World's cheapest Jungle Lodge Ever! - Hemmadaga Nature camp - eNidhi India Travel Blog

World's cheapest Jungle Lodge Ever! - Hemmadaga Nature camp

Recently I booked world's cheapest Jungle Lodge Ever. This is post number 3000 on my blog. Read on


Jungle Lodges and Resorts is a commercial entity run by Karnataka Govt. JLR has exclusive access to forest areas and they run resorts there. JLR resort prices have increased 2-3x in past 7 years. Depending on location, season etc a room for two in Jungle Lodges can easily cost 10000-12000 INR, 26000-33000 INR in premium facilities like Kabini. Only a few less popular locations are available for 5000-6000 INR per night for a cottage.

One good thing about JLR is they also have a dormitory option in some resorts at lower rates. Dormitory is shared accommodation hence cheaper than standalone cottages. However, even Dorms cost  a lot. Dorm in Dandeli costs 3000 Rs per person per day, Old Magazine house dorm is 3600 and so on.  So nothing is really cheap or affordable in the world of Jungle Lodges. They have customers who can afford to pay more so they don't see any need to lower the prices.

While scouting through Jungle Lodges website, I accidentally spotted Hemmadaga Nature Camp near Belagavi. While their cottage costs 6500+ for a couple they have a 10 bed dormitory, priced at about 260 Rs  + tax, amounting to 307 Rs per person per day. Instantly I made up my mind to try it out and booked.

The rates are even cheaper during Jungle Lodges off season (till September 30th)- just 150 + tax. 
But till September end monsoon will be at its peak, so we won't be able to go out much if it rains non stop. Plus risk of having to deal with leeches and slushy muddy bad roads make it unviable proposition to spend thousands of rupees in petrol to reach all the way and stay indoors.

I booked for a weekend in upcoming month, need to see how my experience goes. Effectively I believe I have booked Jungle Lodge's cheapest accommodation option ever. But I need to keep my expectations in check due to multiple reasons:
  • The dormitory seems to be gender neutral- not separate for male & female and website doesn't ask for gender either.
  • While other Jungle Lodges booking includes food, activities etc looks like Hemmadaga nature camp doesn't offer any of these, hence rates are cheap. I need to plan my food now.
  • There are no photos of the dorm (inside pics) on internet, even on JLR website. Not expecting any luxury at 300 Rs. As long as they provide a decent bed I should be happy. Hemmadaga was earlier used by forest officers to take some rest while on field duty and then the campus is handed over to Jungle Lodges for commercialization.
  • There was a 2018 court order banning tourists from staying in reserve forest.[source]. But Jungle Lodges is still selling rooms online, so assuming they have settled the matter with court.
  • Also JLR website doesn't allow booking 2 beds in one go, had to make two separate bookings for two people.
  • Hemmadaga Nature camp is not listed on Google maps, so not sure where exactly it is located, so I need to go and find out. There is a resort manager phone number so that is some relief (assuming they will have phone network)
  • 3rd party travel agencies selling Jungle Lodges rooms aren't interested in selling this Hemmadaga Nature camp dorm because their commission is too less. You can book only on Jungle Lodges website, who have recently changed their payment solution vendor.
  • Hemmadaga is 500 kms from Bengaluru, 350 kms from Udupi, 100 kms from Goa, 130 kms from Karwar, 60 kms from Belagavi. While dormitory stay is cheap, your travel to Hemmadaga will cost a lot more, so don't get too excited, plan if overall everything works for you.
Now that I am promoting Hemmadaga, don't be surprised if demand spikes and JLR decides to increase the price 2-3 times... Book asap if serious.

Hemmadaga has another JLR property close by: Bhimgad Nature camp. Dandeli and Belagavi city are other nearby locations where accommodations may be available. Hemmadaga is close to Karnataka-Goa border and there are dozens of waterfalls within 100 kms radius. Not sure which ones are accessible, will make an attempt to explore during my visit. You will have to wait for a month or two before I can share first hand information about Hemmadaga. Hopefully nothing goes wrong till then- no 3rd wave, no lockdown etc)

Disclaimer: I am not an agent of JLR, I have just shared my observations here. Do your research and book at your own discretion and risk.

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