The beautiful hill region of Kodagu (Coorg) with its picturesque coffee plantations and pale green rice valleys is fast becoming a much sought after tourist spot with coffee planters throwing open their sprawling estate bungalows to travellers.
A six-hour drive from Bangalore, Kodagu is not only becoming a destination of choice for the tired ‘techies’ of the country’s information technology capital, it is also attracting travellers from up north and even adventure tourists from overseas.
Kodagu has everything a tourist could ask for. Nature lovers who find it hard to resist the call of the wild can trek into the Dubare forest reserve famous for its elephants and birds, while the more adventurously inclined can indulge in ‘level six white water rafting’ on the Cauvery.
And for tourists who want to get on the heritage trail, Kodagu has Talacauvery, the temple that marks the beginning of the river.
The Athithi (guest) programme of the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corp. (KSTDC) has come at the right time for coffee planters who have been greatly worried due to plummeting prices of coffee in the domestic market.
Planters have now thrown open their sprawling estate bungalows to tourists who love the feel of a “home which is in the midst of nature”, Karnataka tourism secretary I.M. Vittalamurthy says.
The Chinnappas of Sontikoppa, whose only sons are settled in New Delhi, say that the programme “has not only helped us tide over the coffee crisis but also enabled us to make a lot of friends from all over the country and abroad.”
Over 170 homestays in Kodagu are registered with KSTDC, which handles the marketing end of the business.
“Looking at the fantastic response we have received in Coorg, we plan to introduce the concept in Hampi and other places of tourist interest in Karnataka, like Belur, Halebid and Aihole and Pattadakal in north Karnataka,” says Vittalamurthy .
Cashing in on the success of “homestays”, Tata Coffee, part of Tata Tea Ltd, has decided to let out its vacant planters’ bungalows inside the coffee plantations to tourists. “We have named it Plantation Trails as we want to provide the tourists a real plantation experience. Some of the bungalows are in fact heritage bungalows with a 100-year-old history,” says Christine Jamal, vice-president, Tata Coffee.
Visitors are taken on a plantation tour where they are told everything about coffee, “from the bean to how it is cured and processed”, adds Jamal.
“At present, seven of our bungalows have been thrown open; we are looking at (doing this with) 20 in a couple of years,” says Jamal, adding that the company is contemplating replicating this concept in its bungalows in plantations in Hassan and Chikmagalur, also in Karnataka.