Binsar is a thickly wooded mid-altitude forest located at a height of about 2412 m (7900 ft.) on top of the Jhandi Devi Hills, 32 kms from Almora town. The altitude and forest cover lend Binsar a natural beauty and a climate exceptionally pleasant during summers. On a clear day, from Jhandi Dhar (also called Zero Point) inside the sanctuary one can have a 300 kms unhindered views of the Himalayan peaks that include Trishul and Nanda Devi. It is believed that the rulers of the Chand dynasty who ruled over Kumaon enjoyed their summers in Binsar.
Binsar wildlife sanctuary is spread over 47.2 Sq. km and is the habitat of approximately 250 species of birds. Other Himalayan fauna include the barking deer, ghorals, Leopards, Pine Martins, flying squirrel, porcupines etc.
The Binsar sanctuary houses about five private resorts and entry for visitors and vehicles is charged at the Ayarpani gate to the national park. A walk through Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is an experience that nature lovers would never forget and is fit to be included as a must do for every visitor to India. Walking the ridge to “Zero” point for one of the most stunning views of the Himalayan ranges from Nepal to Kedarnath, through forests aflame with rhododendrons in spring, a picnic lunch in a machan deep in the woods, finding groups of Himalayan magpies gliding just ahead of you, myriad bird species flitting around, a marten pair in joyous dance, there’s magic in the Himalayan forests!
Mary Budden Estate and Its History
A twenty minute drive from the Ayarpani Gate a little beyond the famously ramshackle KVMN bungalow, just below the zero point lies Mary Budden Estate. Thickly wooded, virtually an extension of the Binsar forests is the five acre estate that belongs to Serena and Dr. Ashwani Chopra. Serena is a practicing Buddhist and an accomplished photographer. She has travelled extensively in Bhutan, the result was a photography exhibition titled “Bhutan, a certain modernity”.
The estate has two charming cottages – the Mary Budden Cottage and the Rhododendron Cottage. Mary Budden Cottage, thus named after the last known colonial inhabitant belonged to a family of Missionaries who were appointed by the British government to run a charitable mission in the Kumaon hills. The daughter of Rev. John Henry Budden, Mary Budden dedicated her life to charity, running an orphanage and a home for destitute women, a girl’s school and even today a plaque stands in her memory at the Budden Memorial Church in Almora.
Accommodation: Furnished with an artist’s eye for detail, Mary Budden Estate is a retreat perfect for nature lovers and for those who enjoy being surrounded by beauty, elegance and color. The Mary Budden Cottage is a typical English cottage with sloping roofs, intimate columned verandahs that opens onto a sit-out shaded by deodar and oak. This cottage offers three bedrooms – Cosmos, Wisteria and Wild Rose. Each Suite is different, with large attached bathrooms, quality furniture, rugs and throws in cheerful colors. Some en suite bathrooms are provided with ‘bhukaris’ and are really huge indulging spaces with interesting details and fragrant bath amenities. As a single unit with a central lounge and a dining room to seat six to eight people, Mary Budden Cottage can comfortably accommodate up to six adults and two children.
The Rhododendron Cottage is just a few steps away from the Mary Budden Cottage and is a recent addition to the estate. Subtly echoing the ambience of the Budden cottage, it is built into the hillside and set on two levels with sunny and shaded sit-outs to enjoy valley views, a large tastefully embellished lounge and several private corners. This cottage has four bedrooms – Cherry Blossom, Juniper, Cedar Suite and Oak Suite, all with en-suite bathrooms. Though the amenities of both the cottages are similar, the décor and interiors vary in each room yet display stylish detail, warm colors and rich textures. Wooden floors, large windows that frame the nature outside like a work of art, the fireplaces, small artifacts that define a corner or a wall.
Mary Budden has been envisioned, designed and accomplished by Serena with the fervor of building a personal hideaway in the Binsar forests and supported by matchless service quality and elaborate dining options.
At Mary Budden, there is an all pervading sense of meditative quietness, save for the gaily chirping birdlife around or the occasional startled shout of a barking deer. The mood of a quiet retreat is heightened by the presence of a sculpture of Buddha in silent repose and an ancient temple flanked by a thick forest. Binsar and the sanctuary area around Mary Budden have no provision for electricity, the estate works completely on solar power for lighting and hot running water.
Dining and Amenities: Both the cottages at Mary Budden Estate have their own dining room, however weather permitting there are many options for outdoor dining. Meals served are Indian, select continental and world cuisine, home-made by trained cooks who have been with the Chopra family for years. The spacious lounge cum drawing rooms in each of the cottages are lovely areas to relax and unwind while many areas are made for spontaneous leisure to put up your feet, read a book or breathe in the fresh mountain air.
Binsar: Activities and Excursions
Mary Budden Estate is ideal as a 4 Nights destination or more, just the place to unwind away from the pressures of work and city life. There is plenty that you can do while you are here which range from exploratory walks to riding the estate’s munsyari ponies. Excursions like visit to the famous temples at Jageshwar, Gananath and Chittai Bell temple. The estate also has facilities for table tennis and badminton on the grounds.
Overnight at Dalar village house: A short drive (8 kms) and walk (2 Kms) from Mary Budden still inside the sanctuary is the village of Dalar where Serena has built a village house, an option for people who may like to spend a night in a Kumauni village. Though Dalar has running water and electricity, the mud and stone village house inspired by the local village houses around is kept minimal yet comfortable. Meals and other services are with the trained involvement of the caretaker's family living nearby. With two bedrooms – one on the ground floor with a small sit out and one on the first with a full low balcony that skirts two sides of the room, the village house looks over the valleys and is a great perch for watching birds and the mountain sunsets.
Accommodation : 7 Suites in two separate cottages
Mary Budden Cottage : 3 Suites & can house six adults and two
Rhododendron Cottage : 4 Suites
Hotel Classification : Private Retreat in the Binsar Forest
Highlights : Location inside the Binsar Sanctuary
Rooms : Suites : 7 Twins : 1 / Doubles : 6
Printed Tariff : Sept 01, 2012 – Mar 31, 2013 : 17,000 (APAI)
Ideal For : Perfect for Honeymooners, Weekend Breaks, Family and Friends
celebrating life events, Birding and forest walks, customized
Retreats like Yoga, Meditation, Art work-shops, and Long stays
Distances (kms) : Delhi (390) / Kathgodam (120) / Mukteshwar (77) / Almora (32) /
Dhanachuli (85) / Naukuchiatal (170)
Itinerary Connect : Delhi – Te Aroha (Dhanachuli) – Binsar – Corbett – Haridwar /
Rishikesh – Delhi
Season : Closed from July 1st to August 31