After traversing acres of farmland, grassland and dry woodland, I reach Mayuram Eco Lodge. A charming little cottage built in the architectural styles of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, it is tucked inside the sleepy Govindapperi village.
This 350-acre farm was once over-grazed and denuded. It took a decade of hard work to restore it to its pristine form.
The farmstead today is a healthy grassland and open woodland eco-system that supports birdlife. Right in the middle of this mosaic of open fields and wooded groves, punctuated by big and small water-retention basins, the lodge props up as a perfect countryside retreat. And, the soaring hills of the Western Ghats form a magnificent backdrop.
The cottage has two bedrooms, a separate dining and sitting area, a mini-library and an outhouse. Since the area receives plenty of rainfall, the weather is pleasant throughout the year, though the best months are from October to March.
The interiors and rooms are spartan, but comfortable. The property is rustic, airy and spacious. The estate is surrounded by lakes, savannah parkland and forests that are a sight to feast on while sitting in the verandah.
There is no television or refrigerator in the rooms. "The emphasis is on the richness of experience, rather than on luxury," says the caretaker. The food offered here is tailor-made, specific to the tastes and preferences of the guests. Most products are grown in-house and organically.
For birding and trekking, Mayuram is the right place. The rooms are designed in such a way that it is open to Nature. However, this attracts insects at dusk. So, carry some insect repellent, in addition to good walking or hiking shoes, binoculars, protective sun-glasses and sunscreen lotion, a small knapsack and a bag of toiletries.
The unadventurous can take a tour of the farm, even as peacocks chase them. Birds with brilliantly-coloured plumage catch the eye at every step. Once discovered, Mayuram can never fall off an adventure traveller's map.
Things to do
Go for village walks, or simply walk into the savannah.
Take short treks to the hills or go bird watching.
Check out the bankura pottery and terracotta workshops, khadi and village bamboo industries at Tenkasi, bell metal foundries at Ambasamudram, bamboo and cane works at Sengottai, korai mat weaving industry at Patthamadai and Kayathar.
Visit the bird sanctuaries at Koonthankulam, Ariyakulam and Kalakkad-Mundanthurai.
You can also visit the Courtallam falls, Manimuthar and Papanasam dams, the Upper Kodaiyar and Manjolai hills with verdant forests and tea, rubber and cardamom plantations.
How to get there
Govindapperi is 247 km from Ernakulam, 167 km from Madurai, 137 km from Thiruvananthapuram and 67 km from Tirunelveli junction.
Take the NH 208 to Tenkasi and turn off the highway on the road to Ambasamudram. Eighteen km later, you'll reach Kadaiyam. Turn right here and cross Mandiyur and Rajangapuram before reaching Govindapperi.
MAYURAM ECO LODGE, KALLARACKAL FARM, GOVINDAPPERI (TIRUNELVELI DISTRICT)
USP: Far from the madding crowd
Two non-A/C twin bedrooms cost Rs. 5,000 each, inclusive of tax and three meals.
For details, call 04634-240294 or 0484-2304597/2307955.