Dubare

Not too far from popular Madikeri, the little-known forest of Dubare has plenty to offer in terms of natural splendour and sheer adventure

Raji Sunderkrishnan

Dubare 

With River Cauvery for its western edge, the Dubare forest sits in close proximity to the Nagarahole National Park, easily accessible to the thronging tourist hordes at Coorg, yet relatively unknown. It is often confused with the Dubare Elephant Camp, a favourite amongst children and adults alike for its elephant interaction programme.

Dubare forest is best explored by jeep safari, but the walks outside the forest boundary provide a fantastic opportunity to sight common forest birds, winter migrants and some of Western Ghats’ endemics. If birding isn’t your cup of tea (or coffee, in this case), Dubare and its surrounding areas offer sights and experiences for sore eyes and parched souls: waterfalls, coffee plantations, hills and peaks, places of worship, and outdoor activities. Dubare promises to be one of those rare holidays that nobody in the family can complain about because there is indeed something for everyone.

Plan Your Trip

Getting there

Air

Mysore (100km; 2.5 hrs) is the nearest airport. However, Bangalore (235km; 5.5 hrs) and Mangalore (170km; 4 hrs) offer better flight connectivity with the rest of the country.

Rail

Mysore Junction (100km; 2.5 hrs) is well-connected by trains from Bangalore and all the other key cities in South India.

Road

Dubare is at a comfortable driving distance from popular tourist destinations like Madikeri (30km; 45 min), Mysore (100km; 2.5 hrs) and Bangalore (235km; 5.5 hrs).

best time to visit

  • October to early March is the coolest time of the year, with temperatures from 15-24°C. This season is the best for birding enthusiasts, as this is when you can sight winter migrants in addition to the resident birds.

  • Mid-March to mid-June brings Coorg’s hottest weather, with the mercury hitting 28-30°C, but it is still relatively pleasant due to the forest cover and elevation.

  • Mid-June to mid-September are the monsoon months – when the rivers are swollen and leeches may find you, but Coorg dons a verdant cloak that is just irresistible.

History

Nanjaraja, the king of Nanjarayapatna, had many enemies. In a dream, he was told that his troubles would vanish if he built a temple in a day. The task seemed impossible for anybody other than the masterful Chola architects; they were pressed into service and set about achieving the deadline, working through the night. An errant rooster crowed earlier than usual, and the Chola builders left, assuming it was daybreak. Nobody knows whether Nanjaraja’s fortunes reversed. Five hundred years later, Tipu Sultan’s pillaging army found no treasures in that temple, known as the Veerabhadreshwara Temple. Uninterested, they left it half-destroyed, saying “We’ll return another time to do this”, or, “We’ll come dubara”, giving Dubare forest its name.

The Dubare Elephant Camp, on the other hand, was set up by the Karnataka Forest Department to train elephants for the famous Mysore Dasara festival. Elephants that were part of the logging operations in Karnataka are now taken care of at this facility. The camp currently houses 27 elephants and offers activities that allow guests to interact with the elephants and better understand the lives of these gentle giants.

Stay

Jungle Lodges & Resorts’ (JLR) Dubare Elephant Camp is highly recommended. The cottages are spacious and clean, and some are even situated by the River Cauvery. The service and food are great. A riverside cottage costs ₹5676 per person per night, on a twin-sharing basis. It is inclusive of all meals, one jeep safari into the Dubare forest, a nature walk and an elephant interaction session. A non-riverside cottage costs ₹4974 for the same. Children between 5 and 12 years pay 50% only. Vehicles need to be parked on the other side of the river, and a boat takes guests to the property.

Madikeri, Coorg’s headquarters and its largest town, is the preferred base for most travellers, which also works well for its proximity to Dubare. Look for homestays or hotels in and around Madikeri, Siddapura, Suntikoppa or Virajpet at the farthest, to access Dubare in under an hour.

See|Do

  • Jeep safaris into the Dubare forest are available to guests staying overnight at the Jungle Lodges and Resorts’ ‘Dubare Elephant Camp’.
  • On the jeep safari, large mammals like the elephant, Gaur, Dhole, Sambar, Spotted Deer, and leopard, among many others, are often sighted.
  • Some of Western Ghats’ endemic bird species that can be sighted in Dubare are the Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar Parakeet, Crimson-backed Sunbird, Flame-throated Bulbul, and White-cheeked Barbet. Winter brings with it migrants like the Bar-headed Goose, Black Baza, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Indian Pitta, and Verditer Flycatcher. 

  • Short hikes for sighting reptiles, amphibians, fungi, butterflies and other smaller wildlife can be highly rewarding, especially with a knowledgeable naturalist. Walk along marked trails and do not trample vegetation unnecessarily.

  • Elephant interaction packages are available at the Dubare Elephant Camp. The longer ‘Day Visit’ package (08:30 am to 14:30 pm) includes buffet breakfast, elephant bathing and interaction, nature walk and a buffet lunch. The shorter ‘Elephant Interaction’ package (08:30 am to 11:00 am) includes buffet breakfast and an elephant bathing and interaction session. Set aside at least 2 hours for the even shorter package. Prior booking is recommended.

  • On a trip longer than three days, a day trek to a suitable peak like Thadiyandamol can be planned. These treks introduce you to the habitat and its more unique flora and fauna. 

Don't Miss

  • Madikeri has many well-known tourist attractions like the Abbey Falls, Omkareshwara Temple, Raja’s Seat, Madikeri Fort and Gaddige.
  • A visit to Coorg is incomplete without a visit to a coffee plantation. If you are a guest at JLR, a visit can be arranged upon prior request.
  • The Chiklihole Reservoir near Dubare makes for a scenic sunset spot. 
  • A ‘devara kadu’ is a sacred forested grove revered by Kodavas. They are interesting places to visit. Ask the locals at Dubare where to find one.
  • In March, a grand puja is conducted at the derelict Veerabhadreshwara temple, with priests coming from all over Karnataka. If you visit Dubare at the time, do stop by.
  • While in Dubare, definitely try the distinct and flavoursome Kodava cuisine.
  • Coorg is famous for its honey, coffee, spices, homemade wine, and homemade chocolates, and they make for great souvenirs, besides supporting the local economy.
  • The Tibetan settlement at Bylakuppe and its famous Namdroling Monastery (aka Golden Temple) are a must-see. The monastery can easily be visited during your drive in or out of Dubare. Set aside at least 2 hours to enjoy the area.

What to pack

  • During summer, it is advisable to carry cotton clothes, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen lotion, even though summers are relatively bearable compared to the plains.

  • During winter, carry warm clothing – a sweater or a light jacket will suffice. Woollen socks, ear muffs and mufflers may also help if you tend to feel very cold easily. 

  • During the monsoon, carry an umbrella, quick-drying clothes, and a poncho/ raincoat/ rain jacket. Using only an umbrella is insufficient when there is heavy rain lashing from all sides. 

  • Leech socks are a must during the monsoon, especially if leeches make you squeamish. 

  • For treks and safaris, dress in muted shades of brown, green, grey, black or blue.

  • Mosquito repellent will come in handy.

  • Ensure you have a torch for emergencies. A head torch is very useful too.

  • Camera gear.

  • Binoculars, especially if you are an avid birder.

  • Birdwatching field guide.

For photographers

  • A telephoto lens of at least 300 mm focal length is essential for bird photography due to the tall forest canopy.

  • Carry a wide-angle lens (10-24 mm) to capture landscapes and architecture.  

  • Carry a kit lens (18-70 mm) to compose photographs of wildlife in their habitat.

  • A macro lens is essential to photograph fungi, amphibians, spiders and insects.

  • Coorg’s clear skies and lack of harsh night lights make it one of the best places for star-trail photography, in the non-monsoon months. Carry a shutter release cable and a sturdy tripod.

  • Early mornings, late evenings, the tall forest canopy, and winter mist present low-light conditions for which a tripod is very useful.

Good To Know

  • You will find facilities like ATMs, restaurants, pharmacies, convenience stores, petrol bunks and hospitals in Madikeri and Virajpet. Most other small towns and villages will have fewer facilities, and definitely not at walking distance from your hotel or homestay. So plan ahead.

  • All major mobile phone networks provide good network coverage and data connectivity in the region. Trek routes and forested areas may have patchy or unreliable network, though. 

  • Public bathrooms are rarely available, except at a few restaurants or stores in large towns like Madikeri and Virajpet. 

  • Carry packed lunch, snacks and water, if spending the entire day away from popular tourist areas. Some small shops near tourist spots and along main roads may sell water, tea/coffee, and snacks like biscuits and chips. 

  • JLR has trained naturalists who guide guests during nature walks and jeep safaris. You will have to arrange for your own guide for hikes or treks to other areas.

  • Day visitors to the elephant camp are briefed about elephants and their life and behaviour by naturalists.

Budget per person

  • A two-night stay at Dubare is highly recommended, for the sheer number of activities and sights to take in.

  • A one-night stay at Jungle Lodges and Resorts’ ‘Dubare Elephant Camp’ costs ₹4974-5676 per person, excluding transport, shopping and other personal expenditure. The budget includes accommodation in a twin-sharing cottage, all meals, one jeep safari into the Dubare forest, a nature walk, and an elephant interaction session. 

  • A one-night stay at a homestay is likely to cost ₹2500-5,000 per person, excluding transport, shopping and other personal expenditure. The budget includes accommodation on a twin-sharing basis, and at least two meals. Some homestays only offer breakfast and dinner though, so do check. 

  • In addition to this, you will need to opt for an elephant interaction or day visit package at the Dubare Elephant Camp. A day visit to Dubare Elephant Camp costs ₹1350 per person, and the elephant interaction package is priced at ₹ 850 per person. 

  • Other than the elephant camp, the cost of entry to most sights recommended on the list is free or negligible.

Raji Sunderkrishnan - Architect and Photographer

Raji Sunderkrishnan

Architect and Photographer

Raji Sunderkrishnan is an architect who ironically dreams about moving out of the concrete jungle someday. Her idea of bliss is being surrounded by mountains, water, or forests, and she especially enjoys traipsing through rainforests in the monsoons. She tweets as @raji1110 and posts as @rajisunderkrishnan on Instagram.