August 18, 2011

Coonoor- Tucked Away in the Blue Mountains...!!


The first destination that props up into every traveller's mind when you talk about Nilgiris or Blue mountains is Ootacamund. Situated 16 kms from Ootacamund is an equally beautiful colonial hill station called Coonoor.  At a height of more than 1800 meters above sea level Coonoor has pleasant climate throughout the year. 

A long drive through the national parks of Bandipur and Mudumalai on a long weekend took us to this lovely town. En-route to Coonoor we passed the the queen of hills, Ooty. Being a weekend, Ooty looked cramped and crowded. However, with its spread out tea estates, wonderful climate, lovely mist and less travellers, Coonoor looked far from being a tourist destination. It should be due to the fact that, it is still unexplored, has very few tourist spots and has a large area belonging to the cantonment.





 We stayed at a guest house in one of the beautiful tea estates in Coonoor. The estate is situated a few kilometres away from the town and the lovely drive through the plantations was exciting. Covered in mists, the expansive tea plantations looked mesmerising. The colonial guest house had a fabulous view of the tea plantations, the tea factory below and a distant view of Mettupalayam and other small towns. With no sound pollution except for the chirping of the birds, we were absolutely at peace inside this tea garden.




A tour through the tea factory helped us understand the long process of transformation from tea leaves to tea powder. In the evening we ventured out into the plantations and had a long photography session. The plantations also provided some breathtaking vistas of the mist filled valleys and the winding roads way below. As the day darkened into the night, the the towns down the valley lit up and resembled pearls shining in the darkness. A beautiful sight indeed!!



Bisons are supposedly frequent visitors to the plantations in the night but we never had an encounter during our stay. We were told that they are harmless and keep grazing through out the night. I did come to know how harmless they were the next morning when on our way to Dolphin Nose view point, we saw a few of them inside a plantation. We stopped the vehicle and were about to capture them on our camera, when the whole lot just got up and started running (Not towards us, but in the opposite direction). For a second I thought they are charging towards us. They ran a few steps ahead, stopped and turned back as though striking a pose for my camera. Even though they seemed timid by their actions, the huge horns and the muscular body did make them look wild and dangerous.

Dolphins Nose viewpoint is a few kilometres away from Coonoor town and we drove through more scenic tea plantations and winding roads before reaching the place. This viewpoint offers a panoramic view of the green valleys and blue mountains. One can also see the beautiful Catherine waterfalls in the distance. Since we had reached early in the morning, it was less crowded and the drive through the narrow plantation roads were devoid of traffic. Another viewpoint en route to Dolphins Nose is Lamb's rock. Though not as beautiful as Dolphins Nose, this place offers a lovely view of the tea gardens and the blue mountains.




Sims park in Coonoor town is where we headed to on our last day in these beautiful hills. Though not as big or beautiful as the Botanical garden in Ooty, Sims park does have various varieties of flora. The beautiful park also offers a boat ride on the small lake inside the garden. This was the only place in Coonoor that I found to be swarming with the tourists. We did not spend much time at this park as we had to take a long, winding, wild drive back to Bengaluru.



The fresh air, mist covered mountains, vast plantations and gorgeous valleys made our trip to the Blue mountains a memorable one. Coonoor is not the typical tourist destination with a huge list of places-of-interest. With minimal places to see, this hill station offers a laid back holiday for every visitor. Though Ooty, its famous neighbour stands big on the tourist map, this sleepy hill station in Niligiris is definitely worth visiting. I seriously wish Coonoor does not get commercialised like Ooty and become another tourist hub in the coming years.

Signing Note: Definitely the best and one of the least explored destinations in the Blue mountains...!!

Route- Bengaluru- Mysuru- Gundlupet- Mudumalai- Ooty- Coonoor.

Distance: 325 Kms

August 3, 2011

Deep into the Blue Sea...!!

Mauritius offers numerous water sport activities and exploring another ecosystem is one amongst them. I gave the normal water sport activities like parasailing, banana ride etc. a miss and decided to explore below the blue sea.
Under Sea Walk involves going three meters below the sea level and  getting closer to the beautiful creatures of the water world. After travelling for more than an hour from my hotel I reached the  beautiful shores of Bel mare which is famous for water sports. The beach was crowded with Indian families, honeymooners and kids. I headed straight to the boat which took me deep into the sea. All geared up, I plunged into the blue waters with a very heavy glass mask resting on my shoulder. I was quite excited about getting closer to the colourful fishes and bubbled away to the sea bed. The instructor was quite helpful as he held me so as to make sure that I dont drift away. The tourists are also allowed to feed the fishes. My instructor gave me some fish food and before I could completely open my hand, I was swarmed by a school of fishes and the food just disappeared within seconds. Zebra fishes were the most common species that I found. We were also taken for a walk on the sea bed for a few meters before going up.

Blue Submarine is a submarine which takes you more than 35 meters below the sea level. Grand Baie, situated in north Mauritius is where this adventure takes place. After a boat ride of about 10 minutes I reached the submarine. One has to go down the steps to enter the submarine. With about 10 tourists and a very cheerful captain, we went deeper and deeper into the waters. Though the view of the corals and the fishes were not very clear (Everything looked bluish because of the water and the thick glass windows dint help much), I was witness to some beautiful corals and colourful fishes. There was also a ship wreck which the captain said was not real and was a created one for the tourists. It was indeed fabulous to witness the beautiful marine life so close to my eyes. After about an hour we returned back to the surface. Every visitor on the blue submarine was given a certificate for having travelled more than 35 meters below the sea level.

Going deep into the blue sea was definitely an experience which I would cherish for a long time. The colourful fishes, the beautiful corals, the white sea bed and the blue waters made the adventure really exciting. Now it is time to check out snorkelling and scuba diving.

Signing Note: To peep into the other ecosystems on this beautiful earth is a mesmerising experience...!!
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