WORDS PARITA PATEL
PHOTOGRAPHS VINOBHA NATHAN
GREAT FROM Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai
GREAT FOR All sorts of outdoor fun
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. 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. 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. Who knew the little village of Honnemardu hid such a fount of art, adventure and architecture?