Bisle Ghat: The Butterfly Forest of India - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Bisle Ghat: The Butterfly Forest of India

A Bisle forest view during a bright monsoon day

It is one of the prettiest ghat roads in the Western Ghats of Karnataka. It is one of the few untouched tract of pristine forests left in Karnataka. It is one of the top monsoon routes of Karnataka. It is home to some of India’s most spectacular rainforests. It is one of the wettest regions in Karnataka. I am talking about the lesser known Bisle Ghat of Karnataka.

Straddling 3 regions of Karnataka, namely Kodagu, Malnad and Dakshina Kannada, Bisle Ghat is an absolute joy to the senses. To its north lies the rolling hills of Kaginahare forest, to its south lies the Pushpagiri wildlife sanctuary of Kodagu from where the Kumaradhara river begins, to its west lies the Bhagimalai forest and to its south west lies Kumaraparvatha and the Kukke Subramanya forest range.

Hairpin turn on the Bisle ghat road of Karnataka

I have been to Bisle ghat and Bisle forest a good number of times and in spite of that, I cannot stop but admire its beauty. It is quite rare to see such a pristine and untouched ecosystem in this day and era, but somehow this forest has escaped any kind of human infrastructure development and may be that is why this forest seems to thrive. And one can see this richness through the hundreds of thousands of butterflies that call this place their home.

Bisle Forest - the butterfly ghat of Karnataka

You don’t have to go deep into the forest to see these butterflies. They seem to be present almost everywhere including on the main forest highway where they can be seen frolicking in thousands next to their favorite alkaloid plants that grow wild in Bisle forest. A few months back, I saw hundreds of thousands of blue tiger butterflies at many corners of the Bisle forest highway. I was extremely lucky to see them at close quarters and as there were hardly any vehicles on the highway, I got to immerse myself in the full blue tiger butterfly experience. I got to see how they got high while sipping on the nectar of these alkaloid plants. And their flapping wings contrasting with the vibrant green background made for some fantastic views.

Even though, I fondly refer to Bisle Ghat as the butterfly forest of India, there is so much more to Bisle than its butterflies. King Cobras, tigers, elephants, sambar deer, spotted deer, macaques, langurs and many other diverse variety of flora and fauna can be seen here. In the early hours of the morning, Bisle forest is home to a musical symphony of tropical birds going about their morning chores.

Blue Butterflies at Bisle Forest, Karnataka

During the monsoons, Bisle turns into a wet curtain accompanied with a heavy roar. Innumerable streams and waterfalls come alive and each try to make their way to the Kumaradhara river in the valley below. The forest highway is usurped by a constant mist cover and this moist habitat gives birth to many unique flora that attract a wide variety of birds and insects. All of this makes for an absolutely magical monsoon experience.

A bright monsoon day at Bisle Forest, Karnataka

Come bright sunny days and you can see the lush beauty of Bisle forest where montane rain forests stretch far and wide interspersed with the view of the meandering Kumaradhara river. And standing tall behind these rainforests are the Kumara parvatha, Pushpagiri, Dodda betta, Patta betta and Enni Kallu mountains. The Bisle beauty spot and a few other locations become fantastic locations to experience this surreal view.

Bisle to me is not just a destination. It is more of an emotional connect. There is something about it that makes me return to it. Such is the affinity that I try to spend at least a few weeks there every year during the monsoons. Just being in the forest environment is good enough for me. I relax, refresh and rejuvenate all in record time. I don’t know if it is due to the pure air, the lush green views or the pristineness of this ecosystem. It just seems to magically heal me.

View of Bisle Forest from the Kukke highway

This butterfly forest of India is truly a magical monsoon destination and at the same time is vibrant all year round. It’s beauty is special. It’s close proximity to Bangalore makes it an ideal weekend getaway. If you are a nature lover, love monsoon holidays and/or love motorcycling/bicycling, this place should definitely be on the top of your travel bucket list. Just one small request, let’s try and keep this place as clean as possible so that the future generations can continue to enjoy its riches.

Activities that one can indulge in at Bisle forest:

1) Driving a car, riding a motorcycle or bicycle through this beautiful forest

2) Experiencing the gorgeous views at Bisle beauty spot

3) Checking out the Bisle ridge point where all westward streams head to the Arabian Sea and all eastward streams head to the Bay of Bengal

The Bisle Forest Highway of Karnataka

4) Trekking inside the forest. This requires forest permissions

5) Bird watching, butterfly watching and flora watching

6) Picnicking next to the many mountain streams. Do ensure to carry all trash back with you

The carpet of green as seen from Bisle view point, Karnataka

Timings for Bisle ghat road:

As Bisle ghat comes under the purview of the forest department, the road is open only from sunrise to sunset. There are forest check posts at either side of the bisle forest highway and there could be random checks from time to time. If you happen to reach very early in the morning and find the check post closed, you can ask around for the forest guard. He will open the check post barricade.

Best season to visit:

Bisle ghat is open all year round, but the best time to see it in its full glory would be the monsoons, when the vegetation is lush and when the waterfalls and streams are gushing with water. The post monsoon season would be best for seeing the forest and mountain views from the Bisle beauty spot, which are covered in heavy mist during the rains. My favorite time to visit Bisle Ghat is the monsoons. This season is perfect for motorcyclists and cyclists.

Stunning views that greet you on the Bisle Ghat highway

How to reach there:

Bisle Ghat should be about 250 kms from Bangalore city. You could either approach it from Mysore road - Kodagu or from Hassan road direction. If you are driving a larger vehicle, you might want to take the road via Sakleshpur, while if you are on a motorcycle or in a small car, you can take this route: Bangalore –> Kunigal –> Channarayapatna–> Holenarasipura –> Arkalgud –> Shanivarsanthe –> Kudrasthe –> Vanagoor –> Bisle Ghat.

The nearest bus station would either be Sakleshpur or Somwarpet. Public buses visit Bisle Ghat only a couple of times every day, so it is best if you opt for private transportation to cover the last mile.

The nearest railway station would be Hassan or Mysuru, but the one with the best connectivity would be either Mangalore or Bangalore.

The nearest airport would be Mangalore, but the one with the best connectivity would be Bangalore international airport.

Where to stay:

Traditional homestays, plantation stays and farm stays should be everyone’s preference here. There are a lot of homestays in and Vanagoor, but my favourite is the gorgeous family run Malnad homestay located at Athihalli. I go there for lip smacking local food and a quiet village environment surrounded by spice plantations and forests.

If you prefer something slightly more luxurious, try the resorts in Coorg, in Chickmagalur and the hotels in Mangalore.

Butterfly mania at Bisle Ghat, Karnataka

Where to eat:

The nearest place to eat would be either at Kudrasthe junction or at Kukke Subramanya town depending on which direction you are headed.

It might be prudent to eat your meals at your place of stay in case you are staying at a nearby homestay or plantation stay .

If you want a wide range of vegetarian hotels, Kukke Subramanya town would be your best bet and if you are looking for a wide range of non-vegetarian restaurants, Sakleshpur would be a better choice.

Butterflies at Bisle State Forest, Karnataka

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Mallalli Falls: Coorg’s prettiest waterfall

2) Mookanamane Falls: Hidden waterfall amidst the pristine forests of Malnad

3) Kaginahare view point: A paradise of green rolling hills

4) Yedekumeri railway bridge: A remote jungle and railway trek

Lush green expanse at Bisle Forest, Karnataka

5) Manjarabad fort: A start shaped fort surrounded by lush greenery

6) Kukke Subramanya temple: A temple dedicated to Lord Subramanya located by the banks of the Kumaradhara river and at the base of the Kumaraparvatha mountain

7) Kumaparvatha: One of the top monsoon trekking destinations of Karnataka

8) Pushpagiri wildlife sanctuary: A pristine forest home to many endemic species and the birthplace of the Kumaradhara river

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