The Hermitage Guest House
in the Western Ghats

Front Hill ViewHosts: David, Morvarid & Katrina Fernandez

When: Available year round, except during the height of the monsoons during the months of July and August. There are three seasons; each distinctly different from the other, each with a charm of it’s own. 

  • Summer: March, April and May,
  • Monsoons: June to October
  • Winter: November to February.

Aerial view of farmLanguages: The first language of your hosts is English. Marathi is the dominant language. Kanada is also spoken. In the towns most people can communicate in English.

Length of stay: Totally Flexible, but less than three days would be doing an injustice to this intriguing and fascinating environment.

Number of guests: One to a maximum of six adults. Children are welcome and can be accommodated in parent’s room.

Fee: The tariff is US $ 25.00 per person per day, on a twin share basis. The tariff includes all meals, a full English Breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner. The tariff for children below the age of 12 years accommodated in parent’s room US $ 10.00 per child. This tariff does not include extras such as snacks, beverages, bar and transport expenses. The fees of all other planned activities and tours are also not included. Please email us for a comprehensive list of charges for transport, treks and excursions.


The Background:
open-air bathroomThe Hermitage is a well-appointed secluded working farm set amidst the lush forests of the Western Ghats. The Western Ghats have been designated one of the worlds 18 biodiversity hotspots. It is a chain of hills extending over 1600 kms along the West Coast of Peninsular India, housing one of the richest assemblages of flora and fauna on earth. The biological richness can best be understood when one realizes that 27 percent of all the species of higher plants recorded in the Indian sub continent are found here.

The rich biological wealth also includes animals, birds reptiles and insects. It is here that frogs reach their highest diversity, with over 100 species.  Endemism is a natural feature here and this is exhibited not lonely among frogs, but also among plant species nearly 1800, are endemic to the region. The Wroughton’s free-tailed bat, Otomops wroughtoni is another endemic species, located very near us at Talevadi that unfortunately, is in danger of extinction.

The western slopes of the mountains experience heavy annual rainfall, while the eastern slopes are drier. The predominant vegetation types include deciduous and tropical rain forests, montane forests, grasslands, and scrub forests in lower, drier areas. The Western Ghats has something for everyone, whether it is medicinal plants, birds, frogs, elephants, or bats.

Accommodation:
At present there are three independent but different units available, all are comfortable and respect the privacy of guests.  Each cottage is for two adults.

  • The Gota: A rural cottage, with old distinctive hand made village tiles. Modern western style bathroom attached, with running hot and cold water. Electrified. [Two young children can also be accommodated in this cottage.]
  • The Kadaba: Built in the traditional style of the area, the Kadaba is a typical village home made of mud and bamboo.  Modern western style bathroom, open to the sky, built with bamboo and thatch. View of the MachanCold running water supplied, hot water available from a “Bhum” located close by in the community area. Not electrified [Two young children can also be accommodated in this cottage.]
  • The Machan: A home on stilts (shown at the right) eleven feet above the ground built with bamboo and wood. Great views. Private bathroom at ground level, open to the sky. Enjoy the green forest canopy, far more interesting than a book!  Cold running water supplied hot water available from “Bhum”. Not electrified.

Food:
Wholesome and healthy, traditional Parsee and Anglo Indian cooking. Lots of unusual indigenous fruits and vegetables are included in the menu. Fruits such as the Chikoo, Jamun, Jackfruit, and Breadfruit. Vegetables like the Drumstick, and nuts such as the Charoli and Bibiya, these are just a few examples from a very interesting list. We cater to both non-vegetarians and vegetarians.

Activities:
All sorts of activities can be undertaken at the Hermitage, but not necessarily as an organized program. Guests can decide how they want to spend their day how active or inactive they want to be. Walkabouts on the farm, participating in farm activities, short guided nature walks along jungle trails around the Hermitage, are part of our stay program and are at no extra cost.  Those guests interested in the local culture, and interacting with the local communities, will get plenty of opportunities to do so. Guests may also choose just to relax, read, chat, or play a game of mahjongg. 

  • Trekking: Those interested in undertaking daylong treks will find any number of options open, some requiring higher standards of physical fitness than others.  Trek to areas such as Abnali, Dongargaon or Jamgaon.   Explore the banks of the Bandora and Mahadai rivers.  If tracking animals, is what interests you, this is also possible.
  • Excursions by 4 x 4 Jeep: There are a number of excursions that guests can undertake. The cost of an excursion depends on the duration, either half or full day, and the distance.  All full day excursions will include a picnic lunch.
  • inside Talevadi CaveBats at Talevadi: Take the opportunity to visit the cave at Talevadi, home to Wroughton’s Free-tailed bat.  The only place in the world that you will find them.
  • Krishnapur Bat Caves: Drive on rough jungle track to Krishnapur, a small village deep in the interior. From here it is a 25-minute trek to the caves that house thousands of bats. The terrain is steep with thick jungle the trek is rather strenuous and you need to be reasonably fit. The caves and the bats are an amazing sight. Good walking shoes are absolutely necessary, it can be very mucky.
  • Bhimghad: A natural stone fortress deep within the interior used by Shivaji the great Maratha ruler as an outpost. The trek is strenuous and you need to be physically fit.  Wonderful views, and total isolation.  Dense forests, birds and butterflies.
  • Gavali: A tiny remote village set in the middle of mountainous terrain.  Visit the Pohe Vajara waterfall and the pool at the bottom.   Best after the monsoons.
  • Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary: Just an hour and a half away is the wild life sanctuary at Dandeli.  Enroute visit Kavala Caves, limestone caves said to be inhabited since prehistoric times. Climb the 1000 steps to get you there, admire the view and then entire a labyrinth of tunnels that go on underground for miles.
  • Syntheri Rock: On the banks of the River Kaneri is Syntheri Rock, a 90-meter high granite monolith moulded by nature.  Home to rock bees, and pigeons.
  • Ulvi Caves: Dizzying gorges breathtaking views and rock pillars 500 meters high.
  • Adventure Sports at Ganeshgudi: Just an hour’s run from the Hermitage is the small settlement of Ganeshgudi and the river Kali. Under the expert guidance of John Pollard and his team, have a go at whitewater rafting. Also available the ultimate whitewater experience, solo kayaking. For the less adventurous, there is the option of a coracle ride down the river Kali, and the opportunity to do a bit of crocodile spotting.
  • Tibetan Settlement at Mundgod: Drive through enchanting country to Yellapur, a small rural settlement, and continue your journey to Mundgod and the Tibetan Settlement.  Visit the monastery and carpet centre.  They also have a clinic dispensing Tibetan Medicine.

Other places of interest include a visit to the waterfalls at Gokak; Lalguli falls at Yellapur; the historical town of Kittur; and the temples of Halsie. For those of you interested in a longer stay, you can use the Hermitage as a base to visit the historical sites of Northern Karnataka at Hampi, Badami, Pattadakal and so on.

A Special Note to Birders: Your hosts cannot claim to be ornithologists, but we do know where the birds are. There are many wonderful birding sites all around starting right here at the Hermitage. Travel short distances away to open grasslands, scrub forest and water bodies for more birds. Because of our location we have the added advantage of sighting many species common to both the Western Ghats and the Northern Plateau. Except for watching migrants and breeding waterfowls there is no sort of season for birding in Karnataka, there are birds all the year round.

And a special note to Bat Watchers: Apart from the bats that frequent our Chikoo Orchard, we have the privilege of living very near the home of Otomops wroughtoni, an endemic bat with a very restricted range, seen no where else in the world. They co-exist with Megaderma spasma and Rhinolophus rouxii.  Further, at Krishnapur you will find the Theobald Tomb Bat, Taphozous theobaldi, one of only three places in the world that they can be found, the other two being in Madhya Pradesh, in central India. Rousettus leschenaultii, is another bat you can see at Krishnapur. Trek to see your favourite mammals through some really fascinating jungle.

Bringing in an expert on medicinal plants, of which the Western Ghats abounds, will cost US $28.00 per day. Similarly a botanist well acquainted with the region and its botanical richness with cost US$ 28.00. This cost can be shared within the group. {Subject to availability of the persons}. 

A customized itinerary can be put together for you, we invite you to discuss your needs via e-mail. Or if you prefer you can make your choices when you get here.

Things to bring with you:

  • Hiking boots or comfortable walking shoes for all seasons
  • Loose-fitting clothing. Trousers and long sleeved shirt a must for jungle treks.
  • Waterproof parka/Umbrella for the monsoons.
  • Warm Jersey and hat during the winter months.
  • Sun hat, sun screen, sunglasses
  • Insect repellent
  • Binoculars and camera.

How to Get Here:
It’s very easy. We are located in South India, Karnataka State, in Belgaum District, which is on the boarder with Goa. The Hermitage is located 45 kms from the city of Belgaum.  Our nearest town is Khanapur located 18 kms away from the Hermitage and 28 kms away from Belgaum. Please refer to the map.

To get here from Goa:
The most convenient way would be by private taxi, a distance of approximately 140-km. A journey of approximately 2 hours.

You can also take a train to Belgaum and from there it is an hour’s drive to the Hermitage. An alternative to a taxi.

Local State run, Transport Bus: You must travel with a reserved seat. Don’t attempt it otherwise. Be prepared!

From Bombay or Pune:

  • By Train: Plenty of trains pass through Belgaum, an hour’s drive away from the railway station to The Hermitage.
  • By Private Coach/ Luxury Coach: This is an overnight journey and buses arrive in the morning at Belgaum. [Some coach lines are better than others].

From Bangalore:

  • By Train: Plenty of trains from Bangalore pass through Belgaum. The Hermitage is an hour’s drive away from the railway station.
  • By Private Coach/ Luxury Coach: This is an overnight journey and buses arrive in the morning at Belgaum. [Some coach lines are better than others].

If you would like more details regarding the Private/Luxury coaches that ply to Belgaum from Bangalore, Mumbai [Bombay], or Pune please e-mail us.

If you are coming in by coach or train, we can arrange transport for you at Belgaum.

APPENDIXES:

Appendix 1: Animals around the Hermitage
Appendix 2: Bats around the Hermitage
Appendix 3: Lizards, skinks and Geckos around the Hermitage
Appendix 4:  Snakes around the Hermitage

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