Home Inspirational How My Grandpa, a 90-YO Forest Officer Designed a Sustainable Jungle Retreat

How My Grandpa, a 90-YO Forest Officer Designed a Sustainable Jungle Retreat

How My Grandpa, a 90-YO Forest Officer Designed a Sustainable Jungle Retreat


A licensed naturalist, Luv Shekhawat created Utsav Camp in Rajasthan’s Alwar, with steerage from his 90-year-old grandfather, a former forest officer. The jungle lodge, which blends sustainability with rustic attraction, opens as much as the Sariska Tiger Reserve, providing its visitors a wildlife expertise.

What are the fondest reminiscences you will have of your grandparents? For Luv Shekhawat, it’s childhood birthdays celebrated within the forests of Jaipur together with his paternal grandfather. They’d munch on fruits whereas birdsong supplied the music for the day. “Good instances,” says Luv reminiscing about them.

Having a grandfather who served as a Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) actually had its benefits. In keeping with Luv, it not solely introduced sure perks but additionally cultivated a rising ardour for the outside and wildlife.

He recollects the 12 months 2010 when he purchased a bit of land within the southern a part of the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan’s Alwar, the deja vu was evident.

“Directly, I knew that the forest is the place I at all times belonged. It was in my future to return.”

Not the rugged terrain of Alwar nor the challenges posed by the proximity to the well-known (and controversial, as you’ll see) Sariska Tiger Reserve might hinder Luv’s enthusiasm to carry the realm to life. He constructed a nature retreat that was christened Utsav Camp, a reputation that borrows from Luv’s paternal grandmother.

Set in opposition to the backdrop of the majestic Aravali Hills, the 35,000 sq m retreat constructed mindfully utilizing native supplies, speaks the language of nature. By integrating regionally obtainable acacia, terracotta, bamboo, cane, sandstone, and rosewood into its decor and structure, Luv has infused a singular persona into each aspect that dots this lodge.

Tigers are a common feature near Utsav Camp due to its proximity to the Sariska Tiger Reserve
Tigers are a typical function close to Utsav Camp as a consequence of its proximity to the Sariska Tiger Reserve, Image supply: Luv
The entire retreat is a beautiful feature against the backdrop of the Aravali Hills
Your entire retreat is a gorgeous function in opposition to the backdrop of the Aravali Hills, Image supply: Luv

Right here, days are easy, time slower, and morning greetings are delivered by the Solar’s mild rays that appear to creep into the cabins and flood them. Luv prides himself on creating an area the place nature has the final phrase.

A refreshing and playful vitality envelops the retreat. Company are spoilt for selection with the 20 rooms being divided into 9 stone cabins, eight Swiss tents, and three forest bungalows.

The primary class upholds sustainability with its facades constructed out of uncooked rubble. The second provides visitors an opportunity to utterly immerse themselves in nature with canvas tents whose porches open out to the sprawling outdoor. The forest bungalows, in the meantime, are hanging in opposition to the backdrop of the hills, and their glass facades allow you to really feel as a lot part of the wild as in case you had been really.

Anybody who factors out the uncooked and rustic manner that the retreat displays is handled to a story of how this was the precise intention Luv set out with.

Guests can enjoy safari experiences, birding and buffer trail walks while staying at Utsav camp
Company can get pleasure from safari experiences, birding and buffer path walks whereas staying at Utsav camp, Image supply: Luv
Luv has transformed the 35,000 sq m land from a barren one to a thriving forest
Luv has remodeled the 35,000 sq m land from a barren one to a thriving forest, Image supply: Luv

A naturalist’s dream

From an expert hotelier in Jaipur to a naturalist on the helm of affairs at his forest lodge, Luv’s journey is telling. He’d at all times harboured a dream to begin one thing of his personal the place he might marry his culinary prowess together with his love for nature. And a lodge appeared the most effective name.

However onerous work lay forward. 

“I knew I wanted to grasp the technical features of how wildlife works. Watching my grandfather, I’d learnt the significance of placing your toes within the mud and studying the correct method,” he says.

Thus started Luv’s quest to develop into licensed as a naturalist — one thing that he says, in hindsight, stood him in good stead. As for his selection of location, nicely that’s a narrative in itself. 

The decor and architecture have bamboo, rosewood, acacia, terracotta and sandstone ingrained in them
The decor and structure have bamboo, rosewood, acacia, terracotta and sandstone ingrained in them, Image supply: Luv
The canvas tents ensure sunlight floods the rooms and opens out onto a porch where one can view the wilderness
The canvas tents guarantee daylight floods the rooms and opens out onto a porch the place one can view the wilderness, Image supply: Luv

As soon as well-known because the epitome of tiger tourism in Rajasthan, the 800 sq m space of the Sariska Tiger Reserve was the proper dwelling to the beasts owing to its mountains, grasslands and cliffs. A 2002 survey by the Nationwide Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) revealed 16 tigers current within the space. Three years later, there wasn’t a single one.

Poaching was suspected to be the first trigger. A joint investigation by the Rajasthan police, forest division, and NTCA led to the culprits — an area poachers gang that had been utilizing traps, poisoned bait, and different unlawful means to hunt the tigers.

Within the aftermath of the investigation, the Authorities launched a large drive to revamp the tiger conservation efforts within the nation, and the reserve. As of 2021, the variety of tigers in Sariska Tiger Reserve grew to round 21.

Whereas not many had tried to begin a homestay on this space, Luv says being a pioneer comes with its justifiable share of challenges. “The world was distant, there have been no correct roads constructed and no  electrical energy.”

However even within the face of issue, the great thing about the pure terrain and its potential saved him going. After 5 years of labor on the land, in October 2015, Utsav Camp was able to open its arms to its first visitors.

Indigenous trees like neem and jamun fill the landscape of Utsav Camp
Indigenous timber like neem and jamun fill the panorama of Utsav Camp, Image supply: Luv
Right from the courtyard to the pool and more, everything is powered by solar panels
Proper from the courtyard to the pool and extra, all the pieces is powered by photo voltaic panels, Image supply: Luv

A labour of affection between grandad and grandson

Utsav Camp is a glimpse into the previous, and on the similar time, a step into the longer term. However, praise Luv on being the brains behind this murals and he says his 90-year-old grandfather deserves the credit score. “A relentless guiding drive by means of the method” is how Luv describes him, pausing to giggle at just a few cases the place the previous chided him for the blunders he was making whereas designing the retreat.

Recalling these cases, Luv shares, “After I purchased the piece of land, I started planting a lot of fruit timber. However, when my grandad noticed what I used to be doing, he stated ‘You possibly can’t put something wherever’. He then defined how this space wanted indigenous timber since it’s a deciduous forest. Then I began planting palash, neem, and jamun.

You can enjoy a sunset dinner while being entertained by Rajasthani artists and their folk music
You possibly can get pleasure from a sundown dinner whereas being entertained by Rajasthani artists and their folks music, Image supply: Luv
The forest lounge opens up to a majestic view of the Aravali Hills and the deciduous forests
The forest lounge opens as much as an imposing view of the Aravali Hills and the deciduous forests, Image supply: Luv
Trails are a great opportunity to spot different birds and wildlife of the area,
Trails are an excellent alternative to identify totally different birds and wildlife within the space, Image supply: Luv

His grandfather was additionally instrumental in guiding Luv in establishing the greywater system that takes the wastewater, filters it, and channels it into the backyard.

“I at all times took his recommendation critically,” Luv says. “He was the final batch of individuals educated by the British and joined the Indian Forest Institute in Coimbatore in 1945. He was among the many first educated individuals who joined the Authorities of Rajasthan Forest Division within the capability of a ranger and helped arrange Ranthambore.”

Luv recollects the day his grandfather was on web site and Luv was planning to filter the backyard for a “well-manicured garden”.

“He shared a lesson with me that I nonetheless comply with. He informed me to search for dry leaves on the backside of the bottom. These, he stated, had been indicators of a wholesome ecosystem,” Luv provides.

At present, Utsav Camp is a sustainable oasis in Rajasthan, powered by photo voltaic panels and following a stringent zero-mile strategy to supply produce.

Company are promised a holistic wildlife expertise. To this finish, loud music, partying, and so forth, is prohibited. Whereas Luv enjoys thrilling his visitors with tales and details about the species noticed on a safari and nature stroll, the magnitude of the message he’s championing is at all times on his thoughts.

“Sustainability isn’t an choice. It’s our lifestyle.”

Edited by Pranita Bhat



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