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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in India

The Sarai at Toria: the art of easy-going exploration

We have two UNESCO-accredited sites on our doorstep – Panna Tiger Reserve and the 11th-century Khajuraho temples…

By Dr Raghu Chundawat and Joanna Van Gruisen
Owners of the Sarai at Toria

Despite our proximity to the Panna Tiger Reserve, we haven’t actually set ourselves up as a wildlife resort. Our aim is to carry out community conservation and we encourage guests to pause and experience this wonderful area.

The Sarai at Toria is a destination in itself. I think we are able to offer more activities than any of the other lodges in the area helped by our proximity to two UNESCO-accredited sites – Panna and the 11th-century Khajuraho temples. Some guests have stayed two weeks and done something different every day. Other than tiger safaris and trips to Khajuraho, we offer many things; delightful boat rides, bike rides – we have these old-fashioned sit up and beg bicycles – yoga, country walks and day trips to some stunning rocky waterfalls. There are fabulous Gupta-era temples practically embedded in the forest where nobody ever goes. One guest described it as her Indiana Jones experience!

The rooms consist of eight thatched-roof mud cottages replicating a local village and flanked by natural vegetation. Sometimes you’re woken by peacocks calling and lulled to sleep by the cries of jackals. We have the luxury of an expansive land that enables these spacious abodes of around 900 square feet. That’s bigger than the apartment we once lived in. That being said, we’ll never extend. We didn’t want to build something that the local communities would feel too in awe of especially as all our staff are from the area. Plus, we’re both from wildlife conservation backgrounds therefore it’s really important to keep the carbon footprint as low as possible. We host around 10-12 people at a time, no different to a gathering of friends – the idea is that we have a party every day.

We always try to eat outside perhaps in the company of langur monkeys with this lovely view of the Ken River. We have a kitchen garden growing salad and herbs to accompany homemade pasta and quiches for lunch. All our bread, biscuits, croissants and jams are made from scratch and we even make our own soft cheese. In the evening its mainly Indian food from Raghu’s family home in western Madhya Pradesh. He’s the main star in the kitchen. His food is superb, so much so that people always complain about putting on weight when they come here. He cooks this delicious dal with Maharashtrian origins that has sugar, coconut, gur (boiled sugar cane) and nimbu (lemon/lime). Raghu though is famous for his desserts. He does this soufflé grand manière pudding, which is to die for.

Categories

  • Places to stay
  • Wildlife

Available in these itineraries…

Alfred & Dr Raghu Chundawat and Joanna Van Gruisen

Hailing from Madhya Pradesh, Raghu is a conservation biologist and ran a 10-year study on tiger ecology in the Panna Tiger Reserve. He is author of ‘The Rise and Fall of the Emerald Tigers,’  and runs a wildlife conservation trust, Baavan - bagh aap aur van, as well as the Sarai at Toria alongside his wife Joanna. Born in the UK, Joanna has lived in India since 1981 and has been a wildlife filmmaker, writer, and conservationist.