This is the season when trekkers, adventure tourists and wildlife enthusiasts make a beeline for the hilly, foggy land of Chikkamagaluru. This region is bathed in continuous downpours, resulting in overflowing rivers, landslides and lush verdant environs.
The highest point in the state, the Mullayanagiri Range, at 1,900 metres above sea level, sees hordes of enthusiasts from Bengaluru as well as neighbouring states, especially in August-September. Unfortunately, many lose their trail, get lost, sustain injuries or even get killed as they are neither familiar with the terrain nor able to face the rigours of the wet, sub-tropical, evergreen forests full of wildlife from leeches to tigers.
Wherever one goes, be it Kemmangundi, Bababudangiri or the Mullayanagiri hill ranges, the locales are blessed with silver cascades, mountain streams, unusual blooms, verdant slopes and of course, a salubrious climate. That’s why one sees flocks of tourists during monsoons around the rivers of Tunga and Bhadra and many brimming waterfalls.
Many come to explore jungle paths and climb the innumerable peaks in this biodiversity region. The view from Kudremukh hills, overlooking the Arabian Sea, is magnificent, but travelling to the Mullayanagiri on a narrow treacherous wet road is risky while trekking to the highest point is considered an achievement. People usually come to see Hebbe Falls, Hanumangundi Falls and the Manikyadhara Falls, among the many others that take your breath away in Chikkamagaluru district.
Just about 10 kms from the Kemmanagundi hill station is Hebbe Falls surrounded by thick, dense jungles and one feels as if the water is streaming down from nowhere. One has to traverse a mountain jungle road, across coffee estates and trek for another two kilometers to reach this place.
The area is humid and full of leeches. However, falling in a restricted zone, the Falls are closed during some months of the year, so tourists often return disappointed.
The Hanumangundi Falls too have been closed to tourists now and then as they are located in the midst of a protected area visited by numerous wildanimals. Tourists are not always sensitive to the fauna and have also strewn litter around the falls and its surroundings. One feels saddened at the utter disregard of tourists as the area is covered with trash left behind by them. The pristine evergreen Shola land is the habitat of the Lion Tailed Macque.
Owing to these detrimental effects of tourism, there has been a hue and cry from wildlife conservationists. It is better to avoid this water body as it is in the middle of Kudremukh National Park and is a restricted area. Even the 250 steps down are slippery and then climbing up is harder for those with knee problems.
The falls, cascading in the wilderness into the bowels of lush forests and surrounded by a riot of colours, stun with their beauty. As one drives along the Kudremukh Road, just 20 kilometers from the former steel township, one gets to see a magnificent sunset.
Another area which sees a heavy tourist footfall is the Manikyadhara, atop the Bababudangiri Range which along with Mullayanagiri forms the crescent-shaped Chandradrona mountains.
People flock to this place every season as it is a pilgrimage spot and many make it a point to see the falls too which emerge like a stream of small pearls. Just 40 kilometers from Chikkamagaluru town, this can be reached via a beautiful drive and as one climbs up the verdant ranges up to 6,000 feet, one feels the chill, the aromatic winds and soothed by verdant coffee estates with a variety of spices, tall evergreen canopies and a profusion of blooms of every colour possible.