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Old 8th October 2014, 13:40   #1
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Default Elephant season in lush green Masinagudi, Mudumalai & Bandipur

When I have 3 days and no more for a trip, the only places I am ready to get away to are Mudumalai and Bandipur, simply because of my familiarity and confidence with the road conditions of SH-17 and NH-212. So the three of us (I, my wife and kid) headed off on Mahalaya Amavasya (24-Sep-2014) for the n-th time to Mudumalai, this time for a 3 nights stay at a Farm house/ Resort in Masinagudi, the town just after Mudumalai when coming from Bangalore. The resort, called Secret Ivory Farm House and Resort, is located some 2 km off the NH-212 to Ooty. We started early (by my standards, that is), meaning 0830 hrs, from our home in Rajajinagar! I drove non- stop to Bandipur for lunch at MC resorts, located just before entering the Bandipur forest gate.

After lunch, some 5 min into the forest, I could see the lush green effect on wildlife- deer were around by the dozens everywhere as you see here.
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Another few min into the drive, I noticed this lone tusker. I dared not stop right next to it, and instead took the snap you see here thru my car rear window after passing it and stopping some 30 m away! It paid to have washed my car well the previous night.
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We reached the TN border soon and after the officials noticed we were a family, bade us off with their standard question- where were we going?. After crossing Theppekadu, took the left fork towards Masinagudi. This stretch is very narrow unlike the earlier one from the forest check post to Theppekadu, and one has to be prepared to leave the tarmac when passing by oncoming vehicles. We soon came across a trio of elephants with a very young calf just off the road, but I dared not stop for any snap. Elephants are always aggressive and sensitive when with their calves.

After exiting Masinagudi, the resort manager guided me to his place over mobile. We checked in to a cottage amusingly named "Elephant", bang opposite the forest, a few metres away. Only a slender solar fence stood between us and the forest. He said elephants often ventured close to the fence at night, something we were convinced on the last night of our stay when an elephant called out nearby.

That evening we did a jeep safari along the river (Moyar) as well as one to a neighboring place called Singara. As is default, there was little sighted, except for one baby python slowly crossing our path after it had got fully dark. But what I always love is nature's great moments like this sunset I managed to capture.
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Next morning I drove to Theppekadu for the local Govt safari run by TN forest dept. We really took that safari not with the hope of something exciting but rather just because we had little else we could do that morning. All that was achieved was returning poorer by some INR 405/-, @ INR 135/- per head and got to see nothing more than a couple of peacocks! Some jungle safari, indeed!
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That evening I decided to take the safari organized by Jungle Lodges, Bandipur (2 and 1/2 hrs duration). I called up MC resorts to book 3 seats and they promptly did so, @ INR 1250/- per head. I started off by 1400 hrs and was there by 1520 hrs. One must budget for a clear 90 min drive thru both Mudumalai and Bandipur forests, even in the superb carpet- like conditions of the road. That's because there are ample speed breakers throughout to keep your speed to 40 kmph and no more.
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The JLR safari van came down to MC resorts by 1530 and after picking up some more guests at Bandipur reception, we were off by 1600 hrs. Now what? Not animals but a steady rain, of all things! So much that we had to pull down the tarpaulin over all windows to keep ourselves dry. After another 10 min of driving however and things started to improve. Tarpaulins went up and wildlife started showing up slowly as well. Soon got to meet a herd of some 30 elephants, spread out all over. I managed to get a handful of decent shots, thanks to my 50X optical zoom, even though they were clearly some 100 to 200 m away!
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There were also plenty of Gaur around, but they all got scared as our van approached and rushed to hide themselves in the dense bushes. Here's one I managed to click in the process.
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I also managed a long shot of this highly alert male Sambar deer in the water, some 200 m away.
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The safari ended by 1830 hrs and we weren't totally disappointed- the van driver told us the big cats rarely move about in wet weather.

Next morning I decided to drive to Gopalaswamy Betta, notwithstanding the warnings about the ghat road condition. Now I have in fact driven up to the top a couple of times earlier in the past few years and somehow managed it, but this time it was going to be somewhat challenging. We finished breakfast at our resort and started for the place. The temple is open from 0830 to 1630 hrs everyday, without any break in between. After the left turn from NH212 at Hangala, the old road began with hardened tar and mini potholes, but still doable at something like 45 kmph in a hatchback. Soon reached the check post at the foot of the hill where two staff asked for inspecting my vehicle's boot for plastics, etc. Rather than let that happen I asked them how the road was and then they realized I was not some newcomer and they went away smiling. There is a INR 50/- fee to go up the hill.

My problem began soon after I started the climb on the ghat road. The road changed from average to bad, with loose stones on the shoulders and a narrow strip of tar in between. There are no signboards of any kind whatsoever to warn you of steep gradients, loose gravel, curves, etc. Seemed worse than off- roading indeed. On the long gradient you get initially my i10 stalled to a halt and worse still refused to start. I managed to reverse onto the shoulder somehow, waited a couple of min and fortunately it revved back to life. The starter motor smelt bad scaring me quite a bit. I had suspected my car battery needed a change (Exide, 6 years) even before I left Bangalore and this was now proving itself of all places, on this tough ghat road climb! I waited a couple of tension- filled minutes and thank God, the engine roared back to life after that. I never dared let it stall again and managed to forget all boulders, stones, etc., and keep going till I reached the temple at the top.

After a quick darshan in some 45 min, the drive back uneventful, being downhill. We got to MC resorts, requested for a safari booking again for 3:30 PM, this time in the hope of finding the elusive tiger. Actually it turned out to be a bigger flop than the previous day's show, earning me a pic of a common mongoose and no more.
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Next day it was time to pack up back home. We left Secret Ivory around 0900 hrs and as we were passing thru Bandipur, came across a group of some 6 elephants just making their way across the road. Here's a pic I got from some 50m away.
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If you are seeking a getaway to a lush green place ex- Bangalore, it is Mudumalai and the time is now. The roads (NH-212, SH-17) are great as well, except for some couple of km of bothersome crazing/ small potholes around Nanjangud. For those who are not familiar with Masinagudi, there is a good petrol pump, run by Essar. I have filled in there quite a few times even in the past some 5 years back. SBI and a couple of other ATMs are also on the NH-212, in Masinagudi town. My total round trip (Bangalore- Masinagudi- Bangalore) was 665 km, including the local drives inside the forests.

Last edited by GTO : 8th October 2014 at 14:29. Reason: Adding some line spacing :) Thanks for sharing!
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Old 8th October 2014, 15:45   #2
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Default Re: Elephant season in lush green Masinagudi, Mudumalai & Bandipur

It is so much nicer to see these animals co-exist with human beings rather than be locked up in some cage at zoos.

Your kid must have been jumping with excitement on seeing so many animals through your car windows at that proximity.

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On the long gradient you get initially my i10 stalled to a halt and worse still refused to start. I managed to reverse onto the shoulder somehow, waited a couple of min and fortunately it revved back to life.
That was close. Luckily for you the car restarted.
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Old 8th October 2014, 16:02   #3
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Default Re: Elephant season in lush green Masinagudi, Mudumalai & Bandipur

Nice and crisp write up.

Do you have any pictures of the resort? Can you post the same along with the cost and the website if they have any? Thanks!!
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Old 8th October 2014, 20:04   #4
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Default Re: Elephant season in lush green Masinagudi, Mudumalai & Bandipur

It's a nice write up @DrVjy. I was supposed to ask the same question as @dass - How is the Resort ? Cost ? Service ? etc., etc.,

Is your Camera P530 ? (Guess). The results are good. And before reading the next sentence about the Pic from the Rear window, I thought you'd rolled down the windows.

Post Monsoon season trips to the Jungle are really rejuvenating. I really love the smell of the earth during these times.
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Old 8th October 2014, 21:16   #5
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Originally Posted by dass View Post
Nice and crisp write up.

Do you have any pictures of the resort? Can you post the same along with the cost and the website if they have any? Thanks!!
Thanks, dass. Here's one pic just outside our "Elephant room" with my kid spending his time over some silly game as usual. If you look carefully you can see the solar fence just separating our cottage from the forest. Would really love to go there again. Lots of birds arrive in the morning.
Elephant season in lush green Masinagudi, Mudumalai & Bandipur-img_0022.gif
Their website is http://www.secretivory.com/ . The manager, Mr. Ombalan, is a nice guy and you may email him at the address on their website contact page. He generally responds fast, but in any event do remind him over his mobile (number in their website contact page) so he can check his email.

Cost seemed quite reasonable. I spent some INR 2000/- excluding food, for accommodation for my family of 3, for which we had an extra bed. The toilet is clean, with good fittings and hot water is readily available, thanks to solar heating. The resort guys all know Kannada well. Food was also quite good, fresh and steaming always. We are pure vegetarians, by the way.

Only thing, they did not have a generator that can be bothersome at nights if you wish to charge your mobile, etc. So remember to include a power bank and a good torch in your list if you are planning to stay there. BTW, no power also is another way of saying "Welcome" to wildlife!

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Originally Posted by jaaz View Post
It's a nice write up @DrVjy. I was supposed to ask the same question as @dass - How is the Resort ? Cost ? Service ? etc., etc.,

Is your Camera P530 ? (Guess). The results are good. And before reading the next sentence about the Pic from the Rear window, I thought you'd rolled down the windows.

Post Monsoon season trips to the Jungle are really rejuvenating. I really love the smell of the earth during these times.
I use a Canon SX50 HS, with a max of 50X optical zoom. It does a great job with far- off subjects, even as far as 1 km! Ideal for bird photography, as I find. Just thought I should share the pic below. It's a white- necked Kingfisher perched some 60 m away, from my trip to Corbett NP in Apr this year.
Elephant season in lush green Masinagudi, Mudumalai & Bandipur-img_0757.jpg

Regarding costs, service, etc., I would refer you to the reply to @dass on this thread. Thanks.

Last edited by GTO : 9th October 2014 at 15:04. Reason: Merging back to back posts :)
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Old 9th October 2014, 15:35   #6
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Default Re: Elephant season in lush green Masinagudi, Mudumalai & Bandipur

Nice travelogue. I go to Masinagudi often, and stayed at Secret Ivory once..

Does MC Resorts charge extra for booking safaris through JLR?
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Old 9th October 2014, 22:52   #7
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Originally Posted by nilanjanray View Post
Nice travelogue. I go to Masinagudi often, and stayed at Secret Ivory once..

Does MC Resorts charge extra for booking safaris through JLR?
I negotiated with them until they arrived at INR 1250/- per head. JLR on the other hand does not directly allow anyone to go on their safaris unless they are guests at their own properties, like in Pugmark restaurant in Bandipur. The official safari cost could be less, I guess.
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Old 26th October 2014, 00:51   #8
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Default Re: Elephant season in lush green Masinagudi, Mudumalai & Bandipur

I have fond memories of Secret Ivory having stayed there last year. we booked a tree house which had an attached bath etc up above and it was quite an adventure staying on the bamboo hut built several feet above ground on a huge tree.
Mr. Oombalan looked after us very well and also was kind enough to lend us aextremely powerful torch to spot any creatures which venture nearby.
The tree house is on the other side of the electric fence and we were warned to call the reception so that they will switch off the power to the fence in case we wanted to come to the campus area.
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Old 26th October 2014, 13:17   #9
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Nice that you liked it. If it is for a couple, the tree house would seem fun. But for a family of 2 adults and 1 or 2 kids, I guess it might seem a bit tough, especially should it rain heavily.
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