Over 18 years ago, we set out to find the ideal land for a weekend getaway from Bombay. The criteria: wooded, peaceful and serene. Disappointed, we found that land in the area was mostly degraded by repeated slash and burn cultivation, overgrazed and stifled by a dense carpet of Karvi (weeds).
We took it upon ourselves to return the forest to an ecologically balanced condition. A 25 acre parcel of land, part of a Tropical Cloud forest and situated over 3300 feet was acquired. An effort to restore the forest began!
The first step necessary for restoration was to fence in the entire 25 acre lot so that one could prevent any further felling, trapping or hunting on the land. This was a rather daunting task that took us two years to complete. Pruning of wild trees and removal of the weeds was a nine year project! Waterholes were dug for animals, and termites needed to be kept at bay. In order to remain sustainable, a water harvesting system and a solar & wind hybrid system was implemented. Paths were carved across the property to ensure that the land was being patrolled and protected.
Our efforts paid off! Today, there are over 20,000 healthy indigenous trees, with over 90% of them flowering/fruiting. Wildlife such as rabbits, mongoose, porcupines and grey langurs are a more common occurrence. Birds are nestling in higher numbers, and there is a proliferation of insects, crabs, moths, frogs and snakes. The tree climbing frog, an endemic species, has proliferated in our forest. And unseen before, a few barking deer have been made our property their permanent home!
Originally, a bamboo Machan (similar to Jim’s Corbett’s treetop hunting platforms!) was built as an observation point. This proved to be an ideal site, when we began looking to build a more permanent home (the current Heritage Machan). The unimpeded views, elegant interiors, and unique architecture, drew considerable interest from the folks that visited this vacation home.
To ensure the continued sustainability of the forest and provide livelihoods to the locals, The Machan opened up its panoramic views to visitors in 2009. A year later, three additional Machans (Canopy Machans) were built due to popular demand. In 2013, we launched three Forest Machans and our ground-based Cabin in the Woods!