Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Baghvan safari

On a safari at the Pench National Park
Baghvan, Taj Safari lodge: I arrived at this lodge called Taj Safari around midnight yesterday. The Taj Hotels, in collaboration with &BEYOND AFRICA that was earlier known as Conservation Corporation Africa or CC Africa, started four safari lodges in the forests of Madhya Pradesh located in Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Panna and Pench National Park.
This lodge, named Baghvan meaning tiger forest, is located in Pench which is among the lesser known parks situated in the districts of Seoni and Chhindwara. It was declared a Sanctuary in 1977 and its status elevated to National Park in 1983. In 1993 it was declared a Tiger Reserve.
I had first heard about these lodges while I was staying at the Dennis Islands in Seychelles in 2005 or 2006. The Taj Group used to own and maintain that property at maximum 100-people island. The first time I learnt about Mahua Koti Lodge in Bandhavgarh from one of the brochures lying in the cottage. I was surprised as I had never heard of this property despite having a fair knowledge about major 5 Star properties in the country.
After returning to India, I inquired about the lodges and came to know that it was an unsaid policy of The Taj Group not to market the lodges in India thus targeting only foreign clients.
As per the Indian standards, the minimum charges of INR 60,000 per night per person was very steep. Also, for Indians, the term 5 Star meant sophisticated luxury in general. At that time, despite the high price, getting a room at the Mahua Kothi was almost impossible unless booked well in advance. If I remember correctly, at that time it used to be 2 months advance booking and 100 per cent cancellation fees were charged if not notified within a month.
After Mahua Kothi, The Taj opened three other lodges and one of them (Baghvan Taj Safari) is the one from where I am penning this blog. It is just a 11 unit property but the service is very personalized. I was a little surprised this morning during breakfast time when the butler gave me a toast that he had picked up by his hands contrary to any five star standard.
But when I shared my concerns about the dirty spotted floor, the lounge operation manager Bryan informed me it was not dirty but a part of the design as the concept is to give the guests a feel of old circuit houses. I doubt the average Indian mindset would find this acceptable specially after shelling out a high price for one night. Now I understood why Taj had not marketed this well enough in India.
Even till date, the feedback form says, “We look forward to welcome you again in India” thus addressed to the foreign guests.
But after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, the business suffered badly and the rates were slashed. Since then, the lodges have begun to woo the growing Indian clients as well.
I'll go on a safari today afternoon.
ess bee

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