One of the most adventurous boat rides in South India that'll leave you chasing your breath is the Coracle Ride at Hogenakkal Falls. As the river water surges, the coracle tosses and turns with the rhythmless waves. It feels as if you could topple over at any moment, yet the coracles hold firm. It's an invigorating and exhilarating experience, sending an adrenaline rush through your entire body.
Hogenakkal sits on the outskirts of Tamil Nadu, between the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Hence, the name of the place is derived from Karnataka's official language, Kannada. The term hoge translates to 'smoke' and kal means 'rock' in Kannada. If you ever happen to visit the Hogenakkal Falls, you would realize how apt its name sounds. As the gushing water of the river falls on top of the rocks, the spray thrown up resembles smoke exuding from the rocks. However, these enchanting waterfalls of Hogenakkal are also referred to as Marikottayam in the native state of Tamil Nadu.
Located in Tamil Nadu's Dharmapuri district, the Hogenakkal Falls is on the river Kaveri. It's only 130 km away from Bangalore, a city that constantly draws travelers. Another place nearby is the Hogenakkal village, 45 km from the town of Dharmapuri. It's a peaceful village that is full of vegetation, and not many people live there.
The highlight of a one-day trip to Hogenakkal (other than the gorgeous Hogenakkal Falls) is the coracle ride, locally known as kottathoni. The coracles are makeshift ferries that look like big walnut shells, carrying you on the undulated river. They are very lightweight yet sturdy and are made out of bamboo with the bottom covered in plastic sheets for waterproofing.
A single coracle has a diameter of around 2.24m, and can carry up to 6 - 8 individuals at a time. The coracle ride lasts about an hour and is divided into two parts. You start off by riding the coracle across the river and will dismount when you reach the other side of the river. You’ll then walk to the next location, passing mesmerizing waterfalls, while the coracle rider will carry the coracle with you.
There are two organizers of the coracle rides, one is the government and the others are run privately. There are also life jackets offered as a safety measure. You won’t find any restaurants with filling meals on the road to Hogenakkal Falls. But you will find soft drinks, snacks, and fresh tender coconut from the roadside shops. The place is known to sell fried fish caught freshly from the river Kaveri, with fish like katla, kendai, robu, valai and aranjan. It’s a must-have, and certainly adds to the entire experience of being here!
The rides are offered on the banks of the Kaveri, and body massages are also available. Many also come here for a trek alongside the high waterfalls to witness the unrestrained flow of the water.
The best time to visit the Hogenakkal Falls is from October to March. That would be right after the monsoon season. The river Kaveri swells up and the entire place is full of vitality as if it was brought to life after the hot, dry summer. The timings of the coracle rides are from 7 am to 5 pm, so plan your trip accordingly.
The entry fee for Hogenakkal Falls only is INR 5 and they charge only INR 10 for a camera. There are locker facilities available for bags, especially big ones carried by tourists, to reduce the weight load on the coracle. It’s roughly INR 10 per locker. In case you're taking your own ride to reach Hogenakkal, the parking charges are INR 30. The entry to the nearby forest, another tourist attraction, is INR 70.
The privately run coracle rides are about INR 800 for two people. The government-run coracle rides charge roughly INR 500 for two people. Remember that these prices are not fixed and are always bargainable. The prices usually depend on the season and how well the place is receiving its tourists.
The Hogenakkal Falls are not only spellbinding but also frightening as nature's power seems to captivate your entire being. The pristine white waterfalls are impressive right after the rainy season as the river starts to brim.
The closest domestic airport is the Peelamedu Airport in Coimbatore, at a distance of 119 km. The nearest international airport is the Kempegowda International Airport in Bangalore. A taxi charges roughly INR 2000 to drop you at Hogenakkal from Bangalore.
In case you wish to travel by train, the closest major railway station is in Salem, and it's a well-connected railhead. It is around 114 km from Hogenakkal. The cost of hiring a taxi to Hogenakkal from Salem is roughly INR 1500. Other nearby railway stations are Dharmapuri (for people from Bangalore) and Morappur railway station (for people from Chennai).
The entire Hogenakkal area is well connected and there are frequent buses to the major cities of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. There are also deluxe buses that can be boarded from Bangalore (which is about 133 km away) and Salem (which is at a distance of 114 km). The bus fare is INR 3 per kilometer. It's also very easy to take your car and drive there, or hire a cab and get there.
The Hogenakkal Falls are at a height of 66 ft and it’s said that the area sounds like relentless thunder because of the thunderous water cascading down. You can see the falls from the Hanging Bridge, but all this beauty is best experienced with the 360° view while in a coracle. The ride gives you an unbeatable view of all there is to behold at and around the Hogenakkal Falls, and there’s loads that make this place fantastic. These ferry rides are steered utilizing a single paddle, making them even more unique.
While on your ride, you witness how the river Kaveri enters the plains and dashes against the huge natural rocks. The ride along the river is a journey through the valley, constant splitting and merging around the rocks. Also spot the many small islands with trees (like Terminalia Arjuna, Syzygium cumini, and Madhuca longifolia) and crops which get partially submerged due to the rains in the monsoon season. The Hogenakkal Falls are next to the Melagiri Hills, home to several birds like the Indian Grey Hornbill, Little Cormorant, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, and Grey Francolin, all of which you can spot while on your ride along the river.
The rocks at the Hogenakkal Falls are made out of carbonatite. They’re dark in colour as if nature itself adds an alluring touch to the unpigmented waterfalls. These rocks are considered to be one of the oldest of their kind in all of South Asia. The entire sight is so pleasing that the Hogenakkal Falls is a renowned film shooting area. In many movies (one of which is Raavan), these magnificent waterfalls have become a popular choice to showcase nature's background, all of which require no CGI.
What Is The Best Time To Visit Hogenakkal?
The best time to visit the Hogenakkal Falls is right after the monsoon season, from October onwards. This continues till the start of summer in March. Nature is at her finest after the refreshing rains, and the Kaveri is swollen with all the rainwater. Plus, the temperatures are moderate and make your experience even more enjoyable.
Can We Visit Hogenakkal Falls Now?
The Hogenakkal Falls are mostly open throughout the year. The only exception is during the monsoon season, where the local authorities may close access to the falls due to the dangers of the roaring, unpredictable river. Visiting in summer is certainly possible, but temperatures will be high, and the river and nature around will be dry and sparse.
Is It Safe To Go To Hogenakkal Falls?
Going to the Hogenakkal Falls is safe as long as you take precautions and don’t try stunts by the river banks. A river is a force of nature and is unpredictable. Plus, the falls don’t have any security or lifeguards to come to your rescue in the event that things go wrong. Finally, avoid going to the falls in the monsoon, and exercise caution when visiting right after the rains make their exit.
What is special in Hogenakkal Falls?
The Hogenakkal Falls is often referred to as the 'Niagara Falls of India', and is famous for its numerous boat rides which are a major tourist attraction here.
Are there crocodiles in Hogenakkal Falls?
Yes, there are plenty of crocodiles in Hogenakkal Falls but they remain unbothered to the several tourists that visit this beautiful waterfall.