Luxury dining experience in wilderness with monkey running across

A monkey runs across the private pool terrace of the Royal ‘Burra Sahib’ Suite at Sher Bagh. Image by James Houston

Why should I go now?

Thanks to stricter wildlife policies, India’s population of endangered Bengal tigers has increased by 33 percent since 2014, and with 60 tigers roaming 500-square-miles of wilderness, Ranthambore National Park remains the best place to see them.

The park was once the private hunting ground of the Maharajas of Jaipur, and is still home to many ruins of hunting lodges as well as a majestic crumbling fort from the 10th century. The landscape itself is varied with everything from dense jungle to open plains and desert-like areas; each safari jeep is assigned an area on arrival to prevent overcrowding and limit the impact on the habitat.

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The park tends to be quieter at this time of year, making the safari experience especially peaceful and whilst seeing a wild tiger is never guaranteed, it helps to have a knowledgeable guide. SUJÁN Sher Bagh is known to have not just the best guides and trackers, but the luxury group is also committed to conservation, meaning that every guest who stays at the camp is contributing to the group’s philanthropic initiatives.

Sun loungers underneath tree canopy

Sher Bagh’s swimming pool overlooks the wild grasslands. Image by James Houston

What’s the lowdown?

Sher Bagh is a luxury tented camp pitched under a canopy of indigenous trees on the fringes of Ranthambore National Park. There are only 12 tents with the majority arranged in a semi-circle and the royal suite secluded behind mud walls, giving the whole place an intimate, homely atmosphere, emphasised by the warmth of the staff. The place is designed to evoke the romance of old-world travel with wood panelled floors, leather furnishings, vintage trunks, crystal decanters of whiskey and golden oil lamps that light the pathways and hang from the branches come nightfall. The staff are mainly all from the local villages, and everything from the tents to the interior decorations and even the smooth mud surfaces of the pathways are created by local craftspeople, whilst the kitchen uses ingredients grown in the gardens and cultivated on the camp’s farm.

A white lily on lily pads in a pool of water

Image by James Houston

Man hanging golden lanterns onto a tree

Sher Bagh’s staff hang lamps on the trees at every dusk, creating a magical ‘fairy-tale’ atmosphere. Image by James Houston

Breakfast and lunch are generally served in the beautiful grand dining tent with a menu of delicious Anglo-Indian dishes, whilst dinner is traditional Indian cuisine served in a surprise location each evening. The thali and the buttery flaked parathas were amongst the best we’ve ever tasted, and we also loved the selection of canapés served with pre-drinks round the fire every evening, but the bespoke dining experiences were the real highlight. After a morning game drive, our jeep pulled up into the farm yard where a decadent breakfast buffet was laid out underneath the shade of a tree. Before eating, we were given the opportunity to try milking one of the cows and collect eggs from the henhouse, which were then cooked by the chef with fresh herbs and spices. On our final night, we arrived back at our tent to find a table set up on our private pool terrace, surround by hundreds of glowing lanterns.

Dining tables inside luxury tent

Breakfast and lunch are generally served in the main dining tent (above), but bespoke experiences can also be arranged. Below: breakfast served on the camp’s farm after an early morning safari. Images by James Houston

Breakfast buffet in the bush

The park’s animals naturally wander into the surroundings areas. This is especially the case with the monkeys who, during our stay, swung between the branches overhead, played on the roof of our tent and drank from our pool. In the mornings, the camp naturalist showed us the tracks and trip-camera images of nighttime visitors to the farm, including a leopard, sloth bear and hyena. Understandably guides are required to accompany guests back to the tents after dark, but the real magic of the place comes from not knowing what you might encounter, who might be peeping at you through the branches or sharing the same pathways.

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Indeed, most guests come to Sher Bagh for the wildlife experiences. The camp’s luxury 4×4 vehicles depart for safaris every morning and afternoon, with stops halfway through for drinks and snacks in the jungle. Whilst tigers are the main draw, the park is also home to leopards, sloth bears, deer, mongoose, wild boars, hyenas, jackals, crocodiles and an array of tropical birds. For us, one of the most beautiful experiences was watching the monkeys walking amongst the villagers on their way to morning worship. In between drives, the camp is a very peaceful place to relax, swimming, reading or listening to the hum of the jungle.

Getting horiztonal

We stayed in the largest and most luxurious tent: the Royal ‘Burra Sahib’ Suite. Enclosed behind mud walls, the tent is the most secluded area of the camp with its own private heated swimming pool overlooking the grasslands. The interiors follow the camp’s colonial theme with cream linens, and rosewood and teak furnishings, including a beautiful four-poster bed and two open wardrobes each equipped with a branded safari fleece (the morning drives can be very chilly). There’s a separate sitting room with a curated selection of books, and a spacious bathroom, featuring natural, sustainable bath products. Laundry and ironing are complimentary and the suite comes with a high-tech DSLR camera for guests to borrow on safaris.

Luxury safari tent

Most of the tents are arranged in a semi circle (above), whilst the Royal ‘Burra Sahib’ Suite is secluded behind mud walls (below). Images by James Houston

Inside a luxury safari tent

Flipside

Sher Bagh manages to balance the highest level of luxury with authenticity and honesty. Sustainable practices are integrated into every element of the camp from the homegrown ingredients to the local staff and use of natural materials. The air conditioning units in the rooms and communal areas are the only contradiction to this ethos that we noticed, and although it’s understandably necessary to keep the rooms cool during the hotter months, it seems a shame that these can’t be replaced with a more environmentally friendly option.

Rates: From ₹55,000 for a luxury tent including all meals (approx. £600/€700/ $750)

Book your stay: thesujanlife.com/sher-bagh

Millie Walton