Meghalaya, popularly known as “Abode of the Clouds” like other north-eastern states, is blessed with breathtaking landscape and beautiful waterfalls. Meghalaya being a popular tourist destination, a lot of tourists and photographers as well, plies to Meghalaya throughout the year to experience the alluring beauty and capture them through their lenses. Meghalaya is one specific state which has no specific tourist season. Each season has something different to offer! And not only that but for all kinds of tourists. Adventurous water sports such as Ziplining, Snorkelling, Scuba Diving etc. or adventurous encounters like Caving or Trekking through various trails which will give you a run for your physical fitness, Meghalaya has everything to offer! Although if you are after falls, it’s best to visit during monsoon (around July – September), as waterfalls in Meghalaya are rain-fed and thus they are most lively during monsoon! Winter and Summer have different frames to offer. Like if you are after the crystal clear water of Dawki, it’s best to plan in between December to February.
We, a group of photographers, under the guidance of Mr Dibyendu Das, planned our photographic journey to Meghalaya during September. Although I have been to Meghalaya before on September 2017, when I have not only covered a lot of offbeat destinations such as Mawphlang, Mawlyngbna, Mawphanlur, Shnongpdeng etc. but also taken up few popular day hikes such as David Scott Trail, experiencing the monoliths at Iew Luri Lura and the most sought after train – Hike To Double Decker Root Bridge and Rainbow Falls! This time we were mostly focussing on capturing a few of the most beautiful falls. Yes, I deliberately used the word “a few”, because there are around thousands of falls in Meghalaya! And it’s not possible to cover all of them over a single visit!
Well, I must state that our experience was by far great and amazing. As this is not a photographic blog, I’d refrain from going into technical details, however, we’ll never forget navigating through the steep hiking routes and placing our tripods at such slippery terrain where water spray from the falls deliberately trying to ruin our frames! Obviously, it goes beyond saying, that, photographic trips are very different from generic tourism trips. As we were travelling in a season when clouds play among themselves the weather was misty and alluring. It seemed like we were hypnotised by the weather. Thus we had to wait for nature to bless us with the best lighting condition, change in wind direction to get rid of the water sprays and clouds to go away!
Anyway, without further wasting your time with my words, let the pictures take over the story!
NOTE: A word of caution! Eight out of the ten falls that we covered here are only reachable by quite an amount of strenuous hiking.
Diengdoh / Mawsawdong Waterfall
Diengdoh Waterfall (also known as Mawsawdong Falls) is situated at the outskirts of Sohra (Cherrapunji) at Mawkama Village around 40kms from Shillong. Once you reach the Mawkama village parking lot, here you’d have access to 3 waterfalls namely (1) Diengdoh / Mawsawdong Falls, (2) Lyngksiar Falls and (3) Janailar Falls. However, for each one of them, you have to hike through the valley and steep paths to reach down to the falls.
Situated at around 48 Kms from Shillong at Pung Janailar village, is derived from the name of rare orchid Tiew Lyngksiar. Being hidden within lush greenlands, reaching this waterfall needs a quite a bit of hike through the valleys and steep path.
Located at Sohra (Cherrapunji), Nohkalikai Falls is the 4th tallest waterfall in India. This story behind this beautiful waterfall goes by the tragic death of Ka Likai (Ka is the prefix given for the female gender in Khasi) who was left with her infant daughter, with no means of income, after the death of her husband. In order to sustain herself and feed her child, she had to become a porter herself and her work required her to leave her daughter unattended for long intervals. However, soon she realized that raising a child required both parents, so Ka Likai got married second time for the sake of her daughter. However, being a mother to an infant, her daughter needed her constant attention which made her second husband feel left out. And out of the same, a jealousy grew in her husband which manifested the hatred towards Likai’s daughter. One day out of the jealousy he killed the infant in cold blood and cooked her flesh after throwing away her severed head and bones and served the same to Ka Likai. Although not noticing her daughter around, she wanted to go look for her daughter but she was so tired that she ate the meal and went to sleep. Ka Likai usually used to had a betel leaf after her meals. While having the same after her dinner she found a severed finger near the place where she usually cut betel nuts and betel leaves. Noticing the same, Ka Likai realized what had happened in her absence and went mad with anger and grief and started running as she swung a hatchet in her hand. She ran off the edge of the plateau and jumped off the cliff as she couldn’t bear the thought of cannibalizing on her dead daughter unknowingly.
The waterfall where she jumped from was named Nohkalikai Falls as a grim reminder of a tragedy that befell an unfortunate woman.
Situated around 4KM away from the famous Dainthlen Falls is a hidden beauty. However, the actual waterfall is situated off-the-road and reachable by a short hike through the valleys and forest. However, once you reach down, the beautiful greenish & yellowish mixture of clean crystal clear water welcomes you.
Just before reaching Sohra, a road to the right leads one to the Dainthlen falls which is around 5 km away. Among the many falls that Cherrapunjee boasts of, Dainthlen Falls is also one of the famous falls. Many tourists flock the falls especially as it has an interesting legend associated with it.
The waterfall derives its name from a Thlen (Khasi word for Python). As per the legend, people decided to rid themselves of evil, captured the Thlen and killed it at the wide flat rock over-looking the waterfall. Adjacent to the very spot where the Thlen was slaughtered lies the Dain-thlen Waterfalls. Natural rock carvings of the episode draw visitors to see the image of the Thlen, the symbol of greed, corruption and evil. Dainthlen is one of the best location in Sohra for Astro and various landscapes with various cascades throughout the region.
Located just few KM’s away from Dainthlen, the speciality of this falls is the rock formation which is more of a shape of a Heart!
Garden of Caves
Garden of Caves (Khasi Name: Ka Bri Synrang) is situated at around 10km from Laitryngew region near the Laitmawsiang village of Sohra (Cherrapunji) is a hidden off-the-beat spot surrounded by emerald greens of bushes and hedges is the home to caves, seasonal waterfalls and cascades!
This single spot covers 7 different points namely – Ka Synrang Syiem (the king’s cave), Sum Syiem Falls, Ki Stieh Maw (warrior rocks), U Mawdohnud (heart-shaped rock), U Mawkhyllung (baby rock), Arsdad Falls, and Riat Umlwai Falls.
Wei Sawdong Falls
This beautiful 3 step waterfall is located on Khasi Hills at outskirts of Cherrapunji (Sohra) around 58kms from the capital city of Shillong in Meghalaya. The phrase “No Pain, No Gain” beholds completely true for Wei Sawdong Waterfall as it tests your physical ability to its core. The view-point from where the first picture is taken is reachable through a moderate hike of around 15-20 mins. However to experience the real beauty, one needs to climb down steep route further without any proper stairs. And for a part of the stretch, the rocks are around 1ft – 1.5ft apart which makes it climbing back a bit harder than usual.
Mawkdok Dympep Valley
Mawkdok Dympep Valley is a well-known tourist spot offering a breathtaking view of the entire valley with various adventure sports, on the way to Cherrapunji (Sohra) from Shillong. We were particularly chasing for a bird’s eye spot for shooting light trail. And for our purpose Tyngam Masi viewpoint, nearby Mawkdok Dympep Valley seemed to be the best choice! We reached the viewpoint and completed full reiki of the place and took up the best spot to capture beautiful light trails during blue hour! As this falls on the Shillong – Cherrapunji highway, a lot of tourists drives back to Shillong after Cherrapunji Sightseeing during the evening.
Phea Phea Waterfall
Situated at Jaintia Hills, Phea Phea tests your physical fitness to its extent. On your way to Phea Phea, nature would challenge you in various ways physically and mentally. This was the toughest of all in this series!
One needs to walk through the valley crossing various river streams and rice fields and trek down a steep path with no proper stairs, measuring around 1.8KM one way, Phea Phea is not much common amongst the mainstream tourists. Thus Phea Phea still retains her serenity.
It started raining heavily while we were in between composing various shots. So we had to pack everything quickly in between and put under rain cover and wait till the rain got over! What we were more afraid of was climbing all the way up from Phea Phea, once we are done the shooting, as the path now turned more dangerous and slippery due to the rains.
If the pictures are successfully able to allure you into planning a trip to Meghalaya, you may check out the below series to plan a trip on your own!
Part 1: Offbeat Meghalaya – Mawphlang – Mawlyngbna – Mawphanlur
Part 2: Offbeat Meghalaya – David Scott – Cherrapunji – Double Decker – Rainbow Falls
Part 3: Offbeat Meghalaya – Mawlynnong – Dawki – Jowai
Part 4: Offbeat Meghalaya – Shillong