Resort Review: At Chunda Shikar Oudi Udaipur, Conservation Goes Beyond Being A Mere Concept

Though leopards are a sight in this area, it shouldn't be your sole reason to visit this private luxury game reserve.

Published On Jan 30, 2024 | Updated On Feb 22, 2024

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Imagine your morning coffee with a front-row seat to the rhythmic lullaby of gentle waves with birds chirping their latest lake gossip. And an inviting lake-view bathtub. Wait! There’s more. An infinity pool and a gorgeous fire pit overlooking the lake and surrounding forest (If you’re lucky, you also encounter leopards quenching their thirst by the lake). Just a 30-minute drive from the Maharana Pratap airport lies Chunda Shikar Oudi, a once-revered hunting post of the royals, that has now been transformed into a haven for lush biodiversity. Though leopards are a sight in this area, it shouldn't be your sole reason to visit this private luxury game reserve.

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The gorgeous fire pit overlooking the lake and surrounding forest.

Chandravijay Hada, a naturalist who also happens to manage the resort insists, “Guests should not come to Shikar Oudi to see leopards, but to experience this place that offers you so much beyond that.” By that, he means regal mysteries of the forest, indulging in activities ranging from private lake fishing and boating to stargazing beneath the night sky. “We don’t want to promote leopard sightings to attract tourists. What is important for us is to show the culture of Mewar through the people, its culture and food,” he adds.

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What better than building an environment where animals and humans can coexist? Further into our conversation, Hada shares how deforestation had stripped the land of its allure, leading to a significant loss of natural habitats and how they are trying to revive it as a sanctuary. 

He elaborates, “We have almost 150 hectares of private reserve forest of which only one percent is used for construction, the rest is all for wildlife. We also have a Mahadev Sagar lake which is a kilometre long. In the forest, we have different habitats, animals and birds. It has dry shrublands and most trees are ber trees which are one of the most important sources of food for the animals around. What we were missing on were grasslands, most of the grasses were grazed by domesticated animals. We took 25 acres and fenced it.”

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The property also has small ponds and fountains, and what better than the sound of water. “The smell has to be natural, so we planted lots of lemongrass in the property, with Chameli, Champa, Harsingar which naturally exude that fragrance. We wanted to build one more habitat for the butterflies so we don’t use harsh chemicals, butterflies won’t come. We took help from lots of researchers, scientists, specialists and we don’t want anything to be exotic. We always wanted indigenous plants to support the locals and the wild." He stresses that leopards breed here, “so there must be something right we are doing that they are liking the environment”. 

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The interiors draw inspiration from the surrounding jungle of the resort. You will find dried pampas grass plumes in tall vases in corners and entryways, wildlife portraits adorning the walls, floors crafted from locally-sourced stones - all that you need for a beautiful palette of neutral tones and subtlety that reflects the natural beauty of the surrounding environment. 

Hada recalls, “But then somehow it all looked very bland, that’s when we thought of adding colours and the best colour in the forest was Palaash which blooms in the month of March and April and the entire forest looks bright orange colour. We didn’t want to go overboard with it, we wanted to keep it simple.” The colour on the corners of the upholstery is all Palaash, the colours on the frames is Palaash, the towels by the poolside have motifs of Palaash, the colours of the wood also have a tinge of Palaash. Some of the colours are also from the Kachnar and Amaltas tree. The lanterns you see across the property during the night represent fireflies in the jungle.

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Traditional Mewari Thali

Hada shares, “The best cook in every house is the mother. We have taken the recipes from families of Mewar, which are tasty, healthy and original to the place.” Expect a traditional Mewari thali that includes Hare Ghas Ki Roti, Macchi Ka Keema with Thotri Roti, Dal Mewari (made of urad dal), Corn Ki Sabzi, Kan (yam) Ki Sabzi, Safed Makki Ka Raab, Hara Pyaaz Ka Mungodi, Sangri Kofta, Khada Palak Saag made with sabut masala and Laal Maas.” 

Here, the Laal Maas preparation is a little different from the usual. Meat is cooked in a yogurt gravy with ghee, and dhungar (coal for that smokiness) placed in an onion peel. Special mention to the five-ingredients (mutton, dried red chillies, ghee, water and salt) Junglee Maas curry that literally made us scream, wow. We insist you eat with your hands and you’ll be smelling your meal on your fingertips for hours after, not wanting it to fade.

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Sundowner 

Taking guests on a village excursion and allowing them to experience the genuine way of life in village homes and on farms is their way of giving back to the locals. For visitors, interacting with the locals and kids is a comforting refuge from the world. We received a warm welcome with freshly churned chaas, learned about the traditional art of pickle making, followed by delving into countless stories. Late afternoons are for immersive boat rides navigating through pristine landscapes, lush greenery, and wild waters. Of course, there’s a private safari in store for you as well. 

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Udaipur is famed for its lakes, not so much for its wilderness. Ranthambore National Park, Sariska Tiger Reserve and the Jawai Leopard Reserve attracts throngs of visitors eager to spot the big cats, fewer would venture to Batharda village in Udaipur. Here, there are leopards along with a few nilgais, wild boars and a plethora of birds tweeting. So make sure binoculars are your only accessory on this trip. Certainly, the safari concludes with a sundowner at a hilltop, offering breathtaking views of the sunset from one of the most scenic spots. It leaves you with a profound appreciation for the untamed wonders that surround you.

Address: Chunda Shikar Oudi, Gram Panchayat Batharda Kalan Kheroda, Udaipur, Rajasthan


Photo: Chunda Shikhar Oudi

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