Follow in the footsteps of traders from centuries past to the door of a historic, renovated mansion, now a homely eco-lodge run by the great-grandson of the original owners. Enjoy the extensive grounds, nearby river safaris and atmospheric ancient villages. The sacred city of Bateshwar is practically on the doorstep, and the magnificence of the Taj Mahal is within easy reach.
In the vastness of India, it's rare to find a base from which you can cruise the waterways of a little-known wildlife sanctuary, then explore small villages, towns and temples where visitors are greeted as friends, yet still miraculously find yourself within an hours drive of the Taj Mahal. But this is possible if you retreat to the Mela Kothi Chambal Safari Lodge.
Once mansion house, now homely eco-lodge, guests can relax in stylish rooms, suites or individual cottages ideally suited to those travelling with younger children. Walk the 35 acres of private plantation and farmland accompanied by the resident birds and butterflies. Share meals based on old family recipes at a long communal table, before warding off the evening chill with a drink by the roaring campfire.
Days can be spent drifting along the sweeping river that runs through the little known National Chambal Sanctuary, flanked by wide ravines of mud cliffs and thick forest; the lodge is one of a handful of local organisations with a licence to operate boats in the area. Bask in the early sunshine as you keep your eyes open for the inhabitants of the park, including gharials, marsh crocodiles, and numerous other reptiles, mammals and birds along the river banks.
Afternoons are the ideal time to visit the nearby village of Holipura. One of the villagers, descendants of the ancient and influential Chaturvedi clan, will guide you along streets lined with havelis; once grand but now majestically decaying. Travel by river to Bateshwar, where more than forty whitewashed temples to Shiva line the riverside ghats, and take part in a blessing ceremony. In October or November you might also be lucky enough to witness the Bateshwar animal fair, the second largest of its type in the whole of India.
The lodge works closely on reforestation and conservation projects, and is an important focal point for the local community, offering employment, patronising local craftsmen and sourcing food directly from farmers. Alongside the generous hospitality, peace and tranquillity, this means a stay at Chambal can’t help but give you the feel good factor.