Sunday, June 8, 2014

Coorg Coffee Plantation & Dubare Elephant Camp

The last few days in India have been incredible, to put it very simply. We have been bonding as a group as we engage in VIIS’s fascinating courses and gain exposure to various cultural sights within the Mysore area. Our trip to Coorg was no exception.  The day started off beautiful - sunny as always. As we made our way through the windy roads leading up to a coffee plantation high in the hills of Coorg, we took in the colorful scenery. The plantation visit was a great way to gain some insight into some of the working conditions that exist in the coffee industry here. The owner and staff were very hospitable and open with us. As soon as we arrived delicious cookies, fresh oranges, and bananas were brought out for us to try. We even got to try coconut water – all directly from the plantation!

The owner discussed the current issues he faces. The plantation operates with workers living on the premises in provided housing. If workers have children, their travel and textbook expenses are paid for as an incentive to stay here. He mentioned that he is facing labor shortages at peak times of the year. Many workers come from the north, and cannot place their children in local schools because of the language barrier, since each region speaks in a different tongue. Many of these individuals tend to leave after the season ends, looking for other work - usually in urban areas.

Lisa '16 (left) and Victoria '16 (right) with two of the plantation workers.
The owner also mentioned alcoholism being an issue. Some workers qualify to purchase grain at a lower price, due to the introduction of the National Food Security Act. Since the rations are relatively large for only one rupee, recipients often choose to work less, eat the rice provided, and use their remaining money to buy alcohol. We were fortunate to gain some insight from two dedicated women workers. I was very surprised to hear that one of the challenging tasks they do is climbing trees to get chili peppers! In fact, due to a shortage of male workers, the women have been taking on tasks that were traditionally for males. After we finished snacking and learning, we boarded onto a jeep to explore the plantation. The ride was bumpy, leaving us all in laughter along the way, but the view from the top was worth it. I felt as if we had been transported to South America, surrounded by lush forests, hundreds of coffee plants and wooded mountain peaks.

After our trip to the plantation, we were all eager to head over to the Dubare Elephant Camp before it closed. It was a risk worth taking, for as soon as we arrived, we were all in awe. We hopped on a boat and crossed the smooth river, finally arriving at the camp. The camp had no high fences or barriers, for they are not necessary. The numerous elephants, cows, dogs, goats, and sheep roamed freely in the wide-open space. We admired the elephants as they slowly walked around, even getting a chance to feed one named Goppi!

Victoria '16 feeding Goppi.

For me, leaving the camp was the most memorable moment of this trip so far. The sun began to set over the river. Children were playing in the shallow pools of the rocks, people were swimming, while others went rafting. Surprising us all, the elephants (their feet no longer chained) walked down to the river and began to relish in it’s coolness. We were in for a treat! They bathed happily, some playfully spraying nearby rafts. Cows and bulls slowly trekked into the water also, until only their head remained at the surface, swimming across the river together. The scene truly captured the essence of India’s unique culture – carefree and natural. The people live at ease with the world around them. I know in America, I would not be allowed to witness such beautiful interactions. As cliché as it sounds, we often forget to slow down and appreciate what is around us in America.

I am incredibly thankful for this day trip, for it taught me lessons that were directly related to ILR as well as cultural ones that I would never be able to truly understand through a course or textbook. I have gained life lessons and memories that will stay with me as I continue growing. I am very humbled to be a part of the GSL team and incredibly thankful to SVYM and ILR for providing us with these amazing opportunities. 


  1. Nice post. Dubare is famous for the Dubare Elephant Camp, Karnataka run by Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR). The camp, sandwiched between the south bank of the Cauvery and the forest, is a lovely place to watch elephants eat and bathe in their natural habitat. Explore all best places to visit in Coorg also.

  2. Amazing post and pictures of Dubare Elephant camp. Thanks for sharing your experience. It has plenty of elephants which are trained under naturalists. The visitor can not only observe and learn but also participate in various activities involving Elephants. Check here for Dubare Elephant Camp timing , entry fee and other details.