Can a three-day trip cover a forest, a town, and a village, all connected with motorable roads? Certainly!
Here is a guide for visiting two tiger reserves, one village in the forest, and a town in the hills enjoying the mist and cold weather, all in 72 hours.
Start very early in the morning from Ernakulam and take the Thrissur-Pattambi-Perinthalmanna route to Nilambur. Go to the interiors of Nilambur to experience the place. Before reaching Nilambur town, travellers can also visit Connolly's Plot, a teak plantation. Nilambur came to be known as 'Teak Town,' thanks mainly to the teak trees on this plot. The still thriving teak plot near the Chaliyar river is one of the earliest such plantations in the world.
Among the attractions at Nilambur is a hanging bridge across the Chaliyar beyond which travellers can savour the shade of mighty trees. Nearby, is the teak museum. By the time the museum visits gets over, it would be noon. Your lunch can be biriyani with a local flavour, available at numerous outlets on the way.
The road passes by Vazhikadavu and Nadukani ghats to Gudallur, where a host of private resorts await travellers. Gudallur, though a town in the hills, sees regular visits by creatures of the wild. To observe elephants right next to you at night, contact Murukan on phone number 9894009892 who runs a resort at the place. Wild elephants regularly appear close to his resort.
Travellers eager to spend the night in the middle of the forest can head to Mudumalai tiger reserve. But avoid travelling along the road after dusk, especially with family, as the area has a big population of wild jumbos.
At Mudumalai, accommodation facilities of the forest department are available. For more details, contact phone number 9486800975.
If the stay on the first day was at Gudallur, rush to Mudumalai forest the first thing in the morning. Wild animals come out of the forest when there are very little vehicles on the road. But never stop the vehicle near elephant herds and also avoid clicking selfies. Exercise extreme caution when a herd which has baby elephants is nearby. Such herds would be aggressive.
The road leads to the office of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve located at a tri-junction. A path towards the right is to Ooty and Masinagudi. The one straight ahead is to Bandipur, a forest area in Karnataka state, and Gundalpet, a village in the middle of the forest.
Stay can be arranged at the quarters of the Forest Department in Mudumalai or Masinagudi. After booking a resort in the forest area of Masinagudi, travellers can start sight-seeing. A good option is to make the first visit of day-2 to Moyar Dam. Drive slowly and carefully along the forest track. From Moyar, return to Mudumalai and take the road to Bandipur. During season, the Gundalpet village will enthral travellers with its sunflower fields. If you arrive there before noon, travel up the hill to Gopalsamy Betta, a temple. Farmlands flank the road and it gives a unique driving experience. Lucky travellers can also spot leopards, elephant herds, and rare birds along the way.
In the afternoon, return to Mudumalai and book a slot for trekking in the evening. If you are travelling in a group of less than four, take the bus. If there are four-five people, a gypsy is best for the trip to the forest. Keep your camera ready as the scenes of the wild appear and disappear in no time.
By the time you return to your room, night would have descended.
Take a short detour along the forest paths at Masinagudi in the morning and trot to Ooty. There are short trees lining the path beyond which are wide grasslands. Advance at a leisurely pace enjoying the scenery to the Kallatti ghat road. But avoid this road during rain as the ghat section is considered the most dangerous hill track in south India. Even otherwise, ensure that the brakes of your vehicle are in good condition.
By the time Ooty is reached, it would be noon. However, give the regular attractions in urbanized Ooty a miss and proceed to small towns and villages nearby like Manjoor and Coonoor where you can get an idea of how Ooty was in the past.
Before evening, enter the ghat road to Agali in Palakkad district via Manjoor. This stretch would be deserted at night and before the journey ensure that your fuel tank is full and that you carry enough food and drinking water as even during day it is an isolated road. Moreover, elephants and leopards frequent the place during dark hours.
The return is along Attappady to Thrissur, where you can reach by night.
Summing up, the three-day tour covers two national parks – Bandipur national park and Mudumalai tiger reserve; two forest villages – Masinagudi and Gundalpet; two hill stations – Ooty and Gudallur and touches three states – Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu.