Kayaking in the mangroves of coastal Karnataka is a great way to discover an offbeat aspect of the region while it gives you an insight into how it is helping boost incomes of the local people here.
On a recent trip to Udupi, I was exploring the surroundings looking for something unusual and stumbled upon a board that read ‘Mangrove Kayaking’. My interest was piqued immediately and I made a few enquiries and found my way through country roads to reach the kayaking centre. It was here that I met a local youngster Manju Prasad who told me that he and his father have started kayaking in the mangroves to offer something unique for tourists.
“My father Dayananda Salian and I started this in August 2022 and we were the second player here. We started with 15 kayaks, 13 doubles and two singles. We continued with this for a year and have recently added 10 more kayaks as well as two boats as we see the demand increase,” says Prasad.
There are three businesses that do these hour long trips here. It is important to call and come as the kayaking happens on the backwaters of the Seeta River and the tides play an important part in making these kayaking trips happen. “The tides are something we cannot predict exactly. Usually the high tide is in the morning time. We use an app called Nautide to calculate the tide level and only if there is high tide, we ask guests to come as this will allow us to take them inside the mangrove forests,” explains Prasad.
Sights and sounds
The session starts with a simple briefing session where you are explained the basic rules of kayaking and how you need to row the same. All guests are given life jackets. If you are not keen to kayak, you can also opt for a boat ride here.
The mangroves have been planted recently (about 15 years back) by the forest department of Karnataka and have now grown well. The best part is that these mangroves are very clean and you can see their complex root system from close waters when you are here.
Known to be an ecosystem that works like a carbon sponge, these mangroves also support varied flora and fauna boosting local biodiversity. Karnataka's mangroves are spread over 12.61 square-km and represent 0.26 per cent of the country's mangroves.
I suggest you experience this in the morning when you can also see local fishermen with their nets and also see how the mangroves are lit with the beautiful sunrise. The serenity of the space is also quite amazing and all you can see is a sea of blue and green as you look around here.
If you love birds, these mangroves will not disappoint. When I was here, I spotted three species of kingfishers – the common kingfisher, white -throated kingfisher as well as the elusive spot billed kingfisher. This apart you can see species like the Great egret, medium egret, pond heron, common sandpiper, pied bush chat, Brahminy kite, Oriental Darter, Black headed Ibis, Common redshank, yellow footed green pigeon, and the grey heron among many others.
The guides here are well versed with the different species and if you let them know your interest, they will certainly point out what you can see. The best part of this experience is that you can actually row inside the mangroves and see these stunning ecosystems at close quarters.
If you are here in the morning, you will have many opportunities to capture Instagram worthy images as the sun rays filtering through the mangroves makes for a stunning visual. The importance of mangroves also stems from the fact that they are effective in preventing floods and keeping the waters clean. Kayaking, of course, is a great way to see these stunning ecosystems for yourself while you spend time in the midst of nature.
So, on your next trip to Udupi, take the path less trodden and experience the mangrove ride on a kayak or boat. This is also a great way to give a boost to the local economy. It is something you will come back for again and again.
Good to know
- The hour-long session means there is no break – use the washroom before you start.
- The kayak ride will cost INR 300 per person and INR 400 per person for the boat ride.
- The sun can get quite sharp so keep a hat and sunscreen handy. Carry your own water bottle.
- The busy period is usually around long weekends so plan your trip accordingly. If you are looking for something completely offbeat – the monsoons are an interesting time to experience the mangroves.
- Kayaking happens from 6am to 6pm everyday.
- Keep all your belongings in your vehicle as there is no space in the kayak.
- You are likely to get wet when kayaking so wear appropriate clothing and footwear.
- A pair of binoculars can come handy when watching birds.
- Mangrove Kayaking, Manju Prasad can be called or contacted on 7022399945
Check it out
- When here, a stop at Mantap Ice cream is recommended. This is believed to be the place where the famed Gudbud ice cream was invented.
- Pay your obeisance at the Sri Guru Narasimha Temple and Hanuman temples located close by.
- Check out the wooden bridge in Saligrama used by locals for crossing the river for a photo opp.
- Stop at the scenic Padukere beach for a dose of Vitamin Sea.