In the first edition, we will feature the lesser known weekend destination, Masinagudi, located in Tamil Nadu. Named after the Goddess Masaniamma, Masinagudi is a cluster of hamlets like Theppakadu, Bokkapuram which are dotted with resorts and home stays that are nestled in the woods, or high up in the trees. The dense thick jungles and the surrounding mountains beckon you. And when you hear the call of the wild, all you have to do is to pack your bags and leave.
If you are wondering why Masinagudi should be on your bucket list, here are the five reasons.
1. Neither a Hill Station nor a Wildlife Destination
Masinagudi is a bit of both. Located at the foothills of the Nilgiris, Masinagudi treats you with every scenic bit of nature. The Blue Mountains are in a veil of mist, streams and lakes interrupt your journey, a carpet of greens stretch out in front of you and the mysterious woods take you into the deep jungles. A cluster of villages, Masinagudi is home to several homestays and resorts, tucked away in the wild. Coffee plantations greet you amidst the dense greenery, but be warned– you may find an elephant shrouded by the wilderness and hence it is not advisable to walk or trek into the forests.
But it is an understatement to say Masinagudi is beautiful. Dense forests surrounded by the imposing Nilgiris, lakes overflowing with water, bamboo trees skirting the paths, wild coffee and spice plantations merging with the lush forests – Masinagudi is a paradise tucked away somewhere in the hills.
2. Wildlife Haven
Masinagudi is surrounded by national parks– Mudumalai and Bandipur, a contiguous stretch of forests that is home to elephants, tigers, leopards, sloth bears, wild boars, langurs. You do not need to go on a safari to see the wildlife. Very often, they meet you on the road, as you drive into this quaint wild town. I discovered Masinagudi rather through serendipity, a few years back. Driving through the Bandipur forests, I crossed the border from Karnataka into Mudumalai, Tamil Nadu only to discover this wild secluded stretch. A deer darted through the bush. A wild boar glared at me. And the silence was punctuated by the sharp cries of the birds who probably announced our arrival. We were the only people driving on the stretch and suddenly we were interrupted by a herd of elephants who crossed the road.
Very often, it is not the destination so much, but the journey which is exciting. And so it is with wildlife trips and safari tours. The official safari is at the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, but sometimes you meet wildlife while just driving along the town. It is not advisable to drive in the nights as you interfere with the path of the elephants and gaurs. However, my experience at Masinagudi has always led to some interesting encounters, right on the road.
3. A Birder’s Paradise
You may not be a bird watcher, but you just cannot help getting addicted to watching them, singing out to you and flying around you. Painted in every colour designed by the creator, you see them in hues of red, blue, green, yellow, orange flitting around trees and bushes. A pretty jungle fowl met me while I was driving through the forests, but it was a little stream that turned out to be the haven of birds. An entire family of paradise flycatchers had made it home, while a Tickell’s blue flycatcher kept a silent watch. I sighted close to 50 species in less than an hour with the ioras, the sunbirds, the parakeets, the white eyes, the warblers, the flycatchers, the thrushes, the bulbuls all giving me company. The bird of the day was the Indian pitta, walking along the dry stream, chasing the orange headed ground thrush away and indifferent to our presence. It hung around for a long time, posing for our cameras, while foraging in the ground for its breakfast. I had to finally tear myself away from the bird, only when the orange headed ground thrush called out to me. The Nilgiris is home to nearly 350 species of birds and a few of them are endemic or found only in the region. Take some time off and go on walks with a naturalist and sight as many birds as you can, feasting your binoculars on them.
4. Hairpin Your Way to Ooty
Masinagudi may be just 36 kms from Ooty but it is the journey driving through 36 hairpin bends that makes the trip worthwhile. Feast on some home made chocolates in Ooty, spend some time at the Botanical Park, head to Coonoor or Kotagiri, meet some todas and buy some shawls from them, drive through the lush tea plantations and sip some hot tea in the highway. If you have time on your hands, then take a train journey through the mountains and chug along in the old fashioned quaint Mountain Railways.
5. An Ideal Weekend Destination
For lazy holidayers, Masinagudi is just the idyllic destination where you can simply relax, walk around in nature, listen to the birds, watch the mist float over the mountains, gaze at the pools of water and look out for wildlife. However for those looking for some exciting road trips, several destinations are located around Masinagudi. There is Wayanad in Kerala, Bandipur and Gopalswamy Beta in Karnataka and Coimbatore and Valparai in Tamil Nadu. There is more to Nilgiris than just Ooty. But whatever be your destination, the call of the wild cannot be ignored. So go ahead, pack your bags and backpacks and head to the outdoors. The mountains and the forests are waiting for you.
Where to Stay?
I have stayed in several properties in Masinagudi – from a tree house to an estate in the jungles to resorts nestled in the woods. But if you are looking at travelling this weekend, then head to Goibibo and plan your trip. You can choose lots of resorts in Masinagudi . But here are some great suggestions.
- Club Mahindra Masinagudi – This is one of my favourite properties in Masinagudi. I have stayed here twice and it is one of the best properties for bird watching. With quaint comfortable cottages, streams flowing around, a dense canopy of trees – you almost get a feeling that you are in the wild. Visit Club Mahindra Masinagudi if you are planning a trip now.
- Wild Inn Stone Cottage – A cottage inside the woods, this property offers the experience of staying in a bungalow in the wild. A stay at Wild Inn Stone Cottage Hotel will ward off every burden you carried back at work.
- The Nest Inn – As cozy as it sounds, the property offers comfortable furnished rooms and dormitories as well. Seems like an ideal getaway this weekend. The Nest Inn in Masinagudi is particularly the best accommodation option this long weekend.
How to Reach?
Masinagudi is a border town and can be reached from either of the three southern states. From Tamil Nadu, the closest airport is Coimbatore at 140 km and the farthest is Chennai at 575 km . From Ooty it’s about 36 km and Mettupalaym , about 80 km . If you are driving like us from Bangalore, its a distance of 260 km .and 106 km from Mysore and it takes about five hours. From Kerala, the closest airports are Kochi at 212 km and Kozhikodu at 123 km . Vythiri in Wynad is 93 km away . An ideal weekend getaway from any of these cities, Masinagudi is closest to Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary at 15 km and Bandipur at 25 km. Buses are found aplenty from Coimbatore, Mysore or Gudalur (a town enroute to Bandipur from Mysore) but the roads at some stretches are bad.