Posts Tagged ‘Dandeli’

A colleague, who recently went to Bandhavgarh (ref the picture) which hosts a tiger reserve , asked me why I didn’t write about wildlife and the diminishing numbers of tigers across the country. To be honest, while I enjoy going on excursions and spotting animals in the wild, I am no expert on tigers. But, I also know that one does not have to be an expert on the subject to realise that this magnificent animal is a diminishing breed.

When we went to Dandeli last May, the forest officers told us that there were just a dozen tigers and elephants left in the jungles there – and it’s called the Dandeli-Ambika Nagar Tiger Sanctuary! Why? Because Veerappan and his goons, killed most of them. Veerappan is dead and gone, but tigers continue to be killed. When most State governments are more concerned about their own survival, why would they care about the tiger’s?

The fact is that you and I can’t do much to save the tiger. One can give up everything and move into the jungle to protect them from poachers. But how many of us will be willing to do that? Which brings us to the people whose job it is to protect the tiger – the government .

How concerned they are about saving the tiger and other form of wldlife can be seen from the fact that anyone ( that includes poachers, film stars and ministers) can just drive into a forest reserve and gun down wild animals. And the government will make the right noises and forget about it. You can have all the inquiries and court cases, but it’s still one tiger less in this country.

When we went to Dandeli we saw very few forest guards inside the sanctuary. Mind you, the entire forest is almost 500 sq km so to protect it would take a sizeable number of personnel. Would any state government be interested in hiring more people to do that?

Just click here and you’ll see that the last time the site of the Wildlife Institute of India was updated was in 2006! The tiger population then was 3642. The Wildlife Protection Society of India’s website states that as of February 12, 2008, the tiger population is 1,411.

Does the government care? The figures above tell us quite clearly, how much it does!


Dandeli:Relaxing in the jungle – I

Posted: June 10, 2009 in Uncategorized
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The sky in Dandeli lit up, intermittently crisscrossed with brilliant flashes and thunderclaps rumbled across the valley like drumbeats. Howling winds rattled the doors and windows of our cottage, and torrential rain hammered down on the roof. Mother Nature was at her petulant best.
We came to Dandeli expecting a lot…It’s called a wildlife sanctuary, but we saw very little wildlife here. There were some bison, numerous deer, and a whole lot of birds (the feathered kind), but we didn’t see any tigers, panthers, leopards or even elephants. According to officials at the Camp, there aren’t more than a dozen each of the animals mentioned above. The reason for that, locals say, is the late sandalwood smuggler and brigand, Veerappan, who killed the animals for their tusks and skins.
We checked into the Pradhani jungle camp on May 19, around noon. We would have never found our way there, but the officials at Pradhani sent an escort vehicle. It was a lovely resort, hidden in the reserve forests overlooking the valley. In the afternoon we set off to spot crocodiles in the River Kali. We did see quite a few and the guide even brought some baby crocs for us to hold.
Back at the Camp, during tea we spotted a giant squirrel in the trees next to the dining area. I had never seen anything like it before. The squirrels we’ve seen are those puny creatures that can fit in the palm of the hand. This one was at least 2 feet in length with a very colourful tail.
That night the staff brought us some lanterns just in case the lights went out – and it did. The lantern, we realized later, was a very bad idea, because it attracted a lot of insects that materialized through the cracks in the false ceiling. We were soon brushing away the insects that were crawling on our hands, legs and faces. (More)

Dandeli – Not too much wildlife– II

Posted: June 10, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Before dawn the next day we were taken on a jungle safari. This was the most disappointing part of our stay in Dandeli. We spotted a wild owl, a peacock, some deer and bison, but not a single big cat or even a tusker. We also visited Sintheri rocks, a 300-feet high single piece of rock under which runs a whirlpool, where 12 tourists had previously lost their lives for not heeding the warning to avoid swimming.
In the evening as we relaxed outside our cottage, we watched dark clouds gather rapidly overhead and knew we were in for big trouble. A few drops of rain, soon gave way to a steady drizzle. The breeze was soon replaced by strong winds and the drizzle was replaced by heavy rain. Then the lights went out. And all hell broke loose. Thunder, lightning, downpour and howling winds, we got it all that night. We were really worried that the roof of our cottage might blow away, but it stood firm!
That night we put the lanterns in the bathroom and had a relatively peaceful sleep, even without a fan. If there was a complaint we had about the Pradhani Camp, it was to do with maintenance.
Okay, so we were in the jungle and should not be squeamish about insects and reptiles crawling around. But the rooms at the Pradhani camp were in a deplorable state. The false ceiling in the room was made of damaged pieces of thermocole with huge gaps between the pieces, allowing worms and insects to fall on unwary guests throughout the night. The night it rained, water began seeping through the ceiling and walls. To me, it looked like a case of doing cheap work rather than getting work done cheap – which was a pity, because otherwise the place is beautiful and the staff simply wonderful. (More)

The next morning we moved to Kali River Resort about 10 kms away, where we lived in a tent. Even as we were settling in, we heard that the resort staff had caught a snake quite close to our tent and sent it back into the jungle! After that, I got busy securing all the gaps in the tent and made sure the front door was shut at all times! Right along side our tent, was the River Kali, where during the rains and in the winter as you take a coracle ride you can spot crocodiles swimming past.
(There was, of course, another occasion we spotted a venomous snake. That was at Hampi. As we were driving towards the Tulabharam monument (a place where kings were weighed in gold) we saw this huge reptile emerging from the ruins, coming towards our car. I was paralysed by the sight and stopped the car. As the reptile got closer, I felt real fear. Hell, I know I was inside the car and all that, but watching that thing coming closer, quite honestly scared the shit out of me! Then the snake stopped.
The guide saw the hood and yelled that it was a cobra. I don’t know who was more scared by all the commotion – me or the snake, but then it turned tail and slithered away. Our guide jumped out of the car and ran after it, mobile in hand, desperately trying to click pictures! Although my wife seemed inclined to follow the guide, I just sat there transfixed by the sight. It’s one thing to see them behind glass cages and tease them, but it’s an entirely different experience confronting them in the open.)
That evening we went on another jungle safari. This time too we didn’t see anything of interest except a Barasinga (a deer with 12 horns) which I spotted as it sprinted through the forest. The animal suddenly reached the clearing, and stopped to look at our car. We were just 20 metres away and even as the driver of our jeep screeched to a halt, the Barasinga sprang right across the car to the other side and disappeared into the foliage. That was the closest we got to experiencing wildlife during our entire trip.
So after three days in Pradhani and Dandeli, we left for Kolhapur on May 22, on our way to Dapoli – Our last halt before returning to Pune.
Next: in Dapoli

1st Leg, May 16: Pune-Islampur-Sangli-Athni-Bijapur

2nd Leg: May 17: Bijapur-Hampi

3rd Leg: May 18: Hampi-Hubli (night halt)

4th Leg: May 19: Hubli-Dandeli

5th Leg: May 22: Dandeli-Kolhapur (night halt)

6th Leg: May 23: Kolhapur-Chiplun-Dapoli

7th Leg: May 24: Dapoli-Polladpur-Pune

Just playing with the headline from an old school joke, that’s all! We called it FRCS then…

This trip was much shorter than the one we did last year around the same time. That time we had travelled from Pune to Karwar and then drove down NH 17 to Kanyakumari. From KK we drove up to Chennai, then Bangalore and back to Pune over 21 days. But considering the fact that this summer is hotter than the last one, we knew it was going to be a tiring journey.

We left Pune (Katraj bypass) at 7.10 am. Having heard the horror stories about the Solapur Highway, we thought taking the Mumbai-Bangalore Highway (NH 4) would be a better idea, even if only till Islampur. In hindsight, I think it was a correct decision. The Swift had clocked 33769 kms at that point.

Like always, rather than stop at some eatery along the highway, we munched on sandwiches in the car itself. Since driving on NH 4 is always a pleasure so early in the morning, munching at a sandwich is an easy task! If you’ve had the misfortune of driving on NH 4 while returning to Pune on a Sunday evening (a bit like driving on a busy city road at 7 pm) from an outing, you’ll know why I said ‘pleasure’!

After driving on NH-4 till Islampur we took a left off NH-4 for Sangli town, where we encountered a pot-holed, bumpy stretch all the way from Islampur into Sangli town.

But I guess the scenic beauty of the countryside made up for the bumpy roads. The long green stretches of sugarcane fields were so soothing that I drove off the road, parked near one of the fields, opened the cars doors and let the breeze in! And there’s nothing like a cup of tea to add to that moment. We were off and away 15 minutes later.

The roads in Sangli town were equally bad and we were glad to get out of the place and head towards Miraj. Once we left Miraj behind, and went past Arag, we were on our way to Athni in Karnataka. It was only after we crossed into Karnataka that the roads improved dramatically.

This was one feature of the State Highways in Karnataka – all in pretty good shape, except when one reached a village, where we slammed into multiple speed humps. We barrelled over quite a few inadvertently and I was a bit worried about the tubeless tyres. Fortunately, it was nothing serious. 

Unlike State Highway 12, once we entered Bijapur town, the roads were an even bigger mess than the ones in Sangli. To add to the usual traffic snarls, were the potholed roads and confusing road signs. Even the auto guys gave us conflicting directions to Station Road, where we were told all the hotels were situated.

We reached Hotel Pearl on Station Road at 1.10 pm. It was a nondescript place where the rent was also not too steep. It was also just a km away from NH 13, which we would have to take the next day for our onward journey to Hampi. We had driven 371 kms (34140) in 4:45 hours (15-minute tea break not included).

After lunch and a quick nap, we set out for the Gol Gumbaz, which is the mausoleum of Mohammed Adil Shah. Fortunately, it was walking distance from the hotel. Apart from the size and height of the dome, the acoustics and air conditioning inside the Gol Gumbaz, would put most of our electronics and AC companies, respectively, to shame! Not for one moment did we perspire inside the mausoleum even after climbing the 200 odd steps to reach the dome, because there was a cool breeze that wafted through the monument.

When our guide whispered something from across the hall inside the mausoleum we heard it in stereophonic sound, loud and clear where we were, almost 90 feet away! Trust me, narrating it, isn’t half as exciting as it was experiencing it.

With the benefit of technology and hindsight we call ourselves an advanced and superior race. But exploring what’s left behind of this dynasty and later the one at Hampi, one realised that they had very little to work with and yet developed infrastructure that was very advanced, which not only withstood the test of time, but the elements as well. Would we say the same about the water pipelines that run under our city even 20 years later?

Next: visiting the awesome Hampi

Returning to insanity!

Posted: May 29, 2009 in Travelogues
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It’s been a crazy ten odd days – driving from Pune to Bijapur to Hampi to Dandeli to Dapoli and back to Pune. And in that madness was bliss! It was an experience driving through the jungles and the ghats in Karnataka, once inhabited by the infamous Veerappan and lots of wild animals. The first is now dead and second is on its way to becoming extinct.

The story is that the bandit, is himself responsible for the paucity of the endangered species for whom the forests were home. A real pity because watching a tiger, leopard or an elephant in their natural surroundings would have been much more exciting than seeing them in cages. But we did spot a few other wild animals. The resort staff also caught a long and rather dangerous looking reptile, some distance away from our tent. The staff released in the wild. Not a very pleasant thought, if like me you shudder everytime you see something that slithers.

Spending three days in jungle resorts situated in the Dandeli forests was fun — if you like roughing it out. You have the company of mosquitoes, an assorted variety of insects, an occasional snake, jungle squirrel, peacock and lots of monkeys. The view was fantastic, the food was edible and the staff was friendly and always eager to please. The night we reached it poured. There was lightning, thunder and a strong gale threatened to rip the roof off our hut.

The rains followed us everywhere, except to Dapoli, where we needed it the most. Had it rained there, we might have been tempted to stay on for a few more days and sight a few more dolphins.

I’m preparing the travelogue. Hopefully, over the weekend we should have them ready, along with the pictures.