If everyone in the world had homes like the Sarai at Toria, we would never fight each other and live happily ever after. Unfortunately Utopia is not to be found everywhere; thankfully Joanna and Raghu have created one where we can all get away to every once in a while.
Joanna Van Gruisen is a celebrated photographer, writer and conservationist; originally from the UK, the Indian subcontinent has been home to her for over 30 years. Her husband, Dr. Raghu Chundawat, is a conservation biologist whose main studies have been on Snow Leopards and Tigers. Together they have created a property that may be an apt reflection of the work they have dedicated their lives to. Sarai means inn in Persian, and Toria is a nearby village.
Situated on the west bank of one of the most picturesque rivers of India, the Ken river, the Sarai is set on nine acres of undulating land surrounded by local villages and forests. Other guests and residents at the Sarai include a rich variety of birds, insects, mammals and butterflies. Don’t be surprised if you are greeted by a Jungle Cat, a Mongoose, a Jackal or a Langur monkey. It is all a part of the rich offering at Sarai. Here’s more:
* The Rooms: The stone, wood and tile buildings truly blend with the natural settings. The rooms are spacious, with aesthetic interiors. Four rooms have a mezzanine where children can go up to and sleep. Private courtyards and verandahs make it even more difficult for you to leave your quarters – you just want to enjoy them all. All rooms have attached spacious baths, with running hot and cold showers. Housekeeping is excellent, and you will be hard pressed to find anything that requires taking care of. Bedsheets, towels and other linen are clean and feel fresh. There is no air-conditioning, but the room design does not need any cooling except during peak summers and the monsoons – but the lodge is closed during that time. There are six cottage rooms currently, with plans to add two more.
* The Setting: The dining and lounge is open on three sides, affording views of the Ken river while you have your meals or laze around with a book. This perfect setting gets better when you look around you: tall grasses and trees on the property, fields around and hills beyond. What more do you want? Awesome views of the rising and the setting sun? Yes, you get these too.
* Food: Get ready to be spoiled and pampered. Sarai boasts three chefs including Raghu (another talent of his) and a pastry chef. Freshly baked croissants, pastas, salads, makki ki roti and saag – finger licking stuff you cannot stop eating. Whetting your appetite is the presentation: you could be served under the trees, in the lawns or in the covered dining. The high quality crockery and cutlery used remind you more of a fine dining place in town than a jungle lodge. Enjoy the meals, you will miss them later.
* Service: Is there much left to say? With Joanna and Raghu involved hands-on, and training their staff well, you are going to feel special throughout your stay.
* The Safaris: If your hosts are like Joanna and Raghu, you can be richer by as much of their knowledge and experience as you can absorb. Sarai maintains their own fleet of 4-wheel drive Gypsy vehicles, with naturalists who can only be well trained. Make the most of the opportunity to appreciate the forest while at the Sarai.
* While you are there: Laze around and do nothing. Or go for jeep safaris in the Panna Tiger Reserve, a cruise on the Ken river, a day trip to Khajuraho, a hike up the Ajaygarh fort, village walks and more.
Go to the Sarai at Toria as a destination in itself.
The lodge is located just off NH75, about 2 kms from the entrance to the Panna Tiger Reserve at Madla. You can get there:
* Via Khajuraho: The town is well connected by air and rail services, and is a 30 minute drive from Sarai.
* Via Jhansi: This town is even better connected by train, but takes about 3.5 hours more by road.
* By Road: If you are driving yourself, enjoy the whole Bundelkhand region and stop at the many awesome destinations along the way.
Contact for Reservations
RARE (TS Marketing Services)
U26A/6, Ground Floor, DLF Phase III
Gurgaon, Haryana 122 002
Ph : + 91.124.2356004 / 4062480 / 4062481
Contact the Lodge Direct
Raghu: + 91.9685293130
The Sarai at Toria, Panna Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India: A bedroomThe Sarai at Toria, Panna Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India: The bath in one of the cottages