SANCTUARIES AND NATIONAL PARKS
Karnataka has a vast and enviable forest cover, endowed with thick vegetation, wildlife and birds. The state is known to have some of the best and largest jungle tracts in South India. So much so that it is home to a staggering 13 national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and bird sanctuaries. The most famous and popular among them is the Nagarhole National Park, among the best-managed in the country. It is a 575-sq-km stretch of reserve forest with dense vegetation and teeming with wildlife.
The forest is very picturesque and is home to tigers, leopards, elephants, gaur, sambar and other mammals, birds and reptiles. Also popular is Bandipur National Park, one of India’s best tiger reserves. It is separated from Nagarhole by the Kabini reservoir, but is otherwise contiguous with it as well as with the Mudumalai and Wayanad sanctuaries. It possesses spectacular biodiversity and with the beautiful mist-covered Nilgiris in the background, this park is known for its scenic beauty as well. In addition, there are also the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary and the Kokkrebellur Pelicanry.
COASTAL BELT & BEACHES
Karnataka’s coastal stretch from Mangaluru to Karwar, about 320 km, is possibly one of the state’s best-kept secrets—with hills and forests, rivers and streams, paddy fields and groves of coconut and areca nut. It curves around them, rising steeply and then dipping over hillocks. The road is mostly busy, considering the area is home to the temple towns of Udupi, Gokarnaand Murudeshwar, all of which draw pilgrims by the thousands. Predictably, a substantial number of these spill over happily onto the beaches. So it’s not the most ideal area for nature communions or lotus-eating. The journey starts in Mangaluru with lovely beaches, especially at Ullal, and delicious food.
About an hour north is Udupi with the adorable 800-year-old Krishna Temple, temple town quirks and lip-smacking food such as dosa and. idli at Mitra Samaj. West of Udupi is Malpe, which has a beach, a bustling fishing port and the entry way to St. Mary’s Island, full of dramatic pillar-like rock formations rising out of the sea. Farther up the road is Maravanthe, a surreal stretch with the Arabian Sea on one side and the gently flowing Souparnika river on the other. At Murudeshwar, with its gigantic Shiva idol and the temple, as well as at Gokarna, with its iconic temple, it is spirituality that rules but the beaches offer a fabulous counterpoint. And if it is more beaches that you are looking for, then stop at Honnavar for a tranquil getaway or head to Karwar where there is a decent beach enhanced by the Naval Ship Museum or to Devbagh which is ideal for solitude.