Dandeli - Kulgi Nature camp - HORNBILL MANIA!
We left by night 9 and took the NICE highway to join Tumkur road near Nelamangala and being a weekday traffic was not high and it was a smooth sailing. The ride in the Figo was really good and with the NH4 being in excellent condition, the ride was just blissful with the mandatory small breaks in between. I woke up only when Raja had stopped as he was feeling sleepy at the Bankapura toll gate after Haveri, it was around 4am by this time. I took over the driving now and we took the Mundgod-Kalghatgi-Haliyal-Dandeli route that would save around 40+kms of driving if we avoid the NH4 but instead we took 2 additional hours as there were absoultely no roads at all to drive till Haliyal. It was a slow and bumpy ride till Haliyal that joins the state highway from there to Dandeli.
The first job we did at Dandeli was to pacify our hungry stomachs and we then went to the forest department timber depot to collect our permission letters to stay at the Kulgi camp. As we had sufficient time we strolled around the place hoping to sight some hornbills but luck evaded us and then we drove towards the Kulgi camp to get the much needed rest. Rains were persistent all through and it was more of a companion from daybreak with breaks in between and it was a wonderful sight seeing everything lush green. We were very happy to find out that other than us there were no occupants at the Kulgi camp. The tents were clean and neat and we are impressed by the maintanence of the department. Wonderful weather, cozy tents, cook to cook your food, drizzles now and then and importantly no mobile network coverage, what else do you need!
Yes, there is no mobile network coverage at Kulgi camp and you have walk outside the camp to get a feeble signal on BSNL mobile, no coverage of other networks whatsoever. As we had got tents, the bathrooms were common ones outside at a distance, common for all tent users, was surprised to see them clean and neat! Had food, took rest for some time and then we walked to the watch tower opposite to the camp in the interiors which is supposed to be a good place for birding. In the rains, bird life is usually subdued and all that we got to see were some huge spiders on the walls and domesticated buffalloes around. With nothing else to do we were just lazing around whaling our time enjoying the good weather. Post sunset, playing carrom, sipping hot tea and waiting for dinner was all that we could do! Post dinner SLEEP! (after 7pm, there is no difference whether its 8, 9 or 10 and with nothing to do sleep is the only option!) :)
Next day morning we had arranged for a trek and the guide was informed to come at 6:30am. 8am and no signs of him, we got heckled and cancelled the trek and instead we drove towards the backwaters where elephants are frequently sighted during summers. Nothing much to do here too and we walked around for some time and then came back to Kulgi village circle, had tea and then back to the camp and again to the watch tower area.
Post lunch took some rest and rains were persistent now and around 5pm went back to the Kulgi village circle to have some chai. Here was our first sighting of the Malabar Pied hornbills and that made us active and follow them tree by tree. Being very overcast and the couple perched high atop a tree, it was difficult and mostly had to admire them and their beauty through the eyes.
Next day, we went on a safari ride in the park very well knowingly we wouldnt encounter anything, but still... Nothing to expected during rains as all routes except 1 are closed. Back to the camp, after the breakfast we spotted a Red vented bulbul having his breakfast. He had a grasshopper in his mouth, bang it again and again on to the ground till it was in pieces and finally gobbled it. Weird laws of nature! As we were about to leave, we got to see the Malabar giant squirrels 3 of them in one tree and 2 on the same branch.
From Kulgi camp as we had to go to Ganeshgudi JLR camp, we took the longer route via Dandeli as we planned to visit the timber depot again. At the timber depot, Malabar Pied hornbills were everywhere and in huge numbers and we were running around everywhere chasing them!
JLR- The Old Magazine House - Ganeshgudi
From Dandeli we proceeded towards Ganeshgudi where the Jungle Lodges & Resorts " The Old Magazine House" camp is located. From Dandeli, the JLR camp is about 32kms on the state highway which is a pleasure to drive. We were greeted by rain and it was our constant companion for the next 2 days. We were again very happy to know that there were no guests other than us that brought a big smile on our faces. The staff were also more or less the same we had met last year with Parshuram leading the staff. Inspite of intermittent rains, evening time we visited the backwaters of the Supa reservoir that extends miles together. Few persistent birds were hovering around for food and the rains never had an intention to go. Back at the camp, carrom and hot snacks kept us occupied until dinner time. You get the best treatment when there are no other guests and we just love it ;). Cozy beds, chill weather outside and time to snore with a plan to wake up early and hope the sun is out alteast the next day.
Next morning we decided to go near the bridge and catch some hornbills in flight. Rains delayed our departure and slowly the sun started showing himself throwing out the morning light. Midway enroute at the Ganeshgudi bus stand circle, we stopped as we could see few hornbills around. It was here, there, front, back all around on all possible trees and this made it difficult for us to shoot. Handheld shooting with the 100-400 lens is still an issue for me as slight imbalance creeps in and the shot blurs off, Im trying hard to avoid this trying different angles and capturing multiple shots.