In the year 1904, Mr. Carwer Marsh and Mr. Congre, representatives of the British Raj, planted Rubber in the Kalyana Panthal Estate in Valparai. The name Kalyana Panthal was derived from the name Kalyani – the tribal Goddess. The plantation area spanned over to the estate region that has now come be known as Sheikalmudi. The name Sheikalmudi is an Indianised version of the Arab name, Sheikh Al Amoudi. The Estate is located nearby Kodangallur, down the Chalakkudy Ghat in neighboring Kerala, where Arab traders first landed during the reign of King Kulasekhara Perumal.
The LSM (Lower Sheikalmudi) Bungalow that was built in the year 1923 is a charming colonial abode with a refreshing mix of old and new.
The façade of the bungalow is an excellent, sloping tiled roof, chequered tiled floors decorate the verandah and the hallway, creaky wooden floors in the living room, and deep green tiles in the bedrooms.
These spaces are filled with contemporary and rustic décor in a minimalist, uncluttered manner.
In the bedrooms, wooden framed window-cum-doors fill one side of the room that also opens out to the garden. Looking through these windows, you will be treated to magnificent views of the rolling tea gardens and hazy blue hills in the distance.
The room on the right corner offers an excellent view of the Sholayar reservoir afar. While the structure remains rustic, the rooms are all cozy, well-appointed and contain all amenities necessary for a comfortable stay, making it a perfect amalgamation of the modern and bygone era.
Amenities at the Bungalow:
- 3 spacious rooms
- Library featuring books on local culture, flora, and fauna
- Board games
- Barbeque and camp-fire (on suitable weather conditions)
- Bird-bath for Bird photography
- Cooking classes (requires booking in advance)
- Nature documentary screening
- Souvenir store
- Herping sessions in the night (requires booking in advance)
Life at Sheikalmudi:
Life at the Sheikalmudi Bungalow is mantled in an aura of natural abundance. Here, Nature’s drama unfolds all day long, the mountain air is refreshed and cleansed daily, and the change of seasons are glorious and colorful. Summer days will delight you with orange-and-yellow sunrises, winters with pink-and-purple sunsets.
During the monsoon days, the rain clouds come rolling in, casting shadows and mystery.
Most of your time here will be spent at the veranda where the panorama is magnificent. Sitting in a restored easy chair, you can see the unhindered view of the Sholayar reservoir and the rainforests of Valparai set against the billowing hills that run along in the backdrop, taste the sweetness of mist on your lips and feel the tenderness of the breeze on your neck while sipping some hot tea. A cacophony of birdcalls fill the atmosphere in the mornings and evening, and a meditative silence pervades the day, leaving you ecstatic and enlightened during your stay here!
The food served here is a simple English breakfast, South / North Indian lunch, and dinner. The traditional menu will feature some signature dishes native to the region, exclusively curated for the Bungalow, using home-grown ingredients in the recipe.
Hospitality and beautiful home apart, there’s another reason to visit Sheikalmudi Bungalows: to experience Valparai!
One of the most important areas of conservation along the Western Ghats, the Valparai range is a unique land where commercial plantations are interspersed with protected forest patches that form part of the Anamalai Tiger Reserve. Here, people and wildlife, adapt strategies and continue to co-exist, becoming part of each other’s daily lives. Naturalists or local guides from the Bungalow will accompany you on bird walks in the mornings and evenings, also helping you sight wildlife that occurs in the property like Indian Gaur and Elephants.
As you amble along the estate roads, you can chat with the local people who come here to work, mostly women, skilfully plucking the rows of bushes, with a deft use of the fingers and thumbs.
Such interactions will also allow you to experience local culture by when you indulge their curiosity about the city/country you came from and engage in interesting conversations about the wildlife they have sighted/encountered in the past and about the monsoon stories that year. You can also opt for a tea tour to the Mayura Tea factory to understand the processing of tea. Here, the machinery and different processes involved in producing the finished leaf of CTC (Crush, Tear, and Curl) manufactured tea will be explained. At the end of the tea tour, you will be served with a cup of flavourful, rich-bodied, golden-saffron colored magic of Mayura black tea that comes from the highly regarded estates of Parry Agro in the Anamalai Hills that derives its bold character from the surrounding rainforests.
If you are a Nature enthusiast, then you can opt for a long walk that will eventually lead you to the backwaters of the Sholayar reservoir. Adjoined by the forests of the Vazhachal division in Kerala, these pristine backwaters of Sholayar adjoins the Chalakudy river that forms the famous Athirapally falls while on its course.
Early mornings are the best time to be here. Satiated with beauty and enshrouded in total silence, broken only by the call of birds, the sun slowly creeps up over the horizon, bathing the marsh water, the forests and tea gardens in its warm, golden rays.
If lucky, you might sight a Great Hornbill glide across the forest canopy. As you begin to soak in the quietude, witnessing the glistening waters, this eerily beautiful setting might enthrall you even more with the sound of elephants trumpeting, reverberating through the forests.
Come, form a bond with Nature. The time you spend here is beautiful not just because of nature’s bounty but also because of its unhurried pace.
The fresh, mountain air will put a smile on your face. The stillness of the place, chirping of the birds, and the pleasant breeze will coax you to linger longer here. Cut off from mobile and internet connectivity, nobody to interrupt your communion with Nature, you will find God and beauty lie in the detail. After all, its such experiences that make life priceless.“
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