We want to share with you some highlights of our visit to Coorg.
Coorg is synonymous to Indian coffee
While talking about Coorg, coffee deserves the first mention. Besides visiting a coffee plantation, we could first hand see the various stages that coffee seeds go through before getting into our cuppa. Carpets of coffee seeds laid to sun dry outside the houses is a common sight in Coorg.
As are these mountains.
Which brings us to the next most exciting part of our visit.
Exotic homestays of Coorg
We traveled through Coorg (officially known as the Kodagu district) from the north to the south. Our stay in north was in this charming homestay called Windcrest in a tiny village called Galeebidu near Madikeri, the district headquarters. It is home to Girish and Bollu. They spend their winters at Windcrest. The rest of the year, they spend with their daughters’ families in US and UK.
After a few days here in northern part of Coorg, we shifted to the south, to a homestay called Spice Garden near Kuta. While the north was all charming like a hill station, south was raw and rustic. If north was a well manicured garden, south was a wild forest.
Quite fittingly, we stayed in this tent on the grounds of Spice Garden. Tent with a personal porch, dining sit out and a tree house! Spice Garden is home to a modern 21st century farmer Naveen Criappa and his entrepreneurial wife Raina.
A passionate wildlife conservationist, who had also participated in the tiger census, conversations with Naveen were as delightful as they were insightful.
The tent accommodation was a surprisingly relaxing experience.Being in the outdoors, yet warm and cozy with all the privacy one would want, it was a perfect setting.
The Cariappa family would arrange our candle lit dinners on a dining sit out next to the tent. We feasted on organic home-grown ingredients in fresh local recipes supervised by Raina herself.
Post dinner, we would sit on the porch or by a bonfire, under a blanket of star-studded sky until it got too cold to be outdoors, then retire to the warm indoor comforts.
These homestay experiences got us totally hooked on to the idea of staying with the locals, they are now a huge part of our travels.
However, if you still feel that homestays aren’t your cup of tea, Jungle Lodges has a beautiful property by the Kabini river. Here too, you can enjoy the thrill of staying in a tent with a little more luxury (but a little less privacy).
Bylakuppe, a little Tibet in South India
It also houses a religious college. Some monks were studying, preparing for their exams. Except for the maroon robes, it was a scene just like any other university campus!
Rich biodiversity of Coorg, thanks to the Western Ghats
The Western Ghats were added to the UNESCO world heritage list for their rich biodiversity. Being situated on the eastern slopes of these ranges, Coorg is a perfect spot to experience this biodiversity.
Everywhere we went, we could spot a variety of butterflies, birds and reptiles. Going on a nature trail with an expert in this field will be a highly enriching experience.
At one spot, we drove past this wild elephant. Naveen was driving us around and he informed us that this was actually a tuskless male elephant. Female elephants look down upon such males, so he lives a pretty isolated life.
Another great place to see the animals up, close and personal is the Dubare Elephant Camp
If you get your timing right, you can even participate in the bathing and scrubbing of the elephants in the Dubare camp. We got a little late getting to Dubare, so missed out on the elephants. But spent a lovely time by this section of the Cauvery river.
Meet the tiger at the Nagarhole Wildlife sanctuary
We didn’t, but many have. We did see the Indian bison, wild hogs, mongoose and the famous Malabar giant squirrel. But the early morning air, and the smell and sounds of the forest – that’s what overwhelms!
Sighting or not, it’s a highly recommended experience. Nagarhole has a variety of safaris to suit every budget. The quality also varies accordingly. Whatever the budget, just get into the forest. It’s a feeling words and photos can not do justice to.
Day/multi day treks for the more outdoor inclined
Its location makes Coorg a perfect starting point for treks in the Western Ghats. From simpler one day treks to the more arduous multi day ones.
The second trek we did was in the southern part of Coorg. This was through the forest where the river Lakshmanteerth originates, near the Iruppu waterfalls. We had to get permission from the forest department for this trek. This time, our guide was a forest guard.
Time to spend with nature
Even outside of the mountains or forests, Coorg offers a bountiful of rejuvenating nature time. There are several small islands, perfect for a casual stroll, some canoeing or just a picnic.
Top tips for travel to Coorg:
- Coorg is a relatively easy weekend getaway from Bangalore and Mysore. For getting here from most other major cities in India will involve some planning ahead.
- We got to Madikeri via the coastal town of Mangalore in Karnataka. This route has been under repairs and expansion for a long time now. If you plan to take this route, check on its condition around your travel time.
- There are many homestays in Coorg. They are a wonderful way of experiencing a slice of life in Coorg. Do consider these for your stay in Coorg.
- Your local contact in Coorg will be able to guide you to some really offbeat places around. They can also arrange for local guides and drivers. As tourists or visitors to a new place, it is great to participate in the local economy this way.
- Make sure you get your stash of coffee from Coorg. Or some organic spices. And if you are so inclined, a variety of wines (gooseberry wine, yum!) made from the local fruits.
- Try atleast one outdoorsy activity in Coorg. It is a great setting to get back to climbing, swimming or cycling.
- The Western Ghats – the “star attraction” of Coorg – have been crowned with a UNESCO world heritage designation. It is our responsibility to make sure we do not hamper this. As we always say, respect nature.