Coracle Ride in Hogenakkal, the Niagara Falls of India
The name "Hogenakkal" means "smoking rocks" in the Kannada language. The water splashing from the falls give an illusion of smoke emanating from the rocks. This is where the Kaveri river drops from higher grounds to the lower plains cutting through the rocky terrain. The many waterfalls thus formed thunders down and creates scenic waterways. No other destination in Tamil Nadu is as photogenic as Hogenakkal.
It takes about seven hours of drive time to reach Hogenakkal from Chennai. Instead, one can take a train to Dharmapuri and cover the balance distance by bus or taxi. It is much closer to residents of Salem and Bengaluru as they need just two or three hours of drive time to get there.
Hogenakkal is on the border between the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. So one could see a confluence of both cultures.
Coracles are round boats made of bamboo sticks with curved sides. It is covered with hides or plastic sheets to make it waterproof. The Tamil name for coracle is “Parisal” and is believed to exist from prehistoric times as a means of transport. Parisal is no longer used as a means of transport and its use is limited to tourism.
There is a park on top of the waterfalls that serves as the entrance for the coracle ride. From the upper level, the boatman would lead one through the steps carved on the rocky terrain to reach the bottom level. This is where the coracle ride would commence.
The Ride Experience
The primitive boats would take one through many waterways surrounded by shallow rocks on either side. One would be occasionally greeted by small waterfalls, birds and many interesting rock formations. Once on the ride, we would be transported to a beautiful little world with just the river, blue sky and the surrounding rocks for company.
The ride could get bumpy if there is an increase in flow. So it is preferable to avoid a heavy meal before the ride. The coracle ride would lead one to a river island where the travelers can get down for a while. There would be many photo opportunities there.
The coracle would return to the alighting point after spending around two hours on the river. One should carry water and light snacks as there would be no access to outside world till we complete the ride.
Distance to Hogenakkal from Key Towns
A surprising aspect about Hogenakkal is the lack of many stay options. Many tourists visiting Hogenakkal view it as a picnic spot worthy of a day trip. For someone who has traveled over seven hours from a place like Chennai, a stay for a night or two would be preferable.
The only acceptable place of stay was the TTDC hotel managed by Tamilnadu Tourism Development Corporation. The rooms were basic, but they were clean and well maintained. Booking process is a bit cumbersome and it can be done only through the TTDC website.
This hotel has lots of open space and one can go for strolls at leisure within the resort premises. It also has a children's play area. Fresh-water fish, especially the Butter fish is a popular attraction at Hogenakkal. It is best to dine in the TTDC restaurant itself as the ambience and food are good.
Other Activities at Hogenakkal
There is a small Crocodile Park well maintained by the team managing the park. Please remember to check out the organic store attached to the crocodile park selling natural products like natural oils sourced from this region. An aquarium is on the main town but one can skip it.
One can go for a short drive on the road along the banks of the Kaveri river on the upper side. There would be one or two spots to park the car and enjoy spending time by the riverside. Carry a packed lunch to make it a memorable picnic.
View From the Hanging Bridge
One can also view the waterfalls from a hanging bridge on top of the waterfalls. “The Hanging Bridge" is inside the park that also serves as the entrance for the coracle ride. This is the place to get the best view of the waterfalls without venturing on a coracle ride..
Whenever the river Kaveri is in full spate, it would become a wide sheet-type waterfalls. The resemblance to the great Niagara Falls would be clear to any observer. So it is no wonder Hogenakkal is called the Indian Niagara.
The tourist town could also benefit from a better civic infrastructure. During our last visit in December 2016, we had seen plastic trash being thrown all over the streets by visitors. I wish the town planners and authorities have taken the necessary steps to improve the cleanliness of this otherwise beautiful place.
Combining Nearby Attractions
As we have seen, the Hogenakkal town does not have much to offer other than the coracle ride that could get over in two hours. It is probably a good idea to stay in a nearby place like Salem and plan a short trip to Hogenakkal from there.
Yercaud and Denakanikottai
There are two travel attractions near Hogenakkal. One is Yercaud, a hill station near Salem with many stay options and the other is Denkanikottai, an offbeat location. Denkanikottai is known for its calm surroundings and a pleasant weather. It has a great resort by name "The Ranch". One of these can be clubbed with Hogenakkal.
More on Yercaud
- The 10 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Yercaud
Yercaud is a hill station near Salem in Tamil Nadu. It is arguably the most popular among South India's offbeat hill stations and a gorgeous place to visit any time of the year.