Anyone visiting Kodagu would exclaim in awe at its beautiful landscape and fall in love with it instantly. Many term it as paradise on earth. It is the land of ‘Cauvery, Cariappa and Coffee'. The district's unique culture is internationally known. Tourists find Kodagu a magnificent place to visit, thanks to its salubrious climate. The district draws tourists even during the monsoon.

The Raja's Seat gardens in Madikeri is the most frequented spot in Kodagu. The view of the sunset is astonishing from this place which was once visited by the former rulers of Kodagu and their consorts. The valley unfolding in waves beneath is breathtaking. A viewpoint covered with barricades is one of the nice spots to reach to enjoy the sight of pristine nature. Twinkling lights of moving vehicles on the serpentine Madikeri-Mangalore road below is a rare sight to behold. Foreign tourists too have found this place interesting and visit it in good numbers throughout the year.

Numerous waterfalls spring up beckoning visitors during the monsoon. A walk to the Abbey Falls area through a private coffee plantation is thrilling. Similarly, Devaragundi Falls near Mukkodlu, Chelavara Falls near Cheyyandane, Irupu Falls in Virajpet, and a number of unnamed ones all along the Karike road, come up as beautiful niches of nature, continuing for a couple of months more even after the monsoon is gone.

Trekking

The Honnammanakere, Makkala Gudi, Doddamalte caves, Mallalli Falls, all in Somwarpet taluk of the district, are some of the other frequented spots. The Youth Hostel Association of India organises an annual trekking programme during the year-end that attracts a large number of participants. Reaching the peak of Kote Betta, one of the elevated spots in the Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, is a thrilling experience for the participants. Climbing ‘Narimale' in the Irpu hills (Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary) is another scintillating experience.

If one can use the word ‘romancing the nature', it happens in Kodagu, a land blessed with natural charm and beauty.

Though not maintained very well, the Cauvery Nisargadhama resort run by the Department of Forests near Kushalnagar comes up as one of the finest spots to visit. The wooden cottages built on the banks of the Cauvery are ageing, yet many prefer to stay there. This island, perhaps, could be turned into one of the most beautiful tourist spots in Kodagu if the Department pumps in money to upgrade the boating and canteen facilities, and the deer park.

The Dubare Elephant Camp located nearby provides a different thrill, that of watching the mighty elephants. It is amazing to see how the ‘gentle giants' which show tremendous amount of aggression during their capture in the wild are tamed and come to obey the orders of their mahouts and kavadis within months.

Mandalapatti, about 20 km from Madikeri, is a bewitching spot to visit. One would have to pass through arduous mountain roads to reach there. The wave of mountains unfolding one after another with a display of green and blue hues is a beholder's delight.

The Forest Department has put up a view tower from its peak from which one could view the sprawling landscape.

State Govt's apathy

The State Government's role in promoting tourism in the district appears to be an experiment only on paper. A sum of Rs. 2.94 crore has been sanctioned to Kodagu district for tourism promotion activities from 2007-2008 to 2010-2011. Of this Rs. 1.77 crore is said to have been spent by the PWD, which has been entrusted with the job.

A sum of Rs. 40 lakh was sanctioned for developing Mercara Downs Golf Course. The Kodava Heritage Centre project was sanctioned Rs. 53.54 lakh. A sum of Rs. 25 lakh was sanctioned for the construction of a hanging bridge at Avandi Falls, near Hattihole. Development of Irpu Falls area was given a sum of Rs. 30 lakh. The Mahadeshwara Betta project was given Rs. 40 lakh. Works relating to these projects have either not started or only at the halfway stage.

A sum of Rs. 20 lakh was sanctioned to develop the Raja's Seat gardens by including some areas adjacent to it, but a land dispute has come in the eay, according to information gathered from the Deputy Commissioner's office in Madikeri. Importantly, the Government has failed to post an officer to the Department of Tourism in Kodagu even though repeated requests have been made by the elected representatives for a long time now. This clearly shows the apathy of the Government.

Home stay

What boosted tourism in Kodagu in the recent past are the privately-managed home stays. Some are located amidst rich coffee plantations and taking a walk there in the misty morning in an exhilarating experience. Some have boating facilities. Homely food is supplied to the occupants by the hosts. Home Stay Association has come into being to protect the interests of the operators.

The Tourism Department, district administration, police, and Commercial Taxes department have come up with various measures to maintain the fair name of these facilities, especially when ‘strangers' visit them. Home stay operators have considerably accounted for the growth of tourism in Kodagu. Tourists either do online booking or approach acquaintances to visit Kodagu, particularly Madikeri and surrounding places, from all over the country.

Apprehensions

Some are apprehensive that this newly developed culture (home stay) could lead to social problems in future, a point that needs to be addressed by the operators themselves, apart from the district administration. Many feel tourism promotion on a commercial scale would be detrimental to the idyllic environment of Kodagu. Plastic and other wastes abound Raja's Seat when visitors flock Madikeri during extended holidays. Some merchants who sell spices and other specialities of Kodagu are accused of fleecing the tourists.

‘We feel like outsiders during weekends', says Tata, a resident of Madikeri. The number of tourists is more than the ‘carrying capacity' of the district, locals complain. Some others say that Kodagu should be looked at for promotion for eco-tourism. Organisations such as Cauvery Sene are against promoting tourist activities in pilgrim centres such as Bhagamandala, Talacauvery and Irpu. Such measures only defile nature and spoil the local culture, the convenor of the Sene, Ravi Chengappa, says.

Jeevan Chinnappa

Kodagu's lovely landscape attracts a large number of tourists, but this also poses problems