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Old 8th January 2016, 19:26   #1
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Default A drive through some of the Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Western Ghats

Our daughter moved to Ahmedabad from Chennai recently, and since her car (Nissan Sunny) was at Chennai, we decided to bring it back and at the same time visit some of the National Parks along the Western Ghats. Our plan was to cover the following:

Silent Valley National Park
Bandipur National Park
Nagarhole National Park
Dandeli National Park
Koyna wildlife Sanctuary

The idea was to travel through the meandering roads of the western ghats and take in the sights on the way. While we had to make reservations at the National parks, we kept a day or two to spare in between some of them so that we were not rushed and had some leeway. Secondly, we wanted to have a leisurely trip and not the usual "beating the established time" hectic drive.

Accordingly, we had earmarked 15 days for the trip starting from 29th November at Chennai.
The route planned was as follows:

A drive through some of the Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Western Ghats-screen-shot-20160108-7.19.58-pm.png

Alas! We forgot all about Mr. Murphy and his Law. We found, to our dismay, that Mr Murphy was alive and well and up to his old tricks. We had just finished the plan when disaster struck! There was a storm warning at Chennai for 28th and 29th of November. We had planned to reach Chennai on the 27th November by air from Ahmedabad, take a day to pack essentials and check the car, and leave on the 29th morning. Chennai had some extensive rains the week before and we did not want to take the forecast lightly ( though meteorological forecasts in India are quite dependable....in their inaccuracy, that is!)
After rescheduling every thing, the revised plan was to now start on the 1st December from Chennai and hence we planned to reach Chennai on the 29th November.

Little did we know that Murphybhai was quite upset with us, having spoken so badly of him and had therefore reserved some special snafus for us.

Our daughter suddenly remembered that the Nissan agent had mentioned that the brakes need to be checked. We got in touch with the service centre and he agreed to check the car and if necessary replace the liners. the car was taken on the 28th and the agent promised to deliver it by the evening. We reached Chennai as per our revised schedule on the 29th before noon. There had been no rains (why am i not surprised?) on the 28th despite (due to?) the storm warning! When we landed the sky was quite clear and we looked forward to make our preparations. When we reached the house, we had the first shock. The car had not yet been delivered!!!

When we telephoned the dealer he maintained that he had sent the car last evening itself. Now that was a puzzle. Well, it transpired that the driver who delivered the car figured that we would not need it last night and had decided to deliver it in the morning of the 29th and by a happy coincidence delivered the car to our friends place ( from where he had picked it up) when we were telephoning the dealer. By 29th evening the rain started and the intensity increased. Worse, the TV channels reported extensive flooding in parts of Tamil Nadu. We were informed that the road to Vellore was in a bad condition.
Fingers crossed and hoping the rain would slacken.

The rain continued through the night. No way we are going to postpone again. We loaded the car amidst the drizzle and set off. The early morning drizzle within no time turned into a steady down pour. Surprisingly, the traffic was quite heavy at 0600 hrs. Mostly trucks and buses. It was quite trying negotiating the potholes in low visibility and heavy traffic. I had thought that the practice of two wheelers and three wheelers and at times, cars using the wrong side of the road was only prevalent in the Northern States, but i was wrong.

With all the excitement we got into the wrong road- the chennai bypass road- instead of continuing on NH 4. My daughter commented that the Porur lake seemed full but we thought nothing of it at that time. In fact we could see water bodies every where and some of them overflowing on the road, but slightly- we didn't think much of it. We managed to take the Wahajabad road-quite a bad road- and reached Kanchipuram where the first business of the day was to have breakfast with a relative and then check out the temples. We were treated to hot dosas (actually dosai) and wadas (wadai) along with the requisite accompaniments. Though we spent an hour, the rain still continued its steady drizzle. The second agenda would have to be dropped. Bummer! But wait. A saving grace. The Vaikunta Perumal Koil was nearby and happily we braved the rain and went to have a look.
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As expected, due to the rain, there was not a soul in sight, both outside and inside the temple. There is no write up about this heritage at all on the grounds, gate or elsewhere. There is only a sign warning visitors that this was a heritage property protected by the laws of the land and so on)The ASI needs to be informed about this. We do need to take better care of our heritage. No use bolting the stable door after the horse has run away, so to speak. Or is it, closing the stable door after the horse has bolted? What ever, you get my drift.
I was relieved to see that the interiors were reasonably maintained and clean.
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We left Kanchipuram at 1030 hrs or so. By that time Chennai had started flooding and some roads were closed. We had just beaten the deluge by a few hours! We silently apologised to Mr. Murphy and in a weak moment, i even rashly promised that i would build a temple in his honour.

The plan was to go next to Vellore and check out the golden temple. Being ignorant of temples, i had assumed that it would be an heritage one, affording one with a glimpse of the past. Little did i know that it was a new temple, built on vast grounds, with a covered walkway some 2 kms long! We reached Vellore without any further mishap and had a first look at the temple entrance.
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My enthusiasm quickly cooled off. Neither was the temple old nor was photography allowed. I am no religious zealot ( on the other end of the spectrum, in fact) but i do get upset when i see religious establishments having special privileges for the rich and powerful. They even had a premium car parking, as is evident from the photograph. Still having come all the way, we took a chakker inside. The temple is run like a corporate with customers, sorry pilgrims, forced to enter shops peddling various goods ( the 2 km pathway is diverted through shops and one is bombarded with sales talk till you cross the shop and exit ) and boards advertising the principles and qualities of the management and founder. The temple had few visitors, no doubt due to the rain, and we could go through it quickly. On the return, we were asked to take "prasad" comprising of a hot lunch in the dining area. The dining area was quite clean and the service efficient. The food was hot. Quite impressive. However, the good impression was slightly dented by the gentle persuasion for donations after one came out from the dining hall. I am sure that money is required to do good to the needy, but i can't help but feel that commercialisation of religious establishments should be taken only thus far. One cannot help weighing the pros and cons of spending money building such huge religious establishments; versus investing in education, healthcare and social needs. We have enough religious establishments to take care of our troubled souls, when needed.
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We came out and got into the car. While driving out of the parking, a couple of gents were gesturing wildly and saying something (which we could not hear since the glass was rolled up). This happened again and we realised that Mr Murphy was at it again.....disaster had struck. All my promises had gone to waste. or maybe he saw through my sham?

We rolled down the window and asked them "What's up?" or to that effect in Tamil. They again gestured to the front of the car and when we looked we had a flat tyre, flatter than a plank of wood, freshly cut from the saw mill! And of course it was raining. And you guessed it. The nearest puncher repair shop was 5 kms away. i made a mental note to buy a compressor and tyre puncture kit for my future travels. ( Already bought it and yes Team-BHP site helped)

Taking out the luggage, and my 15kgs of photographic equipment in the rain was not an option and there was no shelter to speak of. Well, thank god for small mercies- there was a mechanic with a compressor near by- i drove with the flat tyre sans the passengers, filled up air and scooted to the tyre shop, which luckily had an awning in front. These tubeless tyres makes life simpler -at least for mending punctures- till Murphy throws a curve ball!-more on that later.

We were on our way to the night halt at Salem and we booked at the Park Plaza. This is a good hotel and the rooms were well appointed and clean.
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We checked in, freshened up, and came down to find the bar and the restaurant both deserted. It was early yet, it seems.
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After checking out the route to Mukkali for the next day, we made a bee line to the restaurant, where they confirmed that we could order our much required liquid sustenances and later on the solid.
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And so ended our first day of travel. Tomorrow would see us entering the Silent Valley national park in Kerala.

After a comfortable rest, the next morning saw a slight drizzle - nothing much, but i could not explore the grounds. We had a hearty breakfast at 0930 hrs and set off for Mukkali- the furthest point one is allowed to go by one's own vehicle- to enter The Silent Valley National park in Kerala. We were asked to reach Mukkali at 1500 hrs. More than enough time since it was just over a 4 hour drive. The route was as follows:

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It was a beautiful drive. The weather was cool, the air crisp and fresh, and the route scenic. In general, people down South are more traffic conscious and follow the rules, than people from the North of India. This does not include the big Metros. City folks are a different breed altogether. The best part of self driving is that you can stop at will. With democracy prevailing in the confines of the car, all the three had the same privileges and stops were frequent. Local agriculture produce was samples like tender coconuts, cucumbers, peanuts and such. Soon we started climbing the Nilgiri hills and the views were breathtaking. There were many interesting sights, such as this temple in the forest, called Sri Gangai Karuupa Sami koil in Kottathara on the way from Anaikatti to Attapadi. Taxi and bus drivers pay their respects to this deity- helps ward off accidents.

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The route shown in the google maps is not the route we took as far as the last 50 kms or so is concerned. We actually had to go though a different route ( which does not show up on the google map) and this cost us another hour- though we were not complaining. The long and short of it was that we were late. We were specifically told, nay instructed, to report to the Mukkali office of the Silent Valley National Park (SVNP) latest by 1500 hrs and it was already 1430 hrs and at the pace we were travelling, at least 45 minutes to go. We speeded up and after quite a bit of asking around, managed to reach the customer services center of SVNP at 1510 hrs. We were met by a genial young man, who after confirming our identities, asked us to go to the Forest range office down the road where we would be taken to the cottages. At the forest range office, we were met by a forest staffer who informed us that a jeep was waiting to take us to the cottages and asked us to park our car in the premises. The jeeps are outsourced by the forest department and we were met by a surly driver who probably being upset by our tardiness, didn't offer to help with the baggages. I had to request him to consider bring his jeep near our car so that the transfer could be easier, which he grudgingly did.

A half hour drive (more than half way through the same road we had come) and we came to the forest cottages in Boomiyampadi. We had opted for the Boomiyampadi package (see http://silentvalley....oomiyampadi.php ) which included stay, food and a trip to the valley. We had requested a three person staying cottage which cost us Rs 7200/- , which covered stay, food, drive to the valley for one night and day, for all the three of us!

We reached the cottages at around 1615 hrs to be met by Gopalakrishnan - the receptionist cum caretaker cum chef cum general factotum cum chief information officer cum a knight in shining armour. and the best part was that he had a welcoming smile which warmed one's heart.

No, we could not have a late lunch regretfully, and no tiffin either. We made do with tea and biscuits.

There are quite a few cottages but no other visitors except for us. Some of the cottages had forest guards staying- some eight of them- seems that the area has some issues with some of the tribals - commonly termed as Maoists, though they have not been known to target tourists as such. The cottages are reasonably clean, over sized and built with a total lack of aesthetics or functional jurisprudence. The colour scheme inside the room is atrocious, to say the least.

We had a splendid Malayalee dinner- simple and nourishing- and bedded for the night.

Silent Valley is an evergreen forest and it pretty much rains for 9 months in a year. The air is crisp and pure with all that oxygen that people like me coming from polluted cities got a high! There is no sign of dust and the leaves, birds, flowers and pretty much all the flora and fauna are clean and look vibrant - a far cry from the dusty place i come from. The cottages of the SVNP were nested on a small valley between the hills. I went for a walk and saw some splendid sights and some birds. There were lichens growing all over the place which shows how pure the environment is.

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The people are also very friendly and i saw quite a few school buses ferrying children to and fro. Figures! Kerala has the highest literacy rate amongst its citizens in India.

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Well. I guess these do help preserve our environment, but cannot help feeling that they spoil the visual environment.
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At 0800 hrs sharp, Nazier showed up to take us to the SVNP. Nazier was the antithesis of the grumpy driver of the evening before. He was amicable, a student and worked part time as a driver cum guide cum naturalist cum friendly neighbourhood help. Seems everyone was juggling a lot of hats!

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There did not seem to be any way to anchor my large lens, so i reluctantly settled for the 70-200mm and even more reluctantly attached the TC1.7 E-II. ( i feel that the combination of the 70-200mm f2.8 VR-II along with the TC 1.7E-II does not provide the IQ that prime lenses along with the TC provide- would be interested in opinions on this subject) It was to be a 5 hour trip- 2 hours going into the valley, and hour and a half there, and 1.5 hours coming back. We were anxious to come back early since we had to travel to Bandipur ( after lunch) and the forest road near Bandipur closed at 2100 hrs- we were warned that if we did not make it in time, there was no way to enter Bandipur Safari Lodge. Worse, someone helpfully declared that the time of cut off was actually 1800 hrs. Great! It was a 4 hour drive from Mukkali to Bandipur and if the gate closed at 1800 hrs, there was no way we could make it. We telephoned a couple of people and the jury was divided. One for 1800 hrs and one for 2100 hrs!

We therefore planned to leave at 1400 hrs, after lunch and hence we would have to be back at least by 1300 hrs. So we hustled and started out at 0800 hrs sharp. What we did not bargain for is the "entries" that have to be made in the register at the forest office, giving all details about yourself- wasted another 15 minutes.

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A drive through some of the Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Western Ghats-mr2_30082.jpgPlease excuse the poor quality- took a hurried shot.
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The drive, to say the least, is magnificent. Silent Valley is the land of the Lion tailed Macaque and we spotted some about 30 minutes into our drive.

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These are such royal animals - their gait is magnificent. If you observe, their fingers look similar to those of humans.

We also saw some common macaques and i could get a shot of one jumping from one tree to another:

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Last edited by GTO : 13th January 2016 at 11:00. Reason: Spacing :). Thanks for sharing!
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Old 8th January 2016, 21:18   #2
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"The British named the area Silent Valley because of a perceived absence of noisy cicadas. Another story attributes the name to the anglicisation of Sairandhri, the name of the queen, Sairandhri (Draupadi) from the Mahabharatha. A third story, refers to the presence there of many lion-tailed macaques Macaca silenus." - https://en.wikipedia...y_National_Park
There are many small waterfalls along the road. We stopped and tasted the water. It was refreshing. For those who have been to dry or semi dry deciduous forests in the plains, SVNP would be very different. First of all, due to the excessive green cover, spotting animals is quite difficult. Secondly there is only one road in and out. Hence you would only be able to see any animals on the way.

​Some two hours later we reached the end of the drive: a scenic spot which had a watch tower, some guard huts and some conveniences for tourists. Silent Valley was at the center of a struggle, some 25 years back, between the environmentalists and the politicians who wanted to build a dam for an hydro electric project, thereby submerging the valley.

The views were stunning:
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We climbed the watch tower and enjoyed the view. the clouds, mist and mountains seemed to merge together in a sort of mystical air. When i was young and read Phantom comics, there was one about the Misty Mountains- seemed in my mind similar

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The weather had cleared, though it was a bit cloudy, and we were invigorated by the cool breeze on top of the watch tower. Reluctantly, we made our way down since we were conscious of the fact that we had to maintain time discipline ( forest road closing at 1800 hrs? or 2100 hrs?) Gopalakrishnan had packed some tea and biscuits and also thrown in a loaf of bread and some jam. We had the tea and biscuits at the shelter which has been put up and used the conveniences.

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Nazier asked whether we wanted the bread and jam and when we replied in the negative, asked whether he could give the bread and jam to the guards?

Some background:
There is a guard camp at the base of the valley ( where we were), the main purpose of which is to ensure that poachers as well as wood smugglers are discouraged from carrying out their illegal and nefarious activities. These guards stay for 60 days at a time here and go on their daily patrol- sometimes for a couple of days- ensuring that the environment is protected. They carry their own rations and cook by themselves. While the basic staples are delivered by the forest department, they often have to depend on jeeps coming into the valley for getting other supplies (remember- the valley is 1.5 hours away from the nearest village)

We felt very bad. Here are some dedicated humans protecting the environment and they live a hard life. The least we could do is to ensure that they are appreciated for the work they do. We went to where a guard was going about his daily chores and picked up a conversation with him. We found that it was indeed a monotonous and hard life- without any social contact for 8 weeks at a time. They tend the garden, grow some vegetables to keep occupied in their spare time. We appreciated the work done and made some small talk- making a mental note to put this issue on ST so that in future visitors could both engage them, appreciate their work and unobtrusively carry some extra supplies of hard to get snacks.

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Time was getting on. We hastened to the jeep and set off for our return journey. With all the frequent stops and the time spent with the guards, we reached the cottages only at 1:30 pm and after quickly packing, we sat down for lunch. It was a sumptuous lunch- Gopalakrishnan had really done us proud- it was a full Malayalee spread, comprising of some 12 dishes. My only grouse was that there was no dessert or a sweet dish. I had to make do with bananas.

We tucked in, loaded our stuff into the jeep, bade goodbye to GK and off we went to Mukkali where we had left our car. Some 30 minutes later, my wife suddenly said: "oh no" Stop!!

What now?

All of us, including the driver turned to her." i have left my medicine in the fridge at the cottage" - she said with woebegone face. Not retrieving the medicine was not an option and hence the options available to us were to request GK to bring it by motorcycle to Mukkali ( which would save time and he would hopefully be there by the time we paid our bills) or we would have to go back and fetch it- which would mean a delay of at least an hour. We were already late as it was and i was already imagining all types of nasty things happening to us when we were stuck on the border for the night; and so we decided to explore option one and Nazier dialled GK. Well, just to remind you folks that it does not pay to slight Mr Murphy. GK's motorcycle had been borrowed by someone and hence he would not be able to bring the medicine. The next brainwave was to ask the womenfolk to go ahead and do the exit formalities at Mukkali, whilst i hotfooted it back to the cottages by taking a lift or hiring a rickshaw which we saw plying on the roads. Murphy, it seems anticipated this move too. No rickshaws were seen for about 10 minute wait nor was anyone going that side. :( We had no option but to go back. On the way, about 10 minutes later we saw someone on a motorcycle coming from the opposite side, frantically waving to us. It was a stranger with the medicine! GK had asked some good samaritan to deliver the medicine.

After thanking him profusely, we hastened back to Mukkali , where we paid the dues, loaded our car and set out for Bandipur. It was 1530 hrs and the map predicted that we would take around 4.5 hours to reach Bandipur. That is 2000 hrs if all went well. However, we had no idea how far from the lodge was the forest entry gate. The route was as under:

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By 1800 hrs it started darkening and by 1830 hrs it was quite dark. Worse the road from Gudalur to BNP is very bad. Out of the total 32 odd kms, about 13 kms are very bad. Very bad means very bad. There were times when my daughter got out of the car and had to guide me over the rims of the huge potholes. To add to our misery, it had started raining and the potholes had filled up. We took more than an hour to cover the 32 kms and we reached the forest entry gates at 2030 hrs. Phew! Just made it. Happily, the lodge was just 5 minutes away.

Bandipur safari Lodges are run by the Government of karnataka (see:http://www.junglelod...i-lodge-tariff/ ) and located just outside the National forest. The property is vast, the cottages made of brick and mortar, unnecessarily big and modestly appointed. The bathrooms are clean and functional.
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There is a central dining room where everyone congregates for breakfast, lunch, evening tea and dinner. This is also the meeting place before embarking on the safaris where you meet up with your guide and driver.

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After checking in, we freshened up and had a buffet dinner. Dinner is mostly south indian fare, with some north indian dishes - passable. After dinner, we went to bed. Wake up call was 0530 hrs and safari start time was 0600 hrs.

In the morning, we met our guide, Nagendra and were off at 0600 hrs to the entry gates where you have to get a permit. This is all arranged by the lodge and entails waiting for about 15 minutes or so and i used this time to take a few pictures:

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There are buses available to those who don't want a jeep or those who come only for a safari.

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The Government of Karnataka is making efforts to encourage eco tourism though the per diem price ( Rs 8000+ per day per person) could be a bit high for those who want to stay in the safari lodge. hence i guess they try and encourage people to come for a day trip only and use the buses.

About 10 minutes into our safari, we saw a stripe necked mongoose. Evidently, it was not too happy that we had disturbed its morning breakfast hunt.

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It was quite early, when we came to this water hole and Viola!!!

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We had a 10 minute sighting. Then a noisy bus came and the tiger walked away. He had killed a gaur a day back and had just had a full protein meal. The guide informed that after a full meal, the digestion heats up the stomach and hence though it was cool in the morning, the tiger had preferred to immerse his belly in water. No idea if there is any substance to this? But do know that blood rushes to the stomach after a meal and that could give a feeling of warmth- but not enough to immerse yourself- that would in fact be counter productive.
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Last edited by GTO : 13th January 2016 at 10:57. Reason: Moving your latest update up to post #2
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Old 8th January 2016, 21:23   #3
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Default re: A drive through some of the Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Western Ghats

Welcome to Team BHP!

That was quite a drive. As a wildlife enthusiast, I look forward to further posts and photos.
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Old 13th January 2016, 11:02   #4
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 14th January 2016, 09:42   #5
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Default Re: A drive through some of the Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Western Ghats

Hi Earthian

Its a very unique holiday. To drive through the wildlife sanctuaries. I will be waiting to see more pictures. The Royal Highness blessed you at Bandipur...great.

Just curious, why did you take the bus for the safari while staying in Bandipur?

Cheers
Rajain
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Old 14th January 2016, 10:50   #6
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Default Re: A drive through some of the Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Western Ghats

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rajain View Post
Hi Earthian

Its a very unique holiday. To drive through the wildlife sanctuaries. I will be waiting to see more pictures. The Royal Highness blessed you at Bandipur...great.

Just curious, why did you take the bus for the safari while staying in Bandipur?

Cheers
Rajain
Hello Rajain:
We did not take the bus. We had a jeep to ourselves. The photo of the bus was just information i was giving about the park, when waiting for the permits. More will follow
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Old 14th January 2016, 11:16   #7
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Default Re: A drive through some of the Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Western Ghats

We had made it clear to our guide that we enjoyed all the elements of the forest and were not fixated only on the big predators ( though how i wish i could get a leopard in my sights!). However, since majority of the tourists they associate with, are there for a leopard or tiger sighting, i believe that they, over time, become tiger centric. It is also a sad commentary that these naturalists and drivers are tipped only if a "big" sighting is made and hence they tend to unconsciously follow that. Being poorly paid also doesn't help.

Nagaendra was happy that we seemed to genuinely enjoy all elements of the forest and he cast aside the tiger fixation.
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Lantana Camara, for example, is known to us as a nice, colourful, flowering plant. However, this shrub, imported from South America, has now invaded the entire forest-so much so that the original endemic species of plants are all lost.
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Every where that we looked we saw Lantana. There is a debate taking place amongst the environmentalists whether Lantana should be cleared from the forests. No outcome yet- for now they have cleared it from either side of the road.
What do you all think?

A group of Brahminy starlings made a pretty picture as well as a pied kingfisher searching for his morning meal:

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and then we saw the elephants

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There was a tusker which wanted to cross the road. While we stopped our jeep a respectable distance away, we saw some prize asses stop their car and try and take a selfie with the tusker. Selfie of ass with elephant. A most dangerous move as one motorcyclist found- It charged him and in his terror the motorcycle stalled. Quick thinking by our driver who brought our jeep near and allowed the cyclist to get his nerve back. It may have been a mock charge, but mock charges could become real if the elephant gets irritated.

A drive through some of the Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Western Ghats-mr2_35142.jpg Please excuse the poor photograph. i was quite angry and hence the quality of the picture.

The evening gave us some splendid sights:

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Our two nights at Bandipur were over and the next stop was Nagarhole. We had booked at the Kabini River Lodge, but we had a day to spare and the choice was continuing to stay at Bandipur for one more night or check out a farm stay in Madumalai hills nearby. we decided to go to the farm to have a change from the forest. The route was :

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So after our morning safari ended, we had some breakfast, packed up, settled dues and left for Gouri farms at around 1100 hrs.

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The drive was again back by the very bad road we had come, but since this was daytime and sunny, we were more relaxed. An hour's drive and we were at Gouri farms, a pleasant farm stay run by two doctors, who initially worked at the US, gave up and settled down in their ancestral property and developed it. They also work at a hospital nearby, engaged in serving the local tribals.
Our cottage was very charming:

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Would we be wanting lunch? Yes, please. Lunch came in a huge tiffin- simple vegetarian south indian fare- with enough rice to feed an army! Though we are south indians by heritage, having lived all our lives in Gujarat, we are basically wheat eaters and the quantum of rice consumption is probably about 10% what any self respecting "madarasi" would consume. Having polished the rest of the tiffin, except a large quantity of rice, i took it back to the kitchen (housed in a different building) and explained the issue to a horrified, sweet old lady, who could not believe that a person weighing over 100 kgs, along with two others, could not do justice to a such a small quantity!

In the evening the lady doctor popped in and invited us to dinner, which we readily accepted. There was a swiss couple along with the two doctors at Dinner and we were treated to some gooseberry and jaggery wine er liqueur. It was very good, if a trifle sweet for my taste. After a couple of drinks, the conversation had entered the realm of politics and environment conservation and we had a good time. Dinner was again south indian fare, with rotis prepared in our honour, and then it was off to bed.

When i associate with people such as our hosts, as well as people from the countryside, i am amazed to see how contended they are with what we city folks, consider so little. They may not have the latest cell phone, or the latest car, or all the conveniences that we are used to; but yet there is a contentment bordering on happiness, that we miss so much. Abraham Maslow should have studied such people also when he researched his famous theory.

The next morning, we had breakfast, bid goodbye to our gracious hosts, and it was off to Kabini River Lodge in the Nagarhole National Park.

Last edited by earthian : 14th January 2016 at 11:44.
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Old 15th January 2016, 10:38   #8
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Default Re: A drive through some of the Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Western Ghats

The route we had to take again entailed going through a road under the control of the Forests department which was open from 6 am to 6 pm. We had plenty of time, and our route was very scenic:

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Just a word of caution. Google maps are not updated to all the road in such areas, nor are the latest road conditions updated. Our actual route was slightly different than the one shown here, courtesy of local advise that we sought from time to time. We have found it best to ask either taxi drivers or truck drivers regarding road conditions since they tend to be more accurate. Asking villagers could lead one to trouble, since they would tend to show the shortest way, which may not be necessarily, the most comfortable or scenic way. We wanted the scenic ways and after asking around, took the recommended one and it did not disappoint us. A biker would be thrilled to go down these meandering, charming ways, with the wind in his face. we did the best we could and rolled down the windows.
We stopped frequently for sampling the local agricultural produce ( tender coconut, cucumber). This is coffee country and hence stops for coffee were a must. We reached KRL comfortably and in time for lunch. We had a cottage just along the river and it was quite well appointed.

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Kabini River lodge is run by the Government of Karnataka and is a beautiful property. see: http://www.junglelod...ni-river-lodge/

The property is long the Kabini river, is vast and the grounds could be maintained better. There are different types of accommodation, ranging from Maharaja cottages, normal cottages, rooms and tents. The tariff plan is all inclusive, including safari. The Maharaja cottage cost around Rs 11,000 pppn and the cost progressively tapers down to Rs 6000 pppn for the tents on twin sharing basis. The rooms are well appointed, clean and spacious. The food has a wider choice than Bandipur, though the service is not as personal as Bandipur.

The next morning we were off on the morning: surprise! Nagaendra's ( guide at Bandipur) brother Ravi was our guide. Seems that serving the environment is the family's priority! Ravi had grown up in the adjoining village and hence it made sense to work in the area. The Government of Karnataka must be complimented in identifying promising youngsters , educating them and then deploying them to work after training. The only suggestion i have is that i did not see any female guides or beat guards whereas in Gir forests in Gujarat we have female beat guards and such.
We came upon a crested hawk eagle which had just killed a grey heron.

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The crested hawk eagle was on the ground and i was anxious to take a shot on the same plane as the eagle. Since getting down from the jeep to the ground was not an option, i slithered down under the seats to the floor of the jeep, wedged my self and my 100+ kgs in the narrow gap and shot these. I would not recommend anyone of my size, age and weight to try such stunts, since getting up could be quite embarrassing! And to top it all i got a "catch" in one of my back muscles creating enormous discomfort. Still, hopefully the pictures were worth it.
We saw some elephants coming our way, herding a young one. It is a beautiful sight to see a group of heavy mammals, protecting a young one- teaching it to survive and lending a helpful hand, sorry leg when needed:

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The forest is a truly amazing place. We need to educate our young to safeguard the environment, unlike ourselves . There are so many animals who live in harmony. Peaceful coexistence.

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The next morning we went by boat for the kabini river safari. It was a great experience and i had an opportunity to capture BIF in the morning sun. My only grouse was that the 70-200mm f2.8 is not as sharp as i would have liked it to be and coupled with a TC 1.7E-II, it made matters even worse. The boat was lightly loaded with only 4 passengers. I could have easily taken the big lens and the tripod, though i am not sure about the results from a moving boat even if one were to shoot at 1/1600 speeds and faster.
The river in the morning was very beautiful. we saw some cormorants and darters waiting to catch breakfast.

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There were two Ospreys hunting. Though i did not, much to my chagrin, get any pictures of an osprey actually in the act of catching a fish, i got some half decent shots of it afterwards.

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I would recommend the boat safari to those visiting kabini. Though tiger centricness continues to define the acts of the boatman and the guide ( a different one today), but they change when they understand that you are happy with birds. We had only two other passengers apart from my daughter and i ( my wife preferred to go on the road safari) and both of them were quite content to watch me chase Ospreys with my camera.

After the safari, we had a good breakfast and started on the next leg of our trip. Our idea was to go to Dandeli national park, more than 600 kms away. Though doable, we wanted to enjoy the journey and take in some sights on the way. We therefore decided to halt at Chikmangalur, and take in the local sights at Belur and Halebeedu. ( to be continued)
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Old 15th January 2016, 11:12   #9
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Default Re: A drive through some of the Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Western Ghats

oops! wrong map uploaded. here is the right one from Gouri farms to Kabini River lodge
A drive through some of the Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Western Ghats-screen-shot-20160112-10.51.13-am.png
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Old 15th January 2016, 16:12   #10
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well written and amazingly superb pictures...
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Old 15th January 2016, 21:33   #11
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well written and amazingly superb pictures...
Thank you, Adroit, Glad to know that you liked it so far. Still to continue
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Old 16th January 2016, 00:00   #12
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Simply amazing photos and narrative! India has some of the most beautiful forests and its a joy to visit the forest, just to experience the atmosphere of the jungle. But don't stop at only these forests,there are many others also that are also supremely beautiful. Keep the photos and the writeup coming and visit as many as you can!
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Old 16th January 2016, 02:41   #13
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Amazing photographs that capture the beauty of nature perfectly. Truly an awesome journey visiting so many National Parks in one go and along with that so many amazing sightings of the wonderful flora and fauna that we have in India. Would love to do something similar sometime.
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Great clicks & simple narration Waiting for the next episode
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Old 16th January 2016, 16:48   #15
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Default Re: A drive through some of the Wildlife Sanctuaries in the Western Ghats

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Originally Posted by W.A.G.7 View Post
Simply amazing photos and narrative! India has some of the most beautiful forests and its a joy to visit the forest, just to experience the atmosphere of the jungle. But don't stop at only these forests,there are many others also that are also supremely beautiful. Keep the photos and the writeup coming and visit as many as you can!
Thank you,Glad that we have another nature lover here.
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Originally Posted by jd10ent View Post
Amazing photographs that capture the beauty of nature perfectly. Truly an awesome journey visiting so many National Parks in one go and along with that so many amazing sightings of the wonderful flora and fauna that we have in India. Would love to do something similar sometime.
Go ahead and plan it. It would be worth it.
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Great clicks & simple narration Waiting for the next episode
Thank you. Next episode follows:
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