Masinagudi : Deep in the forests of Mudumalai
January 1, 1970
by Niha Zaman
Being in three different places at once:
The Mudumalai National Park & Wildlife Sanctuary lies at the foothills of the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu and straddles the borders of Karnataka & Kerala. So you’re in three different South Indian states at the same time. It is a protected area that hosts several wildlife species like Bengal tigers, leopards, Indian elephants, gaur and lots more.
I got to see a few deer really up close (more about this in due course of this article) and enjoyed sighting gaur, which are bulls that look like they’re wearing knee-high white socks. The Tigers remained as elusive as ever, which is maybe a sign for me to return to Mudumalai soon (fingers crossed!)
My experience in Masinagudi:
Masinagudi is one of the five ranges that Mudumalai is spread across and has small and big resorts catering to all sorts of holiday groups, so looking for a place to stay isn’t too much of a trouble. All of these resorts function with a permit from the Wildlife Department and lie on a small detour from the fragile main road that runs through the Sanctuary. It’s not an uncommon sight to see vehicles struggling to move ahead on this road because it’s just not wide enough to accommodate two vehicles moving side-by-side in opposite directions. To add to this, there’s the occasional family of elephants that has decided to go on a road trip, just like I did.
The best part about spending time in Masinagudi is that you live right in the middle of a Wildlife Sanctuary. If you’re looking for a party place with loud music and bright lights, this is definitely not the best choice. All resorts here will tell you the same thing.
One more instruction that every resort will emphasize on is this: do not go for a walk post-sundown, even if it’s just a short stroll from the main road to the resort. Building more roads to connect the resort to the main road is not an option, to maintain the National Park’s untouched nature for animals to easily move around the area.
Like most travelers, overlooking instructions just came to me naturally. At sunset, I decided to walk from the main road to the resort, which turned out to be more of a hike than just a simple saunter. To my surprise, I was greeted by a herd of deer just at the entrance of my resort. I was later told about the reason behind asking travelers to refrain from those evening walks: if unlucky, you might come across elephants that aren’t very happy to see you loiter around in their natural habitat. Believe me, an aggressive elephant is NOT something you can reason with.
The people of Mudumalai are extremely friendly and will happily help you explore their hometown. On my first evening at Masinagudi, I decided to drive into town and mingle a little with the locals and of course, stock up on snacks. I ended up in a small bakery with a cup of hot tea and freshly baked cookies, while the owner of the bakery gave me instructions on which over-crowded places I should cut out of my itinerary and regaled me with stories about how the Tigers that I was so eager to see wreak havoc in the town’s regular life.
Things to do:
- Relax with a book! This is something that is an integral part of every holiday for me. With vehicles moving at slow speeds and the no-honking rule, the only sounds that you’ll wake up to, are those of birds chirping. This makes it an ideal escape from your busy life in a polluted city.
- Sign up for a forest safari, which is organized by the Wildlife Park authorities. You get a tour of the forest in a small bus or jeep accompanied by a trained guide, and if you’re really lucky you could spot one of the few tigers that freely roam through the park.
- Masinagudi is a birdwatcher’s haven with at least 260 species of birds in the sanctuary. You can even take a bird-watching safari by consulting the Park authorities who will arrange for an expert to guide you to the best spots. Don’t forget your binoculars!
- If you’re an avid trekker, do contact the forest authorities for permission for treks into the protected wildlife area, with a guide of course.
- If you decide to extend your vacation and travel further, then Ooty & Bandipur are some great options you can explore.
- Visit the Moyar Falls, also known as the Moyar Canyon which is a 20 km gorge through which the Moyar River runs and the descend creates a picturesque waterfall.
- Theppakadu Elephant Camp is about 8-10 kilometers from Masinagudi and gives you a chance to spend time with the gentle giants and even their babies. Pro tip: make sure you enquire with the Camp office before going, the elephant safari is shut down during the monsoons.
Best time to visit:
I stayed in Masinagudi for 2 days and a night in October, and was blessed with amazing weather. Untimely showers and the cool climate that followed was the icing on my cake.
Skipping the monsoon months (June to September) is a good idea, as most areas of the National Park aren’t open for tours or treks during this time and the rains might also hinder traffic moving through the Park.
Winter (October to March) is the perfect season for bird-watchers to visit Mudumalai, as more than 200 bird species have been spotted here during this period.
How to reach:
If you’re as passionate about road trips as I am, then driving down to Masinagudi is the only option for you. The drive is pleasant and the roads are in very good condition too.
For those who choose to use public transport instead, state government buses ply at regular intervals from Bangalore/ Mysore and stop at places like Channapatna, Mandya, Gundlupet & Bandipur on the way.
Where to stay:
As mentioned earlier, Masinagudi is home to many resorts that cater to different-sized groups of people and for a variety of budgets too. I stayed at the Wild Haven Resort that was suggested to me by a friend.
Most resorts in the area are a cluster of cozy cottages & offer a very scenic view of the Nilgiris. You can choose one of the many depending on the amenities you’re looking for.
Some useful links:
The resort that I stayed at – Wild Haven, Masinagudi
Some other resorts that you can check out –