Vikhas Madhav: Coorg – Kodagu Hills

Vikas Madhav is doing his 6th grade in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu in India (Southern State). He loves to travel to various places, walk along nature trails, bird watch, and photograph wildlife. His 4 years of traveling has taken him to different places, all in India, such as the Sunderbans – the worlds largest mangrove forest in West Bengal; Pitchavaram, the world’s second largest mangrove forest, in Tamil Nadu; Andhaman; and Nicobar Island, in the Western Ghats. His travels have given him true insight into culture, people, nature, and so on. His dream and aim is to make a discovery in Avian fauna in India (Western Ghats in particular). Spread the message of “Nature Awareness” to as many people as possible.

            Malabar Grey Hornbill
Vikhas_Pic1.JPGCoorg is a hill station located in the southern most districts of the state of Karnataka in Southern India. Coorg is famous for its Coffee, picturesque coffee plantations, and scenic views. It is at an elevation of about 1525 meters above the sea level. It is called a Kodaku – which means “dense forest.” It is a part of the Western Ghats. The Western Ghats are a chain of hills that run from Gujarat in the Northwestern Region to Tamil Nadu in the south. The forest of Coorg is moist evergreen forest. Coorg is set amidst verdant valleys, imposing mountains, and teak wood forests. It is one of the most beautiful hill stations one can visit. Coorg lies on Karnataka’s southwestern end, covering an area of 4,102 square kilometers. The River Cauvery originates here at Talacauvery and is worshipped by the locals.

This place is rich in flora and fauna. It is home to many animals, like elephants, the Indian Bison, and wild boar. As a bird watcher, I give more time to the avian fauna. The evergreen forest is so rich in food that it attracts birds like the Malabar Grey Hornbill, Malabar Parakeet, Scarlet Minivet, Golden-Fronted Leaf Bird, and Vernal’s Hanging Parrot, to mention a few.  Among the reptiles, the King Cobra is the longest venomous snake found here. Sighting this magnificent snake is a rarity. The monsoon season is from September to November. In winter, many species of birds can be sighted. During the colonial rule, the forest was denuded, – or deforested, for coffee cultivation on a large scale.

I stayed in a place called Orange County. In Orange County there is a huge, man-made lake near three hundred acre plantations. There is a small forested patch near the lake called the Hornbill patch. As the name suggests, one can find the Malabar Grey Hornbills there. This patch also supports other life forms such as the Dusky Stripped Squirrel. I was fortunate enough to see a squirrel, who totally ignored my presence and was busy collecting nuts. It kept itself busy for the day. It was so fascinating to observe these small mammals go about their day-to-day works with such precision. When I made enquiries about this squirrel, I foundVikhas_Pic2.JPG that no one had taken a note of this cute creature’s very existence. The people in Orange County and the locals thought it to be the regular Three Stripped Squirrel; on the contrary this was its own species just like the Malabar Giant Squirrel and the Giant Grizzle Squirrel. The natural world has a way of getting used to the fast changes made by man. I could appreciate this as I saw the active life of nature around me, despite the fact that Orange County has been in the process of being converted into coffee plantations for over a quarter of a century.

Our tour guide was Mr.Ganesh, a local from the well known Kurumba tribe. I was told by my grand father that the Kurumbas have a close affinity and association with the Todas and the Badagas of the Niligiris, which again falls in the Western Ghats belt. It was Ganesh who told me the meaning of the word Kurumba – “jungle dwellers.” I did not get to see any other member of the Kurumba tribe besides Ganesh. Small populations of the tribal members are found inside the forest and in the foot hills. Many have mingled with the society. I got to see the tribe through a few wall hangings, which were kept in Orange County.

Vikhas_Pic3.JPG                       Female Sun Bird

What I personally liked about Orange County was the coffee lounge. It was like a mega home theater where one could see nature unfolding its story in front of one’s eyes. A repeat show is not possible, a pause is not possible, and a rewind is not possible, but a continuous show is always going on. I was a lucky spectator as I got to see many amazing, action-packed sequences here. The beauty of the coffee lounge is that one gets to see a lot of bird activity without disturbing nature.

Vikhas_Pic5.JPG                         White Breasted Water Hen – threat display

I witnessed something extraordinary form the natural world that I would like to mention. From day one, I had been observing a pair of White Breasted Water Hens. During the course of my observation, I saw a threat display by the breeding pair, who were guarding their chicks from any intruder. I have heard of the proverb “to fight tooth and nail,” but I actually got to see “to fight beak and foot” to safeguard ones territory. The intruder was not a mammal, a reptile, or a raptor bird, but from the same species. It was another White-Breasted Water Hen. The intruder gave up after a 30 minute tough fight. It was two against one. 

When we went for a walk around the lake, I saw a huge Checkered Keel Back. I think it got its name from its appearance. It had checks on its body and a distinctive black mark on its head. I was lucky because I saw the snake once again the following day. I was told by Mr. Ganesh that this is a resident snake and he has seen it many times.
Vikhas_Pic6.JPG                                    Checkered Keel Back Snake

Life on a vacation is the best because there is no pressure from school and it escapes the fast-paced city lifestyle. While I was relaxing and enjoying myself, I also got to learn a lot about the different geographical locations that India has. The uniqueness of Western Ghats still mesmerizes me. I got a first hand field experience being with nature and learned things you cannot learn in a classroom setting. I was disturbed to see the forest being converted into agricultural land. 

19 thoughts on “Vikhas Madhav: Coorg – Kodagu Hills

  1. Wonderful pictures and very aptly descriptive prose.
    The article is extremely informative. Vikas, please keep up your good work inspiring and educating everyone, including me, about India’s natural wealth.
    Your proud uncle,

  2. Personally I have not exposed myself much with these rare wonders hough I value them very high. I am so proud that we have a wonderful boy who could explore a lot in this field and contribue to the society as he is just 11 or around that. It is amazing. Every line written is so sweet, expressive and could ake our mind to the site. What a realistic presentation Vikas. It is a grea going indeed. Please keep it up. I know you very well. You may not me so much as we have rarely seen each other. My joy knows no bounds while recording my comments here.

  3. Dear Uncle Emmanuel,
    Thank you very much for your comments and complements about my article on Orange County, Coorg.
    Your clarification about the status of Orange County plantation which remains the same in area without expansion for the past 150 years is highly gratifying. The way you care to maintain the forest area and your interest to preserve wildlife is evident by the presence of wild flora and fauna intermingling with the coffee plantation. But for such care, it wont be possible for the species like the Dusky Striped Squirrel, a vulnerable species as per IUCN Categorization, to exist in the orange County. It is also interesting to note that nearly 100 acres of coffee plantation is organic.
    I once again thank you for your Best Wishes, VIKAS.

  4. Dear Vikhas,
    Thank you for the wonderful article on Coorg. I remember meeting with you and your grandfather at the check-in lounge at Orange County, Coorg. I remember the meeting especially because I was awe struck by your extensive knowledge about nature at such a young age. I hope and wish you will be an inspiration to many from your generation and mine.
    I would like to share with you some history about our plantation and clarify on a part of your article that said “Orange County has been in the process of being converted into coffee plantations for over a quarter of a century.” Orange County, Coorg is part of Chikkanahalli Estate which has been a plantation for close to 150 years. The estate was bought by my late Grandfather Mr. Emmanuel Ramapuram Sr. in the year 1924 as a plantation from Mr. Percy Tipping, Managing Director, Consolidated Coffee Estates Ltd., Head Quartered in Edinburgh, Scotland. The property was bought as a plantation and continuous to be so without any extension of area. In the last 10 years, over 100 acres have been certified Organic.
    Wishing you all the best in your conservation efforts
    Emmanuel Ramapuram
    Orange County Resorts

  5. Hi Vikas
    Hearty congradulations on your new natural venture and beautifully narrated account on natural live green environment and its dependent animals
    Our best wishes go for more natural areas to be explored by you in due course of time
    Best wishes
    M Kathirvel, a close friend your grandpa Dr P Dhandapani

  6. Hey Vikas.
    Nice ecological travelogue.
    Loved the bit about fighting beak and claw.
    Loved the pics and you have a way with words. Keep it up and I look forward to more wildlife chronicles from you.

  7. Dear Vikas
    I loved reading your blog about Orange County. Your account about your feelings at coffee lounge was just wonderful. It shows that you are a true naturalist at heart. God bless you. You are sure to reach great heights. Keep up your good work. Keep clicking and writing about your experiences.

  8. I accompanied Vikas to Coorg. The dusky striped squrrel is a new distributional record for Orange County area. Vikas will soon be writing an article on this. Dhandapani

  9. Dear Kannu Kutty Vikas,
    I am very proud of you. You throw enormous light and awareness on various aspects of bird and animal life. GOD Bless you. I wish you explore more, more and more. Gruhalakshmi

  10. Hi Vikas,
    I was very impressed that you could process so much out of the trip and conceptualize it into such a beautiful blog. As always, I am amazed by your talent of spotting creatures that usually go unnoticed.
    The photographs are great. There are certain lines that I loved especially the way you see it – “beak and foot”, seeing the coffee lounge as a mega home theater….
    Good going. Expecting a lot writing from you

  11. An interesting article with the beautiful pictures.This sort of pictures can be clubbed together into a video picture.Hope to get more pictures of this nature.

  12. Very nice article , giving an insight of coorg from the little boys perception.Very good job done,Vikas

  13. Wonderful Vikas. I have been to Orange County too and I am amazed (very dissappointed) that all this beauty, was wasted on me.
    At least all we mere mortals have the benefit of having Vikas open our eyes and sensitise us.
    Keep the passion flowing son, we’d be blind, but for you
    Jai Uncle

  14. Dear Vikas, you have completely surprised me with your detailed write up. I can’t believe its my jumpy(rabbit!) Vikas who has written it. It is nice to know about so many beautiful places in India, and not many of us are aware of them.
    I liked the description of the coffee lounge the best. So beautifully expressed(like a mega home theater…), exactly been able to write what you felt at that moment.
    Wow! keep up the good work dear!!

  15. Hi Vikas,
    Its nice to read your travelogues – I notice that they are now encompassing what makes up the environment – not just Birds – but also animals and people ! Time to include trees too 🙂
    All the best !

  16. Hi Vikas ! Very interesting article. You should explore more areas and give us useful information in the future also. All kids should have this kind of awareness. You will make India a popular tourist destination for Bird watchers.

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