An exclusive luxury tented camp in the wild

Jamtara Wilderness Camp

Jamtara Wilderness Camp

Pench National Park
, Madhya Pradesh
, India

Located in the Northern part of Pench National Park well into Madhya Pradesh, the camp stands isolated from all other lodges set close to Jamtara village, giving you exclusive access to the park via Jamtara gate, a two minute drive from the camp. Designed around the specifics of typical lodge in the wild akin to the lodges built by the Biritsh in the jungles around the country, Jamtara offers an exclusive experience of the jungles in close proximity. A generous Banyan tree at the entrance sets the tone for one’s stay here – as if arms outstretched to welcome you to Jamtara. You enter a world where the hosts, the team including the naturalists, neighbouring villagers, and often nature comes together in perfect harmony for an exploration of the jungles.

Enveloped by the buffer forests on one side, farmlands on the other, the 10 acres of the camp are an extension of the forest dotted with Teak, Arjuna and Kusum trees, crisscrossed by a dry river-bed, birdsong and insect chatter punctuating the stillness of the day. Arty and desgined keeping wildlife and nature in perspective, and staying true to their conservation pedigree, the owners have maintained a careful balance between sensitivity to nature and the experience of a luxury jungle camp. Exclusive for guests is the central lodge which houses the lounge, library, swimming pool, and dining which comes up ahead shortly as you enter; while quite discreet to the side is the main service area, staff quarters, and organic kitchen garden while the tents find space amidst the generous grasslands close to the treeline buffer forest and dried river bed.

The decor is simple yet stylish with striking colors of ochre, pink, green and turquoise over cushions and beds (quintessential A V Singh design, the creative partner in this project) – an interesting mix of elements, stories around furniture, floors and fixtures; and sourcing them come together to tint the tents with character. Where else would you hear of living spaces designed with weathered wooden flooring sourced from a ship recycling yard in Gujarat and writing tables that once served in the hallowed offices of the Supreme Court of India?

As you board off the transport, you walk through a natural jungle setting – dirt roads, a timber bridge over the dry river bed, past the ancient banyan tree, till you are greeted by the warm and friendly camp staff with a chilled leomonade and cold towels; you instantly know that the Jamtara jungle adventure is not without some signature indulgences.

Our Rating: Luxury
Property Type: Tented Camp


Jamtara Wilderness Camp is a wildlife lodge set further away from the busier national park gates. Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh has a unique ecosystem – undulating topography, varied tree expanse, dense green undercover, varied fauna including aquatic life, and avian fauna. It is no wonder then that Pench is set apart from other popular parks and features high on the checklist of nature and wildlife lovers.

Declared as a Tiger Reserve in 1992, the National Park gets its name from the Pench River that flows from North to South literally dividing the park into two, also allowing safaris from Jamtara gate as exclusive drives into the national park that has fewer vehicles out on safari. Ecologically, the forest is teak-dominated but supports other assorted species many of which are evergreen. A favorite of many is the Indian Ghost tree or the Kullu gum tree as it is locally known. This tree has a papery bark and glows under the moonlight adding a dramatic dimension to forest drives. Pench is known mainly for leopards and wild dogs and also supports a healthy population of tigers. Drives in the park are exciting as there is plenty to view – dholes, civets, sloth bears, sambars, wild boars, nilghai, langur, gaurs and several other carnivores and herbivores along with healthy species list of birds.


Each of the 10 African safari-styled tents raised over a platform, occupies a private thicket with patios that are large enough to allow one to stretch out for an afternoon snooze, read a book or lookout for birds. Tents are large and comfortable with a choice of king-sized beds or twins, a writing desk, a two-seater couch, ample charging points, subtle lighting and small, thoughtful details like colouring books, crayons, torches, bottled water, etc.just assure you that just about everything has been thought about for your comfort.

The Star Bed is a concept inspired from Amit’s travels in Africa put to use in the Indian context as a unique conservation opportunity. The proceeds from the overnight use of the star beds go to the farmer who owns the land, constantly ravaged by wild boars. Keeping it wild and true to the jungle is one of the foremost responsibilities of a conservation-based lodge. Hence the star bed is also a unique romantic stay under the stars in the wild, an opportunity for star gazing and to view the nocturnal movements of wild animals and birds. Away from the camp, set high on stilts, this ‘machan’ located on the farmland adjoining the buffer forest is a fairly comfortable night stay in a four poster bed with gossamer insect protection, double duvets and hot water bottles. Washroom facilities are at the ground level and an attendant is on call closeby. Highly recommended for die-hard nature lovers and lovers of the wild.


The food experience at Jamtara is superlative. The menu is an interesting mix of recipes both from traditional and modern Indian kitchens, so expect breakfasts that serve eggs to order (highly recommended, near-perfect Masterchef quality scrambled eggs), sausages, marmite, grilled tomatoes, hash brown with a couple of local nashta (breakfast) items thrown in. Main meals are mostly Indian and leaning towards vegetarian since the kitchen is committed to using fresh and locally sourced produce.


Take safaris in 4X4 through the Karmajhiri or Jamtara gates accompanied by Jamtara’s inhouse naturalists, knowledgebale and excited to share the forests that they know intimately. Highly recommended is exploring the natural world on a nature walk around the camp. An overnight stay on the Star Bed is a ‘must-do’. This dry deciduous forest is visually fascinating, unlike Kanha and Bandhavgarh where the forest is thicker and denser, Pench allows visibility, depth, and an open habitat that is more engaging.

The Star Bed is an opportunity for guests to have a unique experience that the villagers have on a daily basis, where they sleep on beds on a raised platform to keep an eye on animals eating their crops. The forest takes on a life of its own under the night sky. Sleep in the fields with the stars overhead and witness the live orchestra of crickets, owls, frogs, jackals, ceremoniously punctuated by alarm calls of the spotted deer, making you aware of the predator’s presence. It is wilderness in its purest form.

Jamtara is conceptualized by conservationists who continue to actively participate in the jungles and lay great importance on a comprehensive jungle experience, giving guests new perspectives to view the jungles and its landscape. The lodge’s star naturalists have the unique ability to rub off their enthusiasm and passion for the jungles and nature onto the guests. Naturalists are encouraged to spend time with guests sharing stories and experiences and understand their interests and inclinations to plan the next safari route, jungle or nature walk, and village activities.

Perfect For Couples who love the wilderness, and like the active life of safari-oriented camping. Cycling around exploring villages and life around the buffer zone are other activities for people to explore around. Early morning safaris and afternoon safairs on 4 X 4 are the norm at any wildlife lodge and so it is at Pench except when the park is closed on Wednesday afternoons. For the young and tireless there are many walking trails as well as cycling opportunities to explore the villages and vistas around.

Operational status: Open from October to April end.

Why we love this place

Beginning with the large, open grasslands handed back to nature where local grasses and indigenous trees flourish to the small number of tented accommodation to deliberately choosing a location far away from the ‘popular’ location, Jamtara Wilderness Camp has been designed thoughtfully with understated luxury, the experience created consciously and has taken the tough route to success.

About your host

Amit Sankhala has been born into the idea of conservation being the grandson of Kailash Sankhala, the man who fashioned Project Tiger, no less! His father, Pradeep Sankhala successfully developed Kanha and Bandhavgarh Jungles Lodges. The host on most occasions is Neel, a consummate wildlife scientist and is the captain at Jamtara Wilderness Camp.

Amit has rambled in the remote forests of India since he was little and has pledged to continue the legacy by carrying forward the mission of nature conservation and wildlife tourism. As the Managing Director of Encounters Asia, Tiger Resorts Pvt. Ltd and Jamtara Wilderness Camp, Amit has vast knowledge and boundless enthusiasm in the field of tourism which enables him to succeed in his profession. He has had the privilege of experiencing first-hand Rudyard Kipling’s version of The Jungle Book, growing up seeing the National Parks of India as it should be and knowing the importance of its flora and fauna. He has also been involved with various innovative projects, such as Tiger Nation, which has created one of the biggest databases of tigers in India.

Amit is also a trustee of Tiger Trust, developed in 1989 by his grandfather. The Trust has been educating children on wildlife, setting up medical camps in rural villages surrounding the national parks, working on legal cases against wildlife crime, and involved in capacity-building programs. To further understand conservation and how to move forward in his camps and for wildlife tourism, Amit has traveled and studied other wildlife conservancies, parks, concessions, and sanctuaries around the world – from Okavango Delta in Botswana to the Rain Forests of the Pantanal for Jaguars; Polar Bears in the Arctic to Pumas of Chile; Mountain Gorillas of Uganda to underwater life of the Galapagos. His expeditions to see Snow Leopards, gained popularity amongst the wildlife community and have helped set the standard for others to run these high-altitude expeditions. Observing the politics and models of wildlife around the world, he has brought many ideas back to India. One of the models which he has put to use in his own Jamtara Wilderness Camp was a community sharing model through one of its kind ‘Star Bed’.

Responsible/Sustainable Tourism

Keeping in mind the location Jamtara ticks many attributes for responsible tourism. With a legacy of conservation, the camp has always been a passion project and operates with a gentle touch. The choice of location was crucial as Jamtara looked at their impact on the area; thus adding a camp to countless other hotels was not on the agenda. The motive was clear – create a wilderness experience beyond chasing the tiger, a place for inspiration to bring children and allow them to fall in love with nature; and create a positive impact where there was a contribution to the community around with overall development of a better future.

When Jamtara first began, the local communities did not know what tourism was. However, with consistent training, the lodge is almost fully run by the locals today. The interaction with the community is also with the village schools and in times of celebrations and problems. Support is extended by helping villagers rise above the man-animal conflict with the objective to empower the villagers to protect wildlife. The safaris inside the national parks serve as an ongoing patrol against poachers and give local guides and employees an incentive to not becoming poachers as well.

The entire camp has been made with reclaimed wood and furniture, where every piece has a story to tell. The dining table has been made with mango wood, the artistic blue flooring was refurbished from government buildings and schools in Central India; the rooms have 1970s art deco furniture once used by embassies in Delhi, while the wooden flooring has been made from decks of ships due to be scrapped, and with items that were once part of the Supreme Court. Common practices, such as no use of single-use plastic, bedsheets only being washed when necessarily needed, etc. are considered a basic requirement to operate a camp.

The Star Bed concept at Jamtara is an extension of the concept of working with and empowering the local communities to ensure the success of conservation. For generations, villagers have spent nights in their fields on machans – beds made on raised platforms, to keep an eye on animals eating their crops. Guests can avail of this experience first hand as the jungle takes on a completely different life at night. There is a greater purpose to this experience – a vision to re-establish the corridor, and simultaneously support the local community. Before the settlement of the farmers in this part of India, the land was part of a continuous jungle, which is now the core and the buffer. Jamtara aims to reclaim the eighty acres of farmland and make it a part of the forest once again. Once the land is left untouched, it will organically reinstate itself into a forest, with wildlife thriving in it. The villagers can be made guardians of their own lands, where various models of tourism like the Star Bed concept, can be set up for unique and authentic wildlife experiences.

Our Recommendation

Explore Jamtara's remote, rural and get ready to be transported back in time, where the village folk live simply; cycle, walk or ride bullock carts, electronics and machines are still a few decades away. The villagers here largely subsist on farming, grow corn, and make jaggery in the traditional way, curious vistas that offer an insight to rural India and are stunning frames for photography.

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