You’re floating on the Sharavathi River and the winter sun is lulling you to close your eyes and enjoy bobbing on the gentle waves with the mountains rising up from all sides. What makes the moment even more perfect is when Nomito Kamdar of the Indian Institute of Adventure Applications (IIAA) tells you that the pied hornbill, which just flew past, is slowly returning to the Sharavathi Valley. This sweet spot where watersports meets conservation makes even a couple of days in Honnemardu time well spent.
The campus is your base, so you eat, sleep and do all the activities around here. But before you start packing your bags, you should know that the facilities here are very basic. You have to be the grown-up that you are and, except for cooking your meals, do everything on your own. That means cleaning up after yourself as well as roughing it out. Welcome to adulthood; you’ll love it here!
IIAA was started 25 years ago with the goal of conserving the biodiversity of the Western Ghats and using the outdoors as a platform for learning.
Run by The Adventurers, ‘a wilderness school’ and managed by Dr SLN Swamy and Nomito Kamdar, the activities push you and demand more of you.
The unpolluted waters of the Sharavathi River host many activities.
Pick from coracling, kayaking, wind surfing and sailing and spend the better part of the day in the water. You’re likely to experience a range of emotions – some for the first time here. It could be anxiety: will the coracle topple and ruin your expensive camera? Uncertainty: can you kayak on your own; exhilaration: yes, you can! And an ‘Aha!’ moment when you realise that few things compare to the joy of being outdoors.
But, if the water doesn’t excite you at that moment, take a rain check and head for the hills. There are several guided treks you can take, the closest one being to the Bhimanahejje Hill, which offers beautiful views of the Sharavathi River’s backwaters (2.5 hours). En route, you learn about how banning plastic and taking back any trash you generate has meant that this tiny corner of the Western Ghats can truly be described as pristine.
As you’re here to enjoy everything that nature has to offer, you spend the night camping out on an island.
The staff packs your dinner and you’re off in a coracle. With the sun setting in the background, pitching the tents feels less like a task and more like a fun activity. When you set out to collect firewood, beginning with twigs and moving up to thick branches, you realise the exercise is a survival guide that would make Bear Grylls proud. He’d love it even more as there’s no glamping here and you’re truly one with the elements.
More surprises await in this region, like the 16th-century Aghoreshvara Temple, which is a lesson in the Nayaka style of architecture (6km from Sagar, lkkeri;free). If you have a few extra hours, learn the basics of the local chittara art. While it can be confused for Warli art, chittara places more of an emphasises on geometry.
Chandrashekhar Gowrichandrashekhar runs Chitrasiri from his home and exhibits and sells paintings too (00-91-94496 98979; firstname.lastname@example.org). Who knew the little village of Honnemardu hid such a fount of art, adventure and architecture?
Closest city: Bangalore (418km) is the closest metro, it’s an eight-hour drive through some of Karnataka’s smaller towns.
Closest airports: Mangalore’s Bajpe Airport is the closest (230km). Spicejet and Jet Airways fly here from Bangalore. Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport (435km) is a longer drive, but better connected to Indian metros and cities.
Closest railhead: Bangalore Cityjunction is the major train station (SBC; 415km). The nearest railway station is Talguppa (TLGP; 10km). Take the 16227 Talguppa Express (leaves SBC 11pm, arrives TLGP 7.15am;) and return by the 16228 Bangalore Express (leaves TLGP 8.15pm, arrives SBC 4.30am;).
WHERE TO STAY
Indian Institute of Adventure Applications: Once you’ve reached the IIAA campus, you’re in their able hand.
Sagar (28km) is the town closest to Honnemardu and has some decent hotels if you want to check out theAghoreshvara Temple and surrounds.
Green Embassy: This is a three-star hotel with free wi-fi, car parking and a good restaurant.
Tip-Top Residency: This three-star hotel is another decent option, with room service and an all-day bar.
WHERE TO EAT
The food served at the IIAA campus is extremely simple vegetarian fare. Expect upma and pongal for breakfast; sambhar, rice, a locally-grown vegetable and buttermilk for lunch; and chapattis, rice, sambhar or rasam, and a vegetable again for dinner. And, of course, tea or coffee along with breakfast and in the evening. Remember, you have to wash your own dishes.