Forsyth Lodge – Hoshangabad (MP)
Forsyth’s Lodge is located at the outer edge of the Satpura National Park. The National Park, part of an ambitious government initiative that seeks to preserve and reclaim dwindling forests, is a landscape of hills and ravines. As your eye ranges carefully over this readily visible contrast, you will begin to notice the many small things that make the National Park unique—an intersection of North with South, and indeed, East with West, never mind what the good Mr. Kipling said. A zone of meeting, mingling and divergences of transitions and continuities.
Forsyth’s consists of 12 independent cottages built in an arc around the lodge building. The lodge is a two-storey building that opens out on to stunning vistas of the mountains while the cottages are built to offer unique vantage points into the landscape.The main building holds spacious dining areas, a well-appointed library devoted to Indian wildlife, a lounge, several fireplaces and the Forsyth Bar. Daytime is usually a well-grounded affair, with any number of things to do in the Park, and thus evenings bring elevation, and everybody usually ascends to the first floor, to the Forsyth Bar, and to the terraces, where a telescope might silently bid you to gaze upon the spectacular night-sky, where the day’s stories are exchanged and new plans made before everybody descends again for dinner. The lodge is a rammed-earth structure while the cottages are built out of cob. Both are ecologically responsible ways of building that blend with local architecture and go a long way towards moderating temperatures through the variations of summer and winter. This is but one of several ways in which the Lodge treads softly on the landscape while offering every necessary comfort.
The cottages are each a short walk away from the lodge and offer simple yet comfortable accommodation. The walk from the lodge to the cottages is punctuated by many invitations to sit down and look at the landscape. This invitation is repeated yet again in each cottage. Walk through the doors to the sit-out where a plantation-chair opens its extendable arms in an offer nobody has yet been able to refuse. An eco-friendly swimming –pool (with virtually no chlorine) is no more than a stone’s throw from each of the cottages. The grounds, beyond the lodge, offer an expanse where you can witness–on foot, preferably, or with wheels—the million little things that mark the exciting spectacle of the returning jungle.
How did a graduate in English literature, an engineer and a trained geologist come to be cracking good naturalists? Forsyth’s is a community united by enthusiasm. This writer remembers rather vividly several episodes of their ducking to peer through the picture window and then bursting out with binoculars, at breakfast, lunch and tea, because a Bonelli’s Eagle had been spotted riding the thermals, because a pair of bullfrogs had chosen to surface in the pond outside, because an avadavat darted past, because a wild hare zigged and zagged in no real hurry at the edge of the property, because the indistinct shape in the shrubbery could only have been that of the tiny Rusty Spotted Jungle Cat. For weeks after, you will be unable to pass by water, land or patch of sky without turning to look again, without being stirred by the memory of their excitement.
This bond of enthusiasm extends to our chefs and our support staff. Our two chefs have several years of experience at Nepal’s premier wildlife lodges, and on-the-fly at mountaineering expeditions. The cuisine at Forsyth’s owes much of its character to their differing personalities, to their friendly everyday duels over tradition and adventure.
Forsyth’s enlists dedicated staff from the nearby villages. They have been trained to provide a hospitality that is warm, thoughtful and discreet. They will set the Gujarat Boilers going much before dawn, get the vehicles ready for the day, set off to handle bookings for safaris, canoes, and elephant-rides at the reserve, shop in the nearby markets, get back to organise the rest of the day for you, greet you when you return from your first jungle foray of the day with freshly-pressed juice and a towelette, serve you breakfast and lunch, ensure that you have tea and biscuits at other times of the day, take care of your room, run around with a steady supply of food and drink to make sure that evenings are convivial, and nip back to your rooms while you are at dinner to ensure that your beds have been warmed by a hot-water bottle during the biting winter cold. In the long monsoon months, when the park closes, they will come back to do up the walls with village scenes and remembered motifs.
About Satpura National Park…
The Satpura National Park takes its name from the Satpura hills that range across central India. It covers 524 sq.km of protected forests. In 1999, the Madhya Pradesh Government created the Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve, a protected region with an area of 4926.28 sq. km, covering three conservation units: Bori Wildlife Sanctuary (518.00 sq. km), Pachmarhi Wildlife Sanctuary (461.37 sq. km), and Satpura National Park. This Reserve has a designated core zone which is the Satpura National Park. The remaining area is described as the Buffer Zone—a sprawling 4501.91 sq km area spread across the districts of Betul, Hoshangabad and Chhindwara that is slowly being reclaimed by the jungle.
While the terrain is largely hilly, the action of the local streams over many millennia has resulted in deep and narrow gorges and ravine—a landscape that perfectly suits the reclusive habits of the tiger. The Tawa reservoir and the many streams that feed into it–such as the Denwa and the Sonbhadra–ensure that a good part of the park is well-watered.
The park is classified as part of the Eastern Highlands moist deciduous forests eco-region and forms part of a zone of steady transition between the forests of eastern India and Western India—the careful observer will thus come across stands of both Teak and Sal (Shorea robusta).
This confers on those who arrive here the privilege of being at the exact place where several habitats coincide and overlap. Apart from the tiger and the leopard, the area is also home to Gaur – the Indian Bison, to the Sloth Bear, to several species of deer, the Chausingha or four-horned antelope, and the Nilgai antelope, the wild dog, the wolf, the hyena and the Rhesus Macaque. The Malabar Giant Squirrel and the Mouse Deer, unusual species for Central India, have also been spotted here. Among the smaller mammals reported are the Indian Civet, the Palm Civet, the Indian Porcupine, the Bengal Fox, the Black-naped Hare, the Jungle cat and the Rusty Spotted Cat.
What makes the National Park such a great birding destination ?
It is home to a diverse ecosystem and, in addition, the Satpuras form one corridor of movement between the mountains of the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats. It thus provides a habitat for migrant waterfowl, including Bar-headed Geese, the Pintail, the Garganey, the Pochard and the Ruddy Shelduck. Birds of prey such as the Black Eagle, the Rufous-bellied Eagle, the Shahin Falcon, Bonelli’s Eagle, and the Mountain Hawk Eagle have often been sighted. These are but a small sampling of a long list of more than 300 oft-spotted bird species. And we haven’t even begun talking about the rarer species.