Walk On The Wild Side
you donít run into wildlife at Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary,
donít fret... the beauty of the forest and thrilling white
water rafting more than makes up for it, says Achal Dhruva
there is nothing wildly exciting about a group of black-faced
langoors making obscene gestures. Unless, of course, it is
the only wildlife on the horizon. For a successful sojourn
into any wildlife sanctuary, luck is a key factor.
Unfortunately for my photographer friend, Sherwin and me,
lady luck was not smiling during our time in Dandeli Wildlife
Sanctuary. Located in north Karnataka, Dandeli was an anti-climax
of sorts after all the interesting stories we had heard about
its wildlife plus a rather dramatic narrative by Deepak, accountant
of Indian Adventures Wildlife Resorts, on almost breaking
the 100 metre Olympic record after being chased by a sloth
bear on one of his early morning jogs. All Sherwin and I managed
to spot was a lone female barking deer, a few chitals, a Malabar
giant squirrel and loads of piped Malabar hornbills.
But it didnt really matter because the beauty of the
forest, intertwined by perennial rivers like Kali and Kaneri,
was overwhelming. The concept of rich sightings in the summer
due to animals congregating at watering holes is a non-starter
in this almost impregnable forest. Instead, the winter months
are more promising with groups of bison and elephants on view.
The huge and majestic bison is the most famous resident of
the sanctuary. Our disappointment was acute at not being able
to capture the beast on frame. To make up for the absence
of wildlife sightings, Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary has a number
of interesting places to break the monotony of the safari.
At the top of the must-see list are Cavala Caves and Syntheri
Cavala, at a descent of 300 steps into the valley, is a large
cave with a huge natural rock formation in the shape of a
Shivling deep in its recesses. The view of the Yalla Range
with its thick forested slopes and the Kaneri river snaking
through the valley is worth the arduous trek back and forth
from the cave. A lush green canopy dotted with hills stretches
as far as the eye can see. The forest guard says it extends
right into Goa, believe it or not.
Rocks, situated outside the sanctuary, is yet another wonderful
quirk of nature. An imposing limestone cliff-face with hundreds
of beehives, it has dark mysterious caves at its base. Surrounded
by thick jungle, its a spot designed by nature to make
you sit and stare for hours. Kulgi Point, an observation post
off the road, three kilometres from the sanctuary gates just
before the forest department office at Kulgi, is another place
from where you get a breathtaking view of the valley.
For us, the highlight of our short trip last summer was the
river Kali. Enchanting, exciting and enticing, the meandering
Kali is the first and only river in South India offering the
thrills of White Water River Rafting (WWRR).
run on the Kali is memorable for the surrounding beauty rather
than the rapids. Addis Beard, the first rapid, classified
as grade III, is the biggest. Your adrenaline starts pumping
and your heart starts thumping as the raft approaches the
rapid. And then it is over in a blink as our raft went down
headlong into the fuming frothy waters, getting buffeted a
couple of times by the river and then getting flushed out.
and stirred, flush with excitement, a little tingle running
down my spine, I wanted more. Unfortunately, though there
is a rapid roughly every kilometre on the eight-kilometre
short run and the 14 kilometre long run, none matches the
thrill of the first.
Hut in Dandeli Forest
surfing is equally exciting. The feeling of diving into the
cold water after sweating your guts out paddling and to emerge
looking at the clear blue sky dotted with cotton puff clouds
is incredible. Floating gently downstream, mesmerised by the
flight of the crested serpent eagle above and lulled by the
deafening silence of the thick jungle on both sides, I felt
as if suspended in time and space.
Then reality hit back with a vengeance. There are crocodiles
further downstream in the calmer stretches, the words
of Rajesh, our guide, suddenly echoed in my mind. Floating
in the river, far from the raft, I suddenly found tree stumps
near the shore beginning to assume sinister shapes. Though
there had been the hint of a smile on Rajeshs lips as
he had shared this information, I was in no mood to find out
if he was joking. I waved frantically to be picked up.
The Kali cuts through thick forest and its easy to believe
stories of wildlife sightings right on the banks including
the famous sighting of a black panther by a rafter a few years
ago. Its a wet and wild world out there, one that is
sure to leave you infused with the feeling of being an explorer
journeying through the unknown.
was his search for a virgin river that first brought Englishman
John Pollard to the Kali after trial runs on Kaveri and Sita,
both in Karnataka. With 10 years of rafting experience, including
a stint as head guide for Fazinatour Adventure Company, InnsValley,
Austria, Pollard came to India in 1993 for rafting on the
Ganges. He liked the country so much that he stayed back doing
runs on rivers like Alakhnanda, Bhagirathi and Beas. He later
explored the South Indian rivers for their rafting potential.
with a view: Cottage overlooking the Kali river at Bison
like to do runs on virgin rivers, its a wonderful challenge,
says Pollard. He has rafted on rivers in Australia, Switzerland,
Italy and Nepal. According to him, South Indian rivers are
more technical and require greater amount of skill. This is
especially true for Kali. It being a perennial river
due to construction of dams, rafting conditions depend much
on the water level, revealed Pollard. In 1999, he set
up Kalio2 (attached to Jungle Lodges), an adventure and rafting
company. January and February are ideal due to high
water levels, right temperature and no vacation rush,
he opined. A stay at the Bison River Resort (property of Indian
Adventures Wildlife Resorts), spread over three acres right
on the river bank overlooking the first rapid, Addis
Beard, makes the Kali experience complete. The resort, located
on the outskirts of Ganeshguddi, a small village 25 kms from
Dandeli, comprises neat stone cottages under a canopy of towering
trees with a panoramic view of the river.
So, if you have planned a run of the mill holidays on Goan
beaches this Diwali, for a change take a break and enjoy a
wet-n-wild experience on the Kali.
Wildlife Sanctuary: A typical moist deciduous forest
with pockets of semi and evergreen, the 475 sq km sanctuary
is generally undulating with steep slopes, deep river
valleys and hilly forest terrain. It houses animals like
elephant, tiger, leopard, gaur, sloth bear, wild boar,
civet cat, barking deer, chital, sambar, wild dog, giant
squirrel, flying squirrel, jackal, common langoor and
bison. The main bird species include magpie, robin, crested
serpent eagle, blue headed ground thrush, Malabar pied
hornbill, woodpecker etc.
Airport: Dabolim-Goa (140 km)
Railhead: Londa (32 km)
By road there are direct buses from Mumbai to Dandeli
(548 kms) via Belgaum. Panjim is just a two-and-a-half
hour drive through Phonda Ghat, Ramnagar and on to Dandeli.
Time: Park is open from October to June. Winter months
are best for sightings.
more information contact: Indian Adventures Wildlife Resorts
(Mumbai): 6408742/6406399/6428244, Website: www.indianadventures.com
a jungle out there
Pics: Achal Dhruva