January 28, 2014

Chainat Bird Park, Thailand- A Photo Essay...!!

Chainat Bird park in Chainat province of Thailand is one of the largest bird sanctuaries in Asia. Numerous exquisite species of birds in various feather colours and beak sizes makes this bird park a much sought after tourist destination. Situated at a distance of almost 200 Kms from Bangkok, the park with natural pools, a waterfall and garden areas gives the birds an environment almost similar to that of a natural one. The park has a giant bird cage which helps all the birds to live freely together in a natural setting. This happens to be the biggest attraction of the bird park. Unfortunately, the cage was under renovation when I visited. However, Chainat bird park also has birds that are caged in smaller ones along with a few species like flamingos, peacocks and storks which happily laze around the park. There is a main big pond where visitors are allowed to feed the fishes in it. The other attractions include an interesting egg museum and an exhaustive aquarium which boasts of some exotic and gigantic fishes.

P.S.- I was riding across northern Thailand with Ride Thailand on an invite from Tourism Authority of Thailand.

January 22, 2014

January 15, 2014

Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary- Serene Wilderness...!!

I stopped the car and got out, to gaze at the wonderful dam at Lakkavalli, a small village by the Bhadra reservoir. The expansive dam is spectacularly beautiful. The last stretch to River Tern lodge was on dusty village roads with the reservoir offering spectacular vistas. Situated in Chikmagalur district, Bhadra wild life sanctuary with a plethora of fauna and flora, is located adjacent to the reservoir. River tern lodge run by Jungle Lodges and resorts has all their cottages facing the beautiful waterbody. I was almost flabbergasted by the magnificent vistas from the balconies. It is quite easy to get lost amidst your lazy thoughts as you gaze at the serene waters of the reservoir. The clear blue sky, the placid waters and the tiny islands strewn across the reservoir made for a beautiful landscape.

First glimpse of Bhadra reservoir
View from the balcony
As the sun mellowed by late afternoon, we set out for our first activity, a boat ride to the near by river tern islands and to try our luck at some wildlife sighting. The boat drifted away from the mainland creating ripples on the placid waters as it made its way to the islands. River terns are beautiful small birds who come in huge numbers to these islands during their breeding season. As the boat approached the small island, I could see thousands of river terns flying and cackling all over the place. I had never seen such a visual, undoubtedly a sight to behold. It was surprising to find that the reservoir had soft tides which waved itself onto the pebbled shores. It was quite windy out there and that should be the reason for the same.

River tern

The boat rocked in the wind and  moved towards the thickly vegetated reserve area of Bhadra on the other bank. There were numerous stumps jutting out of the waters and we carefully manoeuvred past them. The stumps reminded me of Periyar reservoir, where they are seen all over. There were many birds, mostly cormorants, which were perched high on those tall stumps. The shores have big open areas near the waters and this helps in spotting animals that come down for a drink from the deep jungle. Our boatman mentioned that they had spotted a jaguar on the same shore, previous day. Now that sounded interesting, and out came all the lenses and binoculars. After a long ride close to the shore, we did sight a herd of wild boars make its way back from the banks into the dense forest. Without much further luck, we decided to move ahead in search of more vistas and wildlife. 

The vastness of the forest and the expansiveness of the reservoir definitely makes a beautiful landscape as the sun sets over the islands. The boat waved its way on the gleaming waters as the sun turned the sky into a beautiful orange hue. That definitely was the most picturesque moment during my stay at Bhadra. The boat went past the cottages, which can be seen protruding from the cliffs, and shortly, we were back on the shore without any more wild sightings. River tern lodge plays wild life videos in the evenings in the dining area, and the film on Dholes (wild dogs) was an insight into their wild world. We were about to begin the film when a group of youngsters walked in all excited. They had just returned from their boat ride and had spotted a jaguar by the bank. Now, how did I miss that? The irony was, nobody on that boat carried a camera to capture it. But, as the saying goes, the best images are never captured on a camera.

The first thing that I did next day early morning was to stand on the balcony and stare at the lovely reservoir and the islands. Covered in a hazy misty blue, it definitely was one of the most stunning vistas I had ever woken up to. The day began with a wildlife safari into the Bhadra wildlife sanctuary, which also is a tiger reserve. Supposedly, the reserve is also a great place for birding. The jeep made its way into the forest along the mud trail and not before long, we were on a vast open grassland. It did look gorgeous as the morning rays spread itself on the low lying grasses giving it a golden tinge. I could see the thick forests far away and the jeep trails that went till it's edge. A small herd of wild boars was seen making its way amidst those grasses. A herd of deer was crossing our mud trail ahead of us, and one or two did pop up their head on hearing the sound of the engine. A while later we took a different direction on the trail and spotted a lonely peacock loitering around in the open grassland. We sighted more boars and deer as we made our way into thick vegetation. The drive through the mud trail inside the reserve was quite an engaging one as we spotted numerous birds like parakeets, egrets, kingfishers, owls and many more. Further ahead a couple of malabar giant squirrels we seen nibbling on tree tops. A lone sambhar deer was grazing by the side as we went deeper into the forest. Suddenly our driver stopped the vehicle to point at a barking deer which was hiding behind a few bushes. It was gladdening that I could spot three types of deer on a single safari. 

A herd of wild boars
Sambhar deer
Barking deer
A Malabar giant squirrel
The jeep lunged forward on the muddy road picking up dust as it made its way through the sanctuary and reached a point where a tiger was spotted less than a week ago. As soon as the driver mentioned this, the jeep came to a halt. Flat tyre it was and we were at the exact spot where the tiger was seen. Now the only thing that we did not want, was the tiger to show up again. We kept staring in all directions in search of that stripped cat and somewhere deep inside, I did want the tiger to just pop up and then disappear into the thicket. Unsurprisingly nothing interesting happened as another vehicle came to pick us up in a while. A gang of langurs crossed our mud path as we made our way back to the lodge. 

Before leaving Bhadra, we made sure to walk down the bridle path from the lodge that goes all the way to the pebbled banks. Though the sun was right above us, it felt nice to trod on those stones enjoying the wonderful vistas as the waves gently lashed on to the shore. A stroll in the evening would definitely be a surreal experience. Bhadra wildlife sanctuary is well known for its wildlife sighting and birding, and is definitely recommended for all wildlife enthusiasts. River tern lodge with its magnificent vistas is ideally the best place to stay when in Bhadra. The resort also offers a few water sport activities for its visitors.

Signing Note- A beautiful blend of nature and wilderness soaked in serenity...!!

Route- Bangalore- Tumkur- Tiptur- Arsikere- Kadur- Tarikere (take left after tarikere)- Lakkavalli- Bhadra wildlife sanctuary

Distance- 280 Kms

January 6, 2014

Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta...!!

I had to enquire with a couple of villagers before taking the right detour to Himavad Gopalswamy betta, the highest point in Bandipur national park. At a height of more than 1450 m  above sea level, this tiny hill temple in Chamrajnagar district attracts numerous devotees and tourists. After some proper guidance, I got on to the long, narrow winding road aligned with greenery on either sides that led to the temple. The roads aren't in that great shape but the magnificent greenery all around makes for a lovely drive to the base of the hill. At the base is a gate with an entry fee. The hill is a plastic free zone and all plastic materials have to be handed over at the gate which can be collected on the way back. The roads turn twisty from there and you gain height with wonderful vistas opening up way below. It is a nice little drive up to the misty temple on Gopalswamy hills, which are quite frequented by wild elephants.

Built in 14th century by  the Hoysalas and later taken care by the Wodeyars, the temple enshrines Lord Krishna. The temple and its surroundings are quite well known to be wrapped in mist during most part of the year. However, I did not encounter heavy mist, but it was quite cold. There was a local minstrel who was blowing the conch as I walked up the steps. Painted in hues of red and white, along with golden tops, the temple looked gorgeous.

It was a clear sky and with rolling green hills in the background, the place seemed so serene and beautiful. There were very few visitors at the temple, most of them either on their way to Bandipur or returning from the wildlife park. It felt so blissful to circumambulate the temple, taking in the picturesque vistas. I found many visitors gazing at the natural beauty of the place in oblivion. The mist covered hills behind the temple and the wonderful vistas way below are a delight for any visitor and would spellbind them for long.

When on a holiday in Bandipur national park, if you have half a day to spare, Himavad Gopalswamy betta is an ideal place to enjoy some scenic vistas and before you realize you would be covered in a blanket of mist.

Signing Note- A serene getaway inside Bandipur...!!

Route- Bandipur- Sri Hangala (left turn)- Himavad Gopalswamy betta

Distance- 21 Kms from Bandipur
                11 Kms from Sri Hangala
                20 Kms from Gundlupet
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