For the most part, my travels in India have always consisted of staying in industrial-sized hotels far from any real surrounding bits of culture and scenery. The four walls that encompassed me, although majestic and stylish, always seemed to be a strict division between the outside world and me, and I always felt that despite having visited several states and cities, I had never really been there.
This changed when I went one winter to visit Ranthambore National Park, located in the state of Rajasthan. Unsure really of what to expect, I was blown away at the magnificence of the hotel we were staying at – The Oberoi’s Vanyavilas which in all its elegance and glamour, blended into its surroundings rather than dividing and conquering them.
Perfectly located but a few minutes from the park itself, Vanyavilas is the nation’s best jungle resort, well equipped with luxury tents that give you both the feeling of reality and fantasy at the same time, as well as a gorgeous swimming pool, to die for food, private yoga sessions, a re-energizing spa, cultural events, bird watching excursions, and an abundance of other amenities that will allow you to try the new and savor in the old.
And of course there are tours, or “jungle drives,” through the renowned park that are beyond unforgettable. There is nothing like waking up before the sun (or after the sun if you’re not a morning person) and huddling into an open air gypsy jeep or mini bus to take a drive through nature and all of its mysteries and enchantments. As the hours go by you’ll see more and more wildlife including mountain leopards, wild boar, nilgai (the Asian antelope), hyenas, sloth bears, peacocks, chitals (large deer), and of course the legendary Indian tigers, which have unfortunately been forced into endangerment. You can also immerse yourself in the local history by visiting the tenth century Ranthambore Fort which contains five temples, one of the park’s many lakes and their surrounding artifacts and edifices or the park’s gargantuan banyan tree, which is considered the second largest in the entire country.
The Oberoi’s are also dedicated to conserving their beautiful natural surroundings. The Oberoi Vanyavilas is a member of the Travel Operators for Tigers campaign, a global travel organization that in association with a charity called Global Tiger Patrol strives for socially and environmentally responsible tourism throughout tiger reserves in India in order to ensure the protection and success of the park, its wildlife as well as the people living in the neighboring areas.
After staying at Vanyavilas, living on or in the wild side has taken on a completely different meaning. Being able to engage in my natural surroundings while feeling comfortable and relaxed was truly phenomenal and it made me realize that trips to tropical islands and amusement parks are fads that will come and go, but there is nothing like letting yourself get lost in one of the worlds remaining untouched jungles and feeling the thrill when you see a peacock proudly flash its tail feathers or when you hear the deafening echo of a tiger’s roar and rev up your engine to pursue the noble creatures. And once you visit you too will come to understand that there is no better feeling than being able to become a part of your environment and like the fauna around you, roam free.