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Pugdundee Safaris expands into Tadoba with its Waghoba Eco Lodge

Set to open in October, the newest luxury wildlife property by this responsible safari company with a focus on central India, is designed and built according to ecological principles using local material.  

After successfully owning and running beautiful safari lodges in the forests of Bandhavgarh (where it has two), Panna, Kanha, Pench, and Satpura, Pugdundee Safaris is going to expand its footprint to Tadoba in Maharashtra this October.

Pugdundee, Safari, Eco tourism, wildlife tourism
The Pugdundee experience includes great locations and superlative service. Image: Courtesy Pugdundee Safaris.

‘Wagh’ in Marathi means tiger, and ‘Waghoba’ conveys respect and affection for the animal that’s at the top of the food chain, whose presence is a sign of a flourishing forest’s well-being, and which is the big draw for most wildlife tourists. The Tadoba-Andhari national park, Maharashtra’s oldest and biggest, is also a designated tiger reserve thanks to its booming population, has gained a reputation for excellent sightings over the years.  

The Waghoba Eco Lodge, with 14 exclusive luxury cottages, a swimming pool, nature library, a lounge and a man-made hide for bird photography, is about 15 minutes’ drive from the Khutwanda gate of Tadoba, and about 30 minutes from the Moharli gate, perched on the periphery of the buffer areas.

You get a taste of Tadoba right where you are. Image: Courtesy Pugdundee Safaris
The well-designed rooms are comfortable and offer access to the outdoors too. Image: Courtesy Pugdundee Safaris
The serene swimming pool at Waghoba Eco Lodge. Image: Courtesy Pugdundee Safaris

A new direction

We asked Manav Khanduja, Director, Pugdundee Safaris, for some insights into their all-new Waghoba Eco Lodge in Tadoba.

Why was Tadoba-Andhari your choice for the seventh Pugdundee eco lodge?

In the last few years, Tadoba has emerged amongst the top parks in India. This is a result of immense conservation efforts, rise in wildlife population and innovative tourism development. Moreover, this seemed to us like a natural extension to our existing wildlife circuit, as Tadoba connects well with Pench and Satpura. With this, we have covered all the top parks in the Central Indian Highland landscape. It being in close proximity to Nagpur airport is a big advantage.

Will Waghoba offer anything extra in terms of the safari experience?

Tadoba forest landscape is completely different from our current existing portfolio, which gives our guests a fresher choice. With this new addition, Pugdundee Safaris will continue to maintain its high standards of wildlife safari experience and its highly trained naturalists and guides. Additionally, we have also committed to have maximum women staff for our Waghoba Eco Lodge and our long-term vision of meeting the universally accepted sustainable development goals. We also hope that it breaks the stereotype of jungle lodges being run only by men.

What is the target clientele that you have envisaged for Waghoba?

Traditionally, our focus has been on more on guests looking for a pure wilderness experience from India and abroad. Covid has changed these dynamics completely and we have to adapt to current situations. We are now also focussing on guests looking for a quiet weekend break or just spending time in nature, who are willing to take a break from their mundane daily routine to find some peace amidst the jungles of India.

Pugdundee Safaris
Pugdundee Safaris tries to keep its carbon footprint as light as possible, without sacrificing guests’ creature comforts. Image: Courtesy Pugdundee Safaris

Keeping it green

Pugdundee Safaris’ continued commitment to eco-tourism and green architecture, which has been recognised over the last few decades, can be seen in the plans for this lodge too.

“Since Tadoba is amongst the hottest places in world, we decided to meet this challenge by using uniquely different, sustainable construction styles, bringing together the best of luxury, balanced with environmentally safe practices. Power is amongst the top expenses for the hotel industry, that generates maximum carbon footprint. By using sustainable construction styles, we have managed to reduce the ambient temperature by six-seven degrees. This has led to a significant reduction in our energy consumption, reduced our carbon footprint, while ensuring our guests a seamless and finer experience,” says Khanduja.

The lodge’s sustainable construction has been handled seamlessly by Biome Solutions despite the long-standing pandemic. Talking about this special project, Anurag Tamhankar, Director, Biome Solutions says, “It’s been a pleasure to be part of Pugdundee’s Waghoba Eco Lodge, where the land is located adjacent to the forest buffer. This lodge is designed and built following ecological principles. More than half of the land is conserved and afforested to get the native flora and fauna right in the property. A large wetland is developed as biodiversity hotspot for avian fauna at the entrance of the property.”

The walls are built using handmade blocks made of soil from the area, while the vaulted ceilings are made from handmade conical tiles. Image: Courtesy Pugdundee Safaris.

The direction of construction, including the windows, doors, porches etc. are planned in such a way that they reduce impact of the suns direct heat to the rooms. The eastern and western facade has half-stone and half-adobe insulates. Broken ceramics are also used on the roof to reflect the sun’s harsh rays and reduce heat. Overhangs have been designed to minimise day heat and keep the building cool. The dining, office, lounge etc are all cooled using coolers, rather than AC. This helps reduce electricity for these sections by 75 per cent. LED, sustainable lighting fixtures, waterless urinals, use of 100 per cent cotton, all of these, help to keep Waghoba eco-friendly.

Tamhankar explains how the buildings are designed using passive strategies to reduce their energy demand. The construction was conceptualised to merge with the brown landscape of Tadoba. Given the flat terrain and dwarf forest of this region, the scale of buildings was brought down by using vaulted roofs. Adobe blocks made of local soil and stone masonry has been used as camouflage in the grassland. Local materials used in construction will offer guests a unique experience, while staying conscious about the environment. The walls are built using handmade blocks made of soil from the area, while the vaulted ceilings are made from handmade conical tiles.

Not just wildlife enthusiasts, but even guests looking for a quiet weekend break or spending time in nature are thinking of safari lodge stays. Image: Courtesy Pugdundee Safaris.
Dining area with a view. Image: Courtesy Pugdundee Safaris.

A rain-water tank has been prepared for water harvesting, along with a water treatment plant to recycle and reuse water used in the cottages and otherwise. The treated water is then used for the kitchen garden and rewilding the lodge. A sewage treatment plant which operates on Phytroid technology, developed by CSIR-National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, has been installed in the lodge. This rainwater harvesting and recharging will help to reduce the dependency on ground water sources, and to improve the ground water respectively.

Farm to table cuisine will add another level of sustainability to the experience. Image: Courtesy Pugdundee Safaris.

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