The faint warmth of the sun embraces my back as it starts to rise over the hill, the incessant babble of the seven sisters earning their name of jungle babblers in a nearby tree, their fierce chatter drowning out the other birds confidently flitting around close by. Breakfast served to the accompaniment of the crunch of sugar cane as Lakshmi first bashes it against her leg and then devours it eagerly, she has pretty good table manners for an elephant. These are the elements which make up the start of the day at Dera Amer Wilderness Camp.
Situated at Kukas, just beyond the Amber Fort, this camp is the newest addition at Dera Amer which has long been providing elephant and camel experiences to people visiting Jaipur. It has been a favourite place to send clients who would like the opportunity to meet an elephant and have a wonderful breakfast, lunch or dinner in beautiful countryside surroundings. This tented camp was the next natural progression.
There are four very comfortable tents in a secluded location just beyond Dera Amer itself and the whole concept is to provide a unique and exclusive countryside experience, so, if one tent is booked, no other bookings are taken. This means that you can guarantee a romantic experience for a couple or a group of friends can book the whole camp, safe in the knowledge they won’t be disturbed or indeed disturb any other guests. With my kind of friends, that’s quite an important consideration!
We arrived at around 1530, our luggage was put in a jeep, we were introduced to Laxmi who was to be our personal pachyderm and we strolled along with her through the countryside to the camp. There we were met by two staff in traditional attire and brilliant orange turbans, who proceeded to pour us a welcome drink of a glass of rose, pink wine for the pink city and I was certainly not one to refuse.
We were shown to our tents and left to settle in. The tents as mentioned were more than comfortable, all mod cons, a few nice touches including a book on the birds of India and a set of binoculars. This is a brilliant place for birding if that’s your bag and if not, with so many birds in such close proximity, it’s a good place to start a new hobby. We sampled the sun loungers, chatted about menu preferences and were then shown up to sunset point, closely followed by snacks and the remainder of the bottle of welcome rose. Now to be fair, Udaijit has got to know me over the years and certainly knows how to keep this “traveling memsahib” happy but I know that all guests would be treated accordingly, preferences of beverage and food determined in advance and served promptly and with a smile. More birds, a beautiful sunset, ok, and the opening of a second bottle and down the slope we staggered, staff at the ready for any anticipated stumbles. Miraculously they weren’t needed.
Emerging from the tent after 40 winks and the atmosphere had changed again. The lanterns hanging from trees had been lit, a candle had been placed on the table next to the campfire which was duly lit, as we plonked ourselves down. No offence to my colleague Gwen, who was accompanying me, but I did rather wish, given such a romantic setting that she had been male, handsome, tall and good company, I had to settle for one out of four! The evening proceeded, snacks, booze, dinner, booze and I have to say, very tolerant and perfect hosting by Harshu, who put up with two middle aged ladies imbibing too much wine, brilliantly.
The one thing I remember before passing out a while later was how toasty warm the tests were, they have got the heating just right, a fact so often overlooked in both tents and hotel rooms in Rajasthan in the winter months.
The following morning we emerged feeling remarkably fresh. Tea was brought to the tents, bloody good chai actually, something else so few swanky places get right. The breakfast table had been set and there we are right back where we started. However, I might have just saved the most fun bit for last. As soon as the sun was high in the sky, it was time to bathe Lakshmi. She squealed in anticipation as a bucket and hose pipe appeared. Each time the bucket was filled, she would suck the water up in her trunk and spray it over various parts of her anatomy, and, by default, us. What fun! We were like school kids all over again, though Lakshmi had the most impressive water pistol. Harshu was on hand to impart fun elephant facts, I won’t ruin the fun by sharing them here. There has to be some element of surprise after all.
Sadly, then it was time to leave, we could only spare one night but there are plenty of other activities to enjoy including treks into the surrounding hills. Or, quite simply, relax and enjoy the camp, why not?
As mentioned, this is a perfect place for a romantic couple or a group of friends. It is situated just off the NH8 if you wanted to drive down from Delhi, we flew to Jaipur, it was cheaper, and then hired a car. For a weekend escape from Delhi, for a romantic night or two away, for a fun place for a couple of days escape with friends or to include as part of a client itinerary, Dera Amer Wilderness Camp fits the bill.