JLR Hemmadaga Nature Camp: Experience & Review - eNidhi India Travel Blog

JLR Hemmadaga Nature Camp: Experience & Review

I had booked Jungle Lodge's Hemmadaga Nature camp purely because it was cheap. INR 307 per person per night for dormitory stay. Hemmadaga is Jungle Lodges & Resort (JLR)'s cheapest stay option. There wasn't much information available on the net about what to expect in Hemmadaga Nature camp and what all we can see nearby. I decided to go and explore, so that I will be the first person to help other travelers plan their trip to Hemmadaga.

After spending 2 nights at Hemmadaga nature camp, below are my findings. You can use these info to plan your trip. I have given a brief summary first and detailed review later.
What to expect at Hemmadaga Nature camp?
1. It is deep inside Bhimgad Wildlife Reserve, with nearest town 20 kms away (Khanapura)
2. Rent amount doesn't include food. Meals 350 per person, breakfast 200 Rs per person and tea coffee 20-25 Rs extra. That is about 1000 Rs per person on food in addition to stay expenses. I drove to Khanapur and had meals there- it was cheaper- 300 Rs petrol, 140 Rs for two meals.
3. No activities other than a short trek to a view point. Best if you wish to stay indoor and relax. All places of interests are 30-50 kms away, so lots of travel required if your main objective is sight seeing
4. Roads are bad for about 5 kms between Khanapur & Hemmadaga, OK for remaining 15 kms. Bad roads between Hemmadaga and Goa border as well.
5. Goa is nearby. Hemmadaga can be a nice overnight stay while heading to Goa
6. While google map shows several waterfalls in Bhimgad and nearby, staff told us that except one or two, most are closed for tourists and need permission from the forest department office to enter. Thus I had to skip them and go to far away places like Gokak falls etc
7. Overall I wouldn't say go all the way just to stay in Hemmadaga. There isn't much do to and you may not find it worth. But if you are in the region, passing through etc it is definitely worth a stay at Hemmadaga nature camp particularly when it is still affordable.

My experience at Hemmadaga Nature camp
Before reaching Hemmadaga I had done some research (scanning google maps) and had identified several places of interest (refer map image below). These were waterfalls and such attractions which I felt might be good spot to visit immediately after monsoon. But some of these were in Goa state. I didn't know which all are accessible to tourists, how is the road condition and how much trekking is needed to reach these falls. I decided to check with Hemmadaga nature camp staff after reaching there and plan to explore at least a few of them during my stay.

I started at 1 AM from Udupi, drove via Kumta, Ankola, Yellapura, Ramanagara- Hemmadaga and reached Hemmadaga Nature camp at about 10.30 AM. Road was OK overall, with bad patches in Ankola-Yellapura road, Ramanagra-Hemmadaga stretch and few other places. Took two breaks on the way, had food in Yellapura and Ramanagara. Filled petrol just before Ramanagara.

As I reached Hemmadaga Nature camp, we completed check-in formalities and we were shown our dormitory. I had stayed in such places during my school days and was used to hostel stays hence was OK with bare minimum facility as I had not paid a lot.

Hemmadaga Nature camp has two types of accommodations- Tent cottage that costs about 2000 INR per day for 2 people and Dormitory that costs 530 Rs per person per night (was 307 when I booked, now increased). Dormitory had 3 cots with 6 beds. We were the only 2 occupants, a 3rd person came in later in the evening. There are a few fans but weather was nice and we didn't need fans. Fan air won't reach bottom bed much anyway.

 A towel and bedsheet is provided, along with a jug of water and two glasses. We were also given a torch, in case there is power cut in the night.
There is a common bathroom and toilet- one set for men, another for women. Again bare minimum setup. Hot water is supplied in a bucket on demand.

The 2000 Rs tented cottages offer better privacy, attached bathroom and slightly thicker beds. But even tents had 4 cots and pricing doesn't include food. Still for 2-3 people a dedicated tent cottage may make better sense than 3 beds in a dormitory.
I asked about food: Unlike other JLR properties, Hemmadaga pricing doesn't include food. I was told meals cost 350 INR per person, breakfast 200 INR, tea/coffee 20-25 INR per cup.
I did the math:
Nearest town I can get food is Khanapura, 20 kms from Hemmadaga Nature camp. My petrol cost for 40 kms trip is about 300 INR, so it made more sense we drive to town, have food and come back, than spend about 1000 INR per person per day on food alone in Hemmadaga Nature camp. Because of this calculation, I opted not to have food at Hemmadaga Nature camp.

Other reasons included no reduced price for vegetarians. I will be paying unnecessarily for non veg items which I won't eat. Food was not a lavish buffet, but a fairly standard Jungle lodges setup with 3-4 items.

Not sure why JLR has kept a different pricing model for Hemmadaga compared to other properties. May be they don't have volume yet. If there are at least 20-30 guaranteed guests, then they can increase the room rent by a few hundred rupees and provide food. Some won't eat, some will eat less or more and overall it works out. You pay for food included price and then eat outside, that is a loss for you. In Hemmadaga given its low customer count, preparing food for all is not economically viable. Also Hemmadaga is new resort, so JLR might be looking to get some customers first by keeping pricing low. Anyway, it worked out good for us- we didn't have to pay unnecessarily for food and can have it outside.

But my exploration plan went for a toss as Hemmadaga nature camp staff declared that most of these falls are not open to public and we need permission from Forest department to enter. Only Jambodi was viable, that too with a guide and lots of trekking. 
Above: What I was expecting to explore. What we really saw is given in another map little below.

Hemmadaga Nature camp resort guests have only 1 activity available-a trek to nearby viewpoint (about 3 kms one way). No extra charge for this. More than 2.5 kms of this trek on the mud road, I opted to take out my car to save some time. We were taken to another waterfalls couple of kms ahead.

Hemmadaga Nature camp guests are not taken to Dandeli for rafting or watersports. You've to go on your own.

While Dandeli is popular for hornbills and other birds, Hemmadaga is not. Changes of spotting birds is very low here.

Because of lack of things to do I made following changes to my plan
Day 01 afternoon: Drove to Khanapura, had lunch, drove further to Belgaum city- met a friend, visited Congress Well, Military Mahadev Mandir, Kote Kere & fort area and then returned to Hemmadaga
Day 02: Trek at 7 AM till 9 AM, visited a viewpoint and a waterfall. (if we walk only viewpoint, if we go in our own car, waterfalls extra). We could have left at 6 AM but lost an hour waiting for another family to be ready, who eventually backed out.
9.30 left for Gokak falls with breakfast at Khanapura, stop at Belgaum to visit VTU HQ, Nature park, Hill, Hidkal Dam, Honnur fort, Had lunch at Forest Department IB nearby. Finally reached Gokak falls by about 4 PM

At 5.15 left for Godachiamalki falls and then returned to Hemmadaga by 9.30 PM.

Day 03 checked out early (5.30 AM), visited Kitturu, went to Dharward to meet relatives, proceeded to Hubli to check Nrupatunga hill, Indiragandhi park, Chennakeshava temple, had lunch and left for Udupi, to reach home by 8 PM

At some point I did evaluate checking out a day early, head directly towards Hubli and explore Aihole, Pattadakal etc. But money spent on dorm won't be refunded and I will have to spend again on hotel room. Hence decided to go back to Hemmadaga for night stay even if it meant 100-150 kms extra driving.

Staff members were very helpful and did their best to provide all possible help to guests. They had an open ground with a stage. JLR Hemmadaga was not showing any videos (like shown in other JLR facilities-the Kripakar Senani wildlife video). Covered parking had 4 slots and two of them were taken by department jeeps, leaving only 2 slots for guest vehicles.
Roads leading to Hemmadaga Nature camp are closed between 6 PM to 6 AM. You have to show booking proof and they will let you through if you are staying at JLR.
Camera charges are scary. But was not enforced on us- there was nothing to click anyway, but once they start introducing some safari this may kick in.
My verdict on Hemmadaga Nature camp
- Great place if you just want to relax and do nothing, not so great if your objective is to explore around and see things.
- Maybe JLR need another year to get better. Once more customers start coming and money flows they might improve further, add some more activities etc
- Given the distance from Bengaluru, lack of activities and road condition, I don't recommend planning a trip exclusively for Hemmadaga. Might not be worth it. But if you are in the region passing through to Goa or having work in Belgaum/Hubli and have a day to spare or you're done with Dandeli/Goa and have an extra day, then it will be good idea to plan a day at Hemmadaga Nature camp.
My advise to JLR about Hemmadaga Nature camp
Of course, I am no one to advise Govt run Jngle Lodges & Resorts, but taking liberty to share my suggestions
1. Keep an option to take tourists to Dandeli for rafting/water sports
2. Open up some of the waterfalls in the region for tourists to visit with basic infrastructure and information
3. See if food prices can be reduced a bit- may be lunch at around 200 Rs so that it is cheaper to have food at campus than going out.
4. Put some signboards for visitors coming from Dandeli/Yellapura side
5. Add some adventure/relaxation facilities like a rope net/slings/hammocks etc within the campus so that people and kids have something to spend time on

4 comments:

  1. Nice post. Please visit our post also https://travelurcity.com/2021/11/best-place-to-buy-travel-essentials

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  2. Thanks, Sreenidhi-yavare.'Hemme'-yindale neevu helabahudu: "Eshto janara kashta, hana, ellaa ulisidini ee onde trippininda" endu.!!! Bengalooru mathu bahala distancininda baruvavaru, ishtella kashtappettare athakke thakkandha benefit enu illavalla.. GRK Nair.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, not worth planning exclusive trip just for this, but good for an overnight stay when in the area..

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