Tag Archives: Bird watching in Bangalore

Camping in the Indian forests of the African tribes- Dandeli Jungle Camp

Being abundantly blessed with natural beauty, Anshi National park and Dandeli Tiger reserve is one of the first hotspots of the elusive black panthers in India. Apart from its paper mills, Dandeli is also known as the ‘Rishikesh of the South’ for its river rafting in the waters of River Kali. As if these weren’t reasons enough for me to backpack, I got invited to stay at the ‘Dandeli Jungle Camp’. What better way to reconnect the lost bond with nature than camping in the woods? I jumped to grab-in when opportunity struck! This was a Solo-trip that was long due and I had alighted for sunrise at the Dandeli bus stand on a Saturday morning.

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After a 30mins drive through the forests to Pradhani, a further off-roading of 2kms from the main road lead me to this simple homestay and camp run in the lap of nature amid the woods. The eerie silence of the elusive woods and the stridulations of the crickets instantly calmed my soul by responding to the deep calls of nature. A basic cottage with all the essential and neat amenities was awaiting me in the midst of the jungle overlooking a farm of areca and mangoes. I couldn’t ask for a better place to be, to feed the wanderlust and nomad in me for the weekend. I was excited to be greeted by Malabar giant squirrels and sambar deer at my doorstep to say the least. One can also avail their tenting facilities with bon-fire if it’s a bunch of friends traveling together. Mr.Dharmesh, the ever smiling owner of the property says that the camp was started by a French lady 3 decades ago from whom he has taken over so that he could settle down in the woods after he quit his well paying job at one of the top-star hotels in Bangalore. He had planned a detailed itinerary for me and I can’t thank him enough for his warm hospitality. After dumping my luggage and a nice lunch, I set out for some exploration.

View from the Supa dam backwaters
View from the Supa dam backwaters

A stroll along the dwindling lonely road on the backwaters of Supa dam offered a panoramic view of the distant hills, only if there was good rainfall- it would have been a gorgeous sight. After a quick stop-over at the tribal shop to relish a glass of kokum juice and buy some jackfruit chips and papads to take back home, I was taken to Syntheri rocks. This is a very beautiful little place located deep in the woods and formed by rich mineral ores that have formed beautiful rock patterns by standing the test of time. A drive to the Kavla caves, A coracle ride in the ferocious rapids of the Kali river, a dip in the natural Jacuzzi, crocodile walk are some of the other activities included in the package that kept me busy through the day. An evening walk in the woods around the property with a personal guide was a memorable time spent identifying the calls of various birds and inhabitants of the forest. The large number of hornbills that fly into their nests in this forest at sunset or catching the sunrise from my window are only some of the fancy things that my stay offered to me.

Syntheri rocks
Syntheri rocks, Photo by: Gowtham Shastry

The next day, Mr.Dharmesh personally dropped me off for the early morning bird watching walk that was arranged at the Dandeli timber depot. This first time experience of birding is something that I will cherish for a long time and is written about as a separate post. A bird watching tour around the depot where over 150 bird species could be spotted on any given day- was the highlight of my trip to Dandeli!

So, the next big agenda was meeting the Siddhis- The tribal community endemic to the Kali reserve region who are believed to be of the African origin. Be it chilling with them over some rustic music or trying their favourite delicacy- the red ant/ termite chutney, the experience is sure to leave one amused and feel time travelled.

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A coracle ride in the Kali River, Photo by: Gowtham Shastry

With so many activities included in the package that kept me on toes through the 2 days I stayed at this property, it is a high recommendation from me. If you wish to extend your stay by another day, you have no dearth of things to do- from river rafting, to a canopy walk and visit to Dudhsagar falls, all can be arranged by the camp guys themselves. After freshening up at the camp, I started my journey back to Bangalore. I took a KSRTC bus from Dandeli to Hubli from where I had booked my train. Whoa! Such a wonderful trip!

Dandeli Jungle Camp’ is an offbeat stay which does not have its own webpage or have direction boards to keep commercialization at check. From the time I alighted at the bus stand till the time I boarded for return, my entire trip was managed by www.dandeli.com through whom my package was booked. The connectivity of public transport within the reserve area is scarce and being a solo traveler, all my travel hassles were taken care by these wonderful organizers.

Meeting the farmers of the forests at Dandeli

Being one of the first hotspots of the elusive black panthers and a place known as the ‘Rishikesh of the South’ for its river rafting in the waters of River Kali weren’t reasons enough for me to grab-in when opportunity struck! A Solo-trip that was long due, finally happened one weekend. I packed my backpack and hit the road in an overnight bus to reach Dandeli.

Since I was travelling solo, I had booked my trip through the packages offered by the resorts in the buffer zone of Anshi National park and Dandeli Tiger reserve. For a change and a reason, I had opted to stay at 2 different properties during my trip. The first day was at a resort to pamper myself with luxury in the wilderness and the second night was at a homestay to feed the wanderlust and nomad in me with the various activities included in their package. Firstly, I stayed at the ‘Old Magazine House’, a resort run by the Karnataka Forest Department’s Jungle lodges and Resorts wing. It’s a renovated old house where the gelatin stocks were stored (hence the name- Magazine) during the construction of the Supa dam. It is a simple place nestled in the midst of high rise thick canopy of trees. The nature lover in me enjoyed the eerie silence of these elusive woods and calmed my soul by responding to the deep calls of nature.

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The highlight of the stay was that of having large number of flying lizards around and an ideal set-up for bird photography in their natural habitat. A hike to the sunset point and coracle ride in the ferocious river Kali was included in the package. With a river seeming deadly with uncountable whirlpools, the coracle ride was sure an experience in itself. I chose to do these activities with them over any other private property because all the permits for treks and adventure activities are legally obtained and conducted under the supervision of authorized personnel from the forest department and hence, a safe bet. I took an evening walk before sunset to the Ganeshgudi Bridge from where flocks of hornbills can be seen flying or mud-bathing in the winters.

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The coracle ride

The next day, after a short bird spotting walk in the woods and finishing it with a neat breakfast, I headed towards my next destination- Dandeli jungle camp located at Pradhani. An offbeat drive of about 2kms from the main road leads to this simple homestay and camp run in the lap of nature amid the woods, that’s filled with rare flora and fauna. Be sure to be greeted by Malabar giant squirrels and sambar deer at your doorstep to say the least. Since it’s a camp, basic but neat amenities can be availed with either rooms or tenting facilities. We were taken to Syntheri rocks, a very beautiful little place located deep in the woods and formed by rich mineral ores that have formed beautiful rock patterns by standing the test of time. An evening walk in the woods just around the property or catching the sunrise from my window were just a few beautiful moments among others.

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Syntheri rocks

Photo courtesy: Gowtham Shastry

The experience I had the next morning is something that I will cherish for long time. As a part of the package, I was asked to be ready by 6.00.a.m. and was taken to the Dandeli timber depot. I was introduced to Ms.Rajani, a high school teacher by profession and an avid nature keeper by passion. She was assigned to take me on a bird watching tour around the depot where over 150 bird species could be spotted on any given day- A true haven for the bird watchers! My enthusiastic guide visits this place every morning and evening which she describes as her day being incomplete without talking to the woods and strengthening her nature connect.

Among several species that she went on showing me around and shedding light on facts about them, the one that opened my eyes to an all new perspective of seeing avian life were the Hornbills. The hornbill is one species that is referred to Lord Ram and Sita for the couple bonding that they share. These birds have a very unique way of finding their mates and if ever happened that one bird dies anytime, the other remains single all life without finding another mate which is unique to hornbills. The reproduction cycle of these birds is once in 5 years and hence, the male bird is extremely protective about the female and the chick. The male bestows his beloved with berries of her choice from faraway places during this period. While it carries around 40-50 berries in its beak to feed its family, a few fruits may fall down during its flight, thus contributing to afforestation- The hornbills are the farmers of the forests in true sense and live a life of awe and inspiration to mankind. Another interesting fact is among the 54 species of hornbill across the world, 9 are found in India. Out of these, the world’s largest species- The great Indian hornbill and world’s smallest- the Malabar Grey hornbill with Malabar pied and Indian Grey, 4 species can be found in Dandeli alone. And I was fortunate to see all 4 of these during my 3 days stay here, an experience that cannot be explained but only be witnessed. Another unique sighting was of the jungle babbler or the ‘seven sister birds’. With enormous untold stories, the tour ended rather quickly as we both lost track of time. I gave her a tight hug for the wonderful ways of teaching her students in school about conservation of natural resources and I bid farewell.

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Dandeli timber depot

After freshening up back at the camp after breakfast, I started my journey back to Bangalore. I took a KSRTC bus from Dandeli to Hubli from where I had booked my train. Whoa! Such a wonderful trip!

Summary:

Must dos:

• Watch the hornbills mud-bathing on the river bank near Ganeshgudi

• Spot flying lizards and the black panthers.

Dandeli Jungle Camp is an offbeat stay which does not have its own webpage or have direction boards to keep commercialization at check. You can get in touch with them if you wish to, through www.dandeli.com

The connectivity of local transport is not reliable. Although, it would be a great idea to have an own vehicle to go around the place, the property that you stay at can arrange it for you and hence, traveling alone shouldn’t be much of a hassle.

Day tripping the Mysore Circuit

The initial plan was to leave before sunrise so that we could see the birds at the sanctuary before they left their homes for the day’s chores.. However, a flat tyre, pit stops added up to late arrival at the Srirangapatna-Yelwala bypass. This led to a few additions and deletions in the original plan so that we could see the birds late in the evening…

As per the new plan, we headed to Gaganachukki and Bharachukki falls.. After a nice long drive through the green paddy fields and rusty countryside, we reached Shivanasamudra. This is one of the island towns formed by river Kaveri through its course. This is where Asia’s first hydel-power project was set up, commissioned by the then Diwan of Mysore- K.Sheshadri Iyer; inorder to supply electricity for mining at Kolar Gold Fields.

Gaganachukki- The western branch of river Kaveri
Gaganachukki- The western branch of river Kaveri

A couple of kilometers away, we reached another waterfall which is the other branch of the river cascading down.

Bharachukki- The eastern branch of river Kaveri
Bharachukki- The eastern branch of river Kaveri

The beauty of the twin waterfalls was truly mesmerising.. But, we did not want to take the risk of venturing into the water for a coracle ride; Not atleast after we heard that the water was 1000 feet deep at some point. We are not sure how true that was, but a chance without a life jacket..? Never..!!

The sun was approaching his highest point, and we decided that our next destination would be Talakadu. We have all grown up hearing the story how this place is cursed by Alamelamma’s spell during the reign of the Wodeyars of Mysore and their stinct with the curse still running in their blood line -having no male child till date.. However, the excitement we had when we started to this place soon died(infact got burried deep under the sands) when we reached here. The place was extremely filthy with poop scattered everywhere and an unbearable stench had spread around. The river was shallow and looked stagnant and unappealing. Yet, for the sake of going there, we went for a coracle ride which was definitely not worth the buck. The place was a total turn off..!! We lost our interest to explore the temples and left the place..

We lost our way at some point and could not connect to the highway.. We just kept driving on some narrow road through the countryside(which was a feast for the eyes) and when we thought we reached the highway, we realised we had infact reached Mysore..!! We were extremely hungry and so feasted at a nice restaurant in the city itself.

Some friend suggested us to visit Kaaranji kere in Mysore where we could do some bird watching. Around 3.00.p.m, we headed there- This was infact the highlight of the trip- though unplanned, it came as a treat to us 🙂

Pelicans in the Kaaranji Kere
Pelicans in the Kaaranji Kere

We took a boat ride around the lake where we spotted many many varieties of exotic birds. Not in large numbers, but many varieties. It surely is a haven for the bird lovers. I pity myself for not being able to identify what birds they were…

Another bird in the mid of the Kaaranji Kere
Another bird in the mid of Kaaranji Kere

There is also an enclosure where many other native birds are kept along with a few animals and reptiles. A good place indeed..!!

A Cock with a Peacock in an enclosure :P
A Cock with a Peacock 😛

So, finally by 5.00.p.m, we headed out for what we had come all the way– Ranganathittu Bird sanctuary. It was the time when all the birds returned to their nests.. We were there for sunset. We then took a boat ride around the small islets where thousands of birds have made their homes.

One of the birds on the islet
One of the birds on the islet

The trees looked amazing with the birds and the water looked equally dangerous- with crocodiles swimming right past us.. Again, we spotted a lot of different birds since it was the peak of the migratory season 🙂

The winged hosts on the islet
The winged hosts on the islet

All in all, though most part of the day was unplanned, it was a drive well deserved 🙂

Love in the air… The Aero-India show

<10-Feb-13>

I have been tad busy at work with less time to post a thought.. February being a month of love, inspite of my hectic schedule at work, I’ve managed to make the most of my weekends spending quality time with my 1st love- “Traveling”. Every weekend will be posted separately in the days to come.. But, before the ‘month of love’ ends.. I wanted to ensure that the chronicle for the month ends with a love note on my 2nd crush – ‘The Aeroplanes’ 🙂

“Aero India” is a biennial event that happens only in Bangalore and is something that I have been religiously visiting since it’s inception.. I was there this year too.. But, compared to the previous years, it wasn’t a great show.. Unfortunately, the expectations set for the aero-enthusiasts by ‘The Russian Knights’ were too high to be met.!!

The 'Mirror Image' formation by the Flying Bulls
The ‘Mirror Image’ formation by the Flying Bulls

The Suryakirans were missed greatly, due to the passing away of 2 pilots in mid-air crashes 😥 The ‘Flying bulls’ and the Desi-team ‘Sarang’ were clearly the show stoppers.

The Russian Knights
The Russian Knights

<14-Feb-2009>

This takes me back to the show of 2009 – When there were too many participants with almost all the biggies in this business from around the world who had set up stalls. India was on a look out for 126 fighters for its mighty air-force. The F-16, F-18, Eurofighters, Rafael, Sukhoi etc etc. India’s LCA- Tejas made her 1st debut. There were many other contenders among the LCH-Choppers like Dhruv, Cheetah, Cobra; Cargo carriers like the C-130: Super Hercules, Omega tankers; Missiles and UAVs.

It was a day of dreams to several other aero-enthusiasts like me. Hopping from one stall to another understanding the latest technological developments in the industry, defence and warfare from across the world can happen only at one-stop-shows like these and not everytime or everyone gets such opportunities to learn.

Here, knowledge is accompanied with entertainment. Aerobatics by various teams from India and abroad, individual competitions that are related to flying or making scaled-down models, display of some vintage aircrafts, flight simulators, interactions with the personnel from major aviation companies are opportunities that every enthusiast looks forward for show after show. Aero-India 2009, being its biggest show ever, it was an amazing day… especially when it falls on 14-Feb..!!!

The 'Tango' formation by the Suryakirans
The ‘Tango’ formation by the Suryakirans

A great show put up by the SuryaKirans and the Sarang team..!!

The Sarang team
The Sarang team

It is a feeling of contentment that fills my heart when I come here for each show and a sense of sadness to think about waiting for 2 years for the next show.. It gives us a sense of pride when we say we are Bangaloreans and the Air show happens only here..

If you want me to write further, I can go on.. About every show and every machine there.. But i’d like to save some for the coming shows too.. So, I end it here with a ‘Love Note’ in the month of love and let the love spread in the world 😛

Makalidurga Ghats- Inspiring the Indian Railways..

This one was totally unplanned..!!

We decided to visit the Ghati Subramanya temple on Ganesha Chaturthi day considering less crowd in a Subramanya temple… The place is about 13kms from Doddaballapura.

Ghati welcomed us with a mesmerising view of the hills, lakes (or rather puddles of water) scattered in the meadow and a lot of greenery around.. The boundary of the meadow was lined by a railway track- It looked beautiful.!!

A Welcome view to Ghati
A Welcome view to Ghati

And just as we slowed down to appreciate the view, a freight loco came zipping along the line- and now it looked picture perfect..!! And just as I thought that this scene was familiar- my mind wandered to recollect where I had seen it; and soon I knew the answer: it was the “Makalidurga Ghats” I had seen in an IRCTC- South Western railways hoarding at Cantonment station; I had then gone back home and googled about the place, but had soon forgotten…!! So, this is great !!

Temple entrance
Temple entrance
Ghati (3)
Outside the temple complex

We then proceeded to the temple and finished the darshan early(considering less crowd). And we then straight away followed the milestones to Makalidurga… Just back from a railway trek to Dudhsagar 2 days back- and here— an inspiration for another railway trek- We stopped our car close to the railway station and walked 3-4kms along the track to reach the bridge I had seen in the hoarding… But sadly, there was no train that would pass at that time..:(

The railway station as viewed from the bridge
The railway station as viewed from the bridge

We then explored the place around.. One of the hills offers an amazing view of the villages around.. There are ruins of an old fort atop the hill which makes it a great place for some exploration…

The Makalidurga temple
The Makalidurga temple

I later learnt that the place is crowded with trekkers on weekends who usually come here for adventure sports and camping.. Truly… its beautiful.. That too a place soo close to Bengalooru city??

A view from the road
A view from the road

It was afternoon.. and we did not want to take the risk of seeing the moon(Chauthi) on Ganesha festival day.. and so, started back early..

The IRCTC photo that I couldnt capture :'(Picture courtesy: IRCTC hoarding at Cantonment station
The IRCTC photo that I couldnt capture 😥
Picture courtesy: IRCTC hoarding at Cantonment station

A great destination…. totally unplanned.. totally AWESOME..!!!

A Green University Campus in the City – GKVK

This is quite an old story… nevertheless, worth writing about…

GKVK: Gandhi Krishi Vignana Kendra a.k.a. University of Agricultural Sciences(UAS)

My cousin who was studying there at that time had informed us about the “Agri-Mela” happening in her campus sometime in November. I was back early from college that day.. And so, dad and I went for a ride with an idea of getting some fresh air and some agri-info..

The whole campus is lit with bright colours – with various fruits and flowers which are in full bloom in the month of November. We had lots and lots of gyan on agriculture, horticulture, farming, etc..

@ The Cattle farming stall
@ The Cattle farming stall
@ The Hog farming stall
@ The Hog farming stall
A man who drew my attention outside the "Rice cultivation" stall
A man who drew my attention outside the “Rice cultivation” stall

Once we finished checking out the stalls put up there, we thought of just walking around the 1000 odd acres of farm… This is an excellent place for bird watching too..

The red gulmohars in full bloom
The red Gulmohars in full bloom

The number of plants on the cultivation list goes on and on.. So, I prefer to keep it short: 

Any experiment with plants = it is there at UAS
The best stretch in the city- The Gulmohur Avenue
The best stretch in the city- The Gulmohur Avenue

All in all- An afternoon well spent J

One can go here for a drive if one wants some fresh air without going too far from the city on a lazy evening…This is on the way to Yelahanka from Hebbal- just before Jakkur aerodrome.

Haniyur – A village with simplicity

It was a visit due for a couple of years now.. After repeated invitation from Subbanna uncle, the long pending plan had finally materialized. Mom woke up early that morning and prepared sufficient food for the two families. The idea was that the two families- Subbanna uncle’s and our’s, ate lunch together. Around noon, we headed straight to Haniyur- a small village 10kms away from Rajanukunte on Doddaballapur road. That’s where the Subbanna family lives, a little away from their farm.

As we entered the village, we were welcomed by fragile houses with mud smeared walls, dry- unpaved roads which had never seen Asphalt, dusty animals, open drainage running up to their brim infront of the houses on both sides of the road. Finally, when we arrived at his house, the door was locked and the neighbors informed us that the family was off to their farm. So, we decided to meet them in their farm itself rather than troubling them to walk back home in the hot sun.

A thirsty bird infront of Subbanna Uncle's house
A thirsty bird infront of Subbanna Uncle’s house
A warm welcome laid by the Asters' garden

A warm welcome laid by the Asters’ garden
Uncle was busy with the labourers in his Asters’ garden, while aunty was in the grape vineyard. The youngest member of the family: Uncle’s grandson- Munish was busy too.. playing with the water pipes which were laid for drip irrigation. The family was excited on seeing us in their farm and some welcome drink (Tender coconut water) was sanctioned immediately. We told them that we would be having lunch with them in the farm itself and opened all the packages we had to. For salad, we had fresh tender cucumbers from the garden. Main course was Coorgi food and some nice Haniyur-Ragi-Mudde. Yummy lunch ended with fresh chikkus, guavas and plantains- all from his farm. No restaurant could make up for the cool, fresh and pleasant ambience under the grape vinv, though the scorching sun behaved ruthless outside.
Grapes awaiting some rain
Grapes awaiting some rain
Later, we explored the village and enjoyed the rusty country side as much as we could take in. Soon it was time to bid good bye to this wonderful family.
The gerkins farm
The gerkins farm
Abstract flowers from the garden
Abstract flowers from the garden
Some kind of a place for worship of the Local deity
Some kind of a place for worship of the Local deity
Around 4.p.m, we started from there. We decided to visit a temple around 4kms from there before we took the deviation towards the city. I’m not a temple kinda person, but for my parents’ sake, we went to the “Madurai- Shaneeshwara temple”. We were done with the darshan in 15mins or so.. and headed back to the grind.
There was no set agenda, just catching up for lunch with some old friends in the shades of a simple village and farm. The simplicity of the people who live there and the simple, yet  tastiest food from their kitchen, with fresh and chemical free vegetables from their own garden… It’s a different feeling. We the city souls will never understand, what money can’t buy. ‘Keeping it simple’ is the way of life!