Call me shallow, but my preference is generally for five star accomodation rather than the five thousand stars of camping. I do appreciate the beauty of nature but I am a girl who likes her creature comforts. At Chhatra Sagar Nimaj in Rajasthan, it is possible to have both. The tented camp sits on the edge of a man made lake created 120 years ago. Antelopes graze by the edge of the water and bird life is abundant from India’s national bird the Kingfisher to spindly legged flamingoes. Arriving at Chhatra Sagar I finally exhaled. The peace and quiet was a world away from the dusty towns and roads we had spent the previous weeks exploring in India.
|The tents overlooking the lake|
There are only 13 tents at Chhatra Sagar so the atmosphere is intimate. And what tents! The canvas inside is painted with intricate floral patterns and houses antique furniture, a huge bed with plump pillows and a slate bathroom area come complete with running water and electricity. This is a long way from roughing it.
|The camp is run by the same family who created the lake 120 years ago and staffed by locals from the nearby village|
Each day at Chhatra Sagar we were woken by birds cooing outside the tent before being greeted by “bed tea”, tea and biscuits brought to our bed side by one of the turbanned staff. Breakfast was served in a large tent overlooking the lake and tables were set with binoculars for watching the wildlife. It started with fresh juice and yoghurt studded with pomegranates and finished with eggs served as a masala (mixed) omelette.
|Breakfast Chaatra Sagar style|
Typically of Chhatra Sagar’s style the food highlights local produce and is presented in a rustic, home cooked style. Food was served straight from the cooking pots alongside standard offers of seconds. For lunch there was tender chicken enlivened with a spicy rub alongside tomato sauce singing of garlic, green lentils, sangri – a vegetable from the local Khedji tree and rice.
|Lunch of chicken with lentils, rice, tomatoes and sangri|
Dinners at Chhatra Sagar were multi course affairs eaten by the flicker of candle light overlooking the lake. They started with a thin soup and then progressed to more family style servings of rich, slow cooked goat stew, potatoes scattered with sesame seeds and local corn and millet bread. It was simple, eloquent and honest food.
There were good sweet things too with desserts of kheer a local dish of broken wheat boiled with milk and laced with slivers of pistachio along with silky smooth rice pudding scented with cardamon and topped with rose petals.
|Inside the amazing tents – electricity and running water.|
At Chhatra Sagar every detail had been thought of, from the wet face towels and cool lime and mint drinks that greeted our arrival to the “sundowner” gin and tonics which appeared at the top of the hill overlooking the camp as we watched the sun set. I can honestly say that the two days I spent at Chhatra Sagar were the highlight of my time in Rajasthan. It is truly a five star experience, only one which is conducted under the watchful gaze of five thousand stars at night time.
|Watching sunset from the verandah of our tent|
Gourmet Chick was a guest of Chhatra Sagar
Details: Chhatra Sagar Nimaj, Dist. Pali-Marwar, 306 303 Rajasthan, India (Ph +91 9414123118)
Damage: Budget Breaking. The cost is Rs 21,780 (£269/$425) a night but this includes all meals, tours and sunset drinks.
Gourmet Travel Tips
- Kingfisher flies from London to Delhi from £500 return. There are then direct flights to Jodphur.
- Chhatra Sagar is two hours drive from Jodphur or five hours drive from Udaipur. Driving yourself in India is for crazy/very brave people. We hired a driver for two weeks in Rajastan using Kumar Tourist Taxi Service. It was Rs 25,000 (£309/$488) for a driver with an air conditioned car for the 14 days. The cost included petrol, tolls and the drivers food and accomodation.
- Once at the campsite we enjoyed a visit to the local village by jeep and a guided nature walk. Both activities were two of the most insightful and interesting experiences in my whole trip to India.
- The only thing missing at Chhatra Sagar is a swimming pool but cool breezes from the lakeside setting made the Indian heat much more bearable.