As you know, I’ve been in Mumbai for the last two months now and as usual, city life got me wanderlusting again. It’s always work, work, work when I come back to the city and pretty soon, one week starts blending into the next. We all need to get out of autopilot mode when that happens, don’t you agree?
A short getaway from Mumbai and a change of scenery to recharge my batteries was just what I needed, so I packed a bag and headed to Manas Resort in Igatpuri, a place that I’ve passed by many times before, but never stopped at.
On crossing over the threshold of Igatpuri, you’ll find Manas Resort right beside the main road. And from the moment I uploaded my first Instagram story of the board outside, I was surprised at how many of my readers had already been there, some of them, a decade ago.
Most people said that Manas Resort is among the best resorts to visit during the monsoons as it gets shrouded in mist, making it a magical spot to holiday. However, it was a sunny day when I visited. The rains hadn’t made an appearance yet. Still, the views of the hills and valleys were green and refreshing to look at for someone coming from a concrete jungle. The resort grounds are well maintained, with green lawns and bouganvillea providing pops of colour and for entertainment, there is a kids play area and a rudimentary game zone.
While Manas Resort may not be a ‘luxury resort,’ what sets them apart is their petting zoo, a delightful experience for everyone – families, kids and all animal lovers. When we think of ‘zoo’ we think of animals in cages that are nothing more than a tourist attraction. But that’s not what the petting zoo at this Igatpuri resort is about. I’ll get to that in a bit.
Different categories of rooms provide varying levels of comfort and views. I stayed in the Executive Room, a simple, compact room, located at one end of the property, overlooking the off-leash park. While the building itself looks slightly dated, the room was comfortable and bright, the washroom was modern and the bed was soft – which is all I need for a stay away from home.
Toiletries and in-room amenities like a tea-coffee maker and laundry services are provided, but our in-room dining menu had no pages in it and when we ordered some snacks in the evening, it took forever to arrive, so I’m not sure whether in-room dining is something they provide or not. As evening set in and the temperature dropped slightly, sitting outside in the balcony and enjoying the sights and sounds of dogs playing was one of the best parts of my stay.
I was surprised to see that Manas Resort has no a-la carte dining! Yes, from breakfast to dinner, guests have to follow a buffet system. Breakfast is served in the breezy restaurant by the entrance of the property and consists of simple offerings such as eggs, bread, a couple of south Indian dishes like Idli and Dosa and alongside some Maharashtrian fare such as Poha or Upma. I wasn’t too impressed with breakfast and for someone who loves a big cup of tea in the morning, filling my tiny glass of cutting chai over and over didn’t alleviate my sleepiness.
However, lunch and dinner is served in an a/c banquet hall and is absolutely yum! Everything I tried was homely and delicious – right from humble dal to veg sabzis and chicken tikka to rogan josh – lip-smacking! You will also find some Indo-Chinese items on offer. On day 1, we had Hakka noodles and on day 2, there was Manchurian. It would have been better if both Chinese items were served on the same day, though, as they would have complimented each other better.
The infinity pool is love at first sight, however, when I saw the bunch of dogs at the resort, I chose to play with them and forgot all about swimming. Two restaurants, 360 degrees (a rustic airy space) and Crème (a multi-cuisine restaurant that is held up by a single pillar) are the main hubs. Manas Resort also has its own spa, but again, the animals make all one’s stress melt away more effectively than a massage ever could!
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ANIMALS AT INDIA’S FIRST PETTING ZOO!
As an ardent animal lover, I’m firmly opposed to the idea of using animals as accessories, be it in a household or to lure in business. During my visit to Manas Resort in Igatpuri I got a glimpse of how they are treated, and to sum it up, it’s splendid! The animals and guests’ pets are given the royal treatment, even more than the guests themselves, and this is largely due to the fact that the owner of the resort, Mr. Nitin Karambelkar is a huge animal lover himself and goes to great lengths to ensure that every furry and feathered friend is treated like a VIP.
Pets at Manas Resort include various kinds of breeds of dogs, sugar gliders, red iguanas, turkeys, exotic hens, ostriches, pheasants and more – and one does not need to pay anything additional to view, pet or play with the animals.
While the history of every new pup brought in is thoroughly researched to ensure that it is a pure bred, the pups aren’t bought from a breeder (we all know the horrific practices that breeders adopt to birth pups). The ones at Manas Resort are brought from good families, who own dogs that breed naturally when the time comes. And once the pup is born, special transportation is arranged to fetch it.
Before a pup or even a bird make it to the farm, it first spends a couple of months at Mr. Nitin Karambelkar’s home. It is here that they get accustomed to humans, and more importantly, to kids, thanks to the children in his building who eagerly take the pup out for walks and play time. Once the pup/bird reaches the resort, it is docile and can then socialize with its own kind.
The animals have ample of space to run and exercise. Apart from the hot, sunny afternoons when they are kept in shaded kennels, for the rest of the day, guests can watch them running and playing freely in the huge grassy space that is enclosed on all sides, and join in the fun. From German Shephards to Collies and Labs to French Bulldogs, you’ll agonize over which one of these friendly furries to cuddle first. But don’t worry if you can’t play with them all, guests are allowed to take the resort dogs around the property, and even to their rooms if they wish. And animal-assisted therapy for people with work stress, chronic illness, mental stress etc is provided, too!
When it comes to food, dogs are fed raw meat and not dog-food and birds are fed with an array of beans, seeds and fruits. If you happen to be around the aviary at feeding time, step in and experience thrilling, ticklish feeling of birds eating from your hands, sitting on your head, and having a gala time.
Secondly, while the dogs have a permanent set of staff to care for them round the clock, the staff member who looks after the birds seem to have won the bird’s affection too, and they begin chirping the moment they sense his presence. A vet pays the animals a monthly visit and checks on each one’s health, irrespective of whether they are sick or not. How wonderful is that!
The personality of every animal is known well – which dog is possessive over the ball, which pup loves to play in the mud, which doesn’t get along with another and even which bird loves to peck guests’ ears!! Not only have the staff bonded with the pets, so has the owner of the resort, so much so, that they are treated like family and aren’t up for adoption. While I’m not obligated to write all this down in detail, I think it is very important for guests to know. The way animals are treated at Manas Resort not only sets a example of how they should be treated at home, but allows you to enjoy their company, knowing that they aren’t living sad lives and are just there as an amenity for guests.
Manas Resort is a wonderful getaway from Mumbai and it was great to see how a love for animals and hospitality shaped a beautiful resort that stands out in the crowd (which is good for business) and fulfils a dream for Mr. Nitin, one that many of us animal-lovers have (to have a quiet space away from the city, full of dogs!)
Here’s where you can book your stay.
P.S. My stay at Manas Resort was sponsored, however, views, as always, are my own.