Tread softly in the jungle

Kipling Camp

Kipling Camp

Kanha National Park
, Madhya Pradesh
, India

One of the first lodges to be established in Kanha as early at 1982, Kipling Camp serves a legacy of conservation and a firm ethos of ‘treading softly’ in the forest environs. Managed and owned by Belinda and Anne Wright, Kipling Camp is set close to the Kisli side and is the perfect access to the Kanha and Kisli zones of the national park.

‘Shamiana’ is the camp centre and is a social hub for guests at the camp. It acts as the dining room, a library, a lounge as well as the bar. Shamiana is a tiled pavilion, open on all sides with large cushioned walls set in a forest environment. This is also the area where guests are welcomed with hot or cold towels depending on the weather at the time.

Our Rating: Premium
Property Type: Wildlife/Nature Lodge

Destination

Kanha Tiger Reserve will always be special and is considered as one of Asia’s premier wildlife reserves. The park is home to spectacular forests of Sal and Bamboo, meadows, the rivers Banjar and Tannau; and is considered to be one of the best places in the world to see the tigers and is also blessed with a rich bird life and a variety of wildlife including endangered species, making it a delight for wildlife enthusiasts. Famed to be the setting for Rudyard Kipling’s novel The Jungle Book, it was declared a national park in 1955 and is divided in to four zones.

Accommodation

Kipling offers double rooms in cottages under shades of trees with a lake close by. The cottages at the Camp have an ‘old world’ charm to them and transport you straight into the era of colonial forest bungalows. The comfortable two-to four-room cottages come with its own verandah offering views of the wilderness, the waterhole and the surrounding forest, each cottage room has its own tea and coffee making facilities, and tiled ensuite bathrooms with hot showers. The Camp functions on strict green values and adheres to a season from mid-October to April when the temperature is comfortable and hence requires no air conditioning. Since there is a good tree cover, the temperature at the camp is very comfortable during early summer months. Heaters and hot water bottles are provided during winter months for comfort in the cottages.

Dining

Safaris into the jungle in the morning are always accompanied with packed breakfast carried on the jeeps along with tea and coffee. For those choosing to relax at the camp or explore other activities offered by the camp, breakfast is served on tables outside the Shamiana under the beautiful mahua tree. Lunch is usually Indian and is served outside where one can take in the natural beauty of the surrounding forest. Drinks in the evening can be enjoyed at the bar or under the trees. Guests and managers eat together on the same table, where they share their experiences separate tables can be set-up on special requests.

Experiences

Kipling is home to Tara, the much loved elephant mascot of the camp and is loved by both grown-ups and children making Kipling the perfect place for families. The camp has over the years employed and taken in many villagers and trained them in hospitality and service. Apart from the park safaris which are a staple of most of the wildlife lodges, Kipling has varied activities which makes it an extremely diverse place to learn about the forests and also experience wildlife.

Many guests stay at Kipling for 4 nights or longer. Most days begin with an early morning drive into the park in open 4WD vehicles in search of barasingha, sambhar, chital, wild dog, leopard, tiger and other wildlife. Breakfast is always set up it the park; back at the camp lunch is usually outdoors. For the afternoon drive, guests can return to the Tiger Reserve, go bird watching, take a guided nature walk in the forests that surround the Camp, retreat to a hammock with a book, or – most popular of all – bathe Tara in the Banjar River. Evening time is to relax in the Shamiana around a campfire with drinks and dinner, the sounds of the jungle the only music while conversation flows among guests about their day in the park. Longer stays would allow for visits to 17th century forts, a colourful tribal market, climbing the mysterious black mountain, relaxing massages, volleyball for the energetic, a candlelit outdoor dinner, tribal dances under the stars (if there are sufficient guests) and screenings of films on Kanha’s remarkable wildlife.

A campfire at night, listening to the sounds of the jungle and sharing tales of adventure, provide the perfect end to an exciting day.

Perfect For
families and especially children as it is a great way to introduce the outdoors and wildlife to the young.

Operational status

The Camp closes from May to mid-October. The resort opens again in October, after the monsoon has passed.

Why we love this place

Kipling Camp with its legacy of conservation has set standards for how a wildlife lodge should be run and managed. Kipling Camp has moved with the times and are constantly improving and upgrading the facilities without changing the size of the lodge, the traditional values and the original wildlife, conservation and community support ethos. This allows for a very personal and unique insight into the wildlife of Kanha National Park.

About your host

An intense love and respect for nature has been Belinda’s guiding force since she was a child and, as she says, you cannot absorb the magic of India’s wild places without also becoming close to the people who have lived there for generations and know it best. Belinda’s love affair with the jungles of Central India began in the mid-1970s, when she worked there extensively as a wildlife photographer and filmmaker for National Geographic. This resulted in two Emmys and numerous other awards for her film ‘Land of The Tiger’. When widespread tiger poaching raised its ugly head in the early 1990s, Belinda put away her cameras and became a full-time wildlife conservationist, focusing on anti-poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. Her parents set up Kipling Camp on the edge of Kanha in the early 1980s, and Belinda has been running it with her mother since 2005, when her father passed away. Managing the Wildlife Protection Society of India (the NGO Belinda founded in 1994) and Kipling Camp now complement each other, and she is able to do a lot more for the communities that live near their wildlife lodge, which they manage as a not-for-profit.

Responsible/Sustainable Tourism

Kipling Camp has been closely associated with the local community for the past 40 years. When the Wright Family first got to know Kanha in the early 1970s, the region was extremely impoverished, with no infrastructure, no electricity, no communication, and no access to education or medical assistance. Wildlife tourism barely existed and the family vowed – long before these became buzz words – to create a destination that had low-impact on the environment and which was responsible and sustainable, and to employ and assist the local people in whatever way possible along with gently engaging and educating guests on wildlife conservation and local cultural issues. The Camp follows a Code of Conduct, that includes waste disposal, how any construction and repairs are carried out, noise levels, the use of wood, electricity and plastic and waste management and water use is taken particularly seriously. In October 2019, the lodge hosted a workshop for wildlife resorts in the area on these very topics.

All the staff except for the Head Naturalist, are locals who have been trained – many of them have been with Kipling Camp for over 30 years. Over the years, Kipling Camp has supported the local community with numerous specific needs, including marriages and funerals, and medical emergencies. Two local schools are continuously supported and are furnished, repaired and supplied with essentials including a football pitch. At the start of winter, clothes and new blankets are distributed in the tribal villages in the area and support is given to medical camps when set up. The lodge supports the making and distribution of inexpensive and organic, washable and re-usable menstruation pads for local women and girls.

The Baiga tribals were supported by the lodge to set up a cooperative. They now put on daily dance performances at the National Park’s Interpretation Centre, and perform at Kipling Camp and other wildlife resorts and hotels around Kanha. Talented Gond artists are assisted with art supplies and to sell their paintings at a fair price. The artists visit Kipling Camp regularly to display their paintings to visitors, and to tell people about their art and their animalistic beliefs and traditional stories. Guests can thus be reassured that purchases go directly to the artist.

Community support extended in helping a talented local villager – Pintu-bhai, to establish and expand his small organic native plant nursery, and now stocks over 80 species of native trees, along with medicinal plants, shrubs and fruit trees along with making rare and traditional organic compost, including Jeevamrut, Panchagavya, and Bael and Basma liquid, and jaivik keetnashak organic pesticide. Pintu-bhai now employs a number of local people to help with his nursery and every two or three months travels from Kanha to different parts of India to give talks about native plants and traditional compost.

In 1994, Belinda set up the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), in a conservation awareness programme that reaches out to the hundreds of villages that surround Kanha Tiger Reserve. A team of two, who are based at Kipling Camp, use a modified, tiger-themed, audio-visual van to systematically visit every village that fringes the Reserve. The aim is to encourage local stewardship for wildlife and to motivate people towards tiger protection, and also to spread word of the programme’s anti-poaching reward scheme.

The buildings on the property have been constructed using the local style of architecture, and with minimum use of cement – the objective was to creare a wildlife resort that fit seamlessly and sensitively into the landscape. The architecture uses the traditional local design, with cottages scattered among the trees. There are no formal gardens and even the paths are small tracks through the forest, that are lit up by solar motion-sensor lights at night. The intangible heritage associated with Kipling Camp is the long history of the Wright family with this region. Anne Wright, Belinda’s mother, was brought up in the area in the early 1930s, the daughter of an ICS officer. Belinda spent much of her early years as a professional wildlife photographer with National Geographic, and later as a wildlife filmmaker, working in Kanha National Park since the early 1970s. The property was originally a treeless patch of agricultural land, surrounded by jungle. In the centre, there was a huge man-made mud ‘bund’ for water. Today, this land has a thicker forest and a richer canopy than the surrounding Reserve Forest. The bund has been re-contoured and deepened for rainwater harvesting, and it has become a favourite waterhole of the wildlife in the area. The property is unfenced and surrounded by jungle. Only a small portion is used for the resort while the rest is maintained as a sanctuary for the wildlife. Once the hot summer peaks in late April the resort is closed, so the wildlife can use the waterhole completely undisturbed.

Our Recommendation

Walk with Tara to the Banjar river and assist in bathing her. The sheer joy of being alongside such a large and gentle being is an experience of a lifetime. Kipling Camp is a peaceful haven by day, but at night it belongs to the animals. Hardly a day goes by when you don't hear the alarm calls of deer nearby warning that a leopard is walking by, or even a tiger.

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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. (£)