Most people associate Dandeli with white water rafting. Yes – its true that in S India this is probably the only white water rafting spot, there is a lot more to explore in this beautiful place. This area is located in the North West of Karnataka, bordering Goa and close to Maharashtra. Vast expanse of thick W Ghats evergreen forests bustling with wildlife, energising streams and waterfalls, simple good people – and all of this in an environment that is clean, Eco friendly and sparsely populated. The Blue Triangle in Picture 2 is the place I am referring to.
We explored all of this in 4 days from Amara Homestay. A great discovery that stands out on 3 areas
- A genuinely warm and friendly homestay that believes and implements Eco Tourism – where the concept of Atithi Devo Bhava is practised to perfection
- Great location – the only homestay in the heart of the Kali Tiger Reserve
- Outstanding Veg food – made fresh and served piping hot. Wide variety that is wholesome and tasty
The Hegde’s own a 10 acre farm that has been part of the family for the last 500 years. Currently 4 generations live together happily. While farming is the core occupation, they started the homestay business about 12 years back. This is the best place to soak in the atmosphere of a N Karnataka Brahmin Havyaka community and relish Malnad Veg cuisine.They speak Konkani & Havyaka Kannada. We relished Kottai Idli, Kadabu, Rice Ajwain Patta, Tambli, Brahmi & Kokum juice and many more delicious dishes. Recipes from Archana (Click here for Recipes)
Everything here is fresh and natural. The food is grown locally in the farm – fully organic no chemicals, the water is natural spring water rich in minerals, milk is from their cows, the spices are ground fresh every day
Thats what keeps the locals healthy and strong. In the 4 days we spent here I did not see a single hospital or pharmacy store. On enquiry I learnt that there are no allopathy doctors in these villages. Everyone relies on grandmothers home made Ayurvedic potion and for serious issues like a snake bite there is an Ayurvedic doctor in the village
Getting here is easy
06589 Bangalore Mirajpur train leaves SBC at 9 PM and reaches Alnavar Junction at 6.30 AM. The ride from Alnavar to Amara is about 90 Min. You will reach your destination before 9AM and a hearty breakfast awaits you. The return journey on 06590 Mirajpur Bangalore is equally convenient – the train leaves Alnavar at 8PM and reached Bangalore at 6.30AM. Train operates every day.
This is not Dandeli
While everyone refers to this area as Dandeli – you are actually not in proper Dandeli town. Amara is located in Gund Village inside the Kali Tiger reserve forest. It is very conveniently located to all the major attractions that are 20 – 30 kms from there. Here is a not to scale visual representation of the area you will cover
This is Kali River territory
The Kali river is a short 184 km river. But it is ferocious. It originates from an underwater spring on the Goa – Karnataka border. Numerous springs and streams from the hills add to its flow. The heavy rains in the W Ghats adds to its charm and intensity. The word “Kali” is not a reference to the Godess but to the black stones on the riverbed that gives the pure water a black colour. The river flows mainly through thick jungles and is not accessible for most of its course. In a short span of 50 Kms it has 5 dams and the 2nd largest backwater catchment area in Asia. Two of the dams store water for the Kaiga Nuclear reactors. The river then finds its way to the Arabian Sea along the Karwar coast.
This is also a Tiger Reserve
The forest area around here was notified as the Kali Tiger reserve about 8 years back. Post that no new homestay / construction activity is allowed. Existing homestay continue to operate with limited capacity. Amara is the only operating homestay from within the Kali Tiger reserve.
Planning your time here – sights to see
Ajit who runs the day to day operations at Amara put together a plan for us to maximise coverage of the sights. Each day we covered two areas.
Morning 9 AM – 1.30 PM session 1 , followed by lunch and a brief siesta and then the 2nd session from 3 PM to 6.30 PM. Our man Friday was Uday – the driver + Guide who went out of the way to show us the sights of the place and also spot a black panther and leopard.
Day – 1 : Morning session, Trek to a beautiful waterfall thru thick forests
These are sights which only the locals know. The drive was about 45 minutes and then a 1 hr trek ( up & down) to a beautiful waterfall that originates from an underground spring, the rivulet then joins the Kaneri river – one of the main tributaries of the Kali river. This waterfall is full of water all 12 months. On the trek we spotted many snakes peeping out of their holes. Take a change of clothes as you will enter the waterfalls and get drenched
Day – 1 : Post Lunch session, Boat ride to the Supa Dam backwaters and beautiful islands, Sunset viewing
A nice drive thru dense forests we reach the vast expanse of backwaters of Supa Dam dotted with beautiful islands. The place is vast and not a soul in sight. But yes we spotted numerous birds and at least 20 of the rare Hornbills. The islands are calm and serene and a great place to view the sunset. On the way back Uday ensured that we started late and were driving around 7 PM – thats the time when you get a chance to spot the animals, we were lucky in spotting a rare Black Panther crossing the road.
Day – 2 : Morning session, Whitewater rafting
The white water resort that offers multiple activities is about 35 Kms from Amara ( 75 min drive). It was not crowded even on a Sunday. We took the 30 min, 1 km option for Rs 450/- which gets you a feel of a level 3 Rapid. We went by the same rapid 3 times. A longer option is a 8 Km rafting session across multiple rapids that takes a few hrs. This is priced at Rs 1450. Compared to the Rishikesh experience this was a cakewalk – very safe, so go for it. If you are wondering who took this photo – Rs 1400 extra gets you a professional photographer to shoot you as you tumble down the rapid and the guide on his iPro gives you a video of your rafting session. As expected this area is clean but commercial and crowded. Take a change of clothes.
Day – 2 : Post Lunch , Syntheri Rocks
This is a nice view point located about 7 Km from Amara. The drive is less than 30 minutes. Its a walk down 200 steep steps to view the Kaneri river cut thru a steep cliff.
On the way back we stopped at an isolated location in the Anshi Forest and trekked thru dense jungle to the Kaneri river. The water level here during the rains rises by over 20 feet covering all the rocks, but now it was nice and calm. A great way to spend a few hours in the scenic beauty of the river surrounded by forests.
Day – 3 : You have two options
Option – 1 : Dudhsagar
My colleagues headed to Dudhsagar which is a full day trip. You drive to the Goa border and then the contact picks you up by jeep from there. You can then trek 26 Km (up and down) or drive all the way to Dudhsagar (1 Km trek). The 26 Km trek can be thru dense forests or along the rail track. If you decide to trek, it can be very tiring. You leave by 5.30 AM and get back at 9 PM, remember to carry water / snacks – there is no food on the route. Best time to Visit Dudhsagar is Sep – Nov immediately after the rains.
Option – 2 : Nature walk – Visit to the River etc
I stayed back and soaked in the atmosphere of the homestay. Spoke to the family members had meals in their house. Morning was spent in nature walk spotting birds and rare plants followed by a walk thru the Hegde’s 10 acre farm. Thats when you realise that life in a farm is hard work. You need to be multifaceted to manage the work all year around. They are so self sufficient that even 70% of their LPG needs are met from their Gobar gas plant.
In the evening we visited a neighbouring farm who are lucky to have the river flow along their border. How lucky can you get. I enjoyed my solitude sitting by the river and listening to the gurgling rapids.
Day – 4 : Jeeva Samadhi of Chinna Basaveshwara & trek to Akkal Gavi Caves
The Jeeva samadhi of the youth saint Chinna Basaveshwara is at Ulavi – 14 Km from Amara. This is a very famous site for the Lingayat’s of N Karnataka. A few Km from here is a trek to the Akka Nagamma caves. This is the place where Akka Nagamma hid her son (Chinna Basaveshwara) from the soldiers of the sultan who were trying to kill him (Around 1100 AD). The trek is a long one – but not difficult. There are 3 sets of caves. While there is a proper trail and steps – this is again thru dense forests.
You come back from the trek have lunch, a short nap and then by 4.30 you are ready to leave, to catch your train at Alnavar. On the way you may want to explore Shivaji’s fort (we did not) – but we did stop by the Crocodile park – that was disappointing.
So what we could not cover this trip
- The Jungle safari at Potoli gate Tiger reserve that operates between 6 – 8AM & 4 – 6PM
- Shivpura Hanging bridge and Satodi Falls trek – Great place for sunset viewing
- Diggi Hills – the source of the Kali River
I am sure I will come back to complete the list. Our friendly guide assured us that there were many more offbeat places to see which only the locals knew about. Best time to travel is April & Oct / Nov. April the hills are full of flowers and Oct / Nov the rivers are overflowing.
A few more points as you plan the trip
- Take the train – don’t drive from Bangalore – its a long 11 hr drive. You lose 2 days in the process. Train is convenient and you need a local jeep / guide to show you the places
- Network coverage is poor – this is BSNL land. While Amara provides BSNL Wi Fi you will not get coverage on your Airtel / Voda / Jio phones.
- The rooms are clean, functional & basic. Each cottage has a twin bed and a single bed + a mattress to accommodate a 4th person. Soap & towel are provided by Amara. Carry your toiletries. You get hot water and nice views. Remember this is a homestay not a hotel
- This is not a place for wild parties, loud music and liquor. Food is pure Veg. Respect the communities way of life.
- The treks can be steep, carry good shoes. Carry change of clothes – the waterfalls and rafting will make you wet. Pack a rubber waterproof sandal – the river bed and waterfall area is rocky – good to have a footwear.
- Carry water / snacks on the treks – there are no shops around these places. Carry your medicines.
- Dont forget to pack your binoculars – lots of birds to watch
- This place is not at an altitude – but the dense greenery and rivers make it cold. Max temperature is 35 degrees. Nov – Feb can be cold. Minimum temp in Jan can be 6 – 7 degrees. Carry some warm clothes and socks. Especially if you are planning early morning trips
- This is a place you will feel like visiting again and again – a group of friends from Pune have visited Amara over 20 times.
- Most people who visit them are from Maharashtra / Belgaum / Hubli / Dharwad – Bangaloreans are yet to discover this place
- Roads are in great condition – they are almost empty so people go fast. While its not hilly terrain many roads are curvy and zig zag. Restrooms are a challenge – that’s why you do morning and evening sessions and head back to Amara for lunch.
- Carry something for the Hegde’s – the 4th generation kid Atharva is very cute and you will feel bad if you don’t carry some goodies for them. Remember they treat you like family – so you better reciprocate
- This place is real Value for money – Rs 1600/- per person / day inclusive of all meals (Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner / Tea/ Coffee / Fresh Juices / Snacks). You rent a jeep that can accommodate 8 people – for Rs 2800/day , driver cum guide extraordinary comes free
- Go as a group of 6 – 7 people, thats more fun
And one more thing….
The word Amara has two meanings, it means immortal – it also stands for the initials of the owners Ajit – Mangala – Ramchandran. Ajit has a Masters in Hotel Management and his wife Rachna in Fine Arts. The family is an ideal, happy, contended family. They are good people who work hard, lead a simple life and serve you like family.When you travel to a place like this staying in a homestay is such a great learning experience, dont miss that.
So do spare a few days and go visit them – Amara Homestay, PO Gund, Via Dandeli. https://dandeliamara.com
Some more Views from the trip …..
Piping hot Neer Dosas being made on a 100 year old metal Tava by Mangala Ji
Skill at work