June 17, 2012

Roaming with Giants

The entrance to the Dubare Elephant Camp is dramatic and moreso in dusk. Wearing life jackets and positioned cautiously on a boat that can accommodate not more than a dozen people - that is all that stands between them and an imminent dip in the Cauvery, one looks out into the river. The boatman pushed the boat away using a bamboo pole and soon the scene changes as large trees loom in the distance. The boisterous crowd is left behind as silence takes over and you are at the middle of the river looking at the Dubare Elephant Camp. The forest stands tall as you disembark from the boat and strain your neck to look what’s in the ahead. Giant trees, the likes of which is seen usually in television shows in faraway lands stretch upwards, kissing the skies almost. Rosewood, lagerstroemia, teak, flame of the forest, wild mangoes and many more species is all that stands in front of you and an enviable holiday that has few parallels.

For in Dubare reserve forest, just north of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, in the Coorg district, lies several hidden gems that truly invoke the beauty of the forest in the eye of the viewer. Yes, more than the famed tiger or the elusive leopard or the giant that is the elephant, it is the forest that takes centre stage by its diversity and sheer beauty and holds its ground at Dubare. That and the fact that a person can touch and be one with the elephants in a natural setting without fear of being trampled over by some unruly giant is perhaps the singular thrill of this unique experiment of the Forest Department of Karnataka and Jungle Lodges and Resorts.

Dubare is situated in the district of Coorg, a vast mountainous region with a low population density which makes it one of the most sparsely populated regions in South India, with few urban concentrations and the sweet aroma of coffee and spices pervading the senses everywhere.

Dubare lies on the banks of the Cauvery, about eighty kilometers from her source at Talacauvery. Located aptly so, as the Cauvery is the singular presence that occupies the landscape in the district of Coorg. The entire hilly country of Coorg is devoted to the river for the bounty she provides and much of the popular lore in Coorg is usually associated with the great river Cauvery. Besides, coffee also defines Coorg along with the fragrance of pepper, rubber and other spices also grown alongside the major crop of coffee. People who visit Dubare get an opportunity to see the flourishing agricultural practices of the people who grow a diverse variety of rice on the valley floors and plantation crops in the hills, some of the bounties of the river and her tributaries.

A beautiful water-locked forest, Dubare is located at the eastern end of the district at an average altitude of around 900 metres. As we drive from Dubare to the west, the altitude rises sharply with the Tadiandamol peaking at 1750 metres and Madikeri lying at an average altitude of more than 1400 metres above sea level. The Western Ghats is at its prettiest here and the rains exceed in its more than 4000 mm at various places, much of the water drains into the Cauvery providing Dubare with an intensely lush riverside vegetation and the sight of the river at its brim several times a year.

The cabins are located close to the elephant camp, next to the flowing Cauvery and are simple in nature, snugly fitting into the surroundings. Woodwork done to taste ensures that one feels part of nature while gazing at the setting sun over the Cauvery. A wonderful idyllic location, the Dubare Elephant camp is much loved by nature lovers throughout the country. Although, it was set up relatively recently, it has acquired a special status as an unexpectedly unique holiday.

Home to Giants

The giants have a place of pride at Dubare. Giant trees, a larger than life riverine landscape and above all the gigantic elephants. Fuelled by a high rainfall regime, the river often brims over and the trees grow to a height uncommon to large parts of India. The elephants here too form an integral part of the forest. This is the land where the giant beast roams with abandon, where the smell of coffee pervades all senses and where an unique experiment of introducing the general population to the experience of handling real elephants has worked wonders and brought thousands closer to nature and at the same time aided in conservation by imbibing valuable education to the common man.

A serene location, lots of elephants to interact with at close quarters, some beautiful patches of ancient bamboo forests and a small quaint village of tribals or indigenous people who make these forests their home. Dubare thus, whilst set up as an elephant camp is a wonderful location matched perhaps by the very best nature camps in the world. A must visit for any traveler to the hills of Coorg.