Wedged between the gargantuan Himalayan Mountain Range and the lush jungles of the Indian plains, Nepal is a land of snow peaks and Sherpas, yaks and yetis, monasteries and mantras. There’s no denying that Nepal has had a mystical allure for travelers and has long been regarded as a nirvana for trekkers. With a topography that oozes adventure, people have ceaselessly flocked to this tiny mountain nation for their adrenaline fix.
But this natural paradise doesn’t only cater to thrill-seekers. For those who are looking for a slower pace, Nepal still ticks all the boxes. It is a little known fact that close to 20 percent of Nepal is designated protected areas, including national parks which are home to a rich biodiversity. World Heritage-listed Chitwan National Park is regarded as Nepal’s most popular national park for its abundance of wildlife. The Park offers one of the best wilderness experiences in the sub-continent and is located in the Terai region, amid the east-west river valleys and at the base of the Siwalik range of the outer Himalayas. Spanning a vast expanse of close to 1,000 km, Chitwan’s dramatic landscapes of dense Sal groves, thick grasslands and meandering water bodies, coupled with the breathtaking wildlife, make it the most sought after destination in Nepal.
Chitwan National Park is home to an astounding 500 native bird species and approximately 68 species of mammals. Indigenous and migrant birds like the Great Hornbill, Ruddy Shelduck and Pied Kingfisher are just some of the many birds that travellers have the opportunity to witness. Not only is the Park a bird haven, but travellers also have the chance to see the majestic Royal Bengal Tiger, Leopards, Wild Dogs and Sloth Bears. The great one-horned rhino, with armour-like body plates and a solitary horn similar to its African brethren, is the Park’s local celebrity.
Nestled across the Rapti River, the luxurious Meghauli Jungle Lodge by Taj is the perfect abode with serene, jungle surroundings to relax and rejuvenate in between the exciting Taj Safaris. Sustainable thinking is at the core of the Lodge’s operations and is embedded across various facets from the décor to food to experiences. The Meghauli Jungle Lodge offers spectacular views of the park as well as the Rapti River. Guests can stay in a combination of 16 independent villas that boast private plunge pools and 12 hotel-style suites. The architecture smoothly blends fine touches of contemporary designs with natural surroundings.
DÉCOR AND ACCOMODATION
The splendid décor at Meghauli Serai incorporates numerous breathtaking elements made by the native women, and mainly sourced through the NGO Lehar Srijani. Various pieces such as placemats, tissue holders, stools, mosi baskets, and folders, give you a glimpse into the Tharu way of life. Elephant grass and Patuwa grass are used in abundance to create these masterpieces. The lobby of the lodge houses an assortment of exquisite, hand painted river stones, depicting Tharu village life. Slate has also been used in a novel way, as a placemat, for the traditional Newari Thali served on a banana leaf.
Accommodation at the lodge includes 16 independent villas and 12 hotel-style suites.
Situated on the banks of the Rapti River, the lodge boasts of a Presidential Suite which offers a private deck and an option of a second bedroom that is a perfect spot for an afternoon siesta or an evening spent convening with nature.
The lodge includes 16 Rapti Villas in soothing pastel hues with private plunge pools that offer magnificent views of the forest.
There are 13 contemporary rooms with balconies overlooking the National Park and the Terai grasslands below that offer the best of comfort after tiring jungle escapades.
UNIQUE SAFARI EXPERIENCES
Elephant back safaris
An elephant back safari is the most engaging way to comb through the jungles for rhinos and tigers. From the backs of lumbering yet gentle creatures, guests can get up close and personal to the wildlife in the midst of the jungle in a way that they would have otherwise never experienced.
An option for the brave-hearted and those in search of some thrilling adventure, is to track the animals on a jungle walk. Guests are accompanied on these walks with trained naturalists who also decipher jungle calls from the various animals and teach guests about the great biodiversity in the Park.
The jungle lodge offers guests the opportunity to indulge in some active adventure. Organized canoeing trips across the Rapti river is a unique experience and a bona fide jungle adventure activity.
Guests can enjoy a true safari experience, driving through the jungle in 4×4 customised vehicles. Trained naturalists accompany the troop as they meticulously spot rare species of birds, camouflaged on tree tops and track the Bengal Tiger through pug marks in the jungle.
Breakfast in the Park
A breakfast in the bush is the most unique experience guests can have whilst on their safari. A hot meal is served to the guests in the most raw and natural surroundings, making for picture-perfect memories.
UNIQUE DINING EXPERIENCE
Cuisine is an integral part of the Taj experience. Meghauli Serai offers its patrons gastronomic experiences that satiates taste buds and leaves them craving for more. Be it in the lodge dining room or dining on the deck, guests can share stories of wildlife sightings over communal dinners. Guests can also enjoy a romantic private pool side dinner over a cozy bonfire to create memories that linger long after you are back in the humdrum of everyday life.
Rich Culinary Journey
The delectable dishes on offer at the lodge are peppered with influences from Nepal’s rich heritage and culture, showcasing the distinctive flavours of the region’s various ethnic groups.
Nepal’s ethnic tribes – the Newaris, Sherpas, Paharis and Tharus – are known for their use of fresh chunky vegetables, lean meats, tangy pickles and refreshing salads alongside staples of lentils, rice, potatoes and tomatoes to create the distinctive Nepalese taste. Each dish on the menu packs a bag of delightful flavours with chillies, coriander, pepper, garlic and mustard elevating the flavour profile of every preparation.
From light soups like the Kwati ko Jhol that mixes nine different types of sprouted beans to tantalizing appetizers like the Chhoylā which is made from delicately-spiced buffalo meat, the menu caters to every taste.
Guests can sample the Saag Jhaneko, a sautéed spinach dish that is so simple yet so delightful. A perfect combination is Shapale, a crisp Tibetan meat pie that’s served traditionally with a bowl of Rutang, a beef soup that’s simmered for a day to infuse maximum flavour. For bit-sized delicacies, momos are the perfect cure for a late evening craving. The region’s version of dumplings, momos, contain a lightly-spiced mixture of meat and vegetables that are encased in an airy dough. These are later fried or steamed as per the guest’s preference and served with flavoursome dips on the side.
50 Mile Menu
Following a strict farm to fork policy, at Meghauli Serai, Taj Safaris ensures purity and natural freshness of produce throughout the food supply chain from the farm to the guest’s plate. The lodge has not one, but two, organic gardens of its own, that grow a plethora of vegetables and herbs. Guests at the lodge can savor delectable, exotic produce such as pak choy, broccoli and lettuce, and fragrant herbs like rosemary, thyme and mint, fresh from the Continental garden, while the Nepali garden embellishes the cornucopia with a variety of succulent local offerings like cherry tomatoes, squash, radish, bitter gourd and chillies.
By sourcing all menu ingredients used at Meghauli Serai from within a 50 mile radius, Taj Safaris makes sure that guests get the freshest and most delicious of meals, while also providing farmers in the region with an assured source of revenue. The lodge currently receives over 40 litres of milk from nearby villages, and this quantity is expected to increase greatly in the future, as more and more wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers flock to the lodge.
Jiva Spa offers an experience of traditional Indian hospitality in its purest form as guests embark on the journey to attain inner peace and wellness. The Jiva Spa therapies offered at Meghauli Serai, Chitwan throw open the doors for guests to enjoy true relaxation in the lap of holistic luxury. Large outdoor pool, private massage decks, designed in natural tones and textures, bring travellers close to nature.
Rooted in Jamsetji Tata’s belief that the purpose of business is rooted in the advancement of the society in which it operates, Meghauli Serai incorporates practices that adhere to the twin sustainability themes of ‘Livelihoods, Neighborhoods and Welfare’ and EARTH (Environment Awareness and Renewal at Taj Hotels).
Meghauli Serai boasts of its own sewage treatment plant, located on the premises. Taj Safaris is one of the few hotels in Nepal that have this facility, which helps conserve precious water from the river Rapti.
The lodge employs 95% of their staff from nearby villages, thereby supporting the local community. In addition to this, 25% of the staff are women employees.
Guests at Meghauli Serai will soon be able to take a bit of Nepal back with them. Lehar Srijani will be employing women from surrounding villages to create beautiful artifacts and quaint décor items which will be retailed through the lodge’s gift shop. These magnificent creations will provide a steady income to the women while offering a vast selection of souvenirs and gifts to visitors, who will also be able to observe the artisans at their craft.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Chitwan National Park is between October and March when the weather and animal sightings are both good. April to June and September are warmer months, with a chance of rain, however wildlife sightings throughout this time are still good.
Land in Kathmandu and take a short domestic flight to Bharatpur airport which is mere 30km/ 45 minutes’ drive from the lodge.
A scheduled air flight from Kathmandu to Meghauli Airport (5 mins drive from the Lodge is expected to start by the end of the year)