The making of Kanthavara Forest basecamp

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On the 25th of May 2023, around 8am we heard chainsaws just 20 meters outside the boundary of our Kanthavara rubber plantation. We went there to check and found that a contractor was cutting down trees in this thickly forested patch next to our property. Our first thought was "What's it got to do with me?" On the other hand we discovered that they were cutting trees next to a magnificent, very rare and old woody creeper in front of which we had taken a picture just a week before with several senior College officials

At this point our feelings of apathy changed to anger and intrigue. We alerted our team member and noted environmentalist Jeeth who alerted the forest department who appeared within 30 minutes and told the contractor to stop the cutting as the land belonged to the government.

That day even though they cut 5 trees, we managed to save the rest of the 3 acres of that pristine forest which was home to 1000’s of rare old trees, birds and animals including a few leopards. Our success that day gives us immense pride and joy. It was the day on which something inside us changed. We realized that saying "Whats it got to do with me?" was not an option. It was on this day the ordinary Kanthavara rubber plantation was re-born as Kanthavara Forest Basecamp.

So what does Kanthavara Forest Basecamp do?

Immediately after that tree cutting incident on our border Jeeth and his team began to spend more time at basecamp and stopped 11 more illegal tree felling operations in the Kanthavara village area within just the next 2 months. Soon we realised that while most people agreed that trees and forests were important, they had no clue about the actual state of India’s forests or what could be done to stop illegal forest destruction. So we decided to work on a program to fill this knowledge gap. We gathered inputs from experts like Dinesh Holla the Forest Survey of India and the Karnataka Forest department itself. The result of our efforts was a simple Forest Walking Tour cum interactive briefing which addresses 3 fundamental questions

  1. What is a forest?
  2. What is the state of India’s forests?
  3. How many saplings are needed to replace a fallen tree?

The program starts in the morning at the basecamp office where the participants first introduce themselves and say a little about their own environmental work till date. Then participants are invited to explain what a forest means to them or what constitutes a forest. It's not very difficult to arrive at a consensus as to what constitutes a forest.


Which leads the group to the next question - What is the state of India’s forest? Participants try to guess the percentage of India's land mass still covered by pristine forests. What's your guess 5% 15% 25% 50%? We present our findings gleaned from the ISFR India State of the Forest Report ISFR 2021 which shocks most people to their core when they hear it for the first time.

With this basic information under their belt, the group then starts the Forest Walking Tour, the first stop being the broken forest, the spot where the 5 illegally felled trees lie even today. The area is now a memorial where over 600 students and visitors have already come. Many get to see for the first time what a fallen tree feels like to touch, to hold, to sit on and how majestic it would have been while it was still standing. Standing at the broken forest, destruction jumps out of a picture or a tv screen where we usually see it and pierces our eyes and hearts. Standing next to those illegally felled trees is like standing at a crime scene. No one leaves untouched, no one leaves the same.

At this spot, with the fallen trees centerstage, the participants then try to answer the last question - How many saplings are needed to replace a fallen tree? The wide range of answers we get never cease to amaze as the group turns the question around in their minds, debating with each other to arrive at an answer. It is a treat to see the penny eventually drop.


The walking tour adopts a pedagogy where participants are presented with questions. Answers - they work out on their own, drawing on their own innate love for nature and helped along with scientific data that is presented to them at each step. The sight of the broken forest moves many deeply. As participants slowly begin to move to the next spot they carry with them 2 unforgettable lessons a) The shockingly small amount of pristine forest remaining today and b) how to respond to charlatans who claim that “we will replace every cut tree with 10 saplings”

The walking tour then continues where participants are briefly introduced to the adjacent leopard habitat where one can easily locate pug marks and droppings. It is very rare to spot a leopard during the day, however we offer night walking tours for animal spotting but accompanied by trained guides. The rest of the walk attempts to spot birds, butterflies, native insects and reptiles along the trail.

As the trail re-enters the basecamp perimeter participants are gently introduced to important regenerative concepts such as (chemical free) in-situ composting based on bio-mimicry. Participants pass through our our bambusetum or bamboo collection consisting of 65 varieties.

There are several high points or better known as view points from where participants can get magnificent views of the forests in and around the Basecamp, swings, play areas, picnic spots areas in the forest created without cutting any trees and without using concrete or steel. 

Lunch is an important ritual and is served by the community kitchen. It is cooked on a traditional wooden fire with local ingredients by local staff as per age old local recipes. Participants often join in by helping to serve. When there is a smaller group which prefers non-veg we offer our own free range, healthy country chickens cooked in traditional manner.

Post lunch participants can choose to view a demo of rubber tapping and processing where they can see how we produce top quality rubber without using any chemicals, fertilisers, chemical sprays or intensive irrigation. Some participants, especially the younger ones, prefer to spend post lunch playing on the swings and around the property instead.

On their way out groups are treated to a view of a natural lake (Pajila kere) and the leopards den from a safe distance on top of a hill (Beer bottle paade). As of today the basecamp has welcomed over 600 participants from top colleges and universities in Mangalore and even from Mysore and Bangalore. Due to its conservation work in the area we often host lawyers, forest officers, government officials and wildlife experts. The basecamp also attracts dozens of international volunteers from Germany, Italy, USA, France and Japan who stay and work at the Basecamp from 2 weeks to 2 months.

The Kanthavara message is a serious one but the program is designed to be simple and fun and resonates very well from school children right up to adults and even experts. The day program is a must for every student starting from say the 7th or 8th standard right up to postgraduate groups. 


Kanthavara is just 45km or 1 hour from Mangalore and very close to Soans farm or butterfly park just after Moodbiri. The day program includes refreshments, lunch, talks by noted environmentalist Jeeth Roche and Bhuvan and access to all facilities. We also have rooms and a large dormitory for large student groups wishing to camp there for a few days or even a week. Kanthavara Forest Basecamp is perfect for class field trips, NSS & NCC camps, Scouts, Departmental study tours, Alumni reunions, Family reunions, Eco-birthday celebrations and even Eco-Weddings.


You can visit for more pictures, location map. For Jeeth's profile in PDF format please scroll below. I would like to inform you that Bhuvan is also an animal and bird rescuer, so next time you find a snake or bird or injured animal you can call Bhuvan. On behalf of the Kanthavara Forest Basecamp Team I hope to welcome you in Kanthavara.

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