DANDELI: A BIRDER’S PAR­ADISE

Airports India - - CONTENTS - TEXT & SE­LECT PHO­TOS: G. BRINDHA

It was pitch dark and I had come out into the open and fol­lowed the eerie glow of the lights from the other side of River Kali, to get to the river. The wa­ter gleamed un­der the spell of the full moon. There was a sound of rustling

leaves as if some­thing was lurk­ing be­hind the trees in the dark. My mind started mak­ing wild guesses – a civet, crocodile, some noc­tur­nal bird or a Mal­abar fly­ing squir­rel. I was in the Kali ad­ven­ture camp run by Jun­gle Lodges and Re­sorts, next to Kali River in Dandeli, and such un­canny mo­ments were only to be ex­pected.

Even ar­riv­ing at the camp, af­ter a tir­ing jour­ney of many hours through the forests from Yel­la­pur, had its own high points – deer and a pair of civets had been clicked and some un­rec­og­niz­able jun­gle sounds had been cap­tured. Though lo­cated in Dandeli town, which hosts the largest pa­per mill in Kar­nataka, wildlife is never too far from this re­sort and the first warn­ing was, ‘There are crocodiles in the river’. Oh no!

Our sa­fari started with a cor­a­cle ride in the river, quite a novel way of wildlife spot­ting. As you may have un­der­stood, it was dif­fi­cult hold­ing me back. Be­ing al­lowed as an ex­plorer to en­joy the sounds of the jun­gle, un­fet­tered in the gath­er­ing of the night, was both sooth­ing and in­spir­ing.

The next morn­ing we set off for our bird watch­ing ses­sion near the Dandeli Tim­ber de­pot. A quaint lit­tle spot, it was a splen­did place to spot some rare and beau­ti­ful birds, in­clud­ing three species of Horn­bill – Mal­abar greater Horn­bill, In­dian Grey Horn­bill and Mal­abar Grey Horn­bill. My guide Vi­nayak told me that the Com­mon In­dian and Mal­abar Horn­bills dif­fer in the shape of their beaks. Vi­nayak iden­ti­fied birds just by lis­ten­ing to their calls. And I was soon caught up in the bird play as I lurked sur­rep­ti­tiously, try­ing to avoid mak­ing any noise, chas­ing the Golden breasted wood­pecker for a nice shot. The Horn­bills proved bet­ter mod­els and the plum faced para­keets as play­ful as

ex­pected. Wood­peck­ers proved too nim­ble for me. As I looked around, gaz­ing at this beau­ti­ful panorama, su­perbly painted, my ears picked up a fa­mil­iar, twit­ter­ing sound. I knew it, us hav­ing met years ago; it was time for our sec­ond meet­ing. My limbs fol­lowed my ears. It was Shekharu – the gi­ant Mal­abar squir­rel, high on the canopy, only ears and bushy tail vis­i­ble, turn­ing for a mil­lisec­ond to give me a fleet­ing glance.

I was told by Vi­nayak that con­sid­er­ing horn­bills are so huge and choosy eaters, they need a lot of food, which is only

pos­si­ble in healthy forests like Dandeli. The next morn­ing, on an­other cor­a­cle ride in River Kali, I saw the Mal­abar Pied Horn­bills fly from one end to the other, their loud thuds si­lenc­ing all other sounds in the jun­gle. See­ing horn­bills am­bling by the river, rum­mag­ing for fruits, fly­ing from one side to the other, is a mem­ory you trea­sure for­ever. The crocodiles gap­ing at you, with their mouths wide open, no move­ment other than a lazy blink of an eye, un­car­ing of your pres­ence and then the grace­ful Brah­mani Kite, hov­er­ing over you, in the com­pany of wily cor­morants dry­ing their wings, the egrets busy rum­mag­ing for mol­lusks, and storks and ibis shar­ing the same space – it was all pure, won­drous magic!

The evening ex­pe­di­tion to Ganeshgudi fur­ther pepped up the birder in me. Ganeshgudi is a fa­mous spot for bird­ers. As we crossed the Kali River dam and took a turn into Ganeshgudi, a cou­ple of Mal­abar para­keets made loud chat­ter­ing noises. The grey metal­lic road snaked through the green woods be­fore cul­mi­nat­ing in a muddy, rusty patch in Ganeshgudi. Jun­gle Lodges has a dor­mi­tory here, a bound­ary is set for bird­ers, and en­thu­si­asts can be seen ready with their tele­scope sized lens

and smaller zoom lens and binoc­u­lars. This spot, they say, is a bird­ers’ par­adise, with species spot count go­ing as high as 70 a day. I wasn’t that lucky in terms of num­bers but surely many ac­tion packed hours were spent here.

There isn’t a need to wan­der about, as the birds drop in to say ‘hello’ to on­look­ers here. Jun­gle Lodges has wa­ter pots on its bound­ary, which at­tract birds for some wa­ter play. The list is very long from lovely blue tailed green bee-eaters, mu­nias, ful­vettas, blue Robin, mag­pie Robin, yel­low browed bul­buls, white throated blue fly­catcher, blythes star­ling, jun­gle bab­blers, and racket tailed dron­cos, to many oth­ers I don’t re­mem­ber or was

too en­gaged to take notes on. Also ex­pect some great sto­ries from the friendly staff over tea and bis­cuits and do catch up with other bird­ing en­thu­si­asts to share your ex­pe­ri­ences.

We headed back to the Kali re­sort as the evening set in, with the sky ex­plod­ing into dif­fer­ent colours, turn­ing into a painter’s mas­ter­piece. I heard the birds twit­ter good­bye as we drove past the dark forests, now wear­ing a ghostly look. From a dis­tance, the warn­ing calls of Chi­tal con­gre­gated, prob­a­bly em­a­nat­ing from a wa­ter body from a deep corner in the for­est, as per­haps they had spot­ted a tiger or black leop­ard. There’s a sheer feel­ing of serendip­ity in the wild, you grasp the enor­mity of the for­est as you hear the dis­tant call of ele­phants.

If you can, do join a group on an ele­phant sa­fari in Kali Tiger Re­serve and you may be stunned to spot a Ben­gal tiger on your first visit! The re­serve also houses black pan­thers, sloth bear, Leop­ard Cat, In­dian Bi­son, and much more. Black­crested bul­bul, crested ser­pent ea­gle, Mal­abar pied horn­bill, Brah­miny kite, can be seen on the Bird Trail. Do visit Syn­theri Rocks near Kulgi Na­ture Camp or you can trek 20 kms to the lovely Dudhsagar falls.

FAST FACTS:

The near­est ma­jor rail­way sta­tion is Hubli (some 65 kms) and near­est air­port is Goa air­port (some 110 kms).

Kali ad­ven­ture camp run by Jun­gle Lodges Re­sorts is all about un­tamed ter­rain – gorges, wild rivers, deep, dense jun­gles, froth­ing wild wa­ters and tran­quil evenings. On the banks of River Kali, it is a per­fect spot for white wa­ter raft­ing. Other ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude Kayaking, Cor­a­cle Rides, Bird­watch­ing, Na­ture Walks, Wild Sa­fari, tem­ple visit, etc. Old Mag­a­zine House is a favourite among bird­ers, a place to es­cape the ur­ban mad­ness. Bird­ing, trekking, raft­ing and kayaking are on the to-do list here. On a soli­tary de­tour from the main road, it is deep in a jun­gle. The na­ture camp at Kulgi has ac­com­mo­da­tion in tents for those who visit Kali Tiger Re­serve. Lo­cal veg­e­tar­ian fare is served.

A cor­a­cle ride on River Kali in Dandeli

Sykes Point

Boat­man row­ing a cor­a­cle in Kali River

Ne­go­ti­at­ing a rope­way in Jun­gle Cen­tury Re­sort in Dandeli

Ad­ven­ture ac­tiv­i­ties in Dandeli

River raft­ing in the gur­gling Kali river

Beau­ti­ful Dudhsagar falls near Dandeli

Ad­ven­ture trekking in Dandeli

Kali Ad­ven­ture-camp in Dandeli, 75 kms from Hubli Jowar-roti and lo­cal dishes at Dandeli Mud hut in Kali camp Camp­ing in the na­ture re­serve near Dandeli In­te­rior of room in Kali camp

Tourists at Syn­theri rocks Trekking in Dandeli Bird-watch­ing in a cor­a­cle in Dandeli

Deer in Dandeli wildlife sanc­tu­ary

Jacuzzi bath in nat­u­ral springs

View of sun­set from Sykes Point in Dandeli

Raft­ing on the river at sun­rise

Tiger spot­ting on sa­fari near Dandeli

A black leop­ard in the for­est

Photo credit: G. Brindha

Ele­phants in Dandeli wildlife sanc­tu­ary

Photo credit: G. Brindha

Crocodile sun­ning it­self on the rocks

Get­ting up close and per­sonal with a bi­son

Pho­tos credit: Google Im­ages

Raft­ing in Kali river in Dandeli

Bird­watch­ing in Dandeli

Photo credit: G. Brindha

Kali Ad­ven­ture Camp

Syn­theri rocks in Dandeli

River Dam in Dandeli

Bird­watch­ing point in Whistling Woods re­sort

Bird in the quiet Kali river

Ibis be­side Kali River

In­dian Scim­i­tar Bab­bler at Old Mag­a­zine House in Dandeli

Lit­tle Cor­morant in Kali river

Spi­der-hunter bird in Dandeli

White-breasted King­fisher Darter bird in Kali River at Dandeli

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