I wake up in the middle of the night, startled by a sharp croak. My heart beats faster as I stare at my bedside table and notice the rise and fall of a brown toad’s chest. As my room’s canvas walls sharpen into focus, I recover a little from this (rather harmless) creature’s intrusion. I am in a tent close to Rajasthan’s Sariska National Park, and after making my peace with my little guest’s presence, I dive under the duvet again.
Vanaashrya, located on the fringes of the park, off the village of Tehla, has luxury tents that cater to guests looking for quietude, comfort, and the joys of birdwatching. I had planned on sleeping late into the morning after arriving, but the sun goes up quite early here, and the fresh surroundings were far too invigorating to stay in bed. I stepped out to explore a marshy rivulet that cuts through the resort’s grassy heart and harbours plenty of avian residents. Waterfowl waddled in the rivulet, diving occasionally for moss and insects. Peacocks, every bit like regal monarchs, inspected the land carefully, while a kingfisher peered into the waters, patient as a saint.
A wooden bridge over the rivulet connects the main camp to the spa, and the poolside where yoga classes are held. Vanaashrya has a number of secluded spots for yoga or meditation. Following the sound of flowing water I came to a cleverly designed imitation tube well, where visitors can enjoy an open shower. Preferring to stay dry, I returned to the porch outside my tent to laze while watching birds and listening to the gushing water.
It’s easy to spend all day in indolence at Vanaashrya, but there are many places around that merit a visit. The resort organises a variety of activities from village walks to wildlife safaris. We also took a camel-cart ride through the village of Tehla, stopping for tea and a spirited conversation at the female sarpanch’s home (₹550 per person for a group of 4). About 48 km away is Bhangarh Fort whose perfectly symmetrical arches, sweeping walls, and imposing inner fort make it a splendid example of architecture. However, this splendour is often overshadowed by the legends of ghosts and black magic that have lingered here for centuries (entry ₹10; ₹5,000 for a round trip by car).
After a full day under the Sariska sun, guests can either enjoy the resort’s folk music programme or settle for a quiet evening on the deck overlooking the rivulet. I chose the latter while still listening to strains of music coming from the distance, as the sky grew dark and was enveloped in a blanket of stars.
Appeared in the March 2015 issue as “Starry, Starry Night”.
Accommodation Vanaashrya has 27 tents spread across the 12-acre property. Each warmly lit pavilion has a king-size bed, air conditioning, and a private bathroom, decorated with novel touches like bird-shaped towel hangers. Basil is the in-house restaurant, which serves set Indian and Continental meals (Tehla Bypass Road, Village Talab, Alwar District, Rajasthan; 98290 52535, 082-90964410; vanaashrya.com; ₹11,500 per tent inclusive of all meals).
Getting there Vanaashraya is about 215 km/4 hr southwest of Delhi. Drive straight on NH8 towards Bhiwadi, and through Alwar and Rajgarh. The closest airport is Jaipur (120 km/2.5 hr southwest) and the nearest railway station is Rajgarh (25 km/1 hour east).