The tropical west coast of India boasts some of the most magnificent waterfalls in the region. Nestled in wilderness areas, far from well-trodden paths, these waterfalls will leave you in awe of their raw power and the beauty of nature. Whether you’re an avid nature-lover or simply looking for a unique vacation, visiting a few of the major waterfalls along India’s west coast can be an unforgettable experience.
One of the most well-known waterfalls in India, Dudhsagar holds a special place in my heart because of the lovely memories associated with it. The first time I visited the site, I was absolutely mesmerized by the white foamy water cascading down from a great height. I’d seen photographs of the falls from other family members who had been there before me, but pictures don’t capture the force with which the water falls and that was something that has always stuck with me.
Dudhsagar literally translates to ‘Sea of Milk’ – ‘dudh’ is the Hindi word for milk and ‘sagar’ is the Hindi word for sea. I guess they named it because it does look like a sea of milk gushing down with great force. It is situated in the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in South Goa. The area itself is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, attracting nature lovers from all over the globe.
Dudhsagar is a large four-tiered waterfall with the water falling over four vertical tiers from a total height of 310 metres (1017 feet), making it one of the tallest waterfalls in India. To get to the falls, you have to first hire a vehicle that drops you off at a trekking trail. After a 20-30 mins walk, you have to cross a little running stream and walk another 10 minutes. It’s a bit arduous but definitely worth the effort.
Jog Falls is located about 250 kms south of Dudhsagar, in the state of Karnataka. Plunging from a height of 253 metres (830 feet), Jog Falls is the tallest un-tiered waterfall in India. The water cascading straight down from that height like a thick white curtain is a spectacular sight to behold.
The falls are surrounded by lush green forests, hills, and valleys. There are several other picturesque waterfalls nearby. Although you can admire the beauty of the falls from several viewpoints such as the Watkins platform, the real magic is in getting as close as possible and feeling the spray on your skin. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can hike down to the base and swim in the river into which the water falls. The water is cool and refreshing.
Further down south, in the scenic Coorg district of Karnataka lies the majestic Mallalli Waterfalls. It is situated in the foothills of the Pushpagiri Mountains, amidst lush green forests and rolling hills. Cascading from a height of 61 metres (200 feet), the Mallalli Waterfalls are not as high as Dudhsagar or Jog Falls but that doesn’t make it any less spectacular. The water spilling over the edge of the hill and flowing forcefully over the craggy rocks on its way down to the pool below is a breathtaking sight.
Getting to the Mallalli Waterfalls involves an easy 30-45 mins trek through a well-maintained trail which offers scenic views of the surrounding hills and valleys. A dip in the refreshingly cool waters followed by a cozy picnic at the base of the falls is the perfect way to relax and re-energise before the walk back to your vehicle.
Also located in Coorg, Karnataka, about 10 km from the town of Madikeri, lies another must-see waterfall – the Abbey Falls. This is one of the easiest waterfalls to visit and also the most unique.
Unlike other waterfalls which are located in the wilderness, the Abbey Falls are nestled among exotic coffee and spice plantations. Some years ago, the Karnataka government cleared the dense forests surrounding the falls and converted them into agricultural land that was perfect for growing spices and coffee. They also built a pathway from the main road, through the plantations, ending at the base of the Abbey Falls.
The water falls in a wide span from a height of 22 metres (70 feet) into a flowing river below. The water looks refreshing and inviting but swimming in the river is prohibited. A hanging over-bridge built right across the waterfall offers the most panoramic view of the falls.
Tips for your waterfall visits
(1) The absolute best time to visit any of the Indian waterfalls is the months after the monsoons, from September to about February. The waterfalls are in full spate at this time offering the most spectacular sights. During the middle of the monsoons themselves, you cannot get to many of the waterfalls as the treks are closed because the paths get wet, slippery and dangerous.
(2) Wearing a good pair of trekking shoes with good treads is a must if you plan on visiting any of the waterfall sites. Most of the paths are unmotorable. You’ll need to park your vehicle at the start of the trek and walk through the forests, which can be slippery. Also, the site itself is often wet and muddy with the continuous spray of water from the falls.
(3) It is a good idea to carry sufficient water and snacks before you start out on your trek. Once you leave your vehicle, you’ll enter the forest almost immediately and won’t find any food stalls or stores along the way.
(4) Unless you’re an experienced trekker, you may wish to consider hiring a guide to lead you to the waterfall sites. They will have been along these paths many times and can show you the best way to get to the falls. Many of them are also nature-lovers and will stop and point out interesting flora and fauna along the way.
(5) The wet lush forests provide a great environment for leeches. Wearing long sleeved clothing, long trousers and closed shoes is the best way to keep them away from getting onto your skin.
(6) Last but not least, carry a waterproof camera to get great shots of the waterfalls from up close.