February 13, 2014

Dandeli- A Wild Encounter...!!


The sudden jerk woke me up and when I looked out of the window, sensed the bus was nearing Dandeli as the wide highways had given way to mud roads and lots of greenery. The sun had just risen and I was far away from pollution, traffic snarls and malls, inching closer to Dandel- Anshi wildlife sanctuary. Kali is definitely one of the best rivers in the country to enjoy river rafting and Dandeli has for the last many years acted as the base camp for adventure enthusiasts. People majorly see Dandeli as a adventure destination with options like river rafting, flying fox, rappelling, rock climbing etc being offered by all resorts. I however, wanted to stay away from all the adventure. Wilderness is what beckoned me to Dandeli and I pretty much wanted to see 'the Dandeli', which most visitors miss out on.

Mr. Dharmesh, the owner of Dandeli jungle camp, where I was put up, drove us to his resort, 11 Kms from Dandeli town. Nice curvaceous roads with intermittent settlements came to an end when the jeep took a detour onto a mud road. I could feel wilderness engulf as that road cut through a small forest patch. Nestled beautifully in the lap of nature, with macaques, giant malabar squirrels, hornbills and a few other avian species for accompaniment, is Dandeli jungle camp. The cottages are clean, have a rustic charm with basic facilities and definitely keeps you comfortable in the wild.


Mud road to the resort
Malabar giant squirrel
Syntheri rocks, a few kilometers from Dandeli is where the exploration began. A manned gate welcomed us, who were on a rickety jeep (it was fun, though), onto a dusty road which led to the long step down to Syntheri rocks. I could hear the splashing of water as we went down. By the side of the railings are displayed, various types of rocks with its details. Definitely interesting pieces of information and knowledge as you go down to the waters. There is a vantage point enroute, which offers a fabulous view of the 300 feet high granite monolith and river Kaneri tumbling beside it. I walked down to get a closer view of the imposing rock carved with numerous crannies and holes, formed as a result of water flow for eons. It is dangerous to get closer to the waters and red flags have been marked to caution people from entering it. The big broad Syntheri rock forms home to numerous fluttering pigeons. I also noticed many large bee hives clinging on to the rocks. It was a tough climb in the hot sun back to the parking lot.




Syntheri rocks
'Kadumane' is an interesting outlet which sells forest products and local produces like honey, pickles, spices etc. The tribal shop also sells numerous home decor items which might interest the shopper in you. A left turn from the tribal shop took us to the backwater view of Supa dam. The spectacular vistas of the expansive blue waters is definitely a surreal treat. The dam which is built over the Kali river brings in a lot of birds during the winter months. As I was framing the beautiful backwaters, spotted a few river terns flying over the serene water body.


Supa dam backwaters
A heavy lunch later, I was dropped off at Kali adventure camp run by Jungle lodges and resorts (owned by Karnataka government). Apparently, only Kali adventure camp is allowed to take visitors on a jungle safari into Dandeli- Anshi wildlife sanctuary. If you stay at any other resort in Dandeli, the resort has to book your seats through Kali adventure camp. Sitting in the back seat of a semi open jeep and accompanied by three officials and a guide, it was a fairly long drive to the entrance gate of the sanctuary. As the jeep lunged forward, all were on their heels to spot wildlife. The reserve is not well known for elephants and gaurs which are commonly seen in other sanctuaries in south India. However, Dandeli is a a birder's paradise and is also well known for black panthers, malabar giant squirrels, slender loris, cobras and a variety of hornbills. The jeep moved slowly on the mud roads and stopped near a huge water body. The guide got out and pointed to a lone sambar quenching its thirst. The deer looked up after it suddenly heard sounds, and then trudged deep into the bushes. As the jeep moved ahead, we heard alarm calls. Drove into a corner by the water body and waited with bated breath for something to arrive. Across the pond were three beautiful spotted deer grazing and listening to the alarm calls. After a while we concluded that it was fake calls and drove deeper into the woods on those beautiful curvy mud paths. The many eyes roved in different directions, and we spotted a few birds, which flew from one branch to another. As we went deeper, spotted a serpent eagle which was perched on a tree top happily gazing at the horizon. Many trees had shed their leaves and it was easy to sight the avian fauna. The reddish pathway looked beautiful sprinkled with withered leaves.



Sambar

Serpent eagle
The jeep came to a halt at a view point inside the sanctuary. My guide informed that the core locations of the sanctuary was until a few years ago, a mining area and companies had gone many meters deep in search of iron ore. As we walked up to the sunset point I saw the left over works of miners and the depths to which they gone to seek that metal. Thankfully, mining is banned now and the sanctuary has been declared a protected game reserve. The vantage point offers expansive views of the vast western ghats and the sun setting over those green hills. Though we were a bit early for sunset, did enjoy the wonderful panoramic views. The return journey was through a different route and spotted quite a few hornbills, the pride of Dandeli. Malabar pied hornbill, Great Indian hornbill and Grey hornbill are commonly found in Dandeli. They are mostly seen in pairs and keep flying around together. The jeep neared another water body and we stopped by to spot more birds like grey herons, pond herons, kingfishers, robins and indian rollers. The sun had splashed a melange of colours over the horizon as our jeep crossed the sanctuary gate. 


Expansive vistas of western ghats
Malabar pied horn bills

Pond heron
A youngster from the jungle camp came to pick me up from Kali adventure camp. It was dark by the time we left the camp and we had a fair distance to travel in the darkness with hardly any people on the road. We were on that deserted road when all of a sudden my young driver swerved the jeep on to the left and braked. The headlights which flashed on to the roads then flashed at the bushes and a tree. He turns back at me and asks, "Did you see something cross the road?" I was surprised by both his act and his question. I nodded my head in disapproval. He was also not very sure about what crossed us, but something definitely did and it ran into the bushes were the jeep's light flashed. When I probed, he said that mild encounters with wildlife after dark was quite common in the surrounding villages. We drove on as I peered at any luck that might come my way and then took the detour on to the mud road that led to the jungle camp. After about a kilometer on the mud road the jeep stopped again, this time in front a big tree. The lights flashed hard and my young driver turned back and said, "Something climbed up that tree". Could be a bear, he said, as they are often spotted on that mud road which has forest on one side and a watering hole on the other. Though we craned our necks to spot something, we were disappointed. Dandeli definitely is wild is what I thought for a moment. The drive back back from the jungle safari was more exciting than the safari itself. 

After a peaceful sleep that night, the next day began early with a jungle walk with Purushotham, my young guide. As we walked along the same mud path, he too mentioned about bear sighting on that road. The animals need to cross the path to get to the water hole and that is the reason for frequent sightings. However, he mentioned that the bears were not harmful and run away on hearing the smallest of noises. We trod on to a different path which led to a forest patch. There was a frail jungle trail that we followed. It was early morning, sun had just woken up and the forest looked gorgeous as the rays of light filtered through the canopy. Many trees were semi leafless and the two of us made noise as we trampled over the dry fallen leaves on the path. Looking at those deciduous trees, I told myself that forests look beautiful even when they are not thick green. A different perspective to natures beauty. We spotted a a few bear claw marks on the ground on the way. As we went deeper, all that we could hear were a few hornbills call out to their mates and the sound of the dry leaves under our feet. Nothing else. We cut through the forest patch to reach the main road and then crossed over into main forest area. Greeted by a langur and a couple of malabar giant squirrels, I followed my young guide who was quite familiar with the route. I was a bit apprehensive as there was hardly any trail and I blindly followed Purushotham. Shortly, we entered a huge open area, where we spotted a couple of wood peckers and remains of iron ore mining. It was deep jungle beyond that and with not even a stick to shoo away any surprise encounter, I contemplated about the walk ahead. However, the adventurer in me woke up and we trod on a directionless trail (atleast, that is what I thought). My guide, though a teenager was quite good at identifying paw marks and we found more animal (bear, jackal, elephant) droppings (some were quite fresh) as I followed him. We went deep for a while before getting back on to the main road, luckily without any encounters and unluckily without any sightings. 




Malabar giant squirrel

After breakfast, I was back at Kali adventure camp for a coracle ride on Kali river. Again, this is organised only by Jungle lodges and resorts. As I was about to enter the coracle, Anand, the boat man smiled and asked if my camera had a good lens. I said yes and he asked me to focus on the other bank and zoom. I could not understand what he wanted to show me. He took the camera, clicked, and showed me the picture. A crocodile basking in the sun! As we enjoyed the coracle ride soaking in the lovely surroundings, my boatman spoke about the numerous birds that are found there and the large number of crocodiles that enjoyed being in Kali river. We paddled against the flow of the river and spotted egrets, a malabar horn bill couple, a wool necked stork, a black cormorant and a brahminy kite. We slowly made our way to the opposite bank, where the crocodile we spotted earlier was still lurking. Sighting the crocodile from close quarters was an exciting experience and it happily posed for us without a move with its half open mouth. We spent more time enjoying the coracle ride and then headed back to the bank.


River Kali
Egret
Wool necked stork
Black cormorant
Brahminy kite



There are more activities like honey bee interactive session and tribal interaction which might interest the travellers. However, I had to miss out on those due to various reasons. I would definitely come back to this less explored wildlife destination to spend more time in its wilderness and to experience all those adventure activities that I decided to give a miss this time.

Dandeli.com is a comprehensive website which helps travellers visit this wonderful wildlife destination and makes their stay a memorable one. For more travel information, booking and reservation, please contact Mr.Ramnath at 09449244567 or Mr.Sanjay at 09902474761. You can mail them at book@dandeli.com.

Signing Note- Unexplored wilderness...!!

Route- Bengaluru- Tumkur- Davengere- Haveri- Kalghatgi- Haliyal- Dandeli

Distance- 465 Kms


P.S.- I was invited by Mr.Rajesh from Dandeli.com to visit Dandeli.

34 comments:

  1. Awesome clicks!!!
    What a place!
    Lovely post!

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  2. the Grey Heron is actually an Asian Openbill Stork :)

    good narration and are you sure you saw the Great Hornbill (not the Malabar Pied), I've been roaming Dandeli for about 5+ years and just got to see them once!

    next time, also visit the Kavala caves, Sunset trek and don't miss to do the Rafting :)

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    1. Thanks for the pointer, Santosh. This is what happens when you are not a good birder and you travel with bad guides. :). I did not spot any Great hornbill, but they are commonly seen in Dandeli is what i was told and is what i have mentioned. Yeah, must do all the adventure activities next time.

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  3. Finally you headed to Dandeli! :) You managed to click some nice birdie shots! Sounds like you had a great experience.

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    1. Thank you, Renuka. I would love to go there again. :)

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  4. Oh wow! I would go to Dandeli just to be able to walk through the jungle! Loved the details of your trip, maybe we can plan ours along the same lines.. Too bad, you missed seeing whatever that was on your return journey at night.. I am sure it was a panther you missed ;)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, glad you liked it. Head there soon. Am sure you will definitely love it. Don't want to even think about missing out on a panther. That would be one heck of a miss.

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  5. The typical yield of a forest! Lovely post.

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    1. Thank you, Mridula. It absolutely is a beautiful forest.

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  6. Wonderful! Great to watch our lovely rainforest and its ecosystem. Thanks for sharing your experiences

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  7. What a gorgeous place. Your pictures will make all your readers want to visit Dandeli.
    I SIMPLY LOVE those first 2 images. :)

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    1. Thank you, Divya. Glad you liked them. They are my favourites too.

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  8. Excellent!! Thanks Niranjan.

    Dandeli is a lovely place to make base to explore Uttara Kannada.

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    1. Thank you. Will definitely explore the surrounding places next time am in Dandeli.

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  9. Nice post Niranjan! One thing I cannot digest- Kali River and no rafting!!!

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    1. Thank you, Kusum. I am definitely heading there again for all those adventure activities. :)

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  10. I hate night travels but I love waking up in the bus and finding changed scenery around me. Therefore I love the start of your post. I am not fan of bird photography but I love the squirrel. Thanks for highlighting for unknown destination.

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    1. Thank you. Glad you liked it. It is always interesting to wake up in some unknown land.

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  11. Nainital Adventure Camp Comment Thanks for sharing good information !

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