5 Problems in visiting waterfalls of Udupi district - eNidhi India Travel Blog

5 Problems in visiting waterfalls of Udupi district

Udupi district is known for its temples, beaches and food. But Udupi is not well known as a waterfalls district. While Udupi does have about a dozen good waterfalls, due to multiple reasons these are not promoted well and not visited much. Lack of information, infrastructure and other factors have limited Udupi's waterfalls tourism potential. In this post I am listing such factors that make it challenging to visit and explore Udupi's waterfalls, compared to other districts of Karnataka.
1. Lack of information and promotion
Udupi's waterfalls are not promoted at all. Consider the following
  • When you drive along NH 66, a national highway that passes through Udupi between Mangaluru and Karwar (Uttara Kannada), nowhere you can see a signboard or display that says "Turn here to visit Jomlu Theertha falls (X kms)" or "Kudlu Theertha falls: 40 kms" etc. Other places like Malpe, Maravanthe, Kollur temple etc are shown prominently.  If there are some displays people will take notice. If not immediately, they may plan a visit next time. But no such initiatives are taken.
  • Drive all around Manipal town, you will NOT see a board that says "Arbi falls x kms". Existence of a waterfall within city limits is not communicated to those who visit the city.
  • Even on other major state highways (like Udupi-Agumbe, Kundapura-Shivamogga etc) nearby waterfall information is NOT displayed. Some boards are there when you go too close but that doesn't get noticed by tourists zipping through main roads.
The existence of waterfalls is NOT effectively communicated to potential tourists, so unless someone takes interest, searches online and decides to visit, lots of visitors will simply miss visiting waterfalls as they had no idea about their existence. If displays are set up at crucial places, many can plan a few hour deviation and visit nearby falls.

2. Udupi's waterfalls are often closed to visitors unannounced.
Right now it is Covid-19 season so almost all waterfalls in Udupi district are closed for tourists. Even otherwise, access to waterfalls is often closed due to reasons like Naxal problem (Someshwara wildlife sanctuary and western ghats is believed to be housing some naxals), heavy rains (like orange alert, slippery surfaces) or any other reason at the discretion of officials.
I am not contesting closure. If it is not safe, it should be closed temporarily. But my problem is with information management w.r.t closure.
  • Closure information will be known only after you go too close to the waterfall. 
  • No one will know when it will reopen
  • No number to call, no helpline or online info to find out which one is open, which one is closed and when will it reopen.
  • No exceptions either- (like if social distancing is the problem, whole day only few persons are visiting anyway- why not allow in a controlled manner, like in temples)
So without clear information on access, planning a visit to Udupi's waterfalls is a nightmare. You've to take a chance or go with a Plan B in case waterfall can not be visited. 
3. Most waterfalls go dry in summer
While waterfalls in Kodagu district will have some water throughout the year (as they are powered by a river), waterfalls in Udupi district go dry in summer, as they are mostly powered by smaller streams and located at less elevation compared to Chikmagaluru or Kodagu.

Because of this optimal season to visit waterfalls in Udupi is only between August till November/December. Nothing can be done about it, except making it easier for tourists to visit during right time.

4. Road access is often complicated.
Most waterfalls in Udupi district do not have good road access. Last several kms are often a challenge- either have to trek or have to negotiate bad roads. This is probably good if you think you don't want too many people to visit and spoil the nature.

5. Online information is outdated.
There are some blog posts and updates by travel websites about Udupi's top waterfalls. But most of them are written with commercial motive-glorifying attractions more than necessary to sell you some service related to tourism or too old and not much useful now. It is hard to find latest info (open/close, water level and road condition etc) from these posts. Need someone to visit them afresh, ascertain ground realities and share with the world. But with covid-19 lockdown n closure, such an expedition is difficult right now, even for locals.

Udupi's major waterfalls are shown in below map. I am planning a detailed post at a later date once monsoon ends, waterfalls reopen after covid crisis and we are allowed to visit. As of now most are not open due to Covid-19. Most of these falls need at least half a day each due to remoteness.

Only Arbi falls in Manipal and Tombattu waterfalls is accessible right now and you will find some waterfalls by the highway in Hulikal ghat while going to Sagara. Other falls are closed till further updates.
Not considering Onake Abbi and Jogi Gundi falls, Kunchikal Abbi falls as they fall in Shivamogga district, though very close to Udupi district border.

What can district administration/tourism department do to boost tourism around Udupi's waterfalls?
1. Promote: Let people know about existence of these waterfalls using displays n sign boards by the highways
2. Have real time information about open/close, road condition, water level etc: Connect local forest guards/caretakers/officers to those handling websites/tourism helplines/social media accounts for periodic updates. If there is any query they should be able to get answer from the ground and respond. This will help potential tourists plan their trip better. 
3. Improve road conditions till the falls.
4. Promote guided trekking around waterfalls.
5. Start opening up waterfalls to tourists in a safe manner (Limited number of people per hour etc)

How other districts are managing?
Some of these problems related to visiting waterfalls is applicable to other districts in Karnataka as well, but many of them are different/better off because of following reasons:
1. Well promoted: Those waterfalls are well known, have direction signages and easy to research/know more
2. Adequate alternate options: If some waterfalls in Kodagu or Chikmagalur district is closed, there are several other attractions nearby to keep tourists busy. So disappointment is less.
3. Homestays: With so many home stays, it may be possible to call up a homestay near the falls and check with them if falls is open, if it has water etc.
4. Better access: Most commercial waterfalls have better road access, easy to visit & explore.

Of course I understand waterfalls is least of anyone's worry or priority right now given the rising number of covid cases. My post is not about immediate visit n action, it is written with future in mind.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for highlighting the issues. Having visited many of these waterfalls, I have different opinion. Many of these waterfalls which were once pristine are now littered with beer bottles and trash. This is because they were made popular in social media. At few places (not in Udupi), locals do not allow outsiders to visit falls due to the ruckus created by the city people. Social responsibility is something many Indians lack and there is no easy way to fix it.

    There are enough tourist spots to keep people engaged and I feel there is no need to expose the ones in the deep forests. There should be some places left for trekking and real adventure. Guided trekking is indeed a good idea.

    If people want easier access, they can go to places like Jog falls which are well commercialised.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Noted. Udupi is bit far from BLR for weekend visits so has less littering issue comparatively. But yes, that is also a problem.

      Delete

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