Extending over an area of 475 sq. kms., “Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary” is situated in the Haliyal and Joida taluks of North Karnataka. Part of the Northern Stretch of Westren Ghats, the sanctuary has four types of forests – Dry Desiduous, Moist Deciduous, Semi Evergreen and Evergreen. A large variety of flora and fauna are found in this area, the most famous being the “Black Panthar”.
Researchers have found that about 40% of Panthers in the area are “melanistic” and have in recent times captured camera-trap records of fourteen such animals in the area!
Below is the second leg report (18th to 25th November) of my two weeks in North Karnataka. As usual my main focus was bird photography ->Read First Leg Report
18th November, 2008 (Post Lunch)
Yathin and myself left Sirsi after lunch and headed towards Dandeli. Vijay Mohan Raj (VMR), DCF, Sirsi once again showing us the way! The weather had improved and it had completely stopped raining. I was looking forward to some bird photography!
The “Sirsi > Yellapur > Bhagravathi > Kulgi” route of about 150 kms took us some 3+ hours. I got a decent image of the White-rumped Shama enroute. Black-rumped Flameback’s were common in the area.
We reached “Kulgi” at about 5 pm, quickly grabbed a guide and straight away entered the forest even as the sun began to set! We had a glimpse of a Jackal before we crossed the forest gate and entered the protected area. I got a slight jolt, as the first animal I saw was a cow! Yes, there are human settlements inside the forest with crop and cattle.
After a short drive, we arrived at a popular sunset viewpoint. The orange ball had just disappeared as we reached the viewpoint. I made a mental note to visit the place again for some photographs. Dandeli is formidable I thought…
That evening we checked into the Forest Rest House (FRH) at Kulgi. At about 7 pm we had guests! Dr. K. V. Gururaja, a Post-doctoral Fellow, along with C. R. Naik a renowned forest guard of the area came over to greet us. Dr. Gururaja showed me a snap of a King Cobra! he had just clicked as they had walked to our FRH.
Soon we were viewing a fascinating presentation on “Amphibians” put together by Dr. Gururaja. I learnt that he is an expert on frogs and a storehouse of information on the topic! Yathin accompanied him into the dark and came back with some images of frogs I did not even know existed! We had a nice hot dinner at the “Kulgi Nature Camp” at 8 pm. After making some plans for the next morning we all retired for the night. Another fascinating day – Sunrise at Yana, sunset at Dandeli!
19th November, 2008
C. R. Naik was leading from the front. Early this morning, he took us to a less traveled path inside the forest just off Ambikanagar, a small “Karnataka Power Corporation Limited” township, approximately 16 km from Dandeli city. We trekked a short distance into the pristine forest for some superb views of the river Kali as it made its way through the forest. This area Naik explained, is the habitat of the “Great Hornbill”, even as we heard the calls of the large birds. Finally, we did get a glimpse of a couple of birds high up on a large tree, though Naik was hoping we could experience the dramatic scene of over 40 of them flying across the valley as he had often seen!
If Yathin had not mentioned it, I would not have noticed the TICKS! I saw several small red dots on my arms and noticed one tiny tick happily sucking away. With some difficulty I pulled it out and squashed it between my nails. A mistake! I realized later, as that one spot from where I had pulled the tick out pained me the most for the rest of my trip! I soon learnt that in Dandeli and surrounding areas one has to learn to live with the ticks (replaced by leeches in the monsoon months). I could not resist asking about the ticks to people from different walks of life in the area and found that everybody were aware and had experienced the painful bites but had learnt to simply ignore them! I also learnt that the ticks in some areas cause the “Kaysanur Forest Disease” – go ahead google for that and get paranoid!
Well, though the ticks did bother me until I left Dandeli a week later with a hundred red dots, they did not stop me from enjoying the forest and photographing birds of the area. I must confess that I was a bit concerned at first but soon learnt to be a bit careful and carry-on! Luckily I am not allergic to ticks as all the bite marks disappeared a few days after I reached home.
We soon reached the famous “Sykes point” that is about 5 km from Ambikanagar and offers a splendid panoramic view of the River Kali flowing through the valley below. This nature spot is named after an Englishman who discovered it.
Back to “Kulgi Nature Camp” for a late breakfast and it was time for Yathin to leave. He had a 3 pm flight to catch from Hubli back to Bangalore. See you, Yathin!
After lunch, along with a guide, Gururaj and myself drove to a large lake near Dandeli. After some good bird watching and photography we made another refreshing drive into the forest.
A nice hot water bath, another fine dinner and off to bed. The day just flew by!
20th November, 2008.
This morning after an early breakfast Gururaja and myself drove to the office of the DCF, Dandeli, Mr. Manoj Kumar. We learnt he was out of town, left a short note of thanks in his office and proceed to explore the area around for Hornbills. The famous "Malabar Pied Hornbills" were not in the area that day. We only saw a couple of them fly by.
At Dandeli, Gururaja led me to a unique place and experience. The mugger village! Dandeli is famous for paper mills. I saw treated effluents from one of the mills flow in a narrow canal and join the river Kali on whose banks Dandeli is situated. In this short effluent flowing canal I saw about a dozen muggers! These large fresh water crocodiles thrive on the fish that in turn thrive on the contents of the effluents! I took some images of the muggers and came away shaking my head in disbelief! India is indeed unique – where else can you see dozens of muggers so very close to a large human habitat? I was told that they are sometimes seen walking next to the houses on the banks of the river!
That afternoon after lunch I decided to pester Gururaja to show me a few frogs as he was to leave back to Bangalore by dusk. What followed was simply unbelievable!
This unassuming, 32 year old bachelor who had spent over a decade researching frogs in India led me to a small stream opposite the “Kulgi Nature Camp”. He was completely at home as he happily showed me one frog after another! It is easier to find them in the night he mentioned. Before I realized what was happening I had already photographed some five species of frogs and began finding some on my own! It is amazing what you can see in nature with someone else’s eyes! What a wonderful learning experience for me! Here see for yourself ->
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If you are interested in entering a dark thick forest in the night in search of frogs and help him in his research, please do contact :
Energy & Wetlands Research Group,
Center for Ecological Sciences,
Indian Institute of Science,
Bangalore – 560 012.
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Web - www.gururajakv.net
Soon Gururaja took leave and headed back to Bangalore.
I shifted from the FRH and spent this and the next night at the “Kulgi Nature Camp”.
21st November, 2008.
Hello world, Good Morning !! I woke early after a good nights sleep and with the local expert “Babu” as my guide I went in search of birds! We explored several surrounding areas by walk and saw a number of bird species though photography was quite tough.
After a late breakfast, I went and sat for a couple of quite hours all alone in a secluded tower not too far from the camp. Nice!
A quick lunch, some rest, another wonderful drive in the forest. This time I was lucky to come across a lone large gaur. The forest floor was littered with spider webs. I did manage to photograph a few of them.
A special dinner that night and off to bed! Time really flies!!
Tomorrow, I drive to Anshi !
22nd November, 2008
What a day!
Initially a part of the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, the 340 sq. kms. Anshi National Park now adjoins it. Anshi and Dandeli were granted the status of Project Tiger sanctuaries in January 2007.
I had to wake up really early! A huge family of noisy guests had woken up at 4 am and left the camp by 5.30 am. As the tents are quite close to each other I could hear some hilarious stuff! Where is my tooth brush someone shouted, please ask for some hot water another yelled. Where is manja? a lady wanted to know. Here, you forgot your slippers and so on…
I left Kulgi after breakfast at 8am. I was enjoying the solitude and fresh air as I slowly drove towards Anshi. I was hoping to shoot some birds on the way and reach “Anshi Nature Camp” about 60 kms from Kulgi by lunch time. I would be spending the next two nights at Anshi.
As I was driving toward Anshi, two policemen flagged me down. Sir, are you going to Karwar? one of them asked. No, I am going to Anshi, I politely answered. Wonderful, we are going there too! could you give us a lift? Sure, hop in I said, throwing birding along the way out of the window!
Continuing towards Anshi with the men in uniform I learnt that the Education Minister of Karnataka who hails from Sirsi was due to address an audience at Anshi after lunch and surprise! he was to have lunch at the “Kulgi Nature Camp”!
Dash! When I reached the camp after the policemen got out at Anshi village, I could sense the excitement off the staff at the camp as they were soon expecting over 150 people for lunch. Not wanting to intrude, I stayed alone in my tent and watched the minister and all the other accompanying officials and followers come, have lunch, and go. At about 3 pm the camp was empty! I then had a quite lunch with the RFO, Mr. Mohan Angadi and a couple of foresters.
Immediately after lunch, I grabbed a guide and left to explore the forest. Anshi Wildlife Sanctuary, has very limited roads to drive on. A short drive took us to a place called “Tiger Tank”. Another short drive from there took us to “Bison Tank”
I was back at the camp by dusk without shooting a single image, the entire day! Some kind of a record I suppose!!
That night I could not sleep till very late as some guests were partying into the night!
Indeed, what a day!
23rd November, 2008
In stark contrast to the previous day, I had the entire camp to myself all day and night! No Phone, No TV, No Newspaper, No People! Precious solitude indeed, Rejoice!!
This day, after breakfast and after lunch, I drove along several village roads with Narayan Naik, the onsite staff at the Nature Camp. We spent all day exploring the area and I was able to photograph many bird species and a couple of species of snakes!
Did I mention that the area is full of snakes? I saw five of them during the trip. At one time a snake slithered between C R Naik’s legs as we bent down to get a better view of a small frog. Also, surprisingly, I was able to photograph a couple of them without disturbing them as they just stayed calm and watched me and did not disappear as snakes normally do!
That evening, as the sun set and I sat alone in the camp I tuned in to the various sounds of the forest. The day dwellers were making their last calls of the day while the night dwellers were making their first! The “Whistling School Boy” (Malabar Whistling Thrush) made its melodious call and I heard the Grey Francolins quite close to the camp. Soon I heard a Jungle Owlet and a few Nightjars. A little later a Eurasian Eagle Owl started hooting and continued to do so into the night. Wonderful, how a whole bunch of creatures come alive even as another bunch go off to sleep!
How come there are so many stars in the sky? Zillions really! I never see so many stars back home, I thought. Living in a large bustling city can certainly kill a lot of this joy!
Tomorrow, I go to the “Hornbill River Resort”. Good Night!
For Bookings at Both Kulgi and Anshi Nature camps,
You need to contact the office of:
Dy. Conservator of Forests,
Wildlife Division, Dandeli,
Ph: 08284 231585
The rates are nominal, staff friendly and food simple and good. You will certainly have some fun if you are interested in Birds, Butterflies, Flowers, Spiders, Frogs, Snakes and Lizards. Mammal sightings are rare and it would certainly be a priceless moment if you are able to sight a “Black Panther”!
24th November, 2008
The first thing I saw at the resort was a Hornbill! Giri had already checked in as I reached the resort at about 11 am after a leisurely drive from Anshi. The two of us then explored the area and made some decent images of the Malabar Grey Hornbill and the Malabar Pied Hornbill. There were plenty of them in the area. A lone forest wagtail was a bonus.
Mr. Manoj Kumar, DCF, Dandeli had some work in the area and paid us a surprise visit. We had a pleasant interaction over tea that evening before he left to give a talk on wildlife to a bunch of kids at the “Kulgi Nature Camp”. I found that he had in-depth knowledge about the flora and fauna of India. He is well read, well traveled and a topper in academics! He is a down to earth person with great passion for nature and wildlife. It was indeed a pleasure meeting him!
Inevitably, the resort brought me back to Phone, TV, and Newspaper. In any case I would be back home soon.
25th November, 2008
This morning Giri and myself went in search of the Black-capped Kingfisher, assisted by the helpful staff at the resort. Soon we returned with some images of this not very easily seen Kingfisher! We shot the bird from a raft!
We then drove to the Jungle Lodges property generally exploring the area. Giri spotted a Crested Goshawk that gave us the opportunity to make some neat images.
That afternoon VMR and Manoj Kumar joined us for lunch! After lunch we went for a long drive into the “Dandali Wildlife Sanctuary” birding all the way with some valuable location inputs from Umesh! Though Giri’s luck with the big cats did not materialize this time, much to the delight of VMR and Manoj Kumar, we came across two herds of Guars with several young. First time images of the large mammal in Dandeli for VMR! I was finally able to make that sunset image I was eyeing. I most thoroughly enjoyed this drive and will cherish it a lifetime!
On the way back we made a quick stop at Manoj Kumar’s house and picked up his little daughter and headed back to the resort.
After a wholesome dinner back at the resort, it was well past midnight before we bid goodnight to VMR and Manoj Kumar. Thank you Manoj Kumar garu for all the help during my stay at Dandeli. Very many thanks VMR, it was such a wonderful trip all the way!
Here are some bird images from the trip, for your viewing pleasure:
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Tomorrow, Giri and myself will drive to “Daroji Bear Sanctuary”! No prize for guessing. Yes, a phone call from VMR again!
->Read Daroji Report