“.. As our jeep went deeper into the jungle, we reached the seashore. Thick dense jungle on one side, a long white sandy beach on the other. Water crystal clear and it stretched as far as one could see. Just when we thought it could not turn any magical, we spot a tiger sleeping on one of the huge rocks and a bunch of dolphins playing in the ocean”
I interrupted my father “But, papa, won’t the tiger eat us all!” My father laughed and said “ Not unless you harm him”
My bedtime story routine as a child looked more or less like that. One enchanting story, which involved a jungle, a lot of wild animals and tonnes of adventure.
Bangalore was at its peak summers, a reason enough to get-away. Moments later, our bags were packed, zoomcar booked and destination finalized — Masinagudi. A small town in the Tamil Nadu region of India. Finding a place in Masinagudi was easy, after all, there are only a handful of them. One clearly stood out of the lot — Jungle Retreat. Dreamy eyed, I was all set to live my bedtime stories.
It took us about 6 hours to reach our retreat. Once you divert from the Masinagudi village into the forest, it is almost and off-roading experience. Upon entering we were greeted by the manager he briefed us about the area, possible activities around and some ground rules.
“It is prohibited to wander around by yourself post 6:00 PM, we have Rangers assigned if you need to walk to the lounge or back” “Also, please make sure there isn’t any food item in your bags it can attract wild animals to the room.”
As surprised as we were on the strictness, we simply nodded and went with it.
Walk towards the room was a slight climb around the area, you are surrounded by trees, trees and more trees with a couple of chalets scattered around. As I walked on the stony pathway, mostly looking upwards, in awe of the tall trees. My friend hushed “Khyati! turn around, fast” And so I did. There were 5 deer galloping on the same pathway that I just walked. Playing, dancing and just being, without any fear. Oh! what a sight!
Lunch was a spread of a local dishes, we met the activity manager to understand what all can be done in the area.
A few options were:
Bird Watching in the premises: Rs 250
Safari: Rs 1,500
Elephant Camp and Safari Rs 1,700
Safari in the area meant the possibility of witnessing deer, elephants, peacocks and hopefully leopard and tiger in the wild. The idea of witnessing big wild cats have always been fascinating, however, the manager told us chances of spotting one is really low. A little disappointed, we thought of just relaxing in the wilderness.
It was beautiful weather, perfect for a swim, so we decided to head to the pool. On our way, we saw monkeys jumping around, doing their monkey business. And two beautiful Malabar squirrels just lazing on a tree branch. For the lack of words, Oh! what a sight.
And just when we thought this can’t get better. We saw the pool. It was nothing like an ordinary swimming pool. It was designed in a way that it blended well with nature, the round stones around it gave a very rustic look, and to top that the pool faces the Nilgiri mountain range. Talk about swimming in the lap of nature.
By 5:30 sun started to set and by 7:00 it was pitch dark. Everyday, the good folks at Jungle Retreat run a small presentation, to educate visitors on sustainable living. They shared footage of creatures spotted in the premises, some horrific data and ended it with the hope that they educated the handful of us to live a more sustainable life.
We were accompanied by one of the rangers, and as we were about enter the room he shushed us. We heard wild elephants trumpet, cracking of the twigs, they asked us to quickly get in. And we did. “It feels like we are caged in a zoo, a role reversal” said my friend.
Following morning, we got up to the beautiful site of mountains covered in cloud. We went off for a quick hike, recalled our science classes as we stumbled upon the touch-me-not plant, heard birds chirping, played with some stray dogs, said bye to the beautiful Malabar squirrels and our hosts.
We went all the way across Bandipur and Madumalai. Lived in the middle of the forest. Yet, we did not spot the big wild cat! Most of us book a safari and judge it by the possibility of spotting either a Tiger, Lion or a Leopard. But what about the rest of the Jungle? If we look carefully, you would see that the entire Jungle is Alive! Those tall trees, taller than you can imagine are living, breathing, sheltering. The notorious monkeys, magnificent malabar squirrels, galloping deer and do not forget the touch-me-not plant. There is a wonder and curiosity evoked by the jungle, which is an experience far enriching.
We said Bye to Masinagudi, in the hope to visit another national park to witness the wilderness. And with the promise to live a sustainable life, because Animals are also a part of us.