With short grass

I was in Pench National Park in central India a few weeks ago, looking for tigers and wild dogs. It was hot, up in the 40s, and the forests were shedding their leaves. It stuck me how strange it is that our trees at home shed their leaves in the winter to avoid damage from frost, snow and high winds; but in this punishing heat of India the trees shed their leaves to stop themselves from dehydrating. There must be a changeover point somewhere on earth where the trees can’t decide whether to shed in winter or summer.

It’s quite a varied forest in Pench with no single tree species predominant. Sure, there were teak trees but I wouldn’t really call it a teak forest for all the other varieties like Indian blackberry trees, crocodile-bark trees and even the occasional white barked ghost tree. My guide was extremely knowledgeable so I thought I’d find out what you call this type of forest. I love the Indians’ tone of phrase; not because it is wrong but because it is so different to ours.

“Well…” he said, pondering for a moment. Then he came up with his answer. “Miscellaneous” he proudly announced. Then he qualified his answer with absolute authority. ”Yes, it is most definitely main category dry deciduous; sub category miscellaneous.” Then, almost as an afterthought, but to give me the full and proper definition, he added “with short grass.”

Wild Dog – Pench National Park. Photograph by Guy Marks.

“So there we have it, the forest in Pench is dry deciduous, sub-category miscellaneous…with short grass.”

If you’d like to follow in Guy’s footsteps and see this special forest for yourself, we recommend a stay at Jamtara, a gorgeous tented camp set in a forest glade, just 2 minutes’ drive from the entrance to Pench National Park. The en-suite guest tents are spacious and decorated with wildlife paintings and colourful textiles. Between trips into the park you can unwind in the open-sided lounge, swim in the rim-flow pool and enjoy delicious food. To make your stay extra special you can opt to spend a night at a four-poster star bed set on stilts, where you can take in the sights and sounds of nature as afternoon melts into evening and then night. Magical.

Jamtara Wilderness Lodge

Jamtara consists of 12 luxury tents in a secluded glade near Pench National Park. The decor of the lodge harks back to the era of colonial safaris, with polished hardwood floors and hand-crafted wooden furniture. The tents are spacious, light and airy, with an en-suite bathroom. All have private verandas facing the riverbed where you’ll see a variety of wildlife.

This is the perfect place to unwind between safaris. The lodge has an outdoor pool and sundeck, too. There’s a large central, open-sided room with dining and sitting areas, though many meals are served outside. Sundowners are usually enjoyed around the firepit by the large banyan tree.