Hotel Highlight – Jungle Retreat
Kerala, God’s own country as they say – Wayanad fits into this picture perfectly! Just across the border with Karnataka, after the well known coffee region of Coorg, another green paradise arises. Wayanad is becoming increasingly popular with travellers who enjoy wildlife, nature and local experiences. The area is scattered with small hostels, homestays and lodges that have opened their doors to travellers.
Last February our group stayed at Jungle Retreat, a quiet lodge nestled in a protected area where elephants, gaur, sambar and tigers roam free. A special asset of this lodge is the natural watering hole in front of the retreat, where you can watch groups of sambar and elephants cooling down. We enjoyed a simple BBQ and local food by the campfire, watching stars and keeping a close eye for wildlife.
The mentality of the owners of Jungle retreat is simple, enjoy nature and simplicity. The rooms are basic, but with all the necessary needs. A warm shower and western style toilet, warm blankets for the colder nights in the winter period and the retreat also offers free wifi. Some rooms had a dark appearance as the walls are made with local materials and the beds are not the softest, but as the owner says this place is best to be enjoyed outdoors.
Even though the rooms are simple the welcome and hospitality is outstanding. The staff were very helpful and attentive carrying our luggage and offering us tea and refreshing lime juice from time to time. Ranju the forest guide was keen to take us on walks through the surrounding areas and we went trekking and went on a jeep safari at the neighbouring Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. We even received a present from the staff just before saying our goodbyes. It was the staff that made our stay at Jungle Retreat memorable.
The view overlooking the watering hole is a big plus. We woke up early to watch the animals come to the clearing from the lookout point. We had the pleasure to watch a male elephant scare a group of sambar after he blew on his trunk and the occasional gaur slowly walking through the plantation. There are tiger sightings here. On my recce visit I was lucky to find a paw print in the mud just a few steps into the edge of the forest. On the second day we planned a safari trip to Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary where a few of our guests witnessed a sloth bear pass by the vehicle, a unique sight, the guide said.
As we were in the heart of the forest with no corner shops and restaurants we had our meals at the retreat. Simple, fresh fruit and toast and jam for breakfast with a big urge for strong coffee with NO milk and sugar by many of our guests. Not easy to get in India Local dishes were served for lunch and dinner; curries, vegetable bahjis and the south Indian version of rice cakes at the small dining area next to the pond. Again different to the food we had in Karnataka and Goa.
All in all it was a lovely and welcomed stay here at Jungle Retreat and hopefully on our next journey we will hear the tigers roooaaarrrr at night!