Parambikulam is a wildlife sanctuary almost no-one knows of, straddling the Western Ghats, four hours from Cochin. One of the best sanctuaries for leopard sightings, Parambikulam also has a rich population of gaur (Indian bison, as well as wild elephants and spotted deer.
As a young magistrate entrusted with maintaining order in the area, I used to tuck myself away in the remote and Spartan Forest Inspection Bungalow in the heart of the jungle, the only accommodation, to clear paperwork while watching tuckers along the lakeshore.
Now a local farmer has opened his farmhouse to visitors. He calls it Banyan Tree – the food is fresh from the farm and delicious, and the rooms are comfy.
Take away the teeming crowds and the dirt from Varanasi and you get Maheshwar – a small town on the banks of the Narmada. This river, second only to the Ganges in holiness, has its own ghats, praying devotees and a string of beautiful temples that come alive with chanting every morning.
Overlooking the vast river is Ahilya Fort, a guesthouse and the residence of the royal family of Holkars. Richard Holkar, the current incumbent, plays the perfect host to his visitors who are treated as the personal guests of the royal family.
After his upbringing as an Indian army officer’s son, Harji Singh, co-founder of TransIndus, became a space scientist, civil servant, management consultant and then entrepreneur. He sleeps soundest on a noisy steam train to the sound of “Chai garam”.
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