Masinagudi: A Retreat In The Wild
Where is Masinagudi?
Masinagudi is a small town nestled in the evergreen Madumalai National Park in the Western Ghats of Tamil Nadu state in India. Spread across an area of 321 km2, Madumalai National Park is on its way to become one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Madumalai National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary is divided into 5 ranges – Masinagudi, Thepakadu, Madumalai, Kargudi and Nellakota.
Masinagudi derives its name from the Goddess Masini, a local deity, worshipped by the people of this town. ‘Gudi’ means temple/shrine that shelters the God.
Peacock spotted while driving through Madhumalai forest
How to reach Masinagudi?
Masinagudi is easily reachable from Bangalore, being only 260 kms. The drive takes 5 – 6 hours depending on how many pit stops you make on the way. The route which we took was as follows:
Bangalore –> Mysore (via Bypass road to Ooty) –> Bandipur National Park –> Madumalai National Park –> Masinagudi
Tip: Take the bypass outside the Mysore to avoid the crowded Mysore’s city traffic.
The roads are well maintained except for a few small stretches here and there. The last 600m is a mud road that leads you to The Jungle Retreat, which is where we stayed for the weekend. The nearest airport to Masinagudi is Coimbatore, approximately 120 kms from Masinagudi.
Masinagudi is well connected via roads, but you could opt for other modes of transportation as well, should you need to. The nearest railway station to Masinagudi is Mettupalyam (46kms from Masinagudi). A road trip has its own advantages and convenience, which made us take our Eco Sport out (That reminds me, I should name it ).
Things to do in Masinagudi
A weekend in Masinagudi should be filled with less activities and more of attempts to connect with the nature, which is precisely what we did. That doesn’t mean the weekend was barren from all the activities! Here are some of the things to do in Masinagudi:
- Take a safari to pay a visit to the wildlife of Masinagudi
The safaris in Masinagudi does not take you inside the jungles (as in Bandipur and Nagarhole), so you just drive through the roads of Masinagudi (at Jungle Retreat you could opt for self-drive with a guide or a jeep ride). We went Safari with our guide Daniel, a person who has been working in the Retreat for over 20 years. Spotting wildlife is a child’s play to him. We spotted Wild Gaurs, some 10-20 of them! Hoards and hoards of Deers and Sambars, looking whimsically at us, the uninvited guests. Couple of colorful baby snakes that were faster on the road than mud! A Porcupine which kept running from us. Wild hares which disappeared into the woods within nano seconds. Sloth bears engorged in hogging the greens out of the wilderness. Wild elephants crossing the road with cute baby elephants following them hurriedly. Needless to say, it was an amazing evening!
- Hike/Trek a nearby hillock/mountain
There are lot of options to hike/trek in Masinagudi as Madumalai National Park itself is a part of the mighty Western Ghats. We trekked the small Vibhootimalai in the village of Masinagudi. It was a long walk and a small trek, which led us through the small village of Bokkapuram initially and ended at a Hindu temple perched atop the Vibhootimalai. Elephants are a regular visitors to these villages, usually looking for food and water. Hence, the people who live there have come up with there own ways of identifying such an “uninvited” entry of a tusker. They tie number of strings to the trees at a height that is lower than an average elephant. They then hang 2-3 empty plastic bottles per string filled with stones/metals. When a tusker decides to give a grand entry and passes through these strings, it starts to rattle, so loud and clear (which could otherwise go unnoticed in a city/town). Survival of the fittest, pose any threat to a living being and it has its own mechanism to overcome it! Nature, including humans, never cease to mystify me.
Check with your resort people to know more about such treks/walks or research in advance. Of course, take a known local guide with you to avoid getting lost or just to be safe.
- Visit the Elephant camp of Masinagudi
At the Masinagudi Elephant Camp the feed the Elephants and leave them back to the jungle. Some of these elephants here are either wild, untamed ones causing ruckus in the temples/villages or the ones rescued from ill-treatment at various places in India. Masinagudi’s elephant camp is one of the top training centers for elephants. A typical diet of an elephant here consists of mixture made of horsegram, jaggery, rice and sugarcane. Its rather scary seeing these tuskers break and swallow huge raw piles of sugarcanes within seconds! But also, oddly satisfying
- Visit the 800 year old temple that worships Goddess Masini
- Drive through the roads of Masinagudi/Bandipur
- Explore the town and chat with the locals
- Take a safari in Bandipur
The safari at Masinagudi does not take you inside the jungles as opposed to the Bandipur safari which does. The Bandipur safari takes you inside the jungle, for a duration of 1 hour and if you are lucky, you could even spot a Tiger!
- Visit the Maravankady Dam. Not sure if its open to the visitors now, you could cross check once with your resort or the Dam’s office. I have heard that the Dam’s site is easily accessible from other resorts such as Glen View, Whispering Windows etc. It was very late when we passed by Maravankady Dam and hence couldn’t visit.
Where to stay in Masinagudi?
We stayed at The Jungle Retreat Masinagudi, owned by a couple and looked after by a super enthusiast team. The hospitality that you receive upon your welcome at this remote jungle, is something that will spoil you for your entire stay. The staff are courteous, fun and determined to make your stay a memorable one. And they are all from the vicinity of Masinagudi, so you can have the “chat with the locals” right in the resort! The entire team’s insights on wildlife, environment conservation and co-existence are really appreciable and inspiring. They believe in co-existence with the wilderness as they know the harmful effects on the eco system when a man decides to encroach the wildlife’s space.
So don’t be alarmed if a giant Malabar squirrel welcomes you to your room, if you wake up to hoards of Deers passing by right in front of your portico or even if Elephants trumpets sound close by in the evening
The people in Jungle Retreat have extensively researched on the behavior of the fauna and have carefully grown the flora accordingly. And to think of it that this land was almost barren 20 years ago.
I have never seen wilderness like this before. So remote yet so close. The property is well maintained with all the basic amenities that one might need. Excellent food, a thumbs up from us vegetarians. Cleanliness at its best. When a property is spread acres apart its easy to lose focus. But every property here is well maintained, with crystal clear focus on safety, cleanliness, food & hospitality.
Oh and there are a bunch of friendly dogs and cats in this property. Don’t forget to get acquainted with them. They too have many stories to share Dogs playing in the lawn and cats sunbathing are regular scenes during breakfast & lunch in the dining area.
Note: there are no TVs in the rooms, I don’t see why there should be either. Its a retreat not an attempt to bring back the city life.
Do not miss their presentation in which they show the wid life spotted in and nearby Jungle Retreat. They have intelligently placed infrared cameras all over the property just for this purpose. They also photograph the rare species of animals, plants, trees and shrubs in their property and consult with herbologists/wildlife experts to learn about them. This is perhaps one of the finest resorts in Masinagudi. All in all, to match with their tagline I would like to say, you would be glad you didn’t opt for a hotel stay
You can book the resort here.
Jungle Retreat Masinagudi Contact Number: 0423 252 6469
Other popular resorts in Masinagudi:
You have a lot of options to stay at Masinagudi, ranging from resorts to homestays. I heard that there are over 70+ resorts in Madumalai! Here are some of the options that we did consider before. Click on the links to check the resorts out.
If you have more suggestions, do leave a comment and I will add those as well
Here are some of great deals on resorts in Masinagudi.
You also have an option to explore large number of growing Masinagudi homestays via Airbnbs. But make sure they are safe and read reviews properly before going for something literally unknown/unheard of in search of an offbeat experience.
Tips for a Masinagudi Trip:
- DO carry insect repellants as encounters with creepy-crawlies are inevitable in Masinagudi.
- DO NOT feed the wildlife. We should only be onlookers and observers of the wildlife, which is the whole purpose of such retreats. We are already encroaching their space, the least thing we could do is let them co-exist. The forest guide told us that because of the tourists passing through the national park feeding peacocks, there has been an increase in the deaths of peacocks on the road due to negligent driving. Why were they found on the road in the first place? Because they come looking for food whenever a vehicle stops by! Just have a look at our video, the peacock came so close to the car, hoping we would feed something to it.
- DO NOT make loud noises during safaris. Like I said, we should be as disruptive to the wildlife as possible. Use bare minimum headlights/flashes.
- DO NOT go with locals who claim to take you to safaris at dirt cheaper prices. You usually come across them while you are just entering the Masinagudi territory. It could be extremely risky and you cannot be sure whether they are even aware of the wildlife. Also, if they claim to take you inside the jungles, DO NOT go for it. As per the locals, there are no safaris that take you inside the jungles (unlike the Bandipur/Nagarhole safaris where they take you inside the jungle) in Masinagudi. If anyone can confirm this, please do leave a comment.
- DO NOT get out of your vehicles while driving through the National Parks. They are already mentioned in the innumerous boards depicting the DOs & DON’Ts. Yet we saw at least 2-3 people getting out of their car to click pictures of the wildlife. Also, it is a punishable offense if you do.
- If you can, plan the Masinagudi trip over weekdays. You would see lot less crowd during your stay, especially during safaris.
- Carry sunscreen, scarves, hats and long sleeved shirts. These come handy during your outings on a sunny day as well as the night’s unexpected cold.
Hope that wasn’t too long for you to read
Over to you now, have you been to Masinagudi? Have you stayed at any of the Masinagudi resorts or homestays in Masinagudi? Leave a comment!
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