I was recently invited to be a part of the Blogger’s Experiential Retreat at The Serai Resorts in Bandipur, Karnataka from 4th-6th September, 2017. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced by the team at The Serai
From travelling for 50 days at a length to not travelling for 50 days and another 50, I had begun to miss the joys of the peace that travelling brings for me. Having spent months working on digital campaigns for promoting Hindi films (my other job), I knew I needed a break.
Just in time, I was invited to be a part of the Blogger’s Experiential Retreat at the The Serai Resorts in Bandipur. I was definitely excited, more so because I had heard of great things of their retreat in Chikmanglur.
So, in anticipation of the trip, I looked up some basic details about
The Serai Resorts are luxury resorts by the Coffee Day Company.
With 3 properties in Karnataka alone and one in the Adamans, the Serai Resorts have built themselves as the #inspiredresorts, which means that all their properties are inspired by the destination in design and experience. Now that’s quite cool, right?
What about Bandipur?
Bandipur is popular for the Bandipur National Park which was started in 1974 as a tiger reserve for Project Tiger. This park is spread across 3 Indian states- Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Bandipur is only 85kms away from Mysore in Karnataka and is immensely popular amongst locals and tourists from Ooty and from Mudumulai National Park.
The Serai Resort in Bandipur are #inspiredbythejungle and is situated in the Karnataka region of the forest.
How to Reach The Serai, Bandipur: By Road- Private Car/Bus
From Bangalore: 240km approx. (Around 5hrs journey)
From Mysore: 85km approx. (Around 2hrs journey)
THE SERAI BANDIPUR, BLOGGER’S EXPERIENTIAL RETREAT
We were a group of 10 bloggers-photographer who were invited to be a part of this retreat.
We were welcomed at the resort with drumrolls (quite literally) as we relaxed around the beautiful lobby. We were then formally welcomed by Anand and his Team from The Serai as they briefed us about the resort, the do’s & don’ts and the timelines of the services.
In no time, we were walking on paths carved amidst luscious green bushes towards our rooms, which actually resembled mini cottages.
I was awestruck looking at this gorgeous room which was to be my home for the next 2 days.
My personal favorites were the patio with the view of the greens and the mountains, and birds and small animals fluttering about. The second was this grand bathroom that we had in our room with a glass roof above the shower! Yes, that’s what I’d call #BathroomGoals 😉
Walking Around the Resort
Post the awesome buffet lunch we had at the Sanctuary, the in-house restaurant at The Serai, we sat out on the open terrace and had a proper introduction session of who we are, what we do and what we want to do.
The next couple of hours were spent relaxing, freshening up, getting to know each other and discovering the various routes of the property as we kept getting lost.
We all assembled at 5:30PM in the lobby, to meet the veteran naturalist, also a part of The Serai Bandipur team, Mr. Sudesan Kuttappan.
Interesting fact: The Serai Resort in Bandipur is covers 36acres of land. The property for guests however is restricted to 18 acres which includes their accommodation options, game rooms, amenities, pools, clubs, restaurant.
The remaining 18 acres is still kept a jungle which is accessible to guests to go nature explorations. This way, not all forest is affected. This is a great gesture to give back to nature and provide a private area to their guests.
The nature walk went on for about an hour during which Mr. Sudesan helped us spot Sloth Bear’s foot prints, Deer Antlers and even introduced us to the Parthenium weed which has affected major forest areas in Bandipur Forests.
One of the most interesting takeaways from this walk was Mrs. Kuttappan’s personal tale of becoming a naturalist. In front of us stood a man, brought up in the same locales without an elaborate educational background who’d be out in the wild unperturbed by the nature. Until of course when he saw students and people from cities coming to observe the flora and fauna. He was curious and eventually led to the path of understanding and nurturing them. This was the story of Mr. Sudesan becoming a naturalist.
Next up was my favorite part of the day. I had a slot booked after the nature walk for a spa treatment at Oma Spa in The Serai premises. I opted for the Aroma treatment but was also quite curious about Hot Stone Treatment on the list. So, I was given 10mins complimentary Hot Stone Treatment along with the 60min Aroma treatment. My masseuse was a young girl from Meghalaya, called Mimi.
With an extremely professional etiquette and fine technique, Mimi made sure that the treatment benefitted me and did not rush through despite the timing.
After a good 90 minutes, I felt rejuvenated and how!
To top it up, Mimi also got me some herbal tea after the treatment.
After a sumptuous dinner at the Sanctuary, it was time to find our way back to our rooms amidst the confusing paths.
After the great day that I had, I took no time to get ready and tuck myself in the blanket. Spent some time reading Khushwant Singh’s A Train to Pakistan that I had picked at the airport and then went off to sleep.
It was day 2 already and we had a whole bunch of activities to choose from- archery, water polo/swimming, bullock cart ride. But the view that I woke up to was so soothing that I chose to skip it all and sat back in my chair at the patio with a cup of coffee.
Gazing at the Greens
A rabbit, some babblers, variant shades of green and the mountains were all there to amuse me as I sat there.
After a quick lunch, it was time for the most awaited activity that was planned for us…
Now here’s a confession: Until now, I have seen animals in either films, photos, circus, zoos and that’s it. I’ve never been to the jungle to see animals before. So, I didn’t exactly get the excitement or the nervousness, but I was excited.
For friends and followers who were watching my trip through my social updates, many had warned how they’d missed any major sighting and the safaris had only deer and elephants in store for them, especially in India.
All I could do was go with the flow.
We reached the gates of the Bandipur National Park and got into our canters. These canters were basically mini buses, with windows close to the size of doors (All open).
We started off, towards the forest taking one of the many random routes. To start with, even an Indian Guar was an exciting spotting because that could always be the only animal we could spot.
Of course, there were deer, and too many of them everywhere. They were as gorgeous as they could be and a relief for our camera’s because c’mmon it’s a deer with antlers.
Our driver kept asking us to stay quiet (which was tough, I admit). We saw other canters and jeeps crossing paths and none with an exciting story to tell. You could see it on their faces!
And then there was noise, Prateek from the group spotted what looked like Tiger Paw prints. Was that a sign? We took our bus back, looked and enjoyed that moment of excitement. This was still better than so sign of a tiger at all right?
But TIGER had to be spotted.
Even after the paw prints, when we calmed down and didn’t exactly expect a tiger, it appeared. YES, A TIGER APPEARED.
It was on my side of the window and the bus was filled with both excitement and chills at the same time.
While taking its picture, it almost felt like it was looking at us.
But well, it wasn’t interested in us. The tiger was on a kill and within a few minutes jumped into the bushes after a deer.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED IN THE LAST 10 MINUTES?
No one could possible comprehend. But mission of the safari was accomplished to say the least!
It was the highlight of the entire trip, especially considering the stats of actually spotting a tiger. We kept hoping for the tiger to return, but we had already gotten our share of luck.
And the next one hour of the safari was spent more in telling the ones passing by about our big win than actually spotting another animal.
No, we’re so not complaining!
Bonfire, Cocktail & Barbeque
We headed back to our resort, enjoyed some onion fritters while trying to absorb what just happened. But the, it was also our last night here so we quickly headed to bonfire area where we had Cocktails & Barbeque waiting for us.
There were drinks and talks, our favorite peanut masala till the barbeque special was ready and we finally managed to have Sunil Sachi, a photographer from our group to share his tales about learning to rescue snakes and his tryst with more snakes.
You have to see those pictures, fabulous! Talking of Sunil, I forgot to mention that he had gone to the forest the previous evening and had spotted a Leopard.
The conversation continued to dinner and then to the room where we gathered to discuss our experiences, social media, working with brands and the random experiences from our lives and experiences!
Cometh next day and it was time to check out and leave! Well, with lots of memories, lessons and new friends!
The Serai, Bandipur experience was a special one. Not because I was invited but because the place exudes those vibes. Enjoying the calm in the lap of nature, poor cell phone networks, great food and crazy options at the Sanctuary and staying some highly luxurious rooms. Most importantly, a high warm, hospitable and efficient staff at our service that made this staycation look seamless!
Thank you Team Serai Bandipur and Team SKREEM for making this happen! And big hug to all you awesome bloggers, writers, photographers with me who added joy to this experience.
I’d definitely call this one a perfect retreat!