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Indian safari lodges: The Big Six

Traditional-style huts, elusive big cats and communal jungle platforms

Jawai Leopard Camp, Rajasthan

Flamingos, cranes and nomadic Rabari herdsmen dot the landscape around this new safari camp which opened late last year. Look closely, and you might spy a leopard on the rocks. There's a thriving population of these elusive big cats surrounding the camp – where spots take priority over the traditional tiger stripes that lure most travellers to Rajasthan. Early-morning game drives are on hand to synchronise guests with their nocturnal lifestyles. During the rest of the day, walking safaris with local guides aim to tire visitors out before a trip to the Sujan Spa, followed by a night under the stars in one 10 canvas tents.

Jawai Leopard Camp, Rajasthan (00 91 11 4617 2700; sujanluxury.com). Doubles from INR53,000 (£528), all inclusive.

Baghvan, Madhya Pradesh

This Taj Safari lodge stands within Pench National Park, one of six tiger reserves in the central state of Madhya Pradesh and the setting for Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. Each of the camp's 12 bungalows is ornately fitted out with canopied beds, Indian art works and inlaid furniture. Outside, a pool provides space for lazy afternoons, in between morning and evening game drives, which aim to spot tigers, leopards, wild dogs, Indian bison and sambar deer.

Baghvan, Pench, Madhya Pradesh (00 91 7695 232829; tajhotels.com). Doubles from INR87,200 (£869), all inclusive.

Orange County, Karnataka

Orange County Resorts opened its first property in the Western Ghats of Karnataka 20 years ago. In 2007, it opened a second, on the edge of the River Kabini – between Bandipur and Nagarhole national parks. At the newer camp, the 30 traditional-style huts were built to resemble the villages of the local Kadu Kuruba tribe. Private pools add luxury and offer the ideal space for relaxing after a day out spotting muntjak, langurs, tigers and leopards.

Orange County, Kabini, Karnataka (00 91 8228 269 100; orangecounty.in). Doubles from INR27,000 (£269), all inclusive.

Oberoi Vanyavilas, Rajasthan

This jungle sits on the edge of Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. Set in landscaped gardens, it features 25 spacious tents, draped in rich fabrics, with sleigh baths and four-poster beds. Elsewhere, there's also a pool, shaded by decorative umbrellas, and a restaurant, adorned with frescos. Game drives in Ranthambore are operated by the forest department, so be sure to book safari activities 90 days prior to visiting, via the National Park website.

Oberoi Vanyavilas, Ranthambore Natioal Park, Rajasthan (00 91 7462 22 3999; oberoihotels.com). Doubles start at INR44,500 (£443), room only.

Samode, Madhya Pradesh

Bandhavgarh National Park boasts one of the highest densities of Bengal tiger in the world, along with a breeding leap of leopards. Largely made up of Sal forest, it claims 25 species of mammals, 250 birds and 80 butterflies. Close by, you'll find Samode, with a string of private villas, furnished with atmospheric antiques, outdoor baths and wooden decks. The park authority runs two drives a day, but Samode is also authorised to offer its own private 4x4 excursions.

Samode, Bandhavgarh, Madhya Pradesh (00 91 141 263 2370; samode.com/safarilodge). Doubles from INR55,000 (£548), all inclusive.

Diphlu River Lodge, Assam

In the north-eastern state of Assam, Diphlu River Lodge specialises in seeing the world's largest population of Indian rhinoceros and elephant in their natural habitat. Opened in 2008, it features 12 cottages decked out in warm, red fabrics and The Macha – a communal "jungle platform" – where guests can congregate to scan the riverbank for signs of life. Game-viewing is focused on the Kaziranga National Park, but excursions to the area's tea plantations are also offered.

Diphlu River Lodge, Kaziranga, Assam (00 91 361 266 7871; diphluriverlodge.com). Doubles from INR30,000 (£299), all inclusive.