An hour away from the chilly air of Ooty, you will see peacocks strutting on the sidewalks as if out on a daily routine. A little ahead, a family of langurs (monkeys) perched on the dividers and trees will eye you cautiously as you pass by in your car/jeep. And just like that, a herd of spotted deers will graciously pass you by. This is when you can safely say that you have reached Masinagudi.
Nestled in the Nilgiris, Masinagudi is close to two national parks – Mudumalai and Bandipur. Hence, the animal trail, which doesn’t stop with these three. There are plenty of elephants, deers, indian gaur and even tigers and leopards – infact both the parks are designated tiger reserves.
The parks organise safaris that take you right inside the forest area but on the road sightings are also quite common here. So, in the jeep, holding on to the straps as you jump up and down on the uneven roads, your eyes are automatically programmed to do a sweep scan. Everyone, including the driver, is on the lookout for a shadow, a leap, a cry – anything to indicate the presence of the predator. Infact, I was so focused on the unbounded forest that every oddly shaped log assumed the shape of an animal. And that was how it was for the two days I was there.
But the predators, themselves, were elusive to us and we didn’t manage to catch sight of any. A family in our hotel, however, managed to sight the tiger just two days back and that too on the road! Damn luck!
The sightings aside, Masinagudi is a really nice place to just relax – the air is beautiful, it is quiet and you can catch up on the book you wanted to read or write. You can also catch up on outdoor sports as land is aplenty here. It gets cooler in the evenings and so the night bonfire arranged by our resort was a blessing. So was the staff playing hindi songs on a tabla.
But aside from the parks with the safaris and the elephant camps, there is very little to do unless you want to go to Ooty or the Pykara lake.
Coming back to the animal trail though, we also visited Mysore Zoo, which is like 2 and a half hours from Masinagudi. And it is huge and surprisingly well maintained. There are dozens of species of birds and even tortoises besides the anacondas and cobras, which make it a must visit.
Also, there are plenty of lions, leopards, cheetahs and even the tigers here. But it isn’t the same. You don’t feel the mix of wonder and fright that you would on seeing the striped cat in its natural habitat. That is a feeling still to be experienced…until then the trail continues…….