How can a colourless, odourless liquid bring so much joy? As we ‘waded’ through the trek route (it took some getting used to as we were amongst the first hikers on this path which was still being readied), we were glad we had persisted in our decision to embark on the Kulgi-Nagazari trek, despite lingering doubts. By the end of the trek, our question had been answered by Nature with such aplomb that it seemed sacrilegious to have asked it in the first place.
The name Nagazari is derived from ‘Nagjharinal’. The stream starts from Sathkanda Falls, which is almost 7 kms away from the town of Kulgi, and flows in a serpentine manner for about 15 kms. At the confluence of Nagazari nala and River Kali is the Nagjhari Power House. Right above is the popular ‘Sykes Point’, where you can witness a dreamy sunset with hornbills flying across the valley.
Forest path on an early, winter morning
What more could you ask for when you walk a few metres into the trail and hear the call of the ‘little beauty’ of the Western Ghats? We followed the call with much expectation, and there it was – a White-bellied Blue Flycatcher! The blissful, misty morning was spent spotting some rare birds in the first stretch: White-bellied Blue Flycatcher, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Rufous Woodpecker, Malabar Trogon, Asian Fairy Bluebird, and Asian Paradise Flycatcher.
Malabar Trogon (Harpactes fasciatus)
Asian Fairy Bluebird (Irena puella)
The trek path along the stream
As we passed through a clearing, we realized that the path was in the stream itself! The rocky path with knee-deep water meanders through a wooded forest, rich in bird and animal life. It was winter – surely the best time to be there. I could now understand why the route was completely closed beginning with late summer, and through the monsoon, due to heavy rains.
Sunrays piercing through the clear water
Although this was a completely new path, our guide as well as a few naturalists well-accustomed to the area had told us about its abundant fauna, including reptiles and amphibians. As if to validate that, just as I reached a sharp curve, I heard a familiar call, and was elated to spot the Blue-capped Rock Thrush.
Blue-capped Rock Thrush (Monticola cinclorhynchus)
Trekking in the heart of Western Ghats at Dandeli, through this 18-kms-long stream, what could a bird-watcher aspire to spot? A Blue-eared Kingfisher, fishing! We spent some time watching this lovely bird at work. We also sighted a lot of other endemic birds, and a few common ones: Black-naped Monarch, Emerald Dove, Indian Yellow Tit, Flame-throated Bulbul, Yellow-browed Bulbul, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Orange Minivet, Forest Wagtail and Brown Fish-owl.
From a kingfisher to its prey – fish! It was time to get into the water for a closer look at the marine life it supported. We found Devario malabaricus, Rasbora daniconius, Puntius fasciatus, Zebra Danio, Botia Loach and many more species of fish.
Malabar Danio (Devario malabaricus, formerly Danio malabaricus) and Slender Rasbora (Rasbora daniconius)
Rocky stretch underneath the stream
Moving along, we came across some interesting spiders, reptiles, and rocky, cave-like habitats perfectly suited to larger cats, eventually spotting scats and pugmarks of a Leopard and a Sloth Bear.
Signature Spider (Argiope anasuja)
Funnel Web Spider
The sun was up high by now and we had covered almost 8 kms; here onwards, the hike got tiresome due to the incessant heat and the trek route too seemed to be getting trickier. We were by now literally walking in the stream, full of rocks covered with thick moss. That being said, the cool water seemed to help us continue our trek steadily, making do with just short breaks along the bank, without letting the heat get to us.
The short breaks had me thinking about this stream which is such an indispensable source of life for flora and fauna in the region, and more interestingly, a food source for birds as well as the fish in the water.
The scorching sun had begun to mellow, and as we reached our destination, Sykes Point, sunrays pierced across the valley in a beautiful play of light. And suddenly, there was a swooshing sound – just like the sunrays, a Malabar Pied Hornbill glided past us, and within moments, another one followed.
Malabar Pied Hornbill (Anthrococeros coronatus)
Sunrays seeping through Sykes Valley
It was an enchanting experience to watch the sun go down at the end of the trekking path. I urge anyone interested in seeking new places to try this tedious yet rewarding trek with views of a spectacular valley, bountiful flora and fauna, and the lifeline which holds it all together – the Nagazari stream.
Travel and Accommodation
The Kulgi–Nagazari trek route starts from Kulgi Nature Camp, around 13 kms from Dandeli Town. If you are traveling from Karwar via Anshi, you need to take a right turn at the Supa Dam intersection.
If travelling from Dandeli Town, there are local buses towards Ambikanagar and Kulgi, but their frequency is poor. Driving down or hiring a vehicle from Dandeli would be ideal, to get a flavor of the Dandeli-Anshi National Park. Kulgi Nature Camp has 10-12 tented cottages, log huts and a dormitory, and has friendly staff and good food.
Season and Guide
The Nagazari trek is offered post-monsoon (October onwards) until early summer (February). Guides are well-trained by the Karnataka Ecotourism Development Board and the Forest Department, and are knowledgeable about the biodiversity of the region. Do note that you need to contact Eco Trails or the Dandeli Forest Office in advance, to book your trek at Nagazari.
In case you happen to visit during the off-season of the Nagazari trek, you have other treks and adventure activities to choose from: Sathkanda Falls trek, Kavala Caves trek, Potoli-Shiroli trek and white-water rafting.