Bandaje Arbi Falls – Sweat, Blood and the Glory 17 & 18/10/2015

Places: Bandaje Arabi Falls and Ballarayanadurga Fort, near Dharmastal, Karnataka

Distance: 600 km round trip
Route: Bangalore-> Dharmastala -> Ujire -> Gowdra mane -> Bandaje Falls Trail -> Ballarayanadurga Fort -> Sunkasale -> Mudigeri -> Bangalore

Transportation: Public Transport

Crew:  SeenaMansoor, Ravindra, Anand AT and Sagar (Myself)
Type: Trekking, Water Falls
Ideal for: Friends
Budget: 2400/head
Trek length:  24 km total
Difficulty: Tough
Best time to visit: November to March

Best of the Beast: Sun rise at Bandaje Falls

Western ghats has always fascinated me with its mesmerizing panoramic views and hidden beauties which needs a hard core trek to reach, rarely known Bandaje Falls is one of such places. The water stream falls from 200 ft height and needs around 6 hours of trekking to reach. I didn’t knew about it until Seena pinged me on a fine day, as usual I was ready for the trek. It has been more than a month since I had my last Trek to Kodachadri.

Brief about the place: 
Bandaje Arbi is a waterfall located in the Charmadi ghat section of the Western Ghats, Karnataka. The water falls plunges from the height of around 200 ft, it can be reached only by undertaking trekking in thick forests and grass land.

Trekking Route:
There are two ways you can trek to Bandaje falls.
Route 1: Trek from Ujire side -> Bandaje falls -> Ballarayanadurga fort -> Descend at Sunkasale side.
Route 2: Trek from Sunakasale side -> Ballarayanadurga fort -> Bandaje Falls -> Descend at Ujire side

Trek Trail
Route 1: 
If you are taking this route then Guide is highly recommended as the route is too much confusing, there were many lost cases reported in the past. The guide will be arranged by forest officials or Narayan Gowda.  
Stretch 1 – The toughest part: Trail begins next to Gowdra mane, passes through couple of water streams and Village. Without a guide it could be very difficult to find the initial trail as the route branches out at many places. After you cross the second stream the path becomes little steep and you enter dense forest, the trail from this point is the most difficult as the path is very steep and you have to deal with the leeches. After an hour and half you will encounter a big stream which  could be little difficult to cross.  This place is exposed to direct Sunlight so you get a temporary relief from the leeches. You can cool down and have lunch. Another 1.5 hour of trek would lead to the open grassland.

Stretch 2 – Mixed emotions: Once you are out in the open grassland you can have the first glimpse of the water falls. Though it looks very close it needs another hour of trek. One good thing will happen is you get rid of the leeches but at the cost of intense Sun light. As soon as you start trek you can feel burning sensation on your skip because of the direct Sun light, there is no shade until you reach the falls. The stretch is steep and can be demanding specially if you are carrying all the supplies, tent, sleeping bags, food etc. Entry to the falls could be difficult to recognize but upon observing the trail carefully you can make out the route. The last stretch could be difficult to negotiate as its very steep and drops nearly 200 ft, you need to cross the Bandaje river to reach the flat ground. 

Kudos!!! You are at Bandaje Falls.

Stretch 3 – The most beautiful part: Before you start towards Balarayanadurga make sure you fill the water bottles as there is no water source until you pass beyond the fort. The trail on the left side of water falls leads the way, the trail is well marked on this stretch you can’t get lost. Initial stretch can be challenging as the trail is again steep. After 30 minutes of ascend the path becomes nearly flat, you get the most stupendous view in this stretch. After an hour of trek you can see the fort. Another half an hour of trek would lead to the Ballarayanadurga fort.

Stretch 4: After you spend quality time at the fort you take right turn which leads to the base and is well marked. This stretch is the easiest part of the trek. You get nearly three water sources enough to fill your thirst (on summer it could go dry). Within an hour you reach the base where you can see tar road, vehicles can come till this point. The trail end point is Durgadahalli, no public transports are available but you can call any auto/traveler who will pick you up can drop till Sunkasale which is nearly 4-5 km. Walking this stretch is nearly impossible as you will be already dead tired.

Route 2: 
If coming on Public transport you can get down at Sunkasale and hire an auto which will drop you till Durgadahalli – the starting point of the trek. You neither need forest permission nor guide on this route. As this route is exactly opposite to the Route 1 I will not be explaining it in detail to keep the post short (Refer to this blog).
  • -> The route is well marked and easy, we saw many families which included women and children. Trek till the fort will be tiring but you get respite from leeches and Sun.
  • -> Fort to Falls is again easy stretch, you can enjoy the scenic beauty while you trek. But make sure you reach the falls before the dusk as you need to pitch the tent and set up fire camp for the night. 
  • -> The down trek through the forest could be challenging because of the steepness and directions. You need to observe the trail carefully. 
  • -> Once you reach Gowdra mane you can talk with Narayan Gowda to arrange a vehicle which can drop you till Ujire from where you can get buses to Bangalore or Dharmastala.
Since we were five on the confirmed list we decided to take public transport. Everyone assembled at Majestic around 10 pm, Seena had already booked seats in private travels, after a little talk everyone fell asleep.

Saturday morning: We reached Dharmastala at 6 am. Finished our daily jobs and had a bath at washrooms near the temple. We decided to visit the temple as it wouldn’t be much rush in the morning.
At Dharmastala

After breakfast, we caught a local bus to Ujire, as soon as we got down hired a local jeep to Gowdra mane. We informed the driver that we will be trekking Bandaje Falls. Driver himself called the forest officials to arrange for the formalities. Gowdra mane is nearly 13 km from Ujire which is the starting point of the trek. Two guys from the forest department were already waiting with the formality papers, we signed a letter requesting for trek permission and paid the forest permission fee. They said that the guide is mandatory as there were a lot of missing complaints in the pastWe were unprepared for extra person, we had enough food and a tent for only 5 of us upon that taking a guide would cost us around 2k. We tried to convince that we can manage by ourselves but they didn’t agree. We had no choice but to take the guide, somehow we negotiated for 1.2 k for guiding through the entire trek. (The best thing happened to us)

Gowdra mane, the starting point of the Trek.
Trekking to Bandaje falls: This is going to be a long trek just read on and enjoy.

Love bite of leeches: It was 10 in the morning and the sun up in the sky. With the guide, we didn’t have to worry about the route. Trek starts next to Gowdra mane passes through a stream and village. We encountered another stream (don’t forget to fill water bottle) after which the trek became steep. It took no time before we entered the dense evergreen forest. The forest was so dense that Sun rays were hardly reaching the ground. The shade and the wet soil made a perfect atmosphere for leeches to survive. It took no time before we saw the first leech crawling on our leg, after a closer look we saw too many leeches on the ground than we were mentally prepared for.  We had previous experience with the leeches on our last trek to Kodachadri so we didn’t fear for what was coming. On Kodachadri trek we had prepared well but this time we underestimated the power of tiny creatures which sucked us to the death.

Initial flat trail
You pass through this first big stream of water over the bridge
The second stream after which you enter the dense forest, trail becomes steep. Refill bottles here
Entering the dense forest
There you see the leeches
The trail got steeper making the trek tougher and challenging as we were carrying all the supplies like a tent, food, clothes etc. Every step was demanding break but as soon as you stop leeches would crawl in so we had to keep moving. We just wanted to get out of this forest. An hour and a half later we could hear the sound of stream flowing, we crossed the small stream after which we encountered another big stream. Crossing this stream was a little difficult as the depth of the water was around 3 ft. This place is exposed to the direct Sun so we had a big relief from the leeches. One may forget the running clock as the place is so serene and beautiful. We rested for one hour and finished lunch. It was 1 in the afternoon, no one wanted to trek again partially because of the strain and mostly because of the leeches. Somehow we convinced ourselves to keep moving (Don’t forget to refill the bottles). Leeches attack started again but this time we were immune to them.

Bandaje river: You might have to struggle a bit to cross this
Just before starting trekking again
Somehow butterfly seemed to be attracted to my shoes 😛
And the steepness continues for another 1.5 hour
After trekking for another an hour and a half we made it to the open grassland. Seeing open space was a big relief as there won’t be any leeches to bug us and we can take rest whenever we needed. We sat under the shade for some time cleaning shoes and socks. Another group of trekkers arrived who had started half an hour later than us but trekked without any guide.

Finally, we are out of the forest into the open grassland
Love bite of leechees
Trek through open grassland: We got the first glimpse of the falls, though it looked close we knew it would take another hour before we could reach. We started trekking again, though this stretch is leech free the steepness didn’t reduce upon that direct Sunlight would dehydrate within minutes. As we were nearing we took 5 minutes of rest every now and then. Nearly an hour later we saw the entrance to the falls on our left. The valley which leads to the spot is very steep, with the loose soil it would take 10 minutes to negotiate the terrain. Crossed the mighty Bandaje river to land on the flat surface. 

The first glimpse of the Bandaje Falls
Taking some rest after a hardcore trek, and thats our guide on the left
Steepness continues but this time through open grassland
Finally crossing the Bandaje falls
Bandaje Arbi Falls: Another team was already there who had trekked from the other side (Route 2). They do regular treks to this place via Route 2 as that stretch is comparatively easy. Went to have a look at the falls for which we had struggled so much. As you are standing on the cliff its difficult to see the complete falls. We pitched a tent and went ahead to see the Sunset. The sky was covered with clouds so we couldn’t see the sunset. Guide set up the campfire, we sat there talking about the trek and had our dinner. We didn’t have extra space in the tent, the guide said he will stay near the campfire and would come inside the tent if it starts raining. Though we didn’t want to leave him out in the cold we helped him with a blanket and warm jacket. As we were surrounded by the trees from all the directions there was no strong wind or bone-freezing cold. Decided to watch the sunrise in the morning and went back to sleep.

You are on the top of the falls
Glorious Bandaje Falls
Bandaje Falls captured using selfie stick
Sunset time but the Sun is hiding behind the clouds
Lightning captured by Ravindra, Zoom in to see it
Sleeping under 5 million star roof
Tent to campfire everything is set up
Sunday Morning:

You wake up to the sound of wind shaking your tent, you hear the river flowing just beside the tent and you go out to see the grass which covers the entire hill dancing to the tune of wind. You don’t want to miss the first golden lights of the day which proves the world we live is indeed beautiful.

Ravindra setup his camera to get the perfect shot of the Sunrise while Seena and me were enjoying the cold wind. It was still dark when we arrived, within minutes sky turned from black to blue. The Sun rise was one of the most beautiful Sun rise I ever witnessed. Ravindra managed to get some awesome shots in his camera.

Ravindra setting up his camera to capture best of the best
Through the lenses
The entire turning golden
Grass dancing to the sound of wind
After the sunrise, we headed back to our tents. Bread and jam was the only item on the menu. We went to have another view of the falls, every time you see Bandaje falls it would look more beautiful than the last time. Unpolluted water which originates from the same hill was an excellent place for a shower. The ice-cold water left us a bit hesitant to jump in at the beginning but eventually everyone got into the water and enjoyed. The place is little clumsy as there is no good place to stand comfortably. Though the cliff is far a small slip can drag you along the stream and toss you from the cliff. Just be cautious while taking bath.
Bandaje arabi falls
Bandaje arabi falls
Bandaje arabi falls
Here we jump in
Trek to the Ballarayanadurga Fort: We packed our luggage and tents. The plan was to descend from the other side where we will be passing through the famous Ballarayanadurga fort. The path to the left side of the falls leads way. We had to ascend another hour which made us go mad. We thought the second day would be easier but again ascending was a big task for us. The only good thing was there were no leeches on this stretch. We started trekking at 11 in the morning, the sun was up in the sky. The entire stretch is through the open grassland which means there is no restraint from the sun. The trail is well marked and there is no chance of missing route in this direction. As the entire stretch goes through grassland the trail is visible in worst case also. Again the steep trail continued for 45 minutes after which the path was descending. Trekking through this route was most exciting as panoramic view in all directions were a treat to the eyes. The other doesn’t offer any good views like this one as you will trapped inside the dense forest. We spotted a herd of bison’s on the other hill, it was difficult to see from the naked eyes as they were nearly 2-3 km far from us. Finally, after 2.5 hours we reached Ballarayanadurga fort. 

Well it’s again a steep trek
Well marked trek trail so that you never miss the route
Scenic beauty greets you as soon as you start trekking this route.
The last ascend after which the path is nearly flat
Mesmerizing views though out this stretch
Super landscape views in all the directions
Trail is simple and well marked
The first glimpse of the Ballarayandurga fort
Finally, we reached Ballarayandurga fort
I was surprised to see the fort as it was nothing like what I imagined, I was expecting fort to be awesome like the one we visited in Kodachadri. There is hardly any remains of the fort except destructed outer walls and a small byre at the center. There were so many tourists at this place including a family with children and women. Its a 4 km easy trek from the other side, then a nice full day outing with family. Incredible views again greeted us, we could see Ranibagilu Hill which was a most exciting one, and we could also see the tar road below which marks the end of the trail. The walls of the fort is built kilometers together across the edge of the hills which is worth appreciating. It was 2 in the afternoon I could hear my stomach growling, luckily we had sufficient food for the lunch but not water. Guide told there is water source on the way. After relaxing for some time we decided to leave.

Byre at the center of the fort
Some remains of the fort walls
Rani Bagilu
Fort wall build across the edge for kilometers together
Beautiful view from the Ballrayandurga fort
Descending from the Ballarayanadurga: The trail is simple and well marked. After a kilometer, we could hear the water stream flowing just beside the trail. Tough the stream is tiny it was sufficient to refill water bottles. During the 12th century, horses were used to carry materials used for constructing fort via this route. After a couple of kilometers, we encountered two more streams which were just enough to kill trekkers thirst. The best part was we didn’t see even a single leech throughout this stretch. Finally, we reached the tar road which marks the end of the trek (place name: Durgadahalli).

Water source on the way down
Finally, we could see tar road and parked vehicles
Kudos to Trekkers who took one of the most difficult treks of all time
A local store where you get good things like tea powder, honey, pickle etc
It’s on the way from Sunkasale to Kottigehara on your left 

We were dependent on public transport, Seena called a local driver who came within half an hour to pick us up. Usually, trekkers get down at Sunkasale which is 4 km from Durgadahalli but the driver said he can drop us at Kottigehara (10 more km Sunkasale) where there are more chances of getting buses to Bangalore. We had a little snack near the Kottigehara Bus stop and hired another auto which dropped us at Mudigere where the frequency of buses are even more. As soon we reached Mudigere we got a KSRTC normal bus to Bangalore at 7 pm. Everyone was dead tired and sleepy, we reached Bangalore around 12 am pm, I got down at Navaranga booked Ola and reached home at 1 am.

Important Notes:
1. Make sure you don’t camp at Ballarayandurga fort as its a home to the cattle which attracts nearby wild animals like leopard etc. My friend Anmol spotted two dead cows when he visited Ballrayandurga fort, which was hunted by leopard just a few minutes back.
2. Some people have completed trek without a guide but I recommend you to take guide keeping security in mind.
3. If trekking in monsoon or post-monsoon, be ready to face the leeches.
4. Keep extra food counting guide too, assuming you start trekking at 10 am from gowdra mane you will need at least 5 meals per person, 1 lunch on the way to trek, 1 snack after you reach Bandaje falls, 1 dinner for the night, 1 breakfast, 1 lunch at Ballarayandurga fort. And keep a lot of snacks but don’t overload your bag.
5. You can call Babu who can pick you up after you finish the trek and drop you at Sunkasale/Kotigehara. Comment down I will share his number.
6. You can get a buffet breakfast at Godrumane for 100 Rs. Call Kishore Gowda and confirm it one day before.

Important Contacts:
1. You can call Kishore Gowda who will arrange the guide and forest entry permission for you at 9901939829
2. You can call Forest officer Raju at 9901961452 who will give the forest permission. Call him only if are not calling Kishore Gowda.
3. You can call one my friend named Bhuthesh at 9886935048 who will provide tents on rent at a very low price.

Don’t forget to +1/Like/Share. Leave a comment below for any queries.

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  1. Its a great explaination.. happy to see your interest in this…
    Is it possible to complete the complete trek in one day? as we are not prepared for night halt on the way ? Is it safe for 2 people to trek ?

  2. One day would be difficult if you are doing from gowdra mane side. We met ppl who trekked from sunkasale side, and they said they will complete the entire trek in single day. So I hope from sunkasale you can do in single day. Yes it's safe for two. You won't find many ppl on the way though

  3. Hi vini, yes it's allowed to camp near the falls. Total trek distance would be close to 24km. Just make sure from which side you are deciding to ascend

  4. Hi Sagar. Very well written blog and nice presentation of bhandaje trek. Me and my pals are planning to go for this trek on dec 30-31. 5 of us ..How difficult is the trek from ujire side. In many places you have written , "ascent becomes steep" it very slippery in some place and should we crawl in such places?

  5. Hi Sagar,

    I am a solo hiker and I will be walking from Gokarna to Udupi next month… After reaching Udupi/Mangalore, I want to do an overnight trek in the hills, and this one seems to be the nearest and nicest. Thank you for writing this blogpost. Can I have the phone-numbers of any contact persons (Narayan Gowda in Gowdra Mane + Babu in Sunkasale/Kotigehara and any others) who I can reach for guidance?

    Thank you!

  6. Hi shreyas, than you. Yes trek from ujre side is difficult as ascend is steep and you will be carrying the supplies. No it's not slippery, you don't have to crawl anywhere. It's just steep so you feel tired after every 5min of hike. Let me know if you have further doubts.

  7. Thank you senthi, I'm really sorry I couldn't find the numbers anywhere. But locals will be surely helpful there. Even for us jeep driver only helped us reach gowdru mane and made calls to the forest officials

  8. Yes bro. It's mandatory to hire a guide. Moreover the train is very confusing and might make you miss in the forest so don't think of skipping a guide. You need to take permission from forest officer by paying the forest entry fee. The permission can be taken on arrival.

  9. We are going trekking November 24th D 25th We are selecting 2nd route. First we reach fort then falls after we can trek down to ujjire side is best ? Give any suggestions we planning from durgadahalli side to ujjire side . Any security are available after falls ?

  10. Yes 2nd route is better at any time . You won't get any guide while trekking down from falls side. But I don't think finding path would be difficult while descending

  11. Hi, I am Mohan and a hiker, we are planning for Bandaje treck in Dec-2018 so p
    lease share the – Narayana Gowda's or any other contact numbers if you have.


  12. Hi mohan. I wish I could have shared but I don't have the number. Try asking in some forums. Do let me know if you get the number. Many travellers like u n me and asking for the same number

  13. Hi Sagar ,
    Amazing narration and photography
    We are planning to trek in Dec 29-30 from ujjirae sire
    Ur blog helping us to more composed and helpful to trek
    If u could find the no's of guide will be more helpful for us

  14. Hi Sagar,

    Blog is filled with mind boggling narration and photos, I usually trek with our team and have done many trekking. This one seems very interesting. Can u please share me the updated phone numbers of guide. Thanks.

  15. Hi bro, awesome narration.

    Just a quick question, is the trek safe during August/September?? & Can camp near falls??

  16. Yes you can. Mind the leeches. Camping is no more allowed now. You have to get down from the same side from where you ascend