Gorukana is an eco resort located in B R Hills near Mysore. When we were looking for a weekend getaway a few weeks back, B R Hills immediately came to our minds. Because the monsoons have just receded, the forests are at their peak charm. Once we zeroed down on the destination, the next job was to find an accommodation. The concept of Gorukana immediately attracted us. As, what could have been a better stay option amidst the dense forests than an eco resort. In addition, Gorukana is run by an NGO. There in, a part of the profit from the resort goes to the welfare of the tribal community of villages in and around.
However, we had to reschedule our visit a few weeks further, due to some unrest in Karnataka over Cauvery water issue. We called into the resort and requested a reschedule.The manager, Mr. Raju immediately moved our reservations, without any additional charges. We then started counting days to our trip. Finally, the much awaited weekend arrived. We set off on our trip of B R Hills. We arrived at Gorukana by 10:30 am. A narrow un-tarred road down the main road leads to Gorukana entrance. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the courteous staff. We had welcome drinks that consisted of fresh grape juice.
After completing the checkin formalities at the reception, we proceeded to our cottages. Krishna, one of the naturalists and caretakers, lead the path. The resort is covered with dense and tall trees. There is greenery all over. Narrow paths lead to the cottages. Thick bush of Lantana and Touch-me-not plants along with other flora species mark both sides of the pathways. Upon entering the premises, one immediately feels at peace with nature. Apart from the beautiful chirping of birds amongst the woods, there is no other sound. Occasionally, one might get to hear other animals too. Cows graze the resort land happily while groups of monkeys swing over the tall trees.
The cottages are small, cozy and beautifully done. There is a separate path to each passage. Thus, ensuring complete privacy of every family. Each cottage is tastefully built with eco friendly material. Each cottage accommodates a family of four. There is a double bed at the ground floor and two single floor beds placed on the loft. A flight of stairs leads to the loft which is perched over the bathroom ceiling. Perfect use of space it is! While the place is made of eco friendly materials, still super care is taken about safety. What I mean is that the place is super clean and properly sealed so that no insects can enter. The wall besides the double bed is complete glass.
While the lower half has sliding doors to the small balcony, the upper half serves as a high glass window. When one lies on the bed, even with the curtains of the balcony door closed, still one can see through this window. We had an amazing view of the night sky and the trees through this window while we fell asleep watching the starts.
The rooms are equipped with tea, coffee maker and drinking water. However, television is not provided in the rooms. And, I loved this fact. Basically, once you are here, you can’t get distracted. You are bound to fall in love with nature. Once we arrived at the cottage, I immediately slid the doors to the balcony and step outside.
The balcony is small. It has a natural bench at one side for sitting. It is located towards the slope of hills. Through this balcony, one can see the vast stretch of greenery, tall trees and animals grazing through. We had booked two cottages to our group. Both were located besides each other. However, the balcony of each cottage faced the backside of another one. Another nice step towards ensuring the privacy of the guests!
After getting fresh at our cottages, we decided to head to the restaurant. We had a very light breakfast pertaining to the lack of good restaurants on the way. So, we reached the restaurant in the hope of finding some nice food. We were not in the least disappointed. Although, the usual breakfast time was over. The main cook came rushing out of the kitchen. He told us what all was available. With hungry stomach and our appetite further enhanced by the fresh atmosphere, we didn’t take any time to decided. We settled on an aaloo paratha each (Potato stuffed Paratha). While the cook ventured back into the kitchen to prepare aaloo parathas for us, we started exploring the restaurant.
The restaurant of Gokarna has a decent sheltered seating. Nothing fancy about the furnitures. But it is surrounded by green trees on three sides, and a kitchen on the fourth. When it rains , roll down curtains made of natural material provide the much needed protection. We saw some big spiders webbing around the trees near the restaurant. There is a washroom and a space to wash hands near the restaurant. From here, a slant path leads to the reception area and across.
In no time, our aaloo parathas arrived. The size of aaloo parathas were amazing. One paratha was more than enough for ope person. After having satisfied our appetite, we took a walk around the premises. Our daughter had a lovely time. She was already enjoying putting the touch-me-not plants to sleep with her touch 🙂 . We strolled all the way to the other end of the premises. There is a small water body at the far end of the premises. I guess animals must be visiting here for water. There are a couple of tree houses perched at the rear end of the property. And, finally, there is a classic bamboo pathway leading to the massage center at the rear end.
We strolled leisurely, examining the flora and fauna of the land. Occasionally snapping pictures, discussing amongst ourselves our experience so far (and other irrelevant things that we never seem to talk about in our busy city lives). Finally, we moved back to our cottages. I simply lied on the bed, doing nothing, hearing the birds sing. In no time, I fell asleep to the beautiful lullaby of birds. I woke up only at lunch time, after much effort by others 🙂 (I normally don’t sleep in the day time. My falling asleep here is a testimony to the peaceful environment that Gorukana provides).
We proceeded for lunch around 1:30pm. The lunch buffet consisted of a nice spread of delicious home made kind of food. A few other families also joined us. Overall, there was not much crowding. After lunch time, there is a safari option at additional cost. If anyone is interested, they can join into the jungle safari. We opted out of the safari since we had had many earlier. We wanted to rather relax amidst nature.
As the lunch time ended, monkeys started approaching. Perhaps they are well aware of the timings. They start arriving post lunch in speculation of some food. I am not sure if they are fed the leftovers or not. There was a cat also, roaming around for food. Our daughter soon started following the cat, super charged on having one to chase! Then we started back to our cottage. Just before taking the diversion to cottage, we spotted a big cat. Like sincere citizen, we decided to immediately inform the reception about the snake. Upon hearing us, they calmly replied “Yes sir, there are many around here, you will spot some more during your stay !!” . Phew!! We soon moved back to our cottage, everyone gathered in one cottage. Some of us stepped on to the loft beds. We soon saw big groups of monkeys roaming across the campus.
Time flew by while we chatted happily. Soon it was time for high tea. Once again we moved to the restaurant. We had tea/coffee along with delicious vegetable pakodas and biscuits. Post this, the staff informed us that a tribal show was about to commence near the reception. We crossed over to the reception area.
Further down, there is a small amphitheater, with enough sitting for the guests. There is a stage across. In between, a campfire is arranged every night. A guy narrates the story of Gorukana, it’s tribes and their traditions. Then, tribal dance performance by elderly and children follow. The whole atmosphere gets charged to another level. The tribal dances are full of energy. Not just this, they ensure equal participation from the guests also. Through their humble requests, soon, guests also joined into the dance and everyone danced around the fire. Even the cook, receptionist and other employees of Gorukana also joined into the dance.
In between the dances, the lead performer narrated several interesting tribal customs of Gorukana. One of the many that I remember was about the marriages of the Soliga tribes. During a festival, they gather at night and dance through the night. It is during this dance that the girls and boys pick their partners. They then elope in the forests for few days. After they return back, they meet the elders in the tribe. The elders then take an oath from them that the couple will stand together through the highs and lows for the rest of their lives. There upon, they are married. The cost of the wedding is INR 12.50
We also came to know about Dr. Sudarshana who worked relentlessly for the development of the tribal clans in this area. His NGO, Vivekanad Kalyan Kendra, is the one that developed Gorukana. They also run a school, a medical center, farms and honey processing units, thereby not only educating but also generating employment for lots of tribal people all over. The NGO also helps promote the dance and other traditions by these tribal groups and encourages them to participate in the cultural programs outside the state, far and wide. The place is open to volunteer tourism. One can teach children, or even work at the farms. Basically, one can contribute towards the eco tourism and the welfare of the community in any way possible, while they stay here.
After this energetic tribal performance, we proceeded to dinner. Temperature had dropped a little. In the pleasantly cool weather, we enjoyed hot soups and chapatis with delicious curries. After dinner, we decided to proceed back to our cottages and rest. It would be advisable to carry a torch or some source of light since the pathways and whole resort is dimly lit at night. This is very much in sync with the jungle theme. But, for tourists like us, who are not accustomed to such environment, it might feel little uncomfortable to see the path to the cottages clearly. However, when we were proceeding to our cottages post dinner, we met some staff in between who had powerful torches with them. They showed us the way to the cottages.
Once inside the cottage, we fell asleep to the cozy environment in no time. During the night, I woke up a few times. I could hear some night birds and a few other wild animals at a distance. In no time, morning arrived. Next day , early morning, some of us went to a bird watching natural trek along with the naturalist. After coming back, we had a hearty breakfast. There after, we checkout from Gorukana.
We then proceeded with the Gorukana care taker to visit the schools. The school is made on a big land in the valley of B R Hills. The beautiful tiny buildings look right out of children’s book. The school hostel is also on the same grounds. The hostel is made into cluster of smaller units. Each unit consists of 3 rooms. Each room consists of 8 children on all 4 sides of the room, in bunk beds. There is one warden cum teacher who resides in a room in the center of the unit. Moving further, we saw a science park, a toddlers play area, teachers quarters, school building and the playground.
Finally, after crossing the school, we arrived at honey manufacturing plant. The plant engineer demonstrated how honey is extracted and then naturally processed here, packaged and then sold. From here, we proceeded to the glasshouse cum nursery where different plants are grown for sale to the outside world.
This brings us to the end of our amazing tour and stay at Gorukana. From here, we proceeded to BR Temple and then back to our city. When we happen to visit here again, we would love to participate into volunteer tourism at Gorukana and contribute towards the welfare of the tribal communities in whichever ways we can.
Things to do at Gorukana
- Go for a jungle safari with Gorukana staff.
- Watch energizing tribal dance performance and listen to their interesting tales about Gorukana and its tribes
- Visit the tribal museum
- Visit tribal school
- See the tribal hospital
- Do a short nature walk with Gorukana naturalist
- Enjoy the bone fire at night
- Enjoy indoor games at Gorukana premises
- Drive to nearby lake where animals come to drink water by the evening
- Visit B R Swamy temple
- Volunteer for teaching at the tribal school
- Volunteer to help with the farm work
- Visit the tribal museum
- Spend a night in the tree house.
- Don’t do anything! Just relax at your cottage. Watch the natural world of birds and animals go by while you relax.
- Understand and study the various species of trees and plants in Gorukana campus. Educate your kids on the same.
- Play with the touch-me-not plants. Your toddlers will definitely have a good time.
- Take some plants back with you from the nursery or from Gorukana campus.
Tips on visiting Gorukana
- Wear comfortable shoes, there is a lot of walking to be done on hilly terrain
- Carry full sleeve cloths for the night to protect you against mosquitos (though there are not many) and the slight cold.
- Carry a light jacket for your kid for the early morning and evening hours. If you visit in winter, it might be colder.
- Carry a torch. As we mentioned, the area is dimly lit at night. If you are not used to it, you might find it little difficult to walk to and from the cottages and restaurants at night.
- Carry your food for the way, particularly if you take the Kanakpura route from Bangalore since there are not many food options on the way.
- Keep your room locked when you are going out, the monkeys might enter otherwise and create a havoc 🙂
- Beware of snakes and other wildlife around, you are in the middle of jungle area.
- Internet and mobile connectivity is fine. You would not feel cut off from the world, but you might love to get cut off for a while.