I just made my fourth trip down to Chitwan for a few days, staying at our favourite spot, Sapana Village Lodge. There’s lots of things I like about Sapana, but one of its greatest attractions is how it makes me comfortable with hot water showers, comfy chairs and places to relax, but doesn’t cut me off from local life. From a comfortable reading spot, I can watch everyday life going past me on the river. Locals are washing clothes, fishing, or just using the river to get around. Abundant bird life hovers overhead. Majestic cranes, ibis, storks, hornbills, sunbirds, night jars, and the beautiful asian paradise flycatcher are all here, swooping down to the water to drink. (We come to Chitwan to see the amazing elephants and rhinos, but for sheer variety and volume, you really can’t beat the birds.) I find it so relaxing. I love the wild life and the river. They keep me coming back for more.
Our arrival at the lodge didn’t get off to the best start. The resort was full and our names weren’t on the arrival list. But the manager somehow managed to find us rooms anyway. It was the start of a really different level of friendly service that I hadn’t seen anywhere since the Philippines.
I have to say, Sapana Village Lodge is really my kind of place. It was pretty and designed with thought and care, but it wasn’t too fancy which made it more charismatic and welcoming in my opinion. There were balconies outside the rooms with views, and places to sit in the shade and read…pillows and footrests.. There was a really chilled out bar area with giant floor cushions where you could just hang with a cup of coffee or something a bit stronger. I loved the large deck overlooking the jungle and the river. I could have hung out around the resort all day reading, except that I had to get the elephant bug out of my system….and I had to go ride in a canoe…..But now that I have experienced those, if we are lucky enough to come back, it will be to chill out, read, and just enjoy the countryside and friendly atmosphere for a few days.
The lodge store had handicrafts made by locals from local materials. As we sat drinking our tea, we could watch people collecting the reeds from the river to make the baskets. 50 meters away was the elephant barn, and in the little shop they sold notebooks made from elephant dung. (Which are actually very nice…. The elephants actually do most of the work making pulp out of straw for the paper making if you think about it that way!) There was a constant connection between the resort and its surroundings…their elephants footprints were definitely bigger than their carbon footprints!
They had a culture of friendliness and interest in the guests that was unusual too. The service ethic was there, but sometimes a waiter would come over and talk just to get to know you, or ask about your experience in Chitwan. It was very engaging and yet laid back at the same time. I started my Christmas plans in October and initially booked Tiger Tops Resort, as everyone told me that it was the best, the most romantic, and well worth the very high price they charge . However, I’m really glad we changed our plans. I’m sure Tiger Tops has a lot going for it, but Sapana Village Lodge was excellent, friendly and very good value for money. I highly recommend it and am already working on ways to get us back for a few days!