Umngot: The Glass River of India

A trip to Dawki, Shnongpdeng and Darrang, three villages alongside the crystal-clear river Umngot flowing through Meghalaya was nothing but a fascinating visual treat for us. At first let me introduce these places through our framed memories:

How to be there?

Dawki, a small village of West Jayantia Hills, Meghalaya is situated on India-Bangladesh border. Darrang is 5.5 kms north-west to Dawki and from Darrang, you have to go 2 kms more to reach Shnongpdeng.

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From Shillong, there are two different routes. The shortest route to Dawki is of around 82 kms.

If you take the longer route of around 120 kms, which goes through Jowai, then Stone Bridge, Thlu Amwi Waterfalls and Krang Suri Waterfalls will be on your way.

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The Longer Route
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The Shorter Route


Best Time to Visit

The crystal-clear water of Umngot River is the key attraction of visiting these places. But the water gets muddy and loses its transparency due to rain. Therefore, November to March is the best season for being there. But even in winter, your luck may not favor you, if rain occurs during or just before your visit.



Accommodation & Food

Dawki: Here, the staying options are limited. I found only one campsite on the bank of the river. There are multiple eateries, from where day-visitors take meals.

Shnongpdeng: Visitors willing to have overnight trip beside the River Umngat mostly stay in Shnongpdeng. There are many campsites on both banks of the river. Some of them have huts along with camping tents. Also there are home-stays/guest-houses on the motor-able road. More to this, you can pitch your own tent on the rocky riverbed.

Your place of stay will arrange your food. For day-visitors there are few eateries also.

We stayed in Riverside Camp [Contact: Jonathan (+91 70854 87756)], which is situated on the west bank of the river. We booked one hut and one camping tent. Prices are as follows:

  • Hut: Rs 1500/-, Tent : Rs 800/-
  • Food: Lunch/Dinner – Rs 300/-(Non Vegetarian) & Rs 150/- (Vegetarian). Breakfast – Rs 50/-
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Riverside Camp, Shnongpdeng

Keep in mind that, the car parking is on the eastern side of the river. The camps are there on the riverbed, which is far below from the parking area. More to this, there is no motor-able path to access the accommodations on western bank of the river. There are one metal bridge and one bamboo-bridge connecting the banks and you have to cross any of them by foot to arrive at the western side. Therefore, for people having walking problems/less fitness, it is recommended to book home-stays/guesthouses located near the parking area.

Darrang: We found Darrang as the best location to stay overnight. While too many staying options have made Shnongpdeng chaotic enough, the least explored Darrang is ideal for the travelers looking for serenity. But, after leaving your car on parking area, you have to walk down by a steep path for almost 1km, and hence this place is also not suitable for people having fitness issues. We found this banner in Darrang with the mention of few contact numbers. It may help you book in advance.

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Let’s have a look on the three villages.

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Dawki
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Shnongpdeng
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Darrang


Boating

Operating hours: 9.30 am – 4 pm.

  • In Dawki ferry-ghat you will find numbers of country-boats waiting for the visitors. They charge Rs 700/- for a boat with carrying capacity of 5 persons. Dawki is one of the common tourist-spots of Meghalaya and caters visitors from both India and Bangladesh. Therefore, the place we found over-crowded.
  • If I would visit Shnongpdeng at first, I might skip boating in Dawki. Shnongpdeng! What a beautiful and serene place for rowing! The narrow stream, the huge stone-blocks on the both sides, the dense forest covering the surrounding hills, the local fishermen using different fishing techniques and above all an unimaginable primitiveness of the ambience! The journey takes place from Shnongpdeng ferry-ghat to a mini water-falls. The cost of the boat is Rs 500/- for maximum 5 people.
  • Darrang is the most virgin place for boating. More to this, you may visit a nearby living root-bridge, which is only accessible by boat. The boatman took Rs 400/- for that.


Adventure Activities

One can experience kayaking, snorkeling and cliff jumping while in Shnongpdeng. Usually you may ask your campsite-owner to arrange these activities for you. Some of them offer a package including all these three activities with boating and they charge Rs 1999/- per person. You may also choose any one or few activities. In that case, you have to pay separately for your opted ones. The activity-fees of our campsite were as follows:

Kayaking: Rs 500/- per kayak (for 2 people); Cliff jumping: Rs 300/- per person; Snorkeling: Rs 300/- per person.

We had our own snorkel-set; therefore we paid only Rs 50 per person for hiring life-jacket. They allowed us to swim in a particular area, which was very shallow; and I must say that here, the water is clear enough to make everything visible from above the water. So there is actually no point of snorkeling.



Photography Tips

  • The water is so clear it often seems invisible and it looks like the boats are floating on the air. The shadows of the boats fallen on the bottom of the river make this illusion more magical. This magic is best framed when sun is above the head, hence between 10am to 2pm.
  • Find a place on the river-bank which is slightly upper than the river-surface for experiencing better illusion.
  • The metal bridge of Shnongpdeng is a good location to shoot from the top. But remember that in Dawki, photography is prohibited from the bridge.
  • Dawki, being located on India-Bangladesh border is a sensitive area. Over-enthusiast photographers often go close to Bangladesh area; it may seems as a skeptical activity to security personnels.
  • If you are interested to shoot local life-style and portraits, then do explore the village Shnongpdeng on foot.


Nearby Attractions

  • You may visit Krang Suri Waterfalls which is just 33kms away from Dawki on the road to Jowai. In winter, you will be awestruck by the color of the water. What an amazing shade of blue!
  • From Dawki, drive another 33kms on the opposite direction; there you will find one of the most beautiful living root bridges of Meghalaya near Riwai village.
  • Mawlynnong, the cleanest village of Asia, is just 2kms away from Riwai village.
All the prices mentioned above are according to December 2018.
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