Why you’ll love Khem Villas
Ranthambore National Park is one of the best places in India to see a tiger and family-friendly Khem Villas is one of the best places to stay. For not only is this collection of eco-friendly cottages, rooms and tents positioned just 4km from the park entrance but the owners, the Rathore family, have been at the forefront of tiger conservation since the 1970s.
Now owned and managed by Goverdhan and Usha (Goverdhan’s father was legendary tiger conservationist Fateh Singh Rathore), the property is based entirely upon principles of sustainable tourism. The staff are local, the food is vegetarian and largely grown on site and their energy sources are green. In addition, the owners have established a local school and hospital and actively support local arts and crafts by teaching women sewing and weaving skills.
The accommodation is set amongst 10 acres of grassland peppered with indigenous trees and water holes. Today, it’s not uncommon to see jackals, jungle cats, hyenas and desert foxes within the grounds – don’t let little kids wander off unsupervised! It’s charming, homely and a wonderful way to learn more about India’s regal cats and the on-going struggle to save them.
Why the kids will love Khem Villas
This is a wonderful destination for children to understand more about nature, conservation, India’s wildlife and history. Goverdhan and Usha are fascinating to talk to and their well-informed guides are excellent at teaching children about life in the jungle. Kids can learn to spot pug marks and how to identify the alarm cries of different animals – all the better for tracking tigers with!
Budding naturalists will love the chance to spot tigers in the wild in addition to the countless other animals and birds that call Ranthambore home. It’s worth noting, however, that game drives can last three to four hours so little kids might get fidgety. The hotel and its grounds are a natural wonderland and kids can explore the acres of grassland with a resident naturalist and then cool off in the plunge pool afterwards. Be careful, however, this is jungle territory home to mongoose, snakes, jungle cats and more so kids should not wander off unattended.
Khem Villas can organise camel rides, day trips along the Chambal River, expeditions to atmospheric Ranthambhore Fort and block printing activities at nearby Dastkar crafts organisation. Let’s just say, there’s no chance of getting bored here!
Please note that Ranthambore National Park is closed from July to September. Khem Villas does not organise jeep safaris into Ranthambhore National Park but will advise on the best way to book tickets through the independent government body in charge.
Khem Villas has 22 rooms divided into Cottages (8), Tents (10) and Rooms (4). The rooms have been built using locally soured materials by local craftsmen and the décor is simple but welcoming with comfortable beds, colourful bedspreads, wooden flooring and wonderful views. The cottages and tents are our favourites and give a real sense of being in the jungle. Sit on your veranda and enjoy the chorus of crickets and the cries of the local peacocks.
Rooms: The four double bedrooms are housed within the main building, two upstairs and two downstairs. Each room has a bay window overlooking the rural landscape and come with A/C. These rooms are comfortable but definitely less atmospheric than the cottages or tents.
Cottages: The eight thatched cottages cover 1600 sq ft each and include a large bedroom, a semi open-air bathroom with an outdoor shower and a private plunge pool. The bedroom is air-conditioned and has sliding glass doors that open onto your private veranda overlooking beautiful jungle vistas.
Tents: The ten luxury tents have been erected onto individual wooden platforms and come with all modern amenities (no roughing it here!). The tents do not have A/C so they can feel warm during the day. Hot water bottles and extra blankets are provided at night, as it does get chilly at night during the winter months.
The food at Khem Villas is 100% vegetarian and largely homegrown. The property has its own organic veggie garden, they make their own bread and the milk comes from a local farm where the cows are reared on organic feed. The food is very good and even the most hardened of carnivores come away satisfied. All meals are served in the dining room, a breezy open-air space by day and cosy spot by night when the blinds are dropped. The tables are covered in block print fabrics from ethical homewares and fashion label, Anokhi. The meals are all buffet style but deserts and breads/chapattis are waiter served.
The breakfast buffet includes cereals, fresh fruit, juices, bread and cheeses. Eggs can be cooked to order (we recommend the poached eggs!) and there’s plenty of tea and coffee. Bed tea (or coffee) is served to your room in the morning before game drives.
Lunch tends to be international with soups, salads and pastas on offer. Dinner is an Indian buffet with lots of delicious curries, daals and naan breads fresh from the tandoor oven.
A bar is set up by the lakeside every evening where guests can enjoy pre-dinner drinks around a campfire. It’s a great opportunity to talk to owners Goverdhan and Usha and swap tiger spotting tales with fellow guests. There is also a bar in the main building.
For Kids: There is no dedicated kids’ menu but the kitchen is willing to whip up simple meals such as pasta or an omelette for kids and kid-friendly timings. There are no highchairs.
Take a jungle ride into Ranthambore National Park. This forested reserve is home to leopards, wild boar, sambar, cheetal, sloth bears, langur monkeys peacocks and, of course, tigers. A morning and afternoon jungle safari is organised daily by the independent government body in charge of the park (although one is probably enough for young kids). These safaris should be organised and booked in advance, Khem Villas can help with this or see here for more details.
Enjoy a fascinating nature walk through the forests surrounding the camp with a knowledgeable nature guide personally trained by Fateh and Goverdhan. Keep a lookout for jackals and desert foxes.
Get a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding tiger conservation on a visit to one of the many projects Goverdhan supports. He runs a hospital and school and his NGO works to provide alternative energy solutions using biogas. The non-formal education program that he started supports almost 4,000 children every year and helps them to learn about the environment through song, dance, drama and nature camps. In addition, his ‘wood for wood’ project helps locals plant over 70,000 trees every year. Guests can experience these projects first hand.
Enjoy pre-dinner winter drinks around the campfire and listen to Govardhan’s fascinating tales from the jungle.
Relax after an early morning jeep ride with an Ayurvedic massage at the Age Veda Spa.
Stroll to the nearby non-profit crafts organisation Dastkar and marvel as local ladies stitch, bead and sew tiny sequins onto traditional block printed kurtas. Remember to buy some tiger pyjamas while you’re there!
Look for tigers! Jump aboard a jungle jeep and explore the park with your binoculars. Makes sure you don’t miss the Jogi Mahal on the lakeside where these regal cats like to hang out.
Become an animal detective! Learn the alarm calls of animals from your guide so that you can tell when a tiger is near and how to identify a pug mark in the sand.
Try your hand at traditional block printing at Dastkar crafts organisation.
Cool off in the summer months with a dip in the small freshwater plunge pool. There’s not enough room to swim, but there’s certainly space to splash.
For a bird’s eye view of the park and its surrounds climb up Ranthambore Fort that was built in 900AD. Rumour has it that some weaponry remains in the ancient barracks.
Ask the hotel to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a lazy afternoon playing by the Chambal River or head out to see herds of black buck just an hour’s drive away.
Learn how the camel got its hump on a short ride through the local countryside and villages.
A/C, common rooms, baby cots available, Goverdhan is a practicing doctor and lives nearby, hospital nearby, 1 extra bed per room, laundry, pushchair friendly, spa, plunge pool, travel desk, WiFi.
When to go:
Ranthambore National Park opens in October and is lush and green following the monsoon rains. Temperatures during October and November are ideal for safaris but the thick forest cover makes tiger spotting challenging. From December to February, temperatures fall and early morning safaris are chilly but your chances of spotting a tiger increase. The summer months, March to June, see daily temperatures reaching over 40C. If you don’t mind the heat, then this is the best time to spot wildlife, as the animals come out in search of water and the forest cover is sparse.
The park closes during the monsoon from July to September.
Location & Travel:
Khem Vilas sits 4km from the entrance to Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan, India. Jaipur (200 km) is the nearest airport and there are regular daily flights from here to numerous Indian cities. Domestic airlines servicing Jaipur include Jet Airways, GoAir, Indigo, Spice Jet and Air India. There is a private airstrip and helipad at Sawai Madhopur and Khem Villas can advise on plane and helicopter charters. Sawai Madhopur is well connected by trains, especially from Delhi and Jaipur. It takes approximately 4 hours by train from Delhi and 2 hours from Jaipur.
1) The hotel does not book jeep safaris, these must be organised independently. Make sure to do this well in advance and book the jeep (rather than larger ‘truck’-type) safaris.
2) Don’t miss Ranthambore Fort! See if you can find the old armoury hidden within the fort walls.
3) The tents can get warm in summer months, keep this in mind when booking your room.