Manjolai – Ooty of Tirunelveli

Manjolai, the name literally translates to mango grove. I don’t remember the first time, I heard about this place. Manjolai was on my list for quite some time. I knew this place needs special permission to get in. I knew its a tea estate from the old British times and I also knew about the Manjolai Labourers Massacre.

This Pongal holiday, we wanted to go on a road trip, me and my brothers. Our last road trip was more than a year ago to Manapad. I found an article about the Agastyakoodam trekking. We didn’t have a week or so to do this awesome trek. It’s still on my wishlist. Might be for some other day. Then we had to end up with Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve.

I had a previous colleague who was from Ambasamudram. Just checked with him, if he can arrange to get the permission. He was very helpful in getting the permission. But he suggested Manjolai to Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. So that’s how we ended up at Manjolai.

Waiting in the check-post for the formalities to be completed


Manimuthar dam from the checkpost
The channel from the Dam

At the checkpost, they check your vehicle for alcohol and plastic products. The police there acted so seriously with us. We were warned that our permission will be canceled if they find us having alcohol in our possession. But, we learned that the guys staying next to us consumed alcohol. Not sure how they figured out a way to bring it in.

Once you cross the Manimuthar dam checkpost, the next stop is at the falls. I have been to this falls before, but never noticed how beautiful it is. Probably because there was no crowd in the falls. This time public was not allowed to enter the falls since some construction work was happening. We didn’t get into the waterfalls as it was getting late and we were instructed to reach the Manjolai checkpost before 5 PM. This place is filled with monkeys as tourists frequent here.

Manimuthar waterfalls without any people
Manimuthar falls

Generally, they have one more checkpost after the waterfalls, to keep the general public from getting further in. Today, we didn’t find it here, since the public was not allowed in. Our next stop was at the Manjolai checkpost to finish some formalities and we moved further to the Manjolai estate. Manjolai is a small village with a tea shop, clinic, bakery and a Church. The whole place was so calm and serene with some pure air to breathe in. Green all the sides, with a calm climate and no kind of pollution around.

They also have a post office with pin code 627420. I was wondering if Amazon delivers there to this pin code. The best thing about India Post is it was available in every single estate. Oothu, Nalumukka, Manjolai every estate had its own post office.

And one thing which you notice here is the number of religious places and the political party flag posts. There are a lot of churches and temples around. Politics and religion have become so inseparable from peoples life.

Indian Post Office at Oothu
India Post @ Oothu

At Manjolai we had tea and some snacks. That was the best possible snack ever in such a place. We started from there to reach Kuthiraivetti guest house. On the way, we came across Kakachi, Naalumukku and Oothu estates.

On our way, we were welcomed by a Gaur in the roads. It blocked our path. We were advised not to use high beam and also not to honk unnecessarily. So we waited until the Gaur decided to permit us further. At Nalumuku, we came across two Sambar Deer. My brother was able to identify them and was generous enough to enlighten us with the animals. Still, I have decided to read some biology stuff to identify the animals and their names before venturing another such trip.

Using our contacts, we had asked the hotel at Oothu, to prepare food for us. We had chapati and chicken gravy ready for us when we reached there. Since we had missed lunch, we all were quite hungry and this was a feast waiting for us. Myna Ruchi is probably the only hotel for food after the check post. And it will be better if you inform them earlier if you need food prepared for a lot of people. We also stopped there for breakfast the next day.

Myna Rusi

The best thing about any trip is speaking to the locals there and trying to understand their life there. We understood from the locals that the estate comprises of about 850 acres and is managed by the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation. This same company has more than 56 estates including Valparai and other places. The company apparently had an agreement with the British government for letting the forest for 100 years. And the agreement will be over by 2027. The people there have no clue whats going to happen to the estate after the forest is taken over by the Indian government.

The people here are more environmentally aware than you think. One guy when asked, Does animals disturb you? He mentioned we are staying in there territory and we shouldn’t expect a lot. And he also mentioned that sightings of bears and leopards are frequent. Elephants used to be there, but now no one has seen it for some time.

Back to the road,  there is no tar road from Oothu to Kuthiraivetti. You can say it qualifies to be called an off-road route. Even the almighty Google didn’t point out a route there. Speaking about the roads, on the way to the top you can witness lush green forests, small streams, tea estates and fallen trees cut to clear the route. And then there are hairpin bends typical of any hill roads, but the best thing here is you have less traffic and you can drive at your own leisure.

No route from Oothu to Kuthiraivetti
These are the kind of roads you see till Oothu
This type of roads or even worse after Oothu

We reached Kuthiraivetti guest house and the watch person there was so warm and welcoming. He mentioned there were sightings of Indian Guar around the guest house in the evening. The guest house is a simple building housing three rooms for a comfortable stay at this place. It had solar panels to power the place.

Kuthiraivetty Forest Rest House
The guest house where we stayed

There is another building adjacent to it some few hundred meters away, which doubles up as a forest guard’s home and a wireless repeater station.

We then decided to check the viewpoint at night and to take a view of Ambassamudram town at night. The viewpoint has an old watchtower and a large grassland. The watchtower in the darkness, when we switch off our mobile screen, all that remains is darkness and the lights from the town on the horizon. We were able to spot the Manimuthar dam at a distance with a straight line of light.

On the way back, we spotted one more Gaur in the darkness. We found it in the darkness because of its glowing eyes.

Ambassamudram at night from Kuthiraivetti

Back at the guest house, we decided to spend some time on the terrace. It was quite good there. All the insects chirping in the background, little drizzling, darkness and the cold breeze. But nature didn’t want us to spend our time there. It started raining and we had to move into the shelter of the guest house.

We had woke up early in the morning, to watch the sunrise from the viewpoint. We reached there around 6 and witnessed around 7 gaurs and the cloud all around us. Probably that was the highlight of the whole trip.

The old view tower
View tower and benches

On the way back, we were welcomed with a sight of people getting to work. Noticed that the workers had proper shoes. At least the corporate takes care of their employees working condition. They are back from work by 10.30. They meet at the bazaar with their tea baskets to collect it all together at a place.

Speaking to the locals, we figured out there is a place called Kothayar dam. To get in there, we need to get some special permission. The permission we had from forest department is not enough and we need some permission from the EB board to reach there. My brother was able to make few calls and get permission. But our vehicle started giving us service warning light. We checked the engine oil to discover it was just a bit above the minimum mark. We had to park this plan for some other day just to be on the safe side.

The fallen beast

Before venturing next into such a trip, will have to check general car condition, engine oil, tyres, extra tires and also fill the fuel tank with maximum capacity.

By the way, we had BSNL and intermittent Aircel coverages at places near the estate offices. Almost all the other places we had no signal reception at all. Especially the airtel girl never showed up in the jungle. Rather than spending all their money on marketing, Airtel should have concentrated to give proper service to its customers.

Here are few pics from the trip.

Tea estates
Our car with the tea estates at the backdrop
The road to eternity
A view at par with Ooty or Kodaikanal
Wooden bridge opened on 21st October 1942
A road less traveled
Windows XP wallpaper
The tree with clouds at the backdrop
Waiting for the sunrise
You can spot the Manimuthar dam
Feels like the clouds are overflowing from the valley
Pongal O Pongal
Rising sun lighting the clouds up
Mist clearing up
Manimuthar dam from the viewpoint
Sun rising
Drinking water

Bus shelter

And so ended our trip, with some wonderful memory and with the hope to come back again. I wish to rent all the three rooms someday and spend some awesome time there with friends and family.


  1. Good one Sug, makes me want to visit the place now. The only thing i remember from my trip there is, (its been 20 years), i posed for a pic with an unknown flower rubbing my left cheek, woke up to find my cheek swollen and itchy. Everyone in the family started laughing at my asymmetrical face 😂😂


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