This post is on Masinagudi, a place nestled in the lap of the Nilgiris aka the Blue Mountains. Masinagudi is a heaven for wildlife and nature enthusiasts and a birder’s paradise to boot. There was a long weekend coming up in the last week of April 2011 and we wanted to go with our friends to one of the JLR Resorts at K Gudi, Kabini or Bandipur. But none of them were available that weekend. With sore disappointment we were wondering whether we could go to any other similar place.
The thought of going to Masinagudi sprang up then and we started looking for a good place to stay there. We mailed a couple of resorts which sounded interesting. The first reply came from Zo of Safari Land Resort. They had accommodation and it suited our budget too. We decided to book tree houses for 2 nights for the sheer experience. Another interesting aspect of this place was that it is owned by Nawab Shafath Ali Khan, a former national rifle shooting champion and modern day Jim Corbett. He has shot a few man eating tigers as well. In addition to this he is also a conservationist, all of which got us very interested in the man. The four of us (myself, Nagesh, Niranj and Pratap) are nature enthusiasts and birders. With my exception the rest are into photography as well.
While we started at 7AM from Bangalore, we reached Masinagudi only by 2PM. Courtesy chaotic long weekend traffic heading out of Bangalore and some mess we created for ourselves by taking offbeat roads in Mysore. On the way we did however enjoy some lovely food at good old Maddur Tiffany’s, especially the Maddur Vadas! The road beyond Mysore is pretty scenic and dotted with lush green fields and a couple of water bodies near Nanjangud. The weather had turned rainy and visibility was low within Bandipur and the Mudumalai National Park. All in all, made for a lovely drive.
We were ravenously hungry and gobbled the lunch with great gusto before going to the tree house. It was still drizzling when we finished lunch. We then went to the tree house and it looked very cosy. Here are some pics of the resort.
After the afternoon siesta we woke up only to see that it was still raining :( It finally stopped around 5 PM and the resort people had put together a small trek to the nearby hill. One word of caution to those of you going to Masinagudi. Do carry insect repellent with you. Especially if it is raining, it is required. We remembered to apply insect repellant before venturing out and it proved to be very useful. The hill was very scenic and had a small temple at the top. The views of the Nilgiris from the top of the hill were fantastic. We spent some time here taking pictures of the landscape and the changing light during sunset.
Our “guide” for this trek told us that we could try our luck in spotting wildlife by driving down the Moyar Dam Road from Masinagudi town, especially after dark. Since we still had time for dinner, we decided to drive down that road. However, as is our wont, we did not spot anything and returned back to the resort.
We met the Nawab during dinner. The Nawab is a hearty man and is a brilliant conversationalist, especially around topics of nature and wildlife. He regaled us with many stories of his hunts and experiences! After getting to know that we are nature enthusiasts and birders, he generously offered to take us on a jeep ride to the forest the next morning for birding.
We woke up early to the mesmerizing song of the Malabar Whistling Thrush and were out near the dining area by around 6.30 AM. Nawab Saheb was already out and about. The first stop on our road was a huge tree on the main road near the resort, a favorite of the Nawab. There was a cacophony of sounds and we could see so many birds together. Black Hooded Oriole, Asian Koel, Crow Pheasant and Plum Headed Parakeets were some of the birds we caught sight of on the tree.
We took a detour from the main road to head into the forest. We spotted quite a few birds like Indian Bush Lark, Red Wattled Lapwing, White Throated Kingfisher, Spotted Dove, Red Vented Bulbul, Oriental Magpie Robin and Black Drongo. Also saw some Chital Deer having their breakfast amidst the lush green shrubs.
We had ventured into the open forest land behind the resort and at one spot, the Nilgiris looked so serene that we stopped to take some pictures and admire the beauty of this place.
The Nawab has personally modified his jeep and installed low gears, making it a high performance 4X4. To our thrill, he made the jeep climb up a small flight of stairs leading to a dilapidated house in the fringes of the forest followed by going up a mound next to the road with an incline of nearly 60 degrees. It was a memorable experience, though a little scary!
We returned back to the resort around 9 AM in time for the breakfast. The food in this resort is very homely and delicious. The Nawab’s family runs this resort and Zo, the Nawab’s daughter-in-law and Asghar, the Nawab’s son, manage most of the show. Near the dining area, we spotted a “resident” Malabar Giant Squirrel. An Oriental Magpie Robin was flitting around as we were eating.
Post breakfast, we walked back to the “Nawab’s tree” where we had been before. We spotted few more birds like Jungle Babblers, Red Whiskered Bulbul, Coppersmith Barbet, Rufous Backed Shrike, Brahminy Starling and the Grey Wagtail.
The Nawab had also told us about a tree which Salim Ali, the noted Indian Ornithologist, used to frequent whenever he visited this part of the country. It was next to a small temple further up the road from the resort. We decided to head out there to meet the inhabitants of trees, the birds :)
Initially we could not spot anything atop the tree. Slowly our eyes got accustomed to the tree and we gradually started seeing the birds. Our first prized viewing was of a Brown Capped Pygmy Woodpecker. It is a small and beautiful bird and seemed to be ravenously hungry as it munched on the berries growing on the tree.
We returned back to the resort by around 12 PM. Everyone except me went to chat with the Nawab while I was going towards the tree house with the camera. Suddenly I saw a beautiful bird which I had never seen before. I started clicking furiously so that at least one shot would come out reasonably well. The bird seemed to be posing for me for a good 2-3 minutes before it flew. I excitedly showed everyone the captures. Niranj identified it as a Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher.
We were leaving early the next morning since Nagesh was leaving for US on the same day by the evening flight. We left the resort around 6.30 in the morning and decided to make a brief stopover at Salim Ali’s tree before going back. We were duly rewarded by the presence of the colourful Coppersmith Barbet and the Oriental White Eye.
We had breakfast at Jungle Lodges in Bandipur. The plain dosa was simply out of the world! After a brief stopover at my home in Mysore and a sumptuous lunch at Kadambam we were back home in Bangalore by 4 PM.