A baby owl peeped from his home inside a hole in the tree trunk, as we drove past it and through the gates of Ranthambore’s Sawai Madhopur Lodge- a Vivanta by Taj resort, that was once a hunting lodge. It’s now a luxury resort close to Ranthambore National Park’s Zone 6, with sprawling lush green lawns, a pool and tasteful lobbies- both indoor and outdoor. It’s a heritage hotel in theme and style, but one that comes with modernised rooms and all amenities one would expect from a hotel that bears the Taj stamp. Unlike other heritage hotels and resorts, this one is neither outdated nor old, but sophisticated and well-kept. As is the case with heritage resorts in lesser explored corners of the country, this one comes with its little quirks that make it endearing. This includes the safari score board that the hotel maintains, for guests to write down the number of tigers they spotted during each safari, or the little birds that come by the tea and coffee station each morning, pulling and prodding the sugar cubes off the table.
The resort can also arrange safaris for their guests without any additional charge, and that’s where we booked ours from as well.
According to Google Maps, Ranthambore is a 7 hour drive from Gurgaon, but we made it in 5 hours door-to-door (we didn’t make any stops along the way, and we drove down early morning). The drive turned out to be a pleasant surprise, as the roads were absolutely smooth and for the most part, beautiful. There’s a patch that’s still under construction though, lasting somewhere between 30-45 minutes, but barring that, the roads are clear. You could also take a train from New Delhi Railway Station that would have you at Sawai Madhopur Railway Station by 12 noon or 3:00 pm (depending on the time you board the train). The station is 3 kms from the hotel and you could request them for a pick and drop.
Property and Rooms:
The rooms at Sawai Madhopur Lodge are spacious enough to accommodate 3 adults without feeling crowded. The washrooms are roomy, and come with bathtubs and bathing area. There are carts to take you to your rooms and around the property. The restaurant gives out a yesteryear vibe, staying true to the origins of the resort. There’s a pool, badminton court and tennis table at the property, along with a miniature library and a bar that hosts a pool table.
Food and service:
The Roghan Josh and Chicken Curry I devoured at the lodge was par excellence. The food is delicious and fresh, and the menu changes daily. It’s recommended you take a full meal plan, since there are few options around Ranthambore and it’s unlikely you will step outside the resort during the day. There were over 6 main course dishes to pick from, along with a decent salad and dessert spread as well. The resort offers tea and coffee in the evenings to all guests.
The staff at Sawai Madhopur Lodge was warm and welcoming, and they went out of their way to make conversation and share local stories with us. Sometimes the people we interact with during our stay can truly take vacations one step ahead, and that’s exactly what happened here. The service was prompt and efficient, but the affability and thoughtfulness of the service staff at the restaurant made all the difference.
You could also request the hotel to set up a romantic dinner date for two at the secluded machaan at the property. It overlooks the barbecue area while being perfectly tucked away behind the trees.
Activities at the resort:
The resort invites different artists to the lodge to keep guests engaged. There are live sufi performers humming familiar tunes around dinner time, dressed in authentic Rajasthani attire, performing right outside the dining room. One evening we were charmed by a magician who produced white pigeons out of thin air. Another evening we spent getting inside scoop on Ranthambore’s famous tigers from a Naturalist the hotel had invited. While waiting for our jeep to arrive (for our morning safari) we spotted some birds around the property- including a Golden Oreal flying by, a woodpecker perched atop a branch and a pair of parakeets playfully engaged in battle.
This is a resort that delivers storybook experiences in a town that is famous for its wildlife experience, and at the same time delivers an authentic Rajasthani experience to its visitors. Little influences of true Indian and Rajasthani culture seep into its everyday operations, making it in an enriching experience for its guests. There are various activities to keep kids occupied and it could be a great getaway option for families. The beauty of this secluded resort makes it an ideal romantic getaway as well. I visited with my father- so there you have it, there’s something here for everyone.
Disclaimer: A huge thank you to Sawai Madhopur Lodge for inviting us to experience! My views and opinions, as always, are my own and remain uninfluenced by anyone or any organisation.