|Fringe ford is snuggled into a cosy
valley, high up in the hills, with the grand old forest peaks towering
paternally around it. Fringe Ford is as cut off from the world as you
can get. It probably doesnít feature on a map, has no traffic fumes, no
traffic, not even a road, and is thankfully ignored by the cell phone
towers. What is does have however, is a fabulous, authentic experience
of living in the middle of the jungle, some great treks, silver silence
punctuated only by the occasional warning calls of birds or monkeys when
a carnivore comes visiting. And it offers you the best peace youíve had
on vacation anywhere anytime. There is a 360 degree view of jungle; all
looking identical, but each with its own tale.
||The balding Namboodri peaks, named
after the estateís ex-accountant, the range of hills that rises almost
perpendicular at the back of the house, which once climbed, leads one on
to Coorg, the peak out there, with the watch tower, which was built one
day, and demolished that night by wild elephants. Fringe Ford was named
by the Englishman who had first bought the land and built it into a
plantation. It changed hands since then, and was finally acquired by its
present landlord, Ahmed, who being a naturalist, let the land go back to
the forest. In fact, the 520-acre property shares its boundaries, not
fences with the wildlife sanctuaries of Wayanad and Tholpaty reserve
forest, making this entire stretch, one of the last remaining bastions
of the Malabar rain forests around, with shelter for its fauna and
It all started a few millennia ago, when the forces of Nature scrunched
together the land mass that became India, and threw the Western Ghats
into a turmoil of highs and lows like a piece of crumpled silk. Later,
these hills covered themselves with satiny grass and towering trees,
hiding in their folds some of the most beautiful hideaways known (or
unknown). Fringe Ford lies hidden in one of these valleys. A British
settler discovered the beauty of the country in 1912, and its huge
potential as cultivable land, and acquired the property which he turned
into estate, cultivating the local pepper, cardamom and coffee on its
slopes. He built the house,that still stands there. He named it Fringe
||The name stuck, but nothing else.
Fringe Ford changed hands, and soon found its way to its present owner,
who decided to give back to the jungle its own land. Now, Fringe Ford
stretches out over a 1000 acres on all sides, some of it still chalked
out for cultivation but a large portion of it turned over to the
elephants, the leopards, the squirrels and the other species that call
it home. The forest has long grown over the cultivated slopes, and
unique species of plants, ferns and massive, rain-giving trees now
thicken the hills. Fringe Ford has come full circle, and today, is one
of the few pieces of Malabar rain forest that the world has to show.
Fringe Ford itself, is a beautiful low-slung bungalow, with mangalore
tiles, and the wide glass windows that make it a 24-hour look out for
some of the best wildlife around.
||There are 3 rooms in the main
house, with another 5 rooms coming up a level higher, near the rock-pond
and the perennial stream that is the background track to your evening
|Each room is snugly outfitted with
heavy wooden furniture, the softest beds you can climb into after a hard
dayís trek, and luxurious bathrooms, some with entire walls converted
into windows. Just in case, there are some peeping tom (wild) cats out
Old-fashioned cooking on a smoke-free charcoal stove. Start with that
and thereís not much that can go wrong. The cooks dish out some local
cuisine thatís hot and heart-warming. They go into the forests, for
example, foraging for a local fern that grows nowhere else in the world,
and chop it up into dinner.
|Other Kerala dishes make up the
rest of the menu, and what makes it even more unforgettable, is that you
get to eat in the kitchen itself, around a large wooden table, or
against the backdrop of the flaming setting sun, or even get it all
carted to a nearby waterfall, where you can trek to, only to find the
food waiting already.
If youíre coming to Fringe Ford, itís probably because itís one of the
last discovered places on earth, and you get your moneyís worth.
Everything from the food to the people, is simple and genuine.
|No liveried butlers here or
bill-toting 5-star waiters. The estate manager, Mamooty, is your guide,
companion and in a dayís time, one of your best friends. His wealth of
knowledge about the wildlife around makes each trek you take, a biology
class. The cook is an old local, who sometimes walks home at midnight ,
like heís done since he was a boy. Others make up a silent, courteous
and mostly unseen but warmly felt presence, and it all feels like going
home to your great-grandmomís on a schoolboy summer vacation.
Youíre probably sold on making the trip to Fringe Ford because of its
unique forest experience. And just about nothing you read here will ever
prepare you for your first early morning mist-trapped, breath-taking
view of the hills. The Wayanad range undulates at 700 to 2100 metres
above sea level, and sports a lavish collection of trees,
|so that your view is of a palette of olive and teal, emerald and
sapphire, with a sudden brilliant crimson tree thrown in for effect, or
a startling ochre cutting across a slope of grass. Clamber into the
forest, on one of its many trails, and youíre walking into the looking
||This is a
world of vines dropping from above, thick stalks and leafy branches,
trees that have outlived your great-grandmother, twisting roots rising
up from the ground, and dark nooks through which two eyes follow you.
But suddenly, a shaft of sunlight cuts through the foliage, touching the
green with gold, and you sigh at the unbelievable beauty of the place.
Almost on cue, the tinkle of water starts, and you turn a corner to see
a fresh natural waterfall. 27 streams, some of them perennial,
criss-cross the property, and 2 waterfalls are just a walk away.
|The Nilgiri range traps the generous doses of
rainfall that it gets, and tunnels it into perennial streams that run
throughout the year. Kabini, the tributary of the river Cauvery, begins
its journey from Fringe Ford, as well. Nestled into the blue mountains,
the Nilgiris, shoulder to shoulder with the great wildlife reserves of
the South, a short drive away from the getaways of Coorg, Ooty and
Keralaís coastline, this land of the marshes (Wyanad takes its name from
Wayals, or marshland), is the easiest way to enter paradise without
leaving this planet.
|Season rates - September 15 to
June 15 (2013)
Rs 3500 per person
includes all three meals, tea/snacks and guided walks in the property.
Single occupancy - Rs 4800 per person includes all three meals,
tea/snacks and guided walks in the property.
For Christmas and New Year starting from Dec 22 to Jan 3 our
tariff will be Rs 4500 per person.
This includes all three meals, tea/snacks and guided
walks in the property.
Welcome drink, snacks around bon-fire, trek to water falls.
Foreign bookings will cost Rs 300 for the first person
and an additional Rs 100 per person for rest of the group. This is to
cover documentation work for registration of foreign tourists at the
Documents required are copies of passport, visa, and a passport size
photograph of each individual, as per the requirement of the local
The above tariffs also include pick-up from Thalapoya (Mass
* No extra charge for guides accompanying on treks in
* We can arrange vehicle for local sightseeing. This will charged at
* We do not offer guides for local sightseeing.
* We do not stock any kind of beverages - this needs to be carried by
you. The closest town is 20kms so you are advised to bring the goodies
that you cannot live without.