The Sarai at Toria was conceived and built by husband and wife team Dr Raghu Chundawat and Joanna Van Gruisen, who now reside at and manage the lodge. It is located in a 3.5 hectare plot on the banks of the Ken River, which includes secluded spots for relaxation. There are 8 cottages, built in the local style with thick mud walls and thatched roofs to keep them pleasantly cool. Bedrooms are large with cheerfully painted walls and floors, window seats, ceiling fans and artworks. The colour theme continues in the spacious bathroom which has a shower, vanity unit and large windows.
The main communal area is an open plan room with plenty of comfy seating and a dining table. Both owners are acknowledged 'foodies', and the food here is both flavoursome and plentiful, with both Indian and European influences. Meals are eaten indoors and outside on a terrace or in the gardens. Whilst dining is generally a group affair, special private meals can be arranged if you wish. The gardens contain terraces and sitting areas, ideal for relaxing and taking in the tranquillity.
Panna National Park is a 10-minute drive away, and you can take morning and afternoon jeep safaris to view its varied flora and fauna. Raghu is a conservation biologist who has spent 10 years researching tigers in Panna, and Joanna is a wildlife photograher, writer and conservationist, both are happy to share their expertise and enthusiasm with their guests which is a real enhancement to your safari experience.
Other popular activities include a tour of the temples at Khajuraho, famous for their erotic carvings and just a half hour drive away. You can also visit the ruined but atmospheric hilltop fort of Ajaygarh where you can see 2 of the original 5 gates, 2 temples and 2 tanks cut from the rock. Guides are available to accompany you on walks in the Sarai's grounds, go bird watching and take you on boat trips on the Ken River. At any time you are welcome to simply take it easy at the lodge.
Open: The Sarai at Toria is open from October to April each year. It first opened in 2010.
Location: The lodge is on the west bank of the River Ken in 3.5 hectares of grounds, 2kms from the entrance to Panna Tiger Reserve. It is about a 30-minute drive from the town of Khajuraho which has a train station and an airport, as well as the famous temples.
Rooms: There are 8 cottages, all with bedroom, bathroom, veranda and private patio. 4 make good family accommodation with an additional mezzanine bedroom. They are largely built of local materials including mud, thatch, wood and brick.
Activities: You can take jeep safaris in Panna Tiger Reserve, join an excursion to Ajaygarh fort and temples, and visit the famous temples at Khajuraho, see waterfalls and spend time in Panna town. At the lodge itself you can walk through the grounds with a guide exploring the undisturbed wilderness where you can see birds, dragonflies and mammals such as langur, mongoose and jungle cats. You can also go on boat rides and fishing trips on the Ken River, go bird watching and enjoy picnic lunches.
Facilities: There is an open plan lounge-dining area overlooking the river and Panna Tiger Reserve. The gardens include several terraces and sitting areas.
Dining: 3 meals a day are included in your stay, as are tea and coffee. Breakfast is usually served on the terrace, lunch is often eaten outdoors beneath the shade of trees and dinner is often served inside the lodge. Most meals are eaten as a group but private al fresco dinners can be arranged on request.
Children: Children of all ages are welcome. Age restrictions apply to certain activities.
Health: We recommend malaria prophylactics for travel to India.
Communication: There is Wi-Fi internet access at reception but this can be intermittent.