quiet around it. Despite a busy evening upon us, all we could hear were birds hopping around, making way to their nests. The welcome at Tree of Life, Jaagir Lodge is exceptionally warm. If Mr. Singh is around, he will come and greet you personally.
Our welcome was immediately followed by lunch, which despite the lodge's inaccessibility to the main city, was pretty decadent. Every dish was cooked with locally-grown ingredients. From beetroot kebabs to mutton korma, the food was decorated by its authenticity and freshness.
After lunch, we entered our Luxury Suite, and believe me, it was straight out of a dream.
The decor was comfortable, yet unique; it looked like nothing I had ever seen before but I knew instantly that I wanted more of it. From the canopy bed to the three-mirror dressing table, every piece of furniture was vintage.
The newer-wooden creations were carved from local trees. Mr. Singh and his wife designed the property themselves, transforming an old hunting lodge to a luxurious place with character. Their labour of love is evident in every brick and wall.
After settling down a bit, the resident caretaker proposed to take us on an exploratory walk around the property. This included a short hike to the nearby banana, sugarcane and mustard fields, and then to the swamp where alligators can be spotted in this season.
After taking a long walk to the nearby swamp, we prepared ourselves for the evening lounge. This getting together of guests is what sets Tree of Life, Jaagir Lodge apart from most places. Sitting by the bonfire and sipping on wine, we had some wonderful conversations with other guests, who by the end of the evening started feeling like a one big Jaagir family.
The next day was all about the safari. We had a jeep-safari scheduled for the afternoon, but in the morning we were eagerly awaiting the breakfast spread. The food, as always, was brilliant, but we took a few extra moments to marvel at the deliciousness an omelette was capable of in the right hands.
For the safari, our naturalist drove us through a jungle – a shortcut to the Dudhwa National Park entry gate. On our way, we saw four deer caught by surprise. Whenever a deer fears the presence of a predator, it stands still. Since tigers have terrible eyesight and can only notice things in motion, this acts as the deer's defence technique.
The safari introduced me to a completely different terrain of muddy swamps, lush Sal forests and jungles where temperature can drops within minutes. We came across several riders who were hell-bent on spotting the tiger. But for me, a first-timer, the sheer experience of being in the wild and spotting beautiful birds and fowl was awe-inspiring enough.