Posted by: John Elliott | November 26, 2012

Writing in the wild at Kipling Camp

For a four-week writing retreat out of the chaos – and smog – of Delhi, it’s hard to beat Kipling Camp, a wildlife resort situated right in the middle of India adjacent to the Kanha national park.
That’s where I stayed from the end of October till four days ago, not writing my blog (which I am turning into a book), and not missing much in terms of real news in Delhi where the future leadership of both Congress and the BJP is still unannounced, and where endless controversies such as telecoms licences and the futile political crisis over retail FDI, trundle on.

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Kipling was the first private wildlife camp in India when it was opened in 1982 by Bob and Anne Wright, best known for running Calcutta’s Tollygunge Club. Its name is appropriate – Rudyard Kipling featured the area in The Jungle Books, although he never actually went there.
Now completing 30 years, the camp caters for Indian and foreign tourists, who mostly head out at dawn to see tigers and other wildlife in Kanha, which is five minutes jeep drive away. Guests usually stay only for two or three days and then rush back to work, or continue their holidays elsewhere, but Kipling is worth much longer.
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There is far more to be seen than the national park, which now can be difficult to enter because of a rigid booking system that limits the number of jeeps.
There are marvellous nature walks with birds to watch and photograph in adjacent forests and across the nearby Banjar River, plus day trips to forts and gorges, and Baiga tribal dancing some evenings (below). Cheetal wander through the camp and occasional alarm calls warn that a tiger or a leopard might be approaching.
On two nights while I was there, both appearedve  – the story is on Kipling’s new and very active blog:  “Around 11 pm, a large male tiger sauntered through the village fields and the forests around the camp. He stopped by our gate and we watched him by torchlight – he seemed very unperturbed ! The next morning we saw his pugmarks going in the reverse direction, as he walked by the camp and beside the village (right).
“During the day there had been a noisy and very busy marai (tribal fair) in the village – which goes to show how tolerant these big cats can be of human habitation, at least at night when they move about largely unseen and unnoticed.

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“The following evening we were doubly surprised to find a leopard sitting on the road by the camp gate, its eyes shining like car headlights. Unlike the tiger, the poor leopard was pestered by cheetal alarm calls throughout the night.”
In the camp there’s Tara (left with me, and below), a 55-year old elephant made famous as Mark Shand’s companion in Travels on My Elephant, that takes visitors to afternoon swims in the river. Also Kim, a yellow Labrador that was a gift from Mark Tully and comes from a distinguished Tollygunge pedigree.
Just down the road is Mocha village with a few small bazaar-type shops, and a bustling rural market every Wednesday that has grown enormously in recent years as a few of the benefits of Kanha-related tourism have trickled down into the local economy.

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The camp is now run by Anne and her daughter Belinda, who founded the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) – a link that gives Kipling a strong conservation theme.
They do not do much publicity or pr, so this blog post is aimed at helping to fill the gap, and to tell you all what you are missing if you haven’t been there.
As I said, don’t rush in and out, desperate to spot a tiger, but take a leisurely holiday in this idyllic forest haven in central India – and maybe even negotiate a long stay to write a book or some other task worthy of retreat.

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Responses

  1. […] John Elliott was a writer-in-residence at Kipling Camp in Oct/Nov this year and he has just done a lovely surprise blog on the Camp ! You can read what he wrote here:    https://ridingtheelephant.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/writing-in-the-wild-at-kipling-camp/ […]

  2. Thank you John for your story on Kipling Camp. I knew as soon as I read it that that was where I wanted to be Will be there in two weeks.

  3. Love your post Jhon, It indeed was a pleasure sitting with you and Belinda and discussing India Politics over a nice fire and the difference between Bombay and Delhi and the zeal with which India (moves ahead) and China.

    Please do Drop in or call me when you are in Bombay and let me and my family extended you to a good meal and drinks, Mind you we are Vegetrains but believe you me it will be a dinner you shall remember.

    Let’s keep the fire at Kipling alive.

    Love and Regds
    Kashyap Barai
    98205 33767

    Do watch the Life of Pi its beautiful

  4. Love your post John, and the really super photographs, I need to get back soon to the magic of Kipling and Tara!! Have been a few times (Annie and Belinda are old family friends from Calcutta), most recently for a week over Christmas with a bunch of Aussie friends and our kids. Any concerns I had over how the group would ‘tolerate’ the jungle for a whole week were quickly expelled and everybody had the most amazing time on twice daily safaris (you have to go, just in case …) into the park, midday strolls into the market and village where the blokes had a shave and haircut, and visited the ‘internet cafe’ (a lean to – but it worked!!) to check emails; whipping the brandy butter under the shade of a tree at camp was such fun and the arrival of Santa on Tara was a classic. Kipling is a very special place that not enough people know about, I applaud you getting the ball rolling with your fabulous blog and look forward to many more… Pia Anderson in Sydney.

  5. Loved your story on the Kipling retreat


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