Masinagudi – Into The Wild.
By Anju Gyanchand
The picturesque town at the foothills of the beautiful Blue Mountains, the Nilgiris, was once the capital of the erstwhile kingdom of Waynad. It derives its name from the goddess masaniamma. Its proximity to the wildlife sanctuaries of Bandipur as well as Mudumalai makes it an immensely popular tourist spot. It is rich in both flora and fauna and travelers looking to spend their long weekends away from the city flock to this quaint little hill town by the hordes. One can spot bison, wild boars, gaur and sambar. A tiger too, if you’re really lucky! And elephants are seen almost a rule!
Birds like the hornbill, barbets, and the nilgiri thrush are magnificent when seen in their natural habitat. One can see other alluring animals like the Malabar squirrel here too. Its fantastic weather only adds to its popularity.
Apart from safaris, trekking and birdwatching, camping, campfire and even visits to nearby coffee or tea plantations are on offer.
Campfire at Masinagudi resort
Bordered by Kerala, Tamil nadu and Karnataka, this once lost little dream world has people from all three states visiting it at every given opportunity. More and more Indians are traveling now than ever before and nothing deters them from exploring the wild. How many of these are conscientious travelers is anybody’s guess.
The big fat Indian city tourist for all his “education” really has no etiquette when it comes to traveling in the midst of nature and it seems to register even less when he hears birds calling rather than the horns blaring,– ones he is so used to in his “environment”–that he is in a sanctimonious setting .
Such careless trespassing can only spell disaster for the beauty of the hills and the creatures that live there. Of course there are those who appreciate beauty when they see it and know exactly how to respect and conserve it. But it is impossible to filter them from the former.
Though this economic boon means opportunity for growth around this small town, it brings with it a multitude of problems.
The government only provides limited accommodation to cater to this madding influx of people .And since there is no more off season left, except the mandatory monsoon closure in the reserve, the demand for hotels and resorts has grown tenfold.
Growth in tourism has led to unplanned, haphazard development in accommodation facilities causing immense damage to the environment. Unlicensed and untrained operators waste no opportunity in promising you all that you need. You can find small hotels, resorts, campsites and guest houses, whatever pleases you.
During long weekends, the rush is so much, that it is advisable to book a month or more in advance to find suitable accommodation.
There are several very worthy resorts and camps that give you the perfect escape whilst being environmentally conscious but demands are so high that these are not enough. Some of the resorts in Masinagudi include
- Jungle Hut
- Jungle Retreat
- Bamboo Banks
- Deep Jungle Home
The government also operates extra vehicles during such high demand for the safari, but these too fail to meet the requirements.
Though the elephant safari is conducted only by forest department, jeep safaris operate privately and tourists are taken on the peripheral roads of the reserve to try their luck at meeting the wild face to face. It is obvious that such unrestricted access can be dangerous as this is part of the elephant corridor of the Nilgiris biosphere.
Tourists getting down from the vehicle and walking near the elephant to take pictures
The elephant is one of the most furiously dangerous animals on the planet and there have been deaths as a result of trampling. But they continue on as the pull of monetary gains overrides all concerns for safety.
There can’t be enough said about building properties in such corridors ,they are threats to our natural resources and stringent norms need to come in place. Presently these contain so many loopholes and violators often go unpunished.
It’s all one big frightening mess. To undo the damage made by tourists who leave loads of garbage after them, is a massive task. Forest personnel are too few and their time is spent fulfilling other duties and hoteliers who care are a small percentage.
The problem is that if this continues unchecked and unabated then we suffer in the long run as our green isles deplete and the local communities pay the price.
By all means, enjoy your trip, plan it well in advance, but make sure you leave in such a way that people after you are able to enjoy it just as much.
It is time we took the onus on ourselves to preserve what we have of the planet left.