We- the S.Y. B.Sc. students along with the final year students of Botany went on a 3- day Study tour to the Western Ghats region of Karnataka which spans between Honnavar & Jog falls of the state Karnataka. We boardered the train from Madgaum railway station at 12.45 pm and was at Honnavar station by 5.30pm. The rail distance between the two places is around 157 Kms.
Honnavar or Onore was a prominent seaport of British India, in the Uttara Kannada or North Canara district of Karnataka which was a place of trade as early as the 16th century. History has it that Honnavar was ruled by Kadambas of Chandavar between the 11th and 14th century AD and became a trading centre during the time of Vijayanagar Empire. Honnavar taluk borders Arabian Sea to the west and River Sharavati to the south, forming an estuary. Some islands have formed at this end.
At Honnavar, we visited a renovated patch of land atop a hill located on one side of the sea which hosts many native & exotic garden plants and a small water fall. The area was reclaimed and made into an attractive tourist spot by Forest Department – standing proudly as an excellent example of how our waste / denuded lands can be put to use in the most eco- friendly manner. It is presently being maintained by the local Panchayat administration. The view of the sandy beach from the hill top was so beautiful. This locality is known by the name ‘Apsarakonda’, the Hill garden as ‘Apsarkonda garden’ & the serene sandy beach below as ‘Apsarkonda beach’. We got down to the clean sandy beach which remained untouched by the maddening crowd of tourists. The ‘inhabitants’ of this shore were patches of Ipomoea biloba (Convolvulaceae) & Spinifex sps (Poaceae) which are the common sand binders on sandy beaches. Wayside vegetation included Ficus glomerata (Moraceae), Anamirta cocculus (Menispermaceae) etc.
Jog falls is approximately 65 kilometers from Honnavar (Joga & Javugu in the Kannada language mean ‘falls’ & ‘marsh’ respectively).The source is river Sharavathi which originates at Ambutheertha of Theerthahalli taluk in Karnataka & meanders north- west. The Sharavati, here flows over a rocky bed which gets into a deep crack –approx.290 m- and the water plunges into 4 major water falls – Raja, Rani, Roarer and Rocket, forming the second highest water fall of Asia having a length of about 283 m. (Known also as the ‘Falls of Gersoppa’, because it passes through the village Geru-Sappe ).This in its course discharges the water volume into the sea at Honnavar. Thus the specific geographical features have contributed to the exclusive floral wealth of this region of Western Ghats protecting many endemic as well as endangered biodiversity.
The rocky cliffs within the ‘Spray zone’ of the water falls form the special habitats for the wild banana (Ensete superba-Musaceae). The Sharavathi river water is utilised for the generation of electricity like Anebailu (AB) site, Bhadravathy, Sharavathi Tail Race, etc. These dams supply power to the whole of Karnataka state and even to the state of Goa.
The natural vegetation between Honnavar & Jog falls was studied as we proceeded back to Honnavar from Jog falls. At a location called Kathalekaan (Dark forest), we saw what is called as a ‘Relic forest’ which hosted a threatened ecosystem called ‘Myristica swamps’ (Myristica sps. – Myristicaceae) which is home for many endangered species of plants. This region is a part of Gerusoppa Ghats (Malemane Ghats) which is a dense evergreen forest and is well known for pepper. A critically endangered species found here is Madhuca burdillonii from Sapotaceae. Further down in a place called Mavinahole, a critically endangered tree named Neonauclea missionii belonging to the family, Rubiaceae was sited. A tree sps. – popularly known as ‘Cadamba tree’- Anthocephalus cadamba of Rubiaceae was found growing by the banks of a stream within the ghats. Researches has it that this is an early-succession species which grows best on deep, moist, alluvial soils, often in secondary forests along riverbanks and in the transitional zone between swampy, permanently flooded and periodically flooded areas. The bark of this tree is used as a cure for fever & Chicken pox.
The experience that we got when we were directly in the lap of nature was something extra-ordinary! The simplicity of nature with its intricate complexities of mutual interactions with the micro to the macro life needs to be seen & experienced to believe! It was really exciting to be in the ‘company’ of the endemic & critically endangered plants which otherwise remained restricted to words or pictures in big fat books. Once again it was proved beyond doubt that Botany is a dynamic subject which has to be known in closer quarters through field explorations of this sort!