Words from Our Guests
We had a lovely trip with Holidays in Rural India this winter. Sophie has the knack of taking you to really worthwhile places that nobody much visits - and, when you get there, to connect you with a network of her friends, colleagues and associates who ensure you make the most of your stay. We were the only visitors at several UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Madhya Pradesh, were objects of friendly curiosity in rural villages in Chhattisgarh, and stayed in simple comfort in the backwaters of Goa. This was all backed by Sophie's extremely thorough approach to ensuring that travel connections worked and that the places we stayed delivered proper service and support.
Chris and Nicky, January 2019
When we were researching India as a holiday destination, we wanted to ensure we experienced India off the beaten track, not just the tourist hot spots. We discovered Holidays in Rural India and immediately knew we had found in Sophie someone that wanted her guests to fall in love with India. Not at the cost of comfort though; Sophie’s attention to detail was exceptional and every place we stayed in welcomed us with genuine warm hospitality and delicious food. Every day was a true adventure, and just when you were sure things could not get any better, India just kept giving, from Baiga villages to bustling Mumbai. The evening chat round the fire and dinner table was always a perfect finish to extraordinary days.
Sarah had already visited the North of India two years previously but had felt overwhelmed by the hectic itinerary. This trip was perfectly balanced between excursions and down time.
We experienced truly unique moments that will stay with us forever not least the sighting of two tigers in Kahna and arriving at an extraordinary tribal market at the same time as a troupe of dancing Baiga men bringing their village god for for a religious festival. We will definitely be planning our next India adventure in the very near future and of course through Holidays in Rural India.
Thank you Sophie for a life changing experience.
Sarah and Charlie, February 2019
Sophie organised an amazing trip for us. We had been to India four times before and on this occasion wanted to visit somewhere off the beaten track where we could just walk and relax enjoying the countryside and wildlife and good authentic home cooking without too much rushing around. Our trip involved only three main stops .. Shergarh and Bhoramdeo Jungle Retreat and then Olaulim Backyards.
Each place was different and wonderful in its own way but had in common a very warm welcome from our hosts who bent over backwards to look after us. Sophie from the outset understood exactly what we were aiming for and was extremely responsive both in the planning process but also when a domestic crisis the day before we were due to depart required us to defer our arrival by a few days. Sophie swiftly reassured us and managed (from her own holiday in India) to switch bookings in Mumbai and Shergarh and BJR and internal flights without fuss to ensure our itinerary still worked to give us enough time in each place and the relaxation we needed. The bonus was that our rearranged plans meant we were able to meet Sophie for dinner in Mumbai on our first night. That was a great beginning and we knew immediately we were going to be in safe hands. Further encounters with Sophie followed in Shergarh and Bhoramdeo and her deep love and understanding of these places and strong personal relationships with the owners and their teams shone through and undoubtedly play a large part in ensuring the success of her business. A friend of Sophie is a friend of theirs and nothing is too much trouble. At Shergarh we saw tigers, wild dogs and sloth bears and lots of birds in the capable hands of Raj .. all a first for us... and in camp we were looked after very well by Neville. At BJR Sunny ensured our days were packed with walks through villages, joining local family celebrations, participating in a puja at the local temple, wandering round local markets and even setting up a surprise sundowner picnic in a field at the end of a ramble. At Olaulim Savio and Pirrko and their menage warmly welcomed us and we spent five lazy days walking in the locality and swimming or canoeing in the river as well as visiting local sites and markets. The holiday delivered what we had told Sophie we wanted and more besides. We would happily place ourselves in her capable hands for our next exploration of rural India. Gujerat is in our sights!
Mandy and Dick, January 2019
We are back in Blighty. So often there is a sense after travelling away of the desire to get home, but we were all so taken with the whole way of life on rural India that we had to tear ourselves away. What you are helping to create at BJR is quite remarkable and it was a privilege to experience it. Sunny and the team are doing something very special. It seems to grow organically out of the soil of local community life. Once we have got our brains back in gear and done all the washing we will begin to turn our thoughts to returning to India. Kerala and Tamil Nadu in 2019!
Alan and Helen, October 2018
If you would like to have a different ‘Indian holiday ’that doesn’t involve big anonymous hotels, multi-cuisine buffets, sitting for hours in airport terminals, look no further than ‘Holidays in Rural India’ with Sophie Hartman. Inspired by an article in Guardian my friend & I asked Sophie to organise an itinerary with the proviso that it took in art, architecture and people but kept well away from any tourist circuit. What followed was the most marvellous and memorable holiday, every detail was taken care of- reflecting Sophie’s deep knowledge of India and how it works – our stress free journey took us first to Bhopal with its beautiful caves/lakes followed by the Bhoramdeo Jungle Retreat, Chattisgarah, Off the Grid, Karnataka and finally the Olaulim backwaters in Goa. Everywhere we stayed we were looked after and cherished by our hosts, the food was delicious (not a madras curry in sight) charming drivers drove us to places in the countryside not visited by tourists and I saw the most wonderful display of butterflies that I have ever seen. None of these experiences would have happened without Sophie’s beautifully crafted itinerary and attention to detail - for those who wish to explore a different kind of India she is the perfect guide in every way. Thank you Sophie we will be back!
Catherine Feb/March 2018
Sophie’s attention to detail & care was beyond exemplary in organising our trip to India, we went to 4 places Bhopal, BJR, Off the Grid and Olaulim, at every airport, train station etc (which Sophie had arranged), transport was always waiting for us with lovely drivers, brilliant, totally stress free travel. Every place we stayed gave us fantastic care, attention, food, divine. We saw multitude of butterflies by the creek, went to top of world, devoured the markets of colour and smells, watched the moon rise over the backwater full of jumping prawns, walked through crackling sounding jungle, sure I saw the eyes of a tiger peering at me but even if I didn’t my imagination did and this is what Sophie holidays do they take you to the heart and soul of India. Sophie’s love of India & it’s people really comes through with the different places she uses. What special kind people they are making us feel at ease, always helpful, eating with us, talking with us, thank you.
In essence there is nothing about our adventures in India I would change and I count myself very lucky that we came across the article about Sophie’s holidays in rural India. I had a fantastic time and will use Holidays In Rural India again. Thank you Sophie
Suzie Feb/March 2018
From our first meeting with Sophie in chilly Hay-on-Wye in December last year, to the last wave from her as we went through to departures in early February, it was clear she was no ordinary tour organiser. With her fluent Urdu and Hindi, warmth and generosity, unfailing efforts to show us the real India and its people, whom she clearly loves and respects, their food, culture, agriculture, nature, Sophie showed us a real insight into rural Indian life. Our time at BJR, Bhoramdeo, passed far too quickly .. our host Sunny and his wife Sabi, and their helpful, friendly team, showed us so many wonderful sights .. honey trees! .. family life, market places, butterflies, birds … I for one was reluctant to move on to Olaulim, Goa .. but on arrival at Olaulim Backyards, was delighted .. a swimming pool and a creek to swim in .. and otters, golden orioles, exquisite fruits from the garden .. heaven! Thank you Sophie! Responsible tourism at its finest.
Brontë Jan/Feb 2018
We love India, and usually travel independently, but enthused by an article in the Guardian, contacted Sophie to arrange a trip to Bhoramdeo and Kanha. From the moment we first met her (she happened to be in Devon at the time and came to our house for lunch, and brought internal flight tickets and info about the trip) we knew that her organisational skills, flexibility with dates/itineries, and deep knowledge of the people and language of "Gondwanaland" were the perfect ingredients for a wonderful trip. We warmed to her instantly, and thoroughly enjoyed her company in and around Bhoramdeo, walking and cycling around the surrounding countryside and villages, stopping to talk to people...in fields, houses, clinic (village midwife) roadside tea shops, and colourful Gond and Baiga markets in Chilpi and Taragaon.
Sunny and Sabrina and their friendly staff at Bhoramdeo made us so welcome, with comfy rooms and superb vegetarian food.
The 2 day walk to Shergarh at Kanha was another highlight, and close encounters with tigers the icing on the very rich cake of wildlife, ably guided by the wonderful Raj. Katie, Jehan and their staff made us so welcome, and the misty morning jeep drive to the beautiful Phen NP with them on the way back to Bhoramdeo a real treat.
The friendly family-run Abode hotel in Mumbai was a perfect start and finish to our journey, and ideally situated for a day's exploring (and cricket...I joined a game at the Maidan Oval!)
If you love India, but want to avoid busy cities and hectic travel, and explore quiet country villages and spectacular wildlife, we can't recommend Sophie highly enough to help you plan a trip. And if you've never been to India, don't hesitate, let Sophie organise a tour for you. You won't regret it!
Philip & Jill February 2018
What an amazing experience my first trip to India was. I can’t deny feeling pretty nervous when getting on the plane but a fundamental key to the success of the trip for me was Sophie’s own particular brand of travel planning and, how to put it, ‘traveller empathy’. She anticipated needs and offered reassurance when it was needed. Seemingly effortlessly well-planned days and most of all an infectious enthusiasm, so that I could not help but love it too. I keep looking back at the photos and cannot believe we did so much and yet felt so relaxed in just a week. There was a kind of purity about it that allowed me to feel free and unburdened and open to anything. So thank you very much Sophie – you are an inspiration!
Katherine Nov 2017
I want to thank you so so enormously for your ‘extramile’ care for our quite extraordinary trip – it lived way beyond expectation, primarily thanks to your amazing, thoughtful example of how to cope with life in India. Just one example: as we ordered our kebabs in our hotel in Abode Bombay (we suddenly all felt shattered after the Pinkathon run!) – your champagne arrived from under a table, like something from an angel – exactly what we needed and an amazing celebration of our incredible day – thank you hugely. I do hope the Bhoramdeo team, feel enriched by the experience too – the memory of us all bopping our hearts out after the race, is one I shall treasure. So many other very special memories too, as I flick through my photos. The generosity of everyone with their beautiful manners I shall never forget – nor Sunny’s quite remarkable energy.
You and he make a remarkable team - quietly and lovingly moving mountains, so patiently but persistently and always with a smile.
Lissie Nov 2017
Every day of my trip was exciting and memorable. It was a truly wonderful experience to explore rural Chattisgargh with a seamlessly tailored holiday. I felt I made friends every step of the way and a part of me has stayed with a wish to return. At Bhoramdeo jungle retreat each day felt magically like two as time seemed to stretch effortlessly to accommodate an activity of our choice; maybe visiting the local home or the sewing school in the morning and another, maybe a tribal village market, in the afternoon with plenty of time to rest in
We took beautiful walks through local villages, farmlands and jungle, and spent time meeting and chatting with local people. With Sophie and Sunny as guides it is a real privilege to have genuinely rich and interesting encounters with local people, with lots of room for fun with the village children too.
Bike rides were beautiful, weaving through the quiet countryside lanes to ancient temples and villages, all with time to absorb the unique beauty of the environment and the rhythms of village life. The food is all locally sourced and utterly delicious. The trip to Kanha National Park was exhilarating. Our hosts and guide there are exceptional and without expectation I experienced the real thrill of being in truly immersed in the wonder of the natural world where human presence is an insignificant part of the animal kingdom. Witnessing tigers close by was utterly exhilarating and magnificent, the slow ease of a python across the track extraordinary, time alongside rare wild dogs, many birds species and deer. All with the expert knowledge and tracking of our guide, Raj,who lives and breathes tigers and wildlife. A bike trip through the the buffer zone with an overnight stay to share an evening and hear about the stories of a life lived beside the jungle is a treasured memory.
Gwyn Nov 2017
I cannot speak highly enough of this small, very personal company and the friends they work with, embedded in and committed to the land, the wildlife and its people. Book a tour - they are bespoke and varied. You won't regret it. I just got back - it was the trip of a lifetime.
Les Nov 2017
Bhoramdeo Jungle Retreat (“BJR”) must be unique..a tiny group of informal but well equipped apartments, built of local materials, set in gardens with shady hideaways to read, sketch or watch the antics of the monkeys. In a remote tribal area of Chhattisgarh we heard jungle jackals and hyenas at dusk as we sat round a bonfire before a delicious outdoor supper made with the vegetables we chose on that afternoon’s trip to a village market. We strolled to nearby ancient Hindu temples to admire the carvings, to chat to locals or on a memorable occasion to take part in a traditional ceremony. Where else could you be invited to a tribal wedding in a nearby house? We stopped at rural cricket games, visited a village where all ages were involved in making pottery, and we watched tiny children learning Indian dance.
In BJR we were cared for like family guests and saw something of an authentic rural India which is fast disappearing....what more could one wish for ?
John Jan 2015 and Feb 2018