Last week, I spent 2 nights at the The Serai, Bandipur, and the experience was beyond anything that I ever imagined. The pampering starts as soon as you arrive with the welcoming beat of drums. Then you have your regular hot towels, and welcome drinks. The team went a bit further, and in true jungle theme welcomed us with a message on a leaf.
But what set the experience apart for me is the first brush with the lush green (probably because we visited right after the monsoons), and the spotless clean walkways and driveways.
That was hint enough for us to start expecting the breathtaking cottages that was going to be our home for the next two days. You have an option to choose between three room types: the sprawling mountain view courtyard, the rustic log huts, and the premium residences surrounded by the lush greenery of the Western Ghats. We stayed at the courtyards which were small white cottages with the bougainvilleas spread across - it looked straight out of the Greek island Mykonos. There's a little garden at the front as well as a verandah with a view at the back.
If you are looking for a real jungle experience, the quaint log huts are for you, raised on stilts and fully wood-panelled insides.
The Residences stand apart with a personal terrace (and a gazebo) and guaranteed peace and quiet. Check the pictures to have an idea of the luxurious living rooms.
As I kept gushing about the antique decor, and the bougainvilleas against the white cottages, I discovered the tiny temple which was designed out of a tree trunk, where the locals still come and pray during festivals.
The restaurant, aptly called 'The Sanctuary' is a beautiful retreat, which overlooks the mountains. You can plan for a 20 mins meal, or a 2 hrs meal, with all your preferred dishes magically appearing at your table, cooked to perfection, and offered with a smile. :) The buffet is quite comprehensive, and I was satisfied with the appam, and the danish pastry alike.
The Jungle Walk with the legendary Kutappan is probably the highlight of the trip, because his knowledge of the ecosystem, and his passion for animals. His cobra bite mark and his story about the leopard attacking him, made us instant fans. And that's me, during the walk. I am sporting an antler that's shed by a spotted deer. Kutappan explained that we do not take anything away from the jungle because the ecosystem is designed to balance out. I left the antlers where I found it so that the porcupines can feed on it.
The most popular activity, is of course, the jungle safari which lasts for roughly 2.5 hrs. The ride is bumpy, and windy. So go prepared. And although we did not spot any tigers, we were thrilled with the spotted deer, and the lone elephant, and the lovely birds. Here are a few pictures.
The other popular activity is the bullock cart ride. Once again, the ride is bumpy, but there's a strange excitement in trying out something that you have only seen in movies and pictures.
So we visited one local farm which grew garlic, turmeric, and green chillis, amongst other fruits and vegetables. The added advantage of taking the ride from the Serai resort is that they pack you a nice little picnic basket. Here we are, having cakes and fruit juice in the midst of a teak wood forest.
I call it a luxury trip because of the service provided. You can choose to just laze around in the resort premises, or feel free to take the available activities - the nature walk, the Jungle Safari, the Bullock Cart ride with a mini picnic, the spa, the Gopalaswamy betta trip, or even a drive to Masinagudi.
But whatever you do, I can guarantee you that it is gonna be an experience that you want to relive.