Dandeli: A Weekend well-spent in the Lap of Nature
March 23, 2020
The time had rolled around for me to plan a new trip, and I had no idea where to go. I’d just returned from one, and there was a whole new wedding season staring up at me, all of which were taking place in the south of India. The window between the weddings in Bengaluru and Kochi was too tight for me squeeze in a trip, so I thought hey, why don’t we just… stick around? I hadn’t had a chance to explore Karnataka beyond Bengaluru, so… Why ever not?
And there it unfolded before me, two weeks to wander around this state, doing whatever I wanted to.
Bengaluru gave me all the food I’d ever need, and now I was itching for some adventure. Lazily, a name floated into my mind… Dandeli. It had come up a couple of times when I was employed, as an option for an office offsite, but never materialised. Now that I was here, I decided to finally head over to this emerald gem nestled amidst the lush forests of northern Karnataka.
Dandeli is definitely a destination that’s designed to be enjoyed by groups of people or on family weekends off, and here I was winging it solo, with no idea where to begin. A simple Google search and I was directed to Dandeli.com, the official website that handles tourism in Dandeli and a one-stop to plan stay, activities, everything. I really didn’t have to look any further, because I had everything I’d need to know about Dandeli in the palm of my hand right here.
I read up a little, and after a little bit of research, figured I’d spend 2 days here. An entire weekend. And after spending a weekend in Dandeli, I’m going to tell you why Dandeli makes for a great visit and exactly how you can plan your trip.
Getting To Dandeli
Dandeli is nearest to Hubli and Dharwad, and the best way to get there is via car. Self-driving is an excellent option, else you can ask your accommodation in Dandeli to arrange for a pickup. This can be arranged via Dandeli.com as well.
You can reach Hubli and Dharwad from Bengaluru by train and bus. Hubli is a business hub and very easily accessible from anywhere in Karnataka.
Where to Stayin Dandeli
There are plenty of homestays and hotels in Dandeli. The deal with the stays here is that it’s all-inclusive. Your cost includes stay, food, some tours, and certain types of activities that you can enjoy. This is precisely why you should head to Dandeli. There’s a lot of fun to be had at very less effort, and it can all be found in and booked through one place.
I stayed at two homestays during my time in Dandeli:
Each offers very different activities, so I’m glad I split my time. Detailed posts on both properties coming up soon!
What to Do in Dandeli
Coming to the meat. Dandeli is cosily cuddled up in the forest area of Karnakata, which means there’s lots of greenery, plenty of wildlife, and disconnection (Vodafone does NOT work. If you want to stay connected, go with Airtel or Jio instead. Or ditch all of that and just let go 🙂 ). The Kali river flows through the town, and the flow is controlled by the Supa dam. This dam has been built by Karnataka Power Corporation Limited and is responsible for the rapids that Dandeli is so famous for. There you have it, white water rafting. The adventure I was so craving was right here, and I couldn’t wait to hit the rapids.
1. White water rafting
Probably THE most popular thing to do in Dandeli. The Supa dam controls the rapids, and you want to be in the water the day both gates are opened. Usually, though, they open only one of the two gates, which also delivers quite a force causing the rapids to move far and fast and letting us adventure-junkies seek out a good time.
There are 3 rafting options one can choose from – 1 km, 5 km, and 10 km.
The 1 km and 5 km ones are unauthorised and unofficial.
There is no safety or insurance involved. I went for the 10 km one, which is authorised by the Govt. of Karnataka and comes with full safety measures in place. It starts from way higher up the river and gives you the full experience. Bumpy rocks, fast rapids, narrow passages, full waves… Trained professionals guided us and made the experience easy, lively and a lot of fun.
I would recommend staying for at LEAST two nights if you want to do the 10 km stretch. Reason being, IN CASE the dam doesn’t open the gate on day one, you have a second day to go on.
Your accommodation will arrange for this activity for you. You will need to sign a waiver form before doing it as well. I was provided with a helmet and a lifejacket, so you don’t need to worry at all. The instructors are very, very skilled, so rest assured you’re in safe hands.
The entire Kali river is a jade-coloured delight, flanked by lush forests under a shining sky. It’s the perfect place to go kayaking with your buddies, or in my case, even by myself. Keep an eye open for birds of all kinds flying out from the trees around you. If you’re lucky, you might also spot a crocodile or two.
3. Natural Jacuzzi
Right next to the first rapid is a network of rocks where water gushes and babbles with a powerful force. The number and size of the rocks also makes it a cosy spot where one can sit and enjoy this water flowing around them. They call this a natural jacuzzi. The guy who was taking me around took me to a spot where the water’s force was SO INTENSE my pants almost slid off (true story).
Go there if you’re up for something risky but fun, but do NOT go there without supervision, or you will get swept away. Stick by the side where you can cosily nestle among the rocks, and it’s a relaxing experience. Chilling in the rocks where the water’s force is quite like a jacuzzi is a great option.
The way to get to this jacuzzi is via a boat, and they call this boating. You can choose to do four activities and have this included in it. The awesome part about this is we got to jump off the boat and enjoy a relaxing swim in the calm parts of the river while staring up into the blue, blue sky and listening to the sounds of birds chattering away in the distance. It’s really quite blissful.
Like I mentioned earlier, Dandeli is home to a LOT of wildlife and you will see different kinds of birds. It wasn’t peak season for bird-watching when I went, but I ended up spotting hornbills and sunbirds. I even had a woodpecker wake me up int the morning with its incessant tapping on my window! Properties here usually organise jungle walks, and bird-watching walks early in the morning, and the folks know how to spot the birds, so stick with your guide, and you might luck out with some beautiful sightings!
6. Visit the Honey Park
This was genuinely eye-opening for me. I know the theory behind honey-farming, but to see it in action was a whole new experience. The apiary operates organically. I was given an introduction to the lives of bees and how they are taken care of, how they live (SO MUCH TO LEARN), how honey is extracted, and the kinds of products made. I’m generally averse to the taste of honey, and I simply cannot stomach it, so when they offered me a taste of organic rosewood honey, I politely declined. The manager then approached me and encouraged me to try one drop, just one, and I could rinse out my mouth if I didn’t like it. His confidence urged me to give it a shot and the one tiny drop of honey I placed on my tongue changed my whole perspective.
It was DELICIOUS. I savoured every bit of it and in wide-eyed wonder, found myself wanting more. The manager smiled at me and said, ‘This is organic. There’s no added sugar. It’s straight from the source and not mass-produced. What you get in the market is for the masses. It’s not completely natural, so how will you enjoy it?’ That made so much sense. If I wasn’t planning to be on the road for another 10 days or so, I would’ve picked up a bottle for myself. Did pick up a bar of soap though, and I can tell you this, it feels incredible.
7. Visit Syntheri Rocks
Syntheri Rocks is around 45 minutes from the interiors of Dandeli. Once I got there, I had to climb down some stairs to see the majestic rocks. According to local legend, a foreign lady called Cynthia discovered this place. It has been named Syntheri after her. Fascinating no?
You can’t dip into the waters here because the current is far too strong and can sweep you away or dash you into some rocks, maybe. What I did enjoy seeing here, though, was the geology. The rocks here are a result of volcanic activity and the colours and patterns of the stone, with the Kaneri river flowing next to it, are a sight to behold.
What else does Dandeli have?
There are a lot of other things to choose from. If you’re going with kids, zorbing is an option. There’s also a fun zip-line that’ll dip you into the water. Jungle walks where you can see lots of monkeys and giant, red squirrels (I have ever seen these in my life and was whooping with wonder the way only an out-and-out city girl would) and other animals. Have fun following animal tracks and identifying which footprint belongs to what. This whole place is about connecting with nature while leaving the city behind, and I’m a sucker for that.
I was here solo, but I met some lovely people who made the trip so much more memorable! Planning and organising it was the easiest thing to do with a resource like Dandeli.com. I’d wholeheartedly recommend you head there to plan out all your logistics as well! It’s a fun weekend trip, and I’d urge you to add Dandeli to your Karnataka itinerary as a short getaway that takes you into the lap of nature.
Did I miss anything? Drop me a comment and let me know!
This post has been written in collaboration with Dandeli.com.