The thrill of chancing on a wild cat from the open jeep keeps one alert at all times. What might be that ruffle in the distance, the slight movement in the grass, or that faint hint of a pugmark in the sand? Majestic nilgai often lurk behind trees, their impressive size easily underestimated. Wild boars roam around in herds and are known to fearlessly challenge the leopards. Elsewhere jackals, hyenas, mongoose, civets, hares, porcupines and even pythons, all vie for a piece of the jungle pie.
While the original oudi has been restored into an intimate and standalone luxury cottage, an extension on a hillock opposite the lake allows for some more creature comforts. Built with local stone, it blends into the surroundings rather well and resembles the traditional architecture of the region—complete with courtyards and crenels, terraces and turrets, narrow passages and winding staircases. Even when inside the lodge, one is never disconnected from the countryside. Large picture windows, balconies, and lookout points—each thoughtfully provided with binoculars or spotting scopes—ensure that one eye is always glancing outwards.
Meals are a hearty affair at Chunda Shikar Oudi, with local flavours and regional recipes stealing the show. The Mewari thali allows for a sampling of dishes, from makki ki raab, dahi kebab, govind gatta, bathua saag, macchi ka kheema, lal maas and hare ghas ki roti. Meat lovers shouldn’t miss the tenderly marinated bater (quail) and goat ribs, an ode to foods eaten during times of shikar. The dining setups in themselves are quite enchanting too—under a canopy of trees strung by lanterns, in the midst of a clearing in the jungle or by the edge of the lake, while being warmed by a crackling fire.
The distinctive bit of Chunda Shikar Oudi is perhaps the peaceful pace and the escape from the hustle. It’s a world in itself, and one that revolves not around notifications or deadlines, but around the cycles of nature and the call of the wild.