Walking with the wild

Dera Amer

Dera Amer

Near 

Jaipur
, Rajasthan
, India

Acquiring 180-acres of largely neglected scrubland in 1981, Udaijit Singh and family committed to turning this stretch of land to one of untouched natural beauty and painstakingly and lovingly worked on it for over thirty years.

For guests, Dera Amer is glamping done right, spacious tents have all the trimmings for a good night’s rest. Each tent is away from each other for total privacy. Each tent is extremely comfortable and beautifully furnished with vintage furniture and hugely comfortable beds. They also have a verandahs to relax in and state of the art attached bathrooms. The experience centres around special interaction with the rescued elephants, camels and friendly dogs, making it a must for animal lovers. Living a quiet life with their mahouts, the elephants who once walked tourists up and down Amber fort now come out to interact with guests a few times a day in peaceful surroundings. Curated experiences offer immersions into the surrounding countryside by jeep or camel cart.

Our Rating: Premium
Property Type: Boutique

Destination

Set in the shadow of Amber fort, Dera Amer is a small camp in a private farm surrounded by the hills of the Nahargarh National Park. The habitat is rocky and semi-arid, with a mix of open scrubland. Small rural hamlets dot the area and comprise a mix of pastoral and farming families. Nature lovers will be enchanted by the birds and smaller animals that share the camp space. And of course, the main attraction is not one, not two but three gentle giants: rescued and rehabilitated elephants.

The property is located on the outskirts of Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan. Being the gateway to one of the most culturally rich states of India, Jaipur has ample to do and see. As much as you’d like to explore the city, Dera Amer offers that perfect respite from holidaying hordes in the popular haunts of Jaipur. Here, you are away from the colourful and chaotic bazaars, and monuments, and still in touching distance if it’s on your list. The Nahargarh surrounds in the foothills of the Aravalli hills are cooler, soothing and promise a real break.

Accommodation

Six sumptuous safari style luxury tents are dotted around acres of wild scrubland, providing guests with creature comforts in the most peaceful setting. Fitted with bespoke furniture and furnishings, reflective of the Raj, the tents are a perfect harmony of form and function, and created by local artisans, they offer a luxe camping experience. Each tent is fitted with a double size teak wood bed, deep snoozer mattresses, quality linen, large rugs, a desk and chair, charging points, a safe, heating in winters and air coolers in warmer months as well as an outdoor seating area, with the services of a private butler. Ensuite bathrooms offer round the clock hot and cold water with pressure, heating, Forest Essential toiletries, a hair dryer as well as bath slippers with bath robes.

There are simpler, more rustic tents, which emulate a camping style with common functional bathroom. The tents are already assembled on clean platforms with bed linen, and a seating area – quite comfortable if you are a seasoned camper. Even if you are not, you are around premium amenities and comfort.

Free Wi-Fi is available on request.

Dining

The food at Dera Amer is simple, home style and delicious. Fresh ingredients from the organic garden and nearby village markets are used to create dishes that are mostly a mix of Indian favourites and some Rajasthani delicacies like Dera Mutton. Food is laid out buffet style and on occasion includes some continental dishes as well.

There is no dining tent at Dera Amer. Meals are served al fresco, in the day under a shady tree and in the evenings under a canopy of stars, especially on a clear night and their twinkling combined with the flickering light of lanterns, diyas (oil lamps) and bonfire creates an enlivening atmosphere. Local musicians and sometimes dancers add melody and rhythm to the evening, as drinks served by the butler and hot barbequed meats and paneer (cottage cheese) fresh off the grill is added to the buffet table.

Breakfasts are special; the elephants come around and one can partake in feeding them their favourites, banana and sugarcane while you await your eggs made to order or hot parathas will all the usual accompaniments.

Experiences

Dera Amer’s activities are centred around its elephants and apart from enjoying their company whilst feeding, bathing or walking with them, there are a number of other activities suited to people of all ages.

This is a haven for local and migratory birds. Take an early morning birding walk with the in-house naturalist and birding guide. Binoculars are available to loan and you’ll be surprised by how many birds you tick off the birding list.

Explore the local countryside in the traditional mode of transport in a camel cart; visit the local dhani’s (settlements) of the Meena tribals who love a chat and will treat you to a cup of chai (tea) made with goat milk.

A jeep safari with Udaijit or his nephew Bharat is an experience to remember. As you tour the rugged landscape in a private 4×4 jeep, see the wilderness, hamlets and the village school. Or head cross country for an unforgettable off the track ride to the magnificent Amer Fort.

For experienced riders, a Horse Safari can be arranged in the surrounding countryside, with at least 24 hours’ notice. A camel safari is also possible, but only with the resident camels, Sonu and Raja (also rescued). The safari is only around the local area to give you a flavour of life in Rajasthan.

Perfect For
anyone who loves the outdoors and a peaceful getaway in the wilderness. Individuals, groups of family and friends, birding enthusiasts and people who love animals in general and elephants in particular.

Operational status
Open from October to mid-April each year.

Why we love this place

Dera Amer wonderfully combines an exclusive wilderness experience with ethical animal interaction. ensuite tented accommodation is set in a rustic location, easily accessible from Jaipur and the much-visited Amber fort. The stay is centred around three rescued and rehabilitated elephants providing a one-of-a-kind experience. Dera Amer is something of a sanctuary for animals: both domestic and wild, and the perfect spot for an escape from the city.

About your host

When Udaijit Singh first acquired this 120-hectare property, he knew little about elephants. As a keen animal lover, he wanted to provide an experience immersed in nature and so turned away many a lucrative offer to create a hotel or resort on this land. The concept behind Dera Amer was never about profit and so the Singh family remained resolute in the protection and preservation of the local environment.

Having bought three elephants who were overworked in Amer, he meticulously worked with their mahouts to create a nurturing environment for them, and they are all part of the family. Udaijit has crafted a range of immersive experiences that put animals first and this includes feeding, bathing and the occasional elephant polo match.

As well as looking after the elephants, Udaijit looks after the local villages around the camp. Many of the staff comes from the village and have been with him from the start. He supports the local schools in providing stationery and computers as well.

Responsible/Sustainable Tourism

Dera Amer was set up to home rescued, sick and over-worked elephants. Standing firmly for responsible tourism, it is a contrast to other ‘royal experiences’ where animals are exploited. The supervised interaction between guests and animals helps travellers understand the hardships that these animals might have gone through. In booking Dera Amer, one inadvertently helps in the cause of rescue.

The untouched natural surrounds of 180 acres is an effort to conserve the natural vegetation of the land, instead of building more luxury camps. The local community is a big part of Dera Amer’s experiences – whether it’s village walks, acclimatisation to the desert and its people, and even the staff working at the retreat.

Our Recommendation

A glamping experience in the company of elephants who were stressed, abandoned or sick. Meals at the pavilion, overlooking the elephant stables are truly special and memorable.

Can’t find a suitable itinerary that features a destination, experience or accommodation you fancy? All our group tours and holiday ideas can be personalised, or we can create a tailor made itinerary for you.

Our Accommodation Ratings

Opulent: Exceptional, unashamedly the best of sheer luxury. (£££££)

Luxury: Outstanding levels of 5* comfort, hospitality and facilities. (££££)

Premium: Excellent levels of comfort and hospitality and a wide range of facilities. (£££)

Mid-Range: Good levels of comfort and hospitality, with a reasonable range of facilities. (££)

Simple: Clean and simple, no frills. Often in areas of natural beauty or near wildlife reserves. (£)