It was a lovely Saturday morning – not too cold, with a gentle breeze blowing. Our vehicle had stopped that day at a decrepit tea shop a few kilometers outside Salem. I asked the kid there for directions to the toilet. In response, he just pointed to the backyard and uttered a single word “kaadu” (forest). I wouldn’t opt for that, but I did come back with a bemused smile on my face.

Our plan was to spend one day in the idyllic environs of Mannavanur, a small village 30 odd kms to the west of the popular hill station of Kodaikanal, laze around in Kodaikanal for the next 2 days before returning to the humdrum of Bangalore.

Numerous traffic jams and a sleepy driver meant that we reached Kodaikanal only by noon. It takes a better part of an hour to reach Mannavanur from Kodaikanal and the road winds through dense pine and teak forests bathed completely in mist. En-route, the enchanting smell emanating from the eucalyptus trees can make for a very heady concoction. Visibility can sometimes be restricted to a few meters as is wont to happen with the misty nature of Kodaikanal (literally meaning the ‘gift of the forest’). As per the instructions from the host of the place we were going to put up at, we took a diversion on the road that goes to the popular, very touristy ‘Pillar Rock’ and drove for around 30-40 minutes wondering whether we were on the right road. The forests cleared out in between to showcase the rustic village of Poombarai but then quickly closed in on us again. 13 kilometers later, the dense jungle opened up a little again and I spotted what I’d been looking for. A heart shaped lake, peeking out from between the trees and shimmering a rich silver, signaled that we were finally about to reach our destination.

It wasn’t long before we spotted the red bricked structures of the Camper’s Club, a small eco-tourism accommodation that provides only the essential bed, roof and toilet and nothing more. Electricity is provided through a gen-set and is limited to 3-4 hours a day, starting at 7 pm in the evening and few cellphone networks, if any are available. The cottages, which can accommodate two people each (but as usual in India, has space for 2 more), are situated on a hill which also has vegetable plantations laid out in a terraced farming pattern. The hills overlook a valley containing rolling grasslands and from our vantage point, almost seemed to have the lake at it’s center, laid out like a jewel. The valley itself is surrounded by dense forests and shola on all sides.

The skies were overcast that day and the threat of rains made us carry umbrellas on our way to the lake. The only road leads to a gate 1-2 km away, through which you access the path way to the lake. The lake itself falls under the premises of the Sheep Research Center, that is why you can see flocks of sheep and herds of cows grazing in the meadows throughout the day.

As usual, I’ll let the pictures do the talking then.

Mannavanur Lake
The view from our doorsteps looked out into the valley with the glimmering lake at its center. The promised lake !
Camper's Club Mannavanur
One of the two rooms in the bottom cottage was ours for a night. You can see mist engulfing the entire forest at the periphery of Mannavanur
View from Camper's Club
We decided to set out to explore the lake at around 3.30 in the evening. The overcast skies threatened to open up and that is why we carried the umbrellas (for our cameras, not for ourselves)
At the entrance to Mannavanur Lake
The entrance to the lake/meadow is to the left of this bridge. You will see a few village folk washing carrots and radishes at a stream beside this road.
Mannavanur Lake
Sit for a moment and let everything pass you by 🙂
Sheep at Mannavanur
The sheep will look up with a timid yet nonchalant expression, never ceasing to graze. Some of the curious ones even came closer to ‘check’ out the intruders..
New Zealand - Mannavanur
Grasslands ! Sheep ! New Zealand ! Shire ! Baggins !
Cross the lake
Walk through marshy banks and wade through knee-deep water to cross over to the other side

The lake is surrounded by moorlands in some areas, with dandelions, colorful heather plants and grass growing in wet soil. We decided to circumambulate the lake after some time, but were vexed at the prospect of having to wade through marshy areas with overgrown wild grass and weed. Some parts of the banks had soil that readily gobbled up my friend’s chappal (and half his calf) as soon as he stepped into it, another friend had to dislodge a thirsty and obviously disappointed leech from his feet. With the light fading fast, we decided to re-trace our way back to the entrance, although it turned out that the watchman (we didn’t know there was one) had come looking for us since we hadn’t come back by closing time.

Lenticular UFO Clouds shaping up over Mannavanur
Fascinating cloud formations I’d rarely seen before..These are Lenticular UFO clouds shaping up over Mannavanur.

I saw some stunning cloud formations on the way back to the entrance and it is amazing how images can evoke words to come rushing to your brain, even though you would never have remembered it otherwise – this time it was Cumulonimbus. However, I was mistaken and these clouds were of a different formation entirely. (Tangent: check out this link for more stunning pics of clouds along with their names.)

Back at the cottage, it grew too cold to have a bath. They do provide hot water if you ask for it however. We didn’t expect much for dinner but were pleasantly surprised by the simple yet delectable fare dished out – Chapathis and a Jain style Dal for a friend followed by piping hot rice, sambar and a delicious omelet. More than the food, we were touched by the genuine hospitality of the ‘amma’ who had cooked the food and her concern at the taste of the Dal. It was pitch dark outside and some rustling sounds and commotion at the top of the hill prompted our hosts to remark there were probably wild animals up near the plantations.

We fell asleep as soon as they switched off the gen-set, tired after the long journey and all the exertion in the evening. It is a wonder how devoid of dreams my sleep is, when I am that tired. Inspired by the famous NatGeo photographer Michael Melford, I had resolved to wake up at dawn to catch the sunrise. But little was I to know how utterly magical it was going to turn out to be.

Dawn at Mannavanur
This sight awaited me as I groggily pushed the doors of my cottage open. Whoa ! Wisps of clouds and wafts of mist descending upon the lake, rays of scattered light breaking through the clouds, the sounds of birds chirping, the attendant from the kitchen shouting a hearty “good morning sir, coffee ?” as soon as I waved at him
Camper's Club Mannavanur
Compare this with the earlier image from the previous day – what a difference sunlight and blue skies can make to a photograph !
Sunrise at Mannavanur
Pretty soon, warm, golden sunshine bathed the hill we were on while sunshine had still not penetrated into the valley, it’s attempts obfuscated by the hills surrounding the valley
Mannavanur Lake in the morning
The pristine lake in the morning
Sunrise at Mannavanur
It had turned into a glorious morning, the early morning wake-up call had indeed been worth it. We ordered some coffee to go along with the breakfast hamper we brought along with us.
Sunrise at Mannavanur
I climbed up the hill to catch a better glimpse of the valley. Seen here is Kannan, a caretaker who lives on top of the hill in a tent, making his way down to the kitchen. The vegetation on his right is actually carrot, little orange ones peeking their head out of the ground and sprouting colorful ‘greens’. Further down below are plantations of turnip and radish.

After a breakfast of spicy cheese, jam, tomatoes and cucumber (from our own hamper) coupled with hot coffee from the kitchen and the magnificent view outside our cottages, we decided it was time to get moving. With a heavy heart, we bid adieu to the kind-hearted folk at our stay and the village of Mannavanur. Every single word I had read about it’s beauty had turned out to be so unequivocally true.

Poombarai
13 Km from Mannavanur, on the way to Kodaikanal, you come across Poombarai – a settlement with terraced farms. We stopped there for a brief while, entranced by the sight of the greenery – the only nuisance being a loudspeaker that was blaring loud music. Probably for the elephant headed god’s festival.

Note: Cell phone signal reception can be a problem (or a blessing for people like me) in Mannavanur. It is advisable to carry offline maps on your device in case you get confused on the road. The Camper’s Club website is at http://kodaikanalcampersclub.com/ or you can directly contact one of the caretakers – D. Sasikumar at 76394 50949, he speaks Tamil, a little Malayalam and faltering English/Hindi. The cottages and toilets (western style) are very rudimentary, expect the bare minimum only. The trust wants to promote the club as an eco-tourism destination and hence, it is advisable to be a little responsible during your stay. We visited it during Sep and the best time to visit seems to be from Sep to Feb, when the village and the forest are at their greenest.

Thanks are due, in no small measure, to Priyanka Ray for putting up information about Mannavanur. Without that blog post to catch my attention, I might never have come across this gem of a destination.

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38 thoughts on “Kodaikanal Trip – Mannavanur

      1. Hi, I read your article. it was nice and felt. Two year back i visited there, but just visited and came on same day. I am not aware about this facility. Can i get correct web address? Above web add not working. is it safe for family?

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  1. Hi, I read your article. it was nice and felt. Two year back i visited there, but just visited and came on same day. I am not aware about this facility. Can i get correct web address? Above web add not working. is it safe for family?

    Like

    1. Hi Sivaraman.
      Thanks for the comment.
      Yes, their website seems to be down of late. They don’t have any other website as far as I know – you can try the phone number I posted in the blog note.
      It is perfectly safe for families. The caretakers themselves are one small family who can cook and guide you in and around Mannavanur.

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  2. hi dude……..thanks 4 visiting
    my village…….from this essay i came to know some un known informations about my own village……..i personally thank u for a very good writing……..pls do visit my village during the festival time…..it will b more fabulous than actual time…….if u worry about mobile network here is the solution……..bsnl n vodafone can b used in my village and it has good coverage too………

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  3. amazing article…im definitely visiting this place this weekend…
    4 girls would be in a team of 8 as well… would u suggest Campers Club for girls as well?
    And we are students, can you please tell us how much it cost per night?
    any more suggestions would be highly appreciated.

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    1. If you are referring to the stay, the cottages are basic, and the bathrooms are decent but cleanly maintained. There was a couple staying at one of the cottages as well.. So it shouldn’t be a problem for women. We bargained the costs down to 1K per cottage (4 people in 1) in Sep 2013.
      Book your stay in advance. We went in the monsoons and it was off season then… Right now the occupancy might be higher.

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  4. A good read !.Excellent one dude. I visited mannavanur may 1 2015, the weather is too hot at that time but it depicted me we having New Zealand kind of place in India.Your words made me nostalgic !

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  5. Hello Priyanka,

    Please accept my portion of thanks for all the info given about mannavanur.
    I am planning to visit in the near future just because of ur writing. I have been trying to call to Mr. Sasi in the number provided by you and i understand that the incoming calls to that number is barred. Is there an alternate number available by any chance so that u can share it if possible.

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    1. Not sure why you are confusing me with Priyanka 🙂
      It has been a good 2 years since my visit there, so it is quite possible that their contact details have changed. I appeal to visitors to this blog, to leave the updated contact info of the caretakers at Camper’s Club in the comments section here, in case they have it.

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    1. Hi Sangeetha, the campers club in Mannavanur seems to be on the verge of shutting down. You can opt to stay in Kodaikanal and make a day trip.

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  6. Great write up.. we also visited this place couple of years back…. the drive from Kodaikanal to Mannavanur was out of this world… btw.. what time of the year did you visit Mannavanur.. when we visited in Feb, the lake was pretty dry..

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  7. Hi,
    i would like to visit Mannavanur , ,could you give me the contact number of Camper’s club and tariff or any other place to stay in Mannavanur..
    thanks
    ,johnson

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  8. Lovely pics Rahul. Visited the place over last weekend. Was taken aback by the stunning beauty. We stayed in Kodai. Next time, should try the cottages you have mentioned.

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    1. Good Senthil, a lot of people miss out on the beauty of this.
      Was it raining heavily ?
      The cottage trust seems to be on the verge of shutting down / or might already have.

      Like

      1. Yes, many people dont know. And thats good 🙂 so that the commercialisation will at least be delayed. No it wasnt raining but the weather was awesome. And the lake was occupied by Vijay TV crew for some reality show shoot.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I have stayed there many times. Last time in April 2016.
    I am going there tomorrow, but i dont have the caretakers (Kannan) number.
    I am planning to go to Mannavannur and try my luck

    Like

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