Amazing nature resort in the Goa jungle
Wildernest is a nature resort located in Swapnagandha Valley, Chorla Ghats, Goa on the Banda-Belgaum road (also known as the old Belgaum-Goa highway).
It sort of lies at the junction of three states - Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka. The closest town (Keri) is located 16 km away and otherwise there is almost no contact with civilization.We (3 adults and 2 babies) spent 2 nights and 3 days there this Dasahera weekend.
The booking was done through email. They are quite efficient while replying to emails and on the phone as well. Advance payment could be made by cheque or online bank transfer. Rest of the payment was done in cash at checkout (note: no ATMs or banks nearby). We did our booking start to finish within an hour. Their booking (and contact) details are here: wildernest-goa.com/
How to get there
We drove down from Pune to Kolhapur, then to Nipani, then Uttur, Aajra, Amboli, Sawantwadi, Banda, Dodamarg, Aayee, Keri and Wildernest (Chorla). For Mumbai folks, I guess the same route would be the fastest while taking the express-way to Pune. We were told to avoid coming from Belgaum as that road is in a really bad condition (otherwise that's the shortest route). There's also a shortcut to Dodamarg from Amboli via Danoli, but that road too was in a bad condition (locals warned the car would definitely break down). Also from Nipani one need not go to Sankeshwar or Gadhlingaj - there's a shortcut via Uttur - you take a right on the NH4 just when Tawandi ghat is about to end (about 5-6 kms from Nipani). From Pune, the distance is about 460 kms and it took us about 8 and half hours to get to the resort (with 3 breaks). After Banda the road was winding and narrow, but the surface was good.
A lot of the crowd in the resort comes from Goa (Panji, Madgaon etc). For them they have a pickup/drop facility and I guess the route should be via Banda.
When you get off the road, you have to park your car in a clearing in the jungle. You leave your car there and you are then taken by a 4-wheel-drive jeep to the resort area which is about a kilometer inside in the forest. Its very difficult to get your own car inside because the road is mostly made of rocks and you car'll need to have 4x4. We didn't see our car for the 3 days we were there, but one need not worry because there's a manned "out-post" near the parking area.
On reaching the reception and checking-in, you are given a tour of the facility and welcomed with a nice refreshing kokam drink. The guide would also familiarize you with the surroundings as the resort is spread over a large hilly area and is completely surrounded by dense forest. By the time he takes you to your cottage, your luggage should have reached.
The resort has a bunch of (mostly) wooden cottages, some of which face the valley and some are in the forest. The cottages are located far from each other and are connected only by rocky paths that wind up and down the hill. So the only way to commute is to walk. The family cottage (2 bedrooms) is the farthest and the most secluded. The restaurant, bar and swimming pool are located close to each other but a bit far from the reception.
The valley facing cottages face a beautiful (and deep) valley covered with lush green forest and two big waterfalls. Most of the these cottages are close to each other, but the family cottage is a bit way out. The forest cottages are not as fun as valley ones, but they give you peace and quiet. At night, the mood is spooky - the paths are dimly lit and a torch is a must. You can only hear the waterfall, the insects and an occasional wild animal. Its creepy walking from your cottage to the restaurant or the bar area. Inside, the cottages are big but cozy. They have big glass windows on all four sides, covered with rolling cloth curtains. When you roll up all the curtains, you get the feeling of being in the jungle itself. The facilities within the rooms are comparable to a 3 or 4-star hotel anywhere. There's running cold and hot water, big beds, enough toiletry and room cleaning every day. But there's no air conditioning or TV (which IMO is a good thing).
Food and Drink
Food has to be one of the best things about the resort - its traditional Goan and Konkani - with good use of tender fresh coconut and tirphal (a spice from the schezwan pepper family).The amazing homely food is served in a buffet 3 times a day (and tea once). You'll get various kinds of fish, mutton, chicken, clams, prawns, many many varieties of veggies, few salads, curries, dals, pickles and a few desserts. All this is served in a big hut kind of place (called Randhan) at the edge of the cliff overlooking two waterfalls. The ambiance and setting can't get any better.
The bar is well-stocked with most spirits - I could even see some imported brands. They don't make cocktails (at least they didn't when we were there) or mocktails and the wine list is also limited.
The staff is very helpful and courteous. Although most of them are a bit shy, they would not hesitate from helping you with anything. There is no room service for food - the distances are large, the paths are rocky and most importantly you'll get ants (and other insects) if you drop food. We witnessed this first hand when one of our twins dropped a small piece of biscuit in the cottage "balcony" and the whole place was swarming with ants within an hour.
They will also help during the many activities they conduct and if you want something specific to be brought (e.g. bottled water).
Service in the restaurant and bar is also good. Since its a buffet, there's no table service and you are also expected to put your plates in the waste bin after you're done. Also don't expect to strike up long conversations with the boys at the table or at the bar - as I said, they tend to be a bit shy.
Treks, treks and many treks. There are at least 2 treks conducted in a day. The treks go to the top of the hill to the bottom of the waterfall. They will give you information about the wildlife and about the herbs. There's also a wildlife show in the evening.
They also do folk dances and music when there's enough crowd. There's campfire (weather permitting) and dances/music around it.
But, IMO, the best place to be is in the infinity swimming pool. Its shaped like a pond with a small artificial waterfall and one of its side opens up to the valley. There's just a small patch of land between that edge of the pool and the valley. Nothing like just floating in the sun and looking down the beautiful valley.
Not so good things
This resort might not be a good idea for senior citizens - especially those who can't walk long distances and on slippery rocky paths. Also at night, roads get very dark and its difficult to walk even for a able-bodied person without a torch. For people who prefer, a more flat terrain and all things on ground level, they have another resort called Swapnagandha just 2 kms up the road.
The family cottage is a bit isolated. Its quite far from the restaurant and the walk every time could get you tired (especially in the nights).
Fantastic. That sums it up.