UDUPI: When one plans a trip to Udupi, the itinerary will be full of visits to ancient temples, picturesque beaches and hills that are the best to describe the district that is sandwiched between the lush green Western Ghats and the teal blue Arabian Sea.
But now, kayaking amid thick mangroves is the latest attraction to those visiting Udupi. Courtesy: Mithun and Lokesh, two passionate youth from Saligrama -- a tiny nondescript village in the district, who have introduced kayaking in the backwaters of the Sita River making it possible for nature lovers to wind through unexplored mangrove forests, which till recently remained out of bounds for the outside world.
Mithun (28) was working at a private firm in Bengaluru, but was always inclined towards doing something in the field of tourism, and ta-da, he came up with the concept of kayaking in his hometown of Saligrama.
He and his friend Lokesh - now his business partner - invested Rs 7 lakh and procured eight kayaks and the story of 'Sails and More Adventures' began a few months ago. Kayak is a small watercraft which is propelled by a double-bladed paddle.
A 5-km ride of under two hours along Sita River showcases Udupi's blessed abundant backwaters and mangroves. "I always felt that there was a sea of opportunities for eco-tourism in Udupi district. What better place than the mangroves of Saligrama for kayaking. I have heard many people say that they enjoy the backwaters of neighbouring Kerala. But our very own backwaters in Udupi are no less. They are equally beautiful," Mithin says with a sense of pride.
Earlier, only locals and tourists from neighbouring villages came here for kayaking. But now, without any large-scale advertising and merely through the word of mouth, tourists from Mangaluru, Manipal and even far-off places like Bengaluru flock to Saligrama to experience kayaking.
Either Mithun or Lokesh, or at times both, accompany the tourists, who are provided with lifejackets for safety. “Those who have never done kayaking can also come here and learn the basics through our 10-minute training. They can get into a kayak immediately after,” Mithun says.
In one part of the stretch, the mangroves are so thick that even the sunlight does not penetrate through. The two assure tourists that the entire ride is safe as the route was chosen after much navigation work by the duo.
Also, the stretch is not too deep, making it safe for tourists. If one is tired of paddling their kayak, they can rest for a while and observe nature at its best as a whole lot of birds and marine life thrive in the backwaters. Kayaking starts at 7 am every day and goes on till 7 pm.
However, if there is a low tide, kayaks may not be able to move inside the deep thick mangrove forest stretches. Tourists seem to love it. Gurudath, a manager at Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Ltd, Mangaluru, who came here for kayaking, told The New Indian Express that the stretch of mangrove forests in Saligrama is thick and unique in many ways.
"Watching the roots of the mangroves by sailing close to them on a kayak is a wonderful experience. Nobody would have thought earlier that kayaking could be organised so well on our own coast. Mithun and Lokesh deserve special appreciation," he said.
Priyanka, a wellness coach from Bengaluru, said the time spent kayaking in Saligrama will be etched in her memory forever. "I will visit this place again...very soon,"she added. For a two-hour ride, the organisers charge Rs 300 per adult and each kayak can accommodate two people.
(Many travel bloggers have also started arriving at this kayaking point, located just 2.5 km west of NH 66 in Saligrama. For more details, dial Mithun on 7259277799 and Lokesh on 9845943030)