The wild beckons

BIODIVERSITY IN THE GHATS


The Irpu waterfalls is a well-known holiday spot in Kodagu district. Photo by Arun Bhat

The narrow path slits the dense forest into two parts. Bamboo thickets lean into the void created by the course, blocking direct sunlight. Packed undergrowth limits the view of the forest. The canopy is crowded with tropical trees jostling for space and sunlight. Birds chirp continuously, hidden somewhere along the branches, never coming out to show off their pretty plumage. Below on the ground, barely visible tiny leeches lift their heads up and look for something to feed on. Mild fog covers the forest, giving it a mysterious atmosphere.

The hike across the Brahmagiri wildlife sanctuary in Kodagu goes through thick tropical wilderness rich with diverse flora and fauna.

The biodiversity changes with altitude, as bamboo groves in the lower regions make way to evergreen vegetation, and finally to grasslands and shola forests at the top of the hills. The trek begins at the well known Irpu Waterfalls, where the river Lakshmana Teertha emerges suddenly from the heart of the forest and meanders further into the paddy fields of Kutta village.

Narimale camp

The walk begins through an easy trail that climbs gently in the beginning, slowly getting steeper with progress. After two hours of brisk walking through the vegetation, the trail abruptly opens up to the views of the surrounding hills covered by a thin layer of grass.

Another half-an-hour on the trail through an undulating terrain leads to Narimale Camp, a forest bungalow where the tired trekker can rest. Narimale camp is built to shelter forest guards who are on duty to watch against poaching. For a trekker, it serves as a base camp to visit nearby places – Narimale Peak, Brahmagiri Peak and Munekal caves.

Wildlife is plentiful on the grasslands above the forest bungalow. Sambar deer, nilgiri langur and wild gaur are commonly seen along the hills. Elephants can be occasionally sighted grazing on the slopes. Lucky ones may see lion tailed macaques hopping from tree to tree in the shola forests. Tigers are known to exist, but sightings of the big cat are not common.

Narimale Peak is a short thirty minute walk from the camp through grassy slopes. Sambar deer frequent the way up, and run into the forest on seeing approaching people. Seen from the peak is the vista of the plains below on one side, and Brahmagiri peak somewhere faraway on the other.

Munekal caves

On the other hand, Munekal caves is a maze of boulders over a rocky terrain, an hour’s walk from the bungalow.

The caves are also called Pakshi Pathalam or a den of birds, but what is here to see are not avifauna, but an assembly of huge rocks with gaps between them to walk through.

It is a long half-day walk to Brahmagiri Peak that takes the trekker through carpets of lush grass, and occasionally past small patches of shola. Small white and pink flowers interrupt the uniform green plains every few minutes on the way. It is an easy walk to the foot of Brahmagiri Peak, but the last thirty minutes up the peak is a steep and tiring climb.

The ridges of Brahmagiri divides people and the forest, with something charming on both sides. Installed on the peak is a small sign that reads ‘Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary –
Altitude 1600m’.

Brahmagiri wildlife sanctuary is a restricted area and one has to take permission from Range Forest Officer (RFO) at Srimangala village.

To reach Srimangala, take a KSRTC bus to Gonikoppal from Bangalore and change buses here.

Pay necessary entry fees at Srimangala RFO office and get your permits.

The RFO will assign an escort to lead the trek. You can also shop at Srimangala for groceries needed for a night's stay in the sanctuary. Irpu falls, where the trek begins, is another 30 minutes by bus. Buses from Srimangala to Irpu are infrequent, but you can hire jeeps to take you through this stretch.

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