CGH-(1)

Wayanad: A bumpy road just after the hairpin bends on the Ghat road leads up to CGH Earth’s ‘Wayanad Wild’ (www.cghearth.com) in Lakkidi. The bone-rattling journey up through the rainforest in the resort’s four-wheel-drive was a good preparation for the wonders that lie ahead. The air was filled with the chirping sound of crickets, and from the winding road, I could see the gates of Wayanad Wild.

I was welcomed by the pleasant sight of a giant Malabar squirrel with a bushy red tail leaping from branch to branch of a beautiful tree in front of the reception at the resort.

After a sumptuous meal, I was directed to my room, which itself was a small trek. And, on the way, all I could see was more of ‘busy red tails.’ Just 10 minutes have passed, and Manesh, one of the in-house naturalists; Neti, the Wayanadan charm that decks the reception, and Subrahmanian aka Subi, the General Manager came to take me around the property. A few minutes later, I realised that what they called a ‘small walk’ was going to be one of the best treks of my life. There were plenty of winged friends to be sighted, including Vernal Hanging parrots, Malabar Barbet, White-cheeked Barbet, White-bellied Woodpecker, White-bellied Drongo and Indian Golden Oriole. In the company of Subi and Neti, and listening to the unending stories of Manesh, I never felt incurious even for a minute. We passed a small creek which runs through the property and reached on top of a nearby hill. The trek up the hill was a bit tough for a ‘slender’ person like me! But the spectacular view of the setting sun and the entire Ghat road down below made me realise that it was really an unmissable climb.

The night started with awesome, mouth-watering, soul-filling food – a prawn skewer followed by tomato and coriander soups. And the main course comprised the best Fish Nirachathu I ever had coupled with soft Idiyappams. The night was still young with the resort staff performing traditional folk dance and songs.

The decor in the rooms is sparse, but cosy and comfortable beds and ample storage space has been provided. “The decor has been kept minimal to remind guests that the real exotica lies outside the walls,” says Subi, who just dropped in to remind me about the morning trek.

I woke up to one of the best mornings in my life. The seductive song of the whistling thrush was my alarm, followed by the raucous screech of the grey Malabar Hornbill and the sounds of dozens of other little ones. The trek lasted an hour, which took me to a nearby stream and another vantage point which provided spectacular views of the valley.

The best way to immerse yourself in the wild is to go for hikes in the company of such wonderful, young, enthusiastic people. There are many trekking options within the property ranging in intensity from easy to difficult. Varun and Manesh, the resident guides, fill the walks with interesting anecdotes and insights into animal behaviour. The resort, which falls in one of the richest biodiversity areas, sits at an altitude of 2700 metres above sea level. The 12.50 acres of wilderness has everything for the nature lover in you – from fruit trees to wildflowers and small streams to dense forest. The area around Wayanad Wild has the best terrain for walking safaris and birding. If you are an enthusiastic bird-watcher, this is the right choice. Wayanad Wild’s team of experienced naturalists ensures that you get the most from these tours on offer. “The main feature,” says Subi, “is the forest, and we do not want to compete with that. The magic here is the huge amount of life in the forest; you may have to wait for hours after hearing a call from the wild, and then, in a given moment, you will see something. This excitement can only be felt in areas like this.”

The resort now has 22 rooms and is planning to add 20 more. The breathtakingly beautiful pond is also worth a mention. The second night’s dinner was also very special; starting with Beetroot and Carrot Tikki and followed by Kerala Drumstick soup. And the main course was stuffed chicken breast with mushroom and spinach (accompanied by ratatouille and roasted potatoes). However, the surprise was none of these – Chef Biju had prepared a very special Pepper and Ginger Pudding as dessert, the taste of which still lingers in my mouth.

If you have ever wondered what it would be like to live completely off the grid, then this is your chance. The only thing that you need to be cautious of is once you take the trouble to get here, you will want to stay longer than you had planned for.