The calm river soothes senses while the verdant forest lifts spirits up. Bhadra sanctuary is an enjoyable escape into thick nature where visitors encounter a diverse range of wild fauna.
Dheemanthini Sharma finds the river tern resort hospitable and feels that the sanctuary stays young into winter...
Fertile hills – brides decked in green awaiting their grooms, the nature lovers – sat gracefully on river water that stretched across the horizon. Peace soaked my skin and seeped into my body as I abandoned my car and retired into a log hut in the river tern resort. Bhadra sanctuary is isolated from everything urban – all I could hear were newt calls, chirps and occasional growls.
I travelled in November, trying to get away from Bangalore’s pollution and noise around Diwali festival. My jeep safari was fulfilling although, ideally, the season to view river terns and animals is from June to September. The smell of wet earth and soaked bark with the sight of thick foliage left me light-headed. There was commotion in the jeep as a gaur [water buffalo] looked up and stared. The jeep occupants stared back and he left.
The animals at Bhadra are shier than at other sanctuaries of Karnataka. The moment we spotted a sambar [deer], with huge antlers, he slid away warily. The chital deer were faster – they just sprang off, into bushes. A female black buck was the only resilient one, she moved wagging her bunny-like tail. Two dozen jungle babblers flew around babbling but nobody in the jeep was excited about them as they were not ‘big animals’.
The boat-ride on the Bhadra river, the second day, felt endless. The golden-yellow hue of sunrise was replaced slowly by diamond-like mid-noon sparkles on the backwaters which kissed the hills gently. The boat moved through scenic passes providing an ample glimpse of each hill adorned with huge trees including teak, sandal and rosewood. Bamboos encroached upon any available space between them.
The ride stopped for some time, close to a lone tree that stood up from the river and there was no land mass visible beneath it. Two dozen cormorants roosted on the branches and tourists got busy watching their activities.
I managed to trek through the hills later. Wet slush beneath my feet hindered me but the cool forest beckoned. Something lured me back though – the aroma of fresh, delicious Asian lunch from the‘gol-ghar’, a common dining area for visitors. The manager, Ashok, and the cooking crew fed their guests sumptuously running around like anxious mothers.
Dinners are lavish deals too. On that day, there was a campfire and a wildlife documentary was featured on Dholes [wild dogs] of Bandipur on an LCD screen. I said, “I’ve shot those” and got a reply from a fellow guest: “This was shot more than a decade back. You must have found their young ones.”
The third day, I was provided directions to the Tyavarekoppa lion and tiger safari 30 kms away. This should never to be missed if no tiger’s seen on the safari at Bhadra – the big cats growl at visitors and not from inside a cage! A tiger at 12 feet distance was initially irritated, then comfortable enough to yawn and move on to a snoozing posture.
A lioness was getting cosy with her boyfriend when our vehicle disturbed her. She ran behind the nearest shrub growth and hid herself. She stealthily peeked at us, sneezed and stared wide-eyed, scared of her own sneeze! Good for her – we left within ten minutes.
What irked me about the place was - animals in cages. They could not risk panthers, sloth bears, pythons and crocodiles pouncing on people outside. Forest officer, Harish, said that panthers could leap from above 20 feet so it was too risky to let them out when tourists visited.
Someone inside the safari vehicle commented, “Do you keep dinosaurs here?” The tour guide, Nagappa, replied coolly, “No Sir, the big animals just visit and leave. We don’t keep them here.”
“There’s an elephant camp at Sakkarebayalu, 20 kms away, where people get to interact with elephants. Usually tourists going there are guided to Tyavarekoppa later,” Harish informed me. Back at the log hut, it was a night in the wild. I did mind the mice in there or occasional wild animals that lurked in – like a couple of mongoose. That was a small price to pay when my room was in the heart of a thick forest.
The fourth day I packed to get back to Bangalore. Someone among the guests had the same opinion like I did. He was saying: “Four days well spent – Bangalore, at this time, is full of toxic fumes and unbearable sounds. Newspapers carry stories on how many people had burns lighting crackers. Just gave my mind and lungs a chance for some oxygen and recovery.” I smiled and looked at my skin. It had turned smooth from the dry bark that Bangalore had converted it into - without my spending a
fortune in a spa.
Fact file: International tourists should plan a flight to the Bangalore international airport. I got on to the Bangalore-Shimoga highway [NH-206] and reached the River Tern Lodge in Chikmagalur district.
The directions can be found on the website:
The ideal time to see river terns roosting on an island is between June and August and to findtigers, you have to visit between March and May. The distance from Bangalore is 250 km.
The cost excluding airfare for jungle lodges resort is £60 per person per night. This includes stay in a furnished log hut with shower, continental cuisine for lunch, dinner and breakfast, jeep safari into the Bhadra tiger reserve, bird watching, boat ride and camera fees. For water activities like sailing, kayaking, fishing etc there may be an extra charge around £1.
Some videos are on: http://www.youtube.com/
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Have You Seen a Tiger This Upclose? - The funniest bloopers are right here
Ever watched a lioness sneeze?
Uploaded by DheemanthiniSharma. - Watch funny animal videos.
MY SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Dr. S. N. Rai,
Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests,
Karnataka Forest Department, Bangalore, India.