Philippa has been a specialist in travel to India for twenty years. She has been responsible for establishing Indian divisions for various UK based travel companies including Ampersand Travel, Real Holidays and Experience Travel Group. She has lived in India for over ten years and has consulted for various hotels and Indian DMC’s. She is passionate about showcasing ‘A Different India,’ beyond the mainstream destinations. She established Indian Experiences in order to provide consultancy services to the Indian travel trade. The team works with hotels in India, DMC’s and UK Tour Operators in order to enhance their experiential offerings, service levels, product development, content and social media. She also has a blog about India, www.memsahibinindia.com and in addition contributes articles to the Times of India travel website, www.happytrips.com as well as for their print publication and MINT.
Contact:- [email protected]
Gwen began her career in the travel industry in 1998 at Real Holidays in London, a privately owned agency specializing in experiential, bespoke worldwide travel, where she headed the Product Team for the Sri Lanka and India portfolio. In 2010 she moved to Sri Lanka where she was responsible for re-establishing Banyan Lanka Tours in Colombo in the immediate aftermath of the war. She then took over the product development, sales and marketing for Borderlands Lanka, an experiential based activity hotel before finally heading up the marketing and product team at Sri Lanka in Style. In in 2016 she moved to India where she was instrumental in the pre-and post opening of Rakkh Resort, an experiential, boutique resort located in Himachal. Gwen’s strengths lie in curating guest experiences for hotels, marketing strategies and social campaigns.
Contact: [email protected]
Neha Arora, is the founder of Planet Abled, an organization which provides accessible and inclusive travel solutions for people with different disabilities. Born to parents with disabilities and the personal challenging experiences they faced when travelling, she realized a huge gap existed in this area, as no travel companies or hotels in India were geared up to cater for people with disabilities.
With a totally un utilized degree up her sleeve Neha started her career with companies like HCL, Nokia & Adobe before taking the plunge to start Planet Abled. Based on the concept of Universal Design, Planet Abled now offers accessible and inclusive experiences across 30 destinations in India (and counting!). Each of the trips that Planet Abled curates is completely tailormade for each disability.
Neha has joined Indian Experiences as a consultant to assist travel companies as well as hotel and resorts to create disabled friendly travel destinations and experiences throughout India.
Planet Abled also organizes an annual Access2Travel conference where all stakeholders meet on one platform and work together to make India a barrier free travel destination for all.
Contact: [email protected]
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It was 2009 and I was traveling, exploring the more remote and, it transpired, barren landscapes of the Himalayas. Not a soul was in sight and the silence was palpable. It was barren and brown, presenting a stark picture of desolation.I stood there, transfixed by the setting sun, wondering what it must be like to live in such a harsh, yet beautiful environment when a group of young playful monks in their maroon gowns jumped into the frame and started playing football, taking advantage of the last of the day’s sun. Suddenly a new dimension was added to the scene and that was it, the moment when I realized that I didn’t just want sell ‘holidays’ but that I wanted explore the hidden facets of any destination so that I could share these experiences with the world. This was the sign I had been looking for. I quit my job at one of the best hotels in the world and took the plunge to established “Secrets of India.” There’s been no looking back.
Of course, like any other travel agency we do offer the more usual and standard tours, they are after all, our bread and butter. But what makes us stand apart, what we believe makes us different, is the sense of exploration that we bring to every journey our clients undertake. We help them to experience an India that’s raw, vivacious, energetic and honest.
Our background is in the hotel industry and therefore, using this experience, we ensure that guests for us are truly gods. It can be seen in small efforts that we make to make them feel comfortable. We ensure that the cars at their disposal are thoroughly clean and are stocked well with necessities, drivers are well mannered and can at least carry basic conversation in English, and the refreshment stops our guests take en route are safe and well-maintained.
Our professionalism comes straight from the heart. The passion that drives us is centered around the expectations of our customers for their travel. We strive to understand their perspectives before designing itineraries that fulfil their individual requirements.
In our endeavour to add value to our services we also offer insurance cover, a local SIM for seamless phone connectivity along with on-demand facilities such as a concierge service. When it comes to shopping, we discourage the forced shopping experience that plagues this industry and will only suggest places to clients who ask to buy specific items to take home.
We take immense pride on our transparent approach helping you take back memories of the country that stands tall.
What makes Secrets of India stand apart is its professional travel management that mingles professionalism with personalized service. At the bottom of this approach is our effort to see things from the perspective of our customers and what they expect from their travel.
As a result we design our itineraries around travellers and often do not suggest a straightjacketed‘One size fits all tour.’We listed to clients requirements and are intuitive in adding experiences which will ensure a trip which has been curated with their expectations in mind. For example if a person is keen on visiting a city, which is known for its bird sanctuary, we also suggest another list of places where birds fly in during winters from faraway Siberia (Arctic region). We also suggest various optional add ons to the main itinerary for our guests to pick and choose.
We approach travel from a holistic perspective. With Secrets of India, it is not just a place that you visit, or monuments that you see, or the people that you interact with, or a cuisine that you relish—we bring alive the entire experience—history takes the form of stories, places turn into drama and people take you into their hearts.
Khaver Ali Khan
Khaver’s passion for travel began whilst at university. After completing his hospitality management degree he started working with hotels in the UK and later moved to India and joined The Oberoi Group of Hotels. Multiple trips through Europe and Asia both during university with friends and family and then with his job, motivated him to take 6 months off and explore his own country in much more detail. He spent his time, getting off the beaten track, exploring new areas, meeting new people and immersing himself into the culture and the food of the country. He realised that this had become his passion and it was this passion for travel that made him switch industry and choose travel as his new career. He loves to impart his amazing experiences and discoveries of India in order to help others discover this enchanting part of the world.
With a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology Saima is hypnotherapist, NLP expert, marriage counsellor and has also trained for past life regression therapy. However, in spite of having a thriving practice, she had started traveling and gradually she realized that she had developed the bug, a passion for travel and sharing experiences that would not leave her. What interests her the most apart from the monuments is the chance it provided her to interact with the people of the country and learn about their different culture and their food! When she is not exploring new places she can be found in her kitchen trying her hand at making the various Indian dishes she has learnt to cook during her travels.
After completing his graduation in Commerce, Ashish developed a passion for travelling that led him to various parts of India and which finally culminated in searching for a career in travel. With more than four years of experience in the industry, Ashish loves sharing his passion, knowledge and experience with his guests and has acquired a veritable mastery on destinations, culture and the history of North India.
Well, ask her a question and she will weave a story out of it keeping you mesmerized all the while. A wanderer by heart and a travel professional to the core she is one who oversees your itinerary, goes through every detail and plans your stay to make your journeys in India an experiential delight. Supriya completed her graduation in Hotel Management from one of India’s top institutes and joined Secrets of India after a stint in Oberoi Imperial hotel.
Dr. Siddiq Wahid
An expert of all experts. With a PhD from Harvard and a teaching stint at Harvard University he has written a number of scholarly books on the subject. Dr. Siddiq Wahid is a resident of Ladakh. He has also worked as Vice President heading the Marketing division at Oberoi. He was also the founding Managing Director of A&K India. His father was a part of the entourage in which Dalai Lama fled to India. He intersperses his academic orientation with inspiring human tales. He specialises in Central Asian History
All of our itineraries are experiential but Geetanshu provides that little bit extra that can make a good trip, extraordinary. She takes it up, explains it, puts together the bits and pieces, and spices it up with her own anecdotes while never losing sight of the history and culture and turns your journey into an entertaining spectacle. A travel enthusiast possessing an uncanny ability to understand exactly what you have left unsaid he blends within him a combination of passion and professionalism making your tour into the country a memorable trip.She has a number of years of experience of working in the discerning American market.
From a veteran agriculturist to a travel enthusiast, Venugopalan or Venu, as he is been popularly known in the fraternity for the 25 years, brings a breath of fresh air to your tour. As well as being known for his deep knowledge of history and culture he is a master in imparting the local perspective on events and architecture. Although South Indian, he has also travelled extensively, and is particularly keen on taking visitors on a tour of India’s Northeast (comprising of eight states) and Rajasthan.However, his home knowledge is phenomenal and he heads up the South India operation of Secrets of India.
A young man with a passion for travel, Yash loves imparting a human touch to his stories of India, making them anecdotal and bringing them to life. With a thorough grounding in service industry he goes to a great extent making the guests comfortable while at the same time adding a personalized touch when he is taking them for sightseeing. It comes as no surprise that visitors have heaped their praises on the trips he has been on with them.
Last but by no means least, is Anna, a traveler, textile designer, art gallery owner, and more recently, our tour designer and group leader. Anna brings with her 35 years of experience as someone who not only loves, but has a passion for India. Her wide-ranging interests provide a broad canvas upon which she creates unique journeys with a sense of adventure, aesthetics and spontaneity.
Secrets Of India
We were impressed by Khaver on our first meeting with him. It was at a trade show and he obviously had a great relationship with the Oberoi Teams that he had previously worked with. We connected immediately with his values, wanting to go into Tour Operating in order to ensure that clients received an authentic experience of India and not simple cookie cutter programs that are indistinguishable from each other apart from the price cutting which goes on and which only ever leads to an increased pressure on clients to shop at predetermined shops.
It was immediately obvious that Khaver and his team wanted to make a difference to assist in creating truly tailor-made tours geared around what a client wants to experience in India and not what standard programs dictate that they see. Of course, they understand that people will want to visit the Golden Triangle but even in their standard programs, they try to determine from you what your clients other interests are and will work these into the programs and chose hotels which enhance the client experience according to their budget. Khaver and companies like his are where the future of tourism to India lies.
“Our guests always applaud our India travel arrangements. The credit largely goes to our partner, Secrets of India, who meticulously craft the journeys. Their guides are experts, drivers courteous, and service flawless.”
– Reece Farmilo
Out and About (Virtuoso)
“Secrets of India was way beyond the expectations of our guests. From the arrival, the welcome pack right to the end it was INCREDIBLE! The owner of Secrets of India is always contactable as is the office for anything you need.”
– Debbie Gamerov
Spencer Travel (Virtuoso)
At Secrets of India we understand that it is the people who have the ability to make or break your journey and we actively encourage and help to facilitate interactions at the local level.
In addition we fully understand that your driver who is your main contact point is the person who can make or mar your journey, therefore we ensure that they are not only well groomed according to the stringent standards of service industry but should also have the capacity to entertain your with a few tales of their own.
Our guides are men and women who are rated highly in the travel fraternity and are known for their expertise in their respective fields. The list includes leading academics, travel writers, and specialists in niche areas such as gardening, culinary, locomotive and textiles amongst others. Our no nonsense approach towards turning your travel into experiential journey also means that we have on our panel a long list of local experts in different parts of the country. They are professionals, known for their down to earth approach, willing to listen to our clients and equally sensitive to their needs.
Set amidst the serenity and timeless beauty of Wayanad’s famed mist shrouded mountains, looking down over the Karapuzha Reservoir, with the Western Ghats in the background is, Amaryllis, the new home of Victor and Jini Day.
Having had tremendous success with their previous homestay, Tranquil which won Best Homestay award for 3 successive years & was also featured in the A & K Tatler magazine both in 2001 & again in 2010, in 2008, they bought land and started to transform what was an abandoned coffee and rubber farm. They traced roads, sank wells, landscaped the area and planted a variety of new crops. Ideas poured in, from friends, family and guests who had stayed with them earlier at Tranquil, their previous plantation home. After five years of hard work, Amaryllis, their new home is now ready to welcome you.
As was previously the case at Tranquil, their ethos is to share their home with like-minded folk. Guests who are looking at a few days of peace and quiet in pristine natural surroundings, and who would like to enjoy the old world charm & luxury of a planter’s home – leisurely breakfasts, lazing around the pool, sleepy afternoons, tea on the verandah, evenings under the stars, followed by dinner. All this with an unmatched view!
Victor & Jini are a very social couple and have a large circle of friends in the planting community of Southern India. Victor is known for his involvement in various Plantation & Tourism Associations & his love for the outdoors. His interests include Tennis, Fishing, Travel, Formula1, Music – was a drummer in a rock group in Madras – and last but not least, Malt Whisky – collecting more than drinking!!
Jini is known for her garden and immaculately kept bungalows. Her interests are art, Swimming, Ballroom Dancing, Reading, Scrabble, Cards, Jigsaw Puzzles. Her first love however is Jazz – this is what brought them together, as she was the singer in the rock group which is where they met in 1966.
As a guest at their home you will be treated as part of the family. Fresh home-cooked meals, spiced with plenty of friendly conversation, warm hospitality and attention to your individual needs – the hallmark of a homestay experience.
No plantation house is complete without dogs – Sultan, their German Shepard, & Amigo, their Goldador (Golden Retriever/Labrador), join them in welcoming you into their home.
1. Location:- 11 degrees 36’13.23 “ Latitude | 76 degrees 12’4.23” Longitude
Our nearest town is Ambalavayal – 4 kms away.
2. Elevation:- 2775 Ft (845 Mts)
3. Distance from Nearest Airport:- Kozhikode (Calicut) – 110 Kms, 3 ¼ hr drive
Distance from Nearest Railway Stations:- Kozhikode – 94 Kms, 2 ¾ hr drive, Mysore – 127 Kms, 3 hr drive.
4. Climate & Temperatures:- Jan to Mid-March – Winter Temperatures ranging from 26 degrees C during the day to 13 degrees C at nights. Mid-March to June – Summer Temperatures from 32 degrees C to 22 degrees C at night.
July to Sept – Monsoon Temperatures range in the 20’s.
Oct to Dec – Temperatures range from 27degrees to 20 degrees C
5. Operating Season:- All year round.
6. Complimentary Internet & Wi-Fi:- Available on the Verandah & Dining area.
7. Electricity:- All rooms have 220 Volts AC supply from the main grid, & are also connected to in house Stand By Generator Power. LED Emergency lights are also provided in every room.
8. Facilities in Rooms:- All rooms are fitted with a T.V., Satelite Receiver, Tea/Coffee maker with a selection of Teas & Coffee, Electronic Safe, & are insect-proofed. The Terrace Suite, TreeVillas & Annexe are provided with a Refrigerator, & the 2 TreeVillas have mosquito nets over the bed if required.
9. Bathrooms:- Modern bathrooms with running Hot & Cold water. Water is heated the old fashioned way in a Wood- fired Boiler, & takes a few minutes to reach the taps. The TreeVillas have Hot water Geysers installed, & Terrace Suite has a Jacuzzi.
10. Food:- All Meals are served Buffet style with a mixture of Continental & Indian fare.
There is something wonderfully indulgent about doing nothing. It’s something I have to admit being hopeless at and yet, a stay with Victor Bernard Dey and Ranjini Dey renders this avid explorer immobile every time. For eighteen years now I’ve been advocating their hospitality and it is unwavering in its warmth.
Their’s has been a planters lifestyle and this isn’t a homestay as so many have become, where all the guests are travellers and experiences are curated for them. This is a stay in someone’s home. You’re fellow guests can invariably be friends of theirs who have popped over for a night or two. The family dogs welcome you each time you appear and are more then happy to accompany you on walks. Breakfast is late and leisurely. Early risers, tea and coffee and snacks are a permanent feature in the room.
Meals (delicious by the way) are taken together, conversation is convivial, anecdotes and stories are shared and welcomed. Afternoon naps are a feature, though the poolside provides an alternative venue and the surrounding plantation provides a host of walks.
In the eighteen years that they have welcomed me with their hospitality I can honestly say, I have never ventured further than the perimeter of their home. Yes, I have to admit to having never done the sight seeing.
One still dresses for dinner and the evenings begin either in the man cave, on the verandah watching an invariably spectacular sunset or in the living room. Snacks are served and chats are had before moving through for dinner.
Since 2000 I have been sending clients to stay with Victor and Jini previously at Tranquil and now at Amaryllis, for 4 nights at the end of a longer itinerary around the south and never with a detailed plan. Invariably the question would be, “Four nights, but what will we do?” My response, “Not much, you’ll figure it out when you get there.” And refused to elaborate further. Somehow they always trusted me and it invariably turned out to be the highlight of their holiday.
Thank you the Deys, for doing what you do so well and for continuing to invite me back, Amaryllis Kerala is every bit as fabulous as expected.
Walks– You can choose from walking around the farm amongst the various crops, & then walk down to the backwaters, or meander along the country roads surrounding the property & get an opportunity to interact with local people, & experience rural life in Kerala.
Bird Watching- Over 100 birds have been identified at Amaryllis & the immediate surrounds. In addition, there are a variety of Water Birds at the backwaters of the Karapuzha Dam – approximately 15 mins drive from Amaryllis. Knowledgeable guides are available with prior booking, & payment for whom to be made by cash.
Treks – For the more adventurous, a trek to Chembra Peak is an option. The trek commences after a 45 min drive to the base of the peak, & the Forest dept currently levy an entrance fee. Here again, guides can be arranged on request with prior booking if required, & payment to be made by Cash.
Swimming Pool -The black and grey rectangular pool has been created to blend into the natural surroundings. In-pool seating and loungers help you relax as you take in the view in between your laps. Pool Dimensions 45×20 ft.
Farm Tour- Get a firsthand experience of a day in the life of a planter. Enjoy nature and learn about the various flora and fauna within the property. Your host will be happy to explain details of the various crops grown on the farm.
Cookery Classes – Can be arranged and are (not is) chargeable.
Ayurvedic Massage – Amaryllis use the services of trained masseurs/masseuses from a local Ayurvedic Clinic & a variety of massages are available in house – prior notice is required, & the charges are payable by cash.
Visit to a Tea Plantation & Factory – Can be arranged on request.
Visit to a recently opened Tea Museum – Entrance fee payable.
Edakkal Caves – A ten minute drive away is one of the wonders of the Wayanad, & a steep uphill walk gets you to the base of the cave. The Rock Etchings in these caves date back to the Neolithic Period – over 5000 years old. Edakkal is closed on Mondays & National holidays. Entrance fee payable.
Heritage Museum – This houses a small yet interesting collection of Tribal & ancient artifacts found in the surrounding areas.
Tribal Village – A visit to a Tribal Village can not be arranged with a guide (chargeable).
Set amidst the serenity and timeless beauty of Wayanad’s famed mist shrouded mountains, is “Amaryllis”, a beautiful home which looks down on the backwaters of the Karapuzha Reservoir, with the Western Ghats in the background, the views are truly spectacular. The brain child of Victor and Jini Day, who cut their teeth creating the award winning Tranquil, this beautiful home has all the trademarks set by this charming couple. The accommodation is made up of two wonderful tree houses, Solandra and Poinsettia as well as the incredibly spacious terrace suite, 2 superior garden rooms, 1 garden room and the annexe.
The atmosphere is very relaxed, one truly feels that you are part of the family. Breakfasts are leisurely (tea and coffee and snacks are kept in the rooms for early riser). Lunches and dinners are taken together on the terrace, dinners after meeting for drinks and convivial chats in the bar. Days are spent exploring the coffee plantation, taking walks, climbing the Chembra Peak, bird watching or visiting the Eddekal Caves. Though many guests prefer to just relax by the pool or in the living room with a book and gaze out over the view. Amaryllis is ideal for all who love nature, peace & quiet.
Rhythm with the Elephants
Elephants require a lot of exercise every day and at Dera Amer, you are encouraged to accompany them on their daily walks. This is a wonderful experience, walking alongside these gentle giants, learning more about the species, the differences from African elephants and also the quirks of your particular strolling partner! It is also possible to spent time feeding them, and helping with their daily bath, though you may end up as wet as they are!
Camel Cart Ride
Explore the local Rajasthani countryside by camel and cart – the traditional village way of transport.
Cruise through the surrounding vicinity of Amer in your own private 4×4 jeep, pass neighbouring hamlets where you will be invited to meet the locals and visit the village school and settlements. It is also possible to head cross country and pay a visit to the magnificent Amer Fort.
Dera Amer is a haven for birders and the camp offers you the services of an expert to accompany you on a birding walk. Binoculars and a local birds’ manual are also provided.
A wonderful opportunity to ride a thoroughbred horse through the surrounding countryside to visit the villages and experience nature. Morning or afternoon safaris are available but must be booked with 24 hours’ notice. Recommended for experienced riders only.
Rustic Bush Camping
For those who want a more authentic and back to basic camping experience Dera Amer offers dome tents in a private campsite. Everything you need is included: beds, linens, and a clean and functional bathroom. Meals are also provided and can be taken around the campfire. This is perfect for friends and families who want a more back to basics and economical experience.
Acquiring 180 acres of largely neglected scrubland in 1981, the Singh family made a commitment to returning the Saluwar Forest back to its former days as a favourite hunting ground of The Maharaja of Jaipur. The concept behind this was never about profits, and despite being approached by several developers to purchase the land in order to build large hotels or turn the plot into something more lucrative, the Singh family remained resolute in the regeneration, protection and preservation of the forests that now surround Dera Amer and team with wildlife. Over 30 years later, Dera Amer has become a sanctuary for animals: both domestic and wild, and the perfect spot for visitors who wish to escape the city. The next natural step was to create a low impact yet luxurious camp where people could base themselves in the heart of the countryside and yet be just a short drive away from the centre of Jaipur. There are now two luxury camps, one with four tents and one with two tents, each with its own staff and guaranteed to be exclusive to the individual or small group which has booked it. This is a wonderful base for nature lovers and culture vultures alike!
Please note that elephant back rides do not happen at Dera Amer.
Employing locals provides direct and indirect incomes to the local community and all of the staff at Dera Amer are from local villages surrounding the camp, and most of the team has been with them since its inception. Dera Amer also funds the nearby junior school, providing computers, stationary, and books, ensuring a brighter future for their families.
This is at the very heart of Dera Amer’s existence. Their elephants and camels are adopted from Amer Fort and rescued from a life of hard labour. Now they live in harmony at the camp accompanied by their mahouts, who have also been given permanent employment.
Maintained by local villagers and camp staff, Dera Amer’s expanding vegetable plot is entirely organic. Free from pesticides it is harvested using traditional farming techniques, solar panelled water pumps and drip irrigation. They call them ‘Good karma greens.’
Nothing tastes better than farm fresh, organic dishes, and all their meals are both. Whether sourced from their own neighbouring farm, or the local markets, their seasonal menus are prepared daily by their kitchen team, trained by international chefs. Not only does this ensure a low carbon footprint, but also the, tastiest farm-fresh ingredients for their guests.
Using two solar-powered water pumps they are able to harness enough natural basin water to keep the lawns green and the vegetables growing. Responsible water consumption is of the utmost importance in the desert state of Rajasthan, and for that reason, Dera Amer does not have a swimming pool.
Situated at Kukas, just beyond the Amber Fort, this camp is the newest addition at Dera Amer which has long been providing elephant and camel experiences to people visiting Jaipur. It has been a favourite place to send clients who would like the opportunity to meet an elephant and have a wonderful breakfast, lunch or dinner in beautiful countryside surroundings. This tented camp was the next natural progression.
Before we go any further it is important to note: It is a fact that we have domesticated elephants in India that cannot be released into the wild nor do we have the sanctuaries to home them. Dera Amer looks after its elephants very well, provides them with a countryside location to live in and they do not do elephant rides.
There are four very comfortable tents in a secluded location just beyond Dera Amer itself and the whole concept is to provide a unique and exclusive countryside experience, so, if one tent is booked, no other bookings are taken. This means that you can guarantee a romantic experience for a couple or a group of friends can book the whole camp, safe in the knowledge they won’t be disturbed or indeed disturb any other guests. One other thing that they have noticeably got absolutely right is the heating, it can be cold in the winters in Rajasthan but with great heaters and warm duvets these are as snug as can be.
On arrival, menu and beverage preferences are discussed, the team briefed and the ensuing service means that your glass is ever half empty nor will you go hungry. The tents are more than comfortable, all mod cons, and a few nice touches you may not have thought to bring along including a book on the birds of India and a set of binoculars. This is a brilliant place for birding if that’s your bag and if not, with so many birds in such close proximity, it’s a good place to start a new hobby. There are sun loungers for those wanting to relax, treks for those that don’t or a visit to Jaipur which is just a 30 minute drive away, and a perfect sunset point for those who consider a sundowner to be an essential part of the day.
The evenings are spectacular here with lanterns hanging from trees, candle lit tables and a blazing camp fire to sit around and ruminate on such a fabulous countryside experience so close to Jaipur. The food is delicious, not too spicy for those who aren’t used to it and the setting is impossibly romantic. But is it breakfast which is really special, as soon as the sun was high in the sky, it is possible to bathe Lakshmi, their resident elephant who squeals in anticipation as the bucket and hose pipe appear.
As mentioned, this is a perfect place for a romantic couple, group of friends or a family, there are plenty of activities to keep the kids amused and being that the camp is exclusive they have the space to run riot. For a weekend escape from Delhi, for a romantic night or two away, for a fun place for a couple of days escape with friends or to include as part of a client itinerary, Dera Amer Wilderness Camp fits the bill.
Location: Distances from nearest railheads and airports.
We are located 65 km SE of Agra. The nearest airport is Agra, and the nearest railway stations are Agra and Etawah (50 km from the Lodge).
GPS Coordinates: 26.8725° N, 78.5642° E
Google Maps: MelaKothi – Chambal Safari Lodge
Set against a stunning backdrop, framed by the ravines and sandbanks, the calm waters of the Chambal River are best explored on boats. The gentle pace of the River Safari is designed to provide spectacular sightings of the gharials, muggers & turtles basking in the sun; the many migratory and resident birds flying sorties; the occasional glimpses of the Gangetic river dolphins breaking surface.
The National Chambal Sanctuary is 22 km – 35 minutes drive from the Chambal Safari Lodge.
The Chambal Ravines hide many a secret within their folds, and camels are the ideal means for seeking them out. Be transported back in time as these haughty beasts carry you along long forgotten trails and pathways leading to the citadel of Ater.
Once a valued stronghold and at the forefront of numerous battles between the Rajput, Maratha and British armies, the magnificent ruins of Ater bring alive the romantic glory of a bygone age. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has embarked on an ambitious project to restore the Fort. Visitors can see the work in progress, as they wander unhindered through the many fine pavilions and courtyards. The Ramparts afford some breathtaking views of the Chambal valley.
Ater is 2 km across the River from the Chambal Safari Base camp at the National Chambal Sanctuary. There is no bridge over the River, and access is via boat crossing.
Jeep Safari-Sarus Trail
The Sarus Crane Conservation Reserve starts around 30 km from the Chambal Safari Lodge, extending to about 100 km. It is a widespread wetland area, interspersed by cultivated fields, where large numbers of the Sarus Cranes breed. Although not a protected area, since 1999 the Supreme Court of India, recognising its importance as a habitat has designated the area a reserve with restrictions on development. Several species of wetland birds and raptors are also found along the course of this safari.
The Blackbuck jeep safari heads southwest towards the countryside between the Chambal and Yamuna ravines, for excellent sightings of Blackbuck deer and numerous dry land birds including the Indian Courser. It is also a fascinating journey through remote hamlets and habitations; a world that is strangely as connected as it appears removed from modern India.
The Lodge is on a rural feeder line wherein the electricity supply can be very erratic with power-cuts and voltage fluctuations. Silent Generators deliver complete back up in the mornings and evenings. Solar lamps and torches (flashlights) and candles are provided in all the rooms. There are a number of 5 Amp/220V plug points available in the rooms for charging laptops, camera batteries etc.
Independent air-conditioning units in the rooms/cottages.
Independent oil-fin radiators in the rooms/cottages.
There is running hot and cold water with hot water geysers installed in all bathrooms. The water source at present is deep bore wells at 440ft. Although showers are available in all the bathrooms, bucket baths are recommended as an average shower utilizes over 100 litres of water, whereas bucket baths consume no more than 20 litres.
Library and sitting room in the MelaKothi
Guests are welcome to use the library, sitting room and seating areas/verandahs of the main house. The Lodge endeavours to provide a warm, friendly and welcoming environment, where guests are encouraged to relax and feel at home.
The wifi is located in the office next to the fire-pit and dining rooms. It is complimentary, but can be painfully erratic and slow.
Village Walks & Nature Walks
Short walks from the Chambal Safari Lodge are an opportunity to explore an entirely different world. The village of Jarar is an interesting mix of the old and the new and the surrounding countryside teaming with birdlife amid scenes of rural activity. The locals are friendly and completely untouched by tourism and take great pride in showing visitors around.
Resident Naturalists & Checklists
The resident naturalists are available to guide morning and evening rambles through the lodge grounds and adjoining fields. Detailed checklists are provided to all guests and the naturalists help ‘tick’ off the many species seen at the lodge and elsewhere in the Chambal valley.
Our Operating Season
1st October to 30th April
We close operations by choice to enable the microenvironment in and around the lodge to regenerate and revive afresh to welcome visitors old and new.
The daytime temperatures vary a great deal, but it is usually warm in the sun. The temperatures dip around mid-December with the onset of morning and evening fog and the days and nights remain quite cold till the end of January.
The temperature ranges between:
Clothing and Equipment
All weather walking shoes, jackets and hats are recommended.
65 km SE of Agra, a comfortable 1.5 hours drive from the Taj Mahal.
In 1999, with little more than a dream and the boundless optimism of the foolhardy, we – Ram Pratap Singh and Anu Dhillon Singh – an IIT engineer and environment scientist, respectively – decided to give up the security of our professional careers, move to our ancestral village Jarar, restore the property we had inherited, develop responsible tourism, farm, conserve, sustain. All in one breathless go!
It did not take long for us to realise the enormity of the task(s) that lay before us, and just how little we really knew or understood about life in rural India. Almost two decades later, possibly somewhat wiser, though no less bull-headed, we feel quite pleased with all that we have managed to achieve. We have earned our eco-spurs as a TOFT PUG audited ‘outstanding accommodation provider’, been instrumental in placing the National Chambal Sanctuary on the international birding & wildlife map, supported conservation and preservation of the natural, cultural and architectural treasures of the Chambal valley, and become card-carrying members of the local community. Not a bad couple of decades, and much to look forward to and plan for ahead.
Jarar has been the main seat of the family since 1472. The Mela Kothi and its stables were established as a field camp in the late 1890s by my great grandfather Rai Saheb Ch. Suraj Pal Singh, the Zamindar Saheb (feudal chief) of Jarar. Nestling in the midst of over 120 acres of woodland and pasture and surrounded by farmland, the Mela Kothi was ideally located to serve as a camp office for the family’s bi-annual cattle fair (Mela). The clockwork precision, guarantee of safety, amenities, entertainment, talent shows, shops, and the revenue generated were a source of great pride and prestige for the family. However, by the 1990s the income from the fair had dwindled to the point of being unviable.
The property had fallen into total disrepair and was on the verge of being condemned when we began the process of restoration, renovation and adaptive reuse, rechristening it the Chambal Safari Lodge and opening our doors to visitors.
The Lodge is located within a 35-acre plantation of the original woodland, with many old growth trees surrounded by extensive farmland, refuge to over 200 species of birds, reptiles and small mammals. It is a calm, gentle space, off birdsong and al-fresco meals, bon-fires and clear starry nights, conversation and authentic experiences. With just 13 rooms/cottages spread around the grounds, the MelaKothi – Chambal Safari Lodge, is a little oasis in the middle of a busy country. A place to slow-down, relax and breathe deep.
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