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The long overdue trip to Dandeli (Wildlife Sanctury)  fructified in Mar 2015 when we combined it with our trip to Bijapur, Badami and Hampi. The drive from Hampi started with rocky and barren terrain to begin with, but slowly the surroundings changed to sugarcane and jowar fields all around.However when the ascent began to the hilly areas of Dandeli and the forest, the smell of the verdant foliage and the purity of the atmosphere reduced the stress of travelling and freshened the mind, enlivening the senses.The chirping of the birds, the huge variety of trees, the monkeys and the langoors brought back memories of far off jungles we had travelled to during service life.

Me being a nature lover who thrives in hills and jungles, felt my senses suddenly sharpening and a feeling of pure joy pervaded my entire being. As we approached our destination at the ‘Hornbill Resort’the chirping of the birds, the sounds of the jungle and the mystery of the sunset enveloped us.

The cottage were we stayed (above)

A tree house at Hornbill River Resort, Ganeshgudi

The resort was aesthetically constructed on the banks of the river Kali with tree houses, cottages and even tented accomodation merging into the serene surroundings.The people working at the resort were friendly and cooperative. My spouse was happy to meed another avid bird lover in Gopi, who is their birder and takes people around the jungle.

The two days at Dandeli passed in the blink of an eye,as there was so much to do.We shot birds (with the camera) and saw lots of Malabar Black Hornbills, Grey Hornbills,Green Parrots, Sunbirds, the Red Whiskered bulbul, The Brahmini Kite,various water birds, langoors, Giant Squirrels,The Flying Squirrel and many tiny birds I was unable to identify, as they were so tiny.

Malabar Pied Horn Bill

Malabar Grey Hornbill (above)

Brahminy Kite

Pompadour Green Pigeon (above)

We enjoyed the boating on the R.Kali and saw young revelers white water rafting over the rapids,rappeling and enjoying the river crossing, kayaking indulging in other water sports which I was too timid to try,Spousy of course was going crazy clicking the birds and the scenery.However, what I enjoyed most were the two nature walks we had, early morning, with Gopi pointing out various birds one doesn’t even notice.

People having fun in Kali River adjacent to Hornbill Resort

Before we knew it, it was time to depart even though our soul longed to linger there for some more time to soak the beauty of the pristine surrroundings and environment. We bid Adieu to Dandeli promising to be back,as soon as we could,for another stint.

Not having had our fill of Dandeli,we decided to revisit it again and were again there within ten days or so.

This time our preferred place of stay was ‘The Old Magazine House’- a known birder’s paradise.So off we were again!Ispent the entire journey looking forward to the jungle environs again.Lo and behold! the Lemurs seemed to have laid out a welcome for us. Just after we passed Ganesh Gudi, we saw a family of Lemurs sitting in the middle of the road. They were in a winsome, frolicky mood and hubby just couldn’t seem to take his finger off the trigger – of his camera. As for me, I thoroughly enjoyed the antics of the young ones who were wrestling playfully and playing catching cook.

The lemurs blocking our entry to Birds Paradise

Being watched and tracked!!

On reaching the resort we didn’t even get time to check-in properly or freshen up before the birding activity was in full swing. Spousy forgot all about me and the luggage,to appease his thirst for the enormous variety of birds.I was astonished to learn – from Juma,the resident birder- that birds bathe and clean themselves before retiring for the night.Thus the flurry fo activity near the watering spots.

Prashant setting up for the shoot

uddenly Juma pointed to a shrub and shouted ‘Trogan’ and we saw a small red breasted bird sitting majestically on a branch.This ( I was told) was the red breasted troganwhich is known as the “Tiger of Birds”-as spotting it is very rare. It seems,it is so elusive that people keep looking for it for months before they get a sighting.We really felt blessed as we had spotted it as soon as we had arrived. After a few minutes,I raised my eyes and saw the trogan sitting on a branch 5 mtres away posing for us – as if asking us to soak in its presence. Hubby dear went crazy trying to get it from different angles.

Malabar Trogan (above)

From then it was a birders delight as we saw the emerald winged dove, the trogan, the yellow oriolle, the shama,the jungle myna, the barbette, the giant squirrel, the basra and the bee eater. It was difficult to leave the spot,even as dusk approached and the light faded, as the birds kept coming and there were some ‘late latifs’ as well. The cameras could no longer catch them but, they were a visual treat.

Emerald Dove (above)

Common Flameback (above)

Red wishkerd Bulbul (above)

Yellow Browed Bulbul (above)

Malabar Starling (above)

Black capped/ Ruby throted  Bulbul (above)

Black Capped Babbler (above)

Veriditer Flycatcher (above)

As darknes descended I was amazed at the lack of mosquitoes, or any kind of insects.A hush enveloped the forest and it became eerily silent.

We had an early dinner and retired to our cottage as we were terribly tired after the long journey and then the excitement of seeing the wide array of birds.Spousy was elated as he had managed to click at least 20 different species of birds.The still and soundless environment cloaked us and we fell asleep instantly- looking forward to the next day.

Next morning after waking up at dawn, we were off to the Timber Depot to spot the Hornbills and the Woodpeckers. The Hornbills led us to a merry chase, flying off as soon as we were in range to click. However, spousy got some good shots of Woodpeckers, Lemurs and the lovely and vast surroundings. We returned to the resort after spending about 2 1/2 hrs. We enjoyed our breakfast and freshened up but, kept veering back to the birding spot,as if,pulled by invisible threads.

Timber Depot, Dandeli (above)

Malabar Grey Hornbill (above)

Malabar Giant Squirells (above)

White Bellied Woodpecker (above)

The noon brought a lull to the activity among the birds and we kind of lazed around soaking in the peace and solitude of the environment.

Suddenly, in the late afternoon we saw many vehicles approaching and around 50- 60 young professionals alighted.They were volunteers for the Tiger census being conducted by the Govt of Karnataka.They were on the penultimate day of their training (for survival in the jungle) so they had come there for another workshop.The minute they arrived it seemed as if the birds acknowledged their presence and put up a wondrous performance.They twittered and came down to the bathing spots in droves to hop and bathe. It seemed as if the were performing a graceful ballet,totally unmindful of the racket the youngsters were creating.The birders went totally trigger happy with their cameras.As for me- I just soaked in the atmosphere with the beautiful birds on one side and the youngsters with their exhuberance on the other.Ah! what one would give to be young again.

Oriental White Eye (above)

White Bellied Blue Flycatcher (above)

White Rumped Shama (above)

Racket Tailed Drongo (above)

Grey Headed Fulvetta (above)

Orange Headed Thrush (above)

Tickells Blue Flycatcher (above)

Black Naped Monarch (above)

Malabar Rock Thrush (above)

Little Spider Catcher (above)

Black Headed Babbler (above)

Malabar White Headed Starling

When there were no Birds, monkeys were around to keep you engaged.

As the light faded we moved off from there to visit sunset point. From here we captured some awesome sights of the setting sun in the backdrop of the hills with the golden rays reflected in the waters of the Supa reservoir.The sunset had a dramatic and theatrical beauty in it.

Sunset at Supa Reservoir, Ganeshgudi

Hubby dear was a little disappointed as he felt he had not been able to capture enough variety of birds and had already started planning his next visit.I flaked out as I was exhausted with the days activities, while he was downloading the photographs so that he had enough digital space for the next morning.

When I woke up next morning I found spousy missing- as expected.He had gone looking for more birds.

I set myself to packing and freshening up.At around 7.30am I also went down to the birding spot where I found five young birders allready with their huge cameras and lenses all camouflaged as if they were in war zone. However, they kept talking incessantly so no bird ventured near (in my mind I wondered why people say women talk too much).Here were a group of guys who couldn’t seem to keep quiet for a second.

Their nonstop chattering was just about getting on my nerves when I saw a family of giant squirrels frolicking on a tree close by.I got so engrossed in their antics – running up and down the trees , chasing each other and jumping fron branch to branch that I blanked the guys out.Let me describe the Malabar Giant Squirrel to you – it is as big as a large hare and rust brown in colour with a whitish chest and a long bushy tail. Can you imagine the beauty of it ?

Malabar Giant Squirrel (above)

I was so lost in their world that I didn’t here spousy till he called out to me. From the grin on his face I could make out that he had a successful morning. I didn’t have to wait for long because he was so full of a new birding spot he had found on a tree nearby- the flame of the forest. He captured gorgeous birds like the hanging parakeets,parrots,racquet tailed barbettes and .We hurried up and had a speedy breakfast because he wanted to spend some more time near that tree before we headed home.

Plum Headed Parakeet (above)

Flying off as we got nearer

Grey Headed Parakeet (above)

Malabar White Cheeked Barbet (above)

Eurasian Black Bird (above)

Chestnut Headed Bee Eater (above)

Vernal Hanging Parrot (above)

Eurasian Golden Oriole (above)

Spotted Dove (above)

Ashy Drongo (above)

Hill Myna(above)

However he made a tactical mistake by telling the five young birders about the spot. Before we could settle down and capture some more birds, these guys came roaring right up to to the tree in a diesal Innova trying to photogrph them from the car- little realising that all they had done was scared them away.We waited for some time but it was of no use so we packed the camera and started our drive back home.

The Rapids (above)

A view of Supa Dam Reservoir (above) 

About Dandeli Wildlife Sanctury

The sanctuary now covers an area of 834.16 square kilometres. This sanctuary is the second largest wildlife sanctuary of Karnataka.Along with its adjoining Anshi National Park, Dandeli is an abode to 40 tigers albeit very difficult to spot.

It’s not just tigers, the sanctuary is a natural home to leopards, black panthers, elephants, deer, beer, antelopes, reptiles and more than 300 bird-species as well.

The best time to enjoy the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary is between March and October and the centre is open between 6am and 6pm.

There are so many attractions and opportunities on offer at Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, whether you choose action and adventure with white water rafting or slow the pace down with peaceful birdwatching and wildlife photography. You’ll be spoilt for choice..!

During August and September, Malabar Pied Hornbills flock to the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary in large numbers to feast on the fruit trees. They create quite a show – not to be missed..!

During August and September, Malabar Pied Hornbills flock to the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary in large numbers to feast on the fruit trees.

Ganeshgudi, about 20 km from Dandlei is famous for birding and can truly be called a Birder’s Paradise.

How to Reach

Dandeli is

• 57 kms from Dharwad

• 75 kms from Hubli

• 110 kms from Belgaum

• 117 kms from Karwar

• 150 kms from Goa

• 481 kms away from Bangalore

Getting There:

By Air

Closest airport: Belgaum (110 kms) Hubli (75 kms)and Goa (150 kms).

 By Train

Closest rail head: Alnavar (32 kms) Londa (48 kms), Dharwad (57 kms), & Hubli (75 kms).

 By Road

Dandeli is well connected to Bangalore, Mumbai (Bombay),Pune,  Goa, Belgaum, Karwar and Dharwad, Hubli by road. Several buses ply to Dandeli everyday.