ESCAPE TO… the Jungle

Live your freaky side at Wild Walkers, Nilgiris, Ooty

Wake up to birdsong. Place your feet where bears, elephants and tigers walked the previous night. Hear the roar of the tiger and the cry of the bison under attack. Wild Walkers is jungle raj at its wildest best — filtered spring water, negligible mobile phone coverage and no TV or internet. The closest ATM, pharmacy, petrol bunk and clinic is almost 15 kms away. Getting stranded never felt better.

You can’t drive up to this 100-acre private estate without a jeep or a four-wheel drive. The last three kilometres are not motorable. And that’s the thrill of the Wild Walkers cottage surrounded by just two acres of plantation field. Beyond that is the forest, mountains and wildlife. And there is no boundary wall — it seamlessly blends with nature.

We spot a pug mark right at the entrance of the cottage. Apparently, the elephants make regular trips to uproot the vegetables being grown outside the bungalow. Tigers and leopards are regulars too. And so are bisons, deer and langurs. If it’s elephants, the farmers light fireworks to scare them away. For tigers, it’s the whistle and bears run away by the sight of fat sticks. When your guide takes you inside the jungle, he carries a sickle with him to clear the outgrowth and also protect you from animal attacks. Staying here gives you an adrenaline high like no other.

Wild Walkers is as intimate and exclusive as you can get. Only three rooms that can accommodate a maximum of nine people on triple sharing. Which makes it a perfect getaway for families, friends and wildlife/nature enthusiasts. Firewood-cooked vegetarian meals, cycle rides, village walks, farming, mountain trekking and off-road 4×4 jeep drives will get you real close to nature. Add to that, wildlife and bush walks, bird watching, kite flying, cocktail sundowners and Mudumalai wildlife safari, and you get a refreshing mocktail of an itinerary. Not to mention, day visits to Ooty, Kotagiri and Coonoor, an off-beat trip to Glenmorgan and a trek to the ancient Toda village. Indulge!

How to get there: Wild Walkers is in Bellikal Estate (Hallathi Village) in the Nilgiris near Ooty and is about 274 kilometres from Bangalore (six hours by road) and 95 kilometres from Coimbatore airport.

(Published in The Man, 2017)