“Coorg itself is covered by forest, save here and there where the clearing of a coffee plantation or ragi patch or the park-like open glades (Bane) with their beautiful green sward and varied foliage afford a charming variety of landscape. In vain, however, the eye searches for towns and villages, churches and castles or other indications of civilized life. Only here and there in nooks and corners, ensconced amongst groves and clusters of cultivated trees and betrayed by wreath of smoke, can one discover the thatched houses of the Coorgs, who love solitary abodes near their fields.”
– G. Richter in Gazetteer of Coorg (1870 edition)
Kodagu has all the characteristics of an alpine landscape and is called “Scotland of India”. Kodagu in Kannada means “steep mountains”. Over 4,000 sq km of undulating topography carpeted in just about every green shade possible, Kodagu is really a fascinating dreamland.
Kodagu has been inhabited by various tribes for centuries although some have immigrated at more recent period from the adjoining areas of Kerala. The more prominent tribals are: Binepadas, Airis, Madivalas, Kavatis, Nainda, Koyuvas, Kudiyas, Medas, Holeyas, Pales, Maleyas, Kurubas, Jenu-Kurubas, Betta-Kurubas, Adias, Yeravas and Kaplas.
Kodagu has approximately 65 per cent of its geographical area under tree cover, making it one of the most densely forested districts in the country.
The flora of the jungle includes Michelia champaca (Champak), Mesua (Ironwood), Diospyros (Ebony and other species), Toona ciliata (Indian mahogany), Chukrasia tabularis, Calophyllum angustifolium (Poon spar), Canarium strictum (Black Dammar), Artocarpus, Dipterocarpus, Garcinia, Euonymus, Cinnamomum, Myristica, Vaccinium, Myrtaceae, Melastomataceae, Rubus (three species), and a rose. In the undergrowth are found cardamom, Areca, plantains, canes, wild Black pepper, tree and other ferns, and arums.In the forest of the less thickly-wooded bamboo country in the west of Kodagu the most common trees are the Dalbergia latifolia (Black wood), Pterocarpus marsupium (Kino tree), Terminalia tomentosa (Matthi), Lagerstroemia parviflora (Benteak), Anogeissus latifolia (Dindul), Bassia latifolia, Butea monosperma, Nauclea parvifiora, and several species of Acacia. Teak and Sandalwood also grow in the eastern part of the district.
The rich floristic diversity of Kodagu consists of more than 8.8% of floral diversity of Karnataka 1332 species. Kodagu has 65% of its Geographical area under the tree cover. More than 50% of the plants have medicinal value. Nearly 53% of the flora of Kodagu is endemic. It has been confirmed in the study that the district is also a hotspot of endemic orchids found mainly in the Thadiandamol.
Devarakadu (Sacred groves)
There is a large number of sacred groves in Kodagu (about 1214), which are pockets of forests, ear-marked as bio-buffers, to worship various deities. This has led to some excellent field ecological research, as well as documentation of people’s knowledge and perception of nature. This has motivated local public to form their own committees to preserve and protect these valuable pockets of forests.
Coorg & Coffee
Coffee estates were first started in Kodagu in 1854 by the Britishers.Coffee plantations became characteristic of the district in the 20th century, situated on hillsides too steep for growing rice, and taking advantage of shade from existing forests. Today coffee is a major cash crop. Nearly a third of coffee production of India comes from Kodagu. The most common plantation crop is coffee, especially C. robusta, with C. arabica grown in some parts of southern Kodagu. Over 77,000 hectare of land in Kodagu is under coffee cultivation as against only 40,000 hectares under paddy cultivation. There is a Coffee Research sub-station at Chettali.
To the North West of the source of river Cauvery is Tala Cauvery wild life sanctuary. The other sanctuaries in kodagu are the Pusphagiri wild life sanctuary, Brahmagiri wild life sanctuary, Nagarhole national park which is a protected area of world repute and also situated in Kodagu which is a part of the Nilgiri Bio-Sphere Reserve. The hills and valleys are protected areas covered with forest land are famous habitats of tiger, elephants, panther, leopard, sambar, wild boar, lion-tailed macaque, wild dogs, bison, deer and many others animals. Kodagu is also rich in avifauna with about 305 listed species. Some rare birds too make their home in these forests. Famous amongst them are the grey horn bill and the great pied horn bill. Nearly 25 varieties of snakes including four poisonous ones, hamadryad, cobra, krait and viper with many species of butterflies and moths are found distributed all over Kodagu.
Nagarhole National Park
Nagarhole National Park, also known as 'Rajiv Gandhi National Park,' is located 94 km from Mysore. It is spread between Kodagu and Mysore districts. Located to the northwest of Bandipur National Park, Kabini reservoir separates the two. The exclusive hunting reserve of the former rulers of Mysore, the park has rich forest cover, small streams, valleys, and waterfalls. In 1975 its area stretched to 575 km².The place derives its name from Kannada, Naga meaning snake and hole referring to streams. Set up in 1955, it is one of the best-managed parks in the country, with the office of the Deputy Conservator of Forests situated in Hunsur, about 47 km away from Nagarhole. The climate is tropical; summer is hot and winter is pleasant. The park boasts a healthy tiger-predator ratio, and tiger, bison, and elephant are much more populous here than in Bandipur.The park is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The Western Ghats, Nilgiri Sub-Cluster (6,000+ km²), including all of Nagarhole National Park, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.
With the backdrop of misty Brahmagiri hill ranges and it’s thickly forested and gently undulating terrai, criss-crossed with many rivers and streams, Nagarhole is naturalists dreamland. Masal Betta (959 m) located on the south-west fringes of the park is the highest point, and Kabini River is the lowest point at 701 m above sea level. Mostly moist mixed deciduous forest (Tectona grandis, Dalbergia latifolia) in the southern parts, dry tropical forest (Wrightia tinctoria, Acacia) towards the east, and Sub mountain hill valley swamp forest (Eugenia).Gaur
Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary
Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary
A big attraction for tourists and filmdom alike is the Abbey Falls, 8 km from Madikeri. Even during the summer there is plenty of water in these falls. The roar of the falls can be heard from the main road, from where a path goes through lovely coffee and cardamom plantations right up to them. The chirping of innumerable birds which are easier heard then seen, fill the air with sweet music.
One of the unique places to visit is the Tibetan Colony in Bylekuppe near Kushalnagar. This is Little Tibet. There are Buddhist monasteries, temples and buildings built in typical Tibetan style.