Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dandeli - Kulgi / JLR Old Magazine camp

Dandeli - Kulgi Nature camp - HORNBILL MANIA!

With our ladakh trip getting shelved because of my ill health and the sensitive situation at ladakh after the devastating cloudburst, we were looking for an alternate place to spend a quite few days in tranquil. Dandeli and Ganeshgudi were shortlisted and luckily this time we got the tents booked at the department run Kulgi Nature camp for 2 nights and 2 nights at the Old Magazine JLR camp. With a change in job, Nag was out of this trip and it was me, guru and raja doing this trip this time.

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!
Jungle Mynah, Pompadour green pigeons, Vernal hanging parrots, Sunbirds all made their presence felt that too near 1 single tree that had lots of berries and flowers! It was a real treat and we never realized how time passed by... 

I would rather let the photos speak for themselves on what o great time we had birding at the timber depot yard in Dandeli.

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.
The Malabar Pied hornbill, Malabar Grey hornbill, Jungle Mynah, Imperial Green Pigeon, Vernal hanging parrot, Pompadour green pigeon, White cheeked barbet, Sunbirds all were in plenty and made their presence felt. We had no luck near the bridge area and could not even spot a single hornbill over there. Mixed luck you can say!

More walks yielded no luck as the conditions being very overcast but soon we were able to spot couple of Malabar Giant Squirrels feeding on the roadside trees. An evening drive yeilded some more of the birds out to dry themselves as the rains had taken a break.

We checked out the next day early morning as we had drive back home the 500 kms and rest for the night. Enroute at Dharwar, we picked up kilos of the famous Babusingh Thakurs Dharwad Peda to relish upon.

Bird checklist:
Malabar Pied Hornbill
Malabar Grey Hornbill
Imperial Green Pigeon
Pompadour Green Pigeon
Vernal Hanging Parrot
White cheeked Barbet
White rumped Shama
Ruby throated Bulbul
Yellow browed Bulbul
Purple rumped Sunbird
Lotens Sunbird
Green bee eater
Red Wattled Lapwing
Grey Wattled Lapwing
Small blue Kingfisher
White breasted Kingfisher
Stork billed Kingfisher
Jungle Mynah
White rumped Munia
Brahminy Kite
Black winged Kite
and many others...

Route to Dandeli from Bangalore:
Bangalore - NH4 - Tumkur - Chitradurga - Davanagere - Ranebennur - Haveri - Hubli bypass - Dharwad bypass - Haliyal - Dandeli / Ganeshgudi (as of today excellent road condition).

Alternate route: Bangalore - NH4 - Tumkur - Davanagere - Haveri - Bankapura toll - Mundgod - Kalghatgi - Haliyal - Dandeli / Ganeshgudi (from Bankapura toll to Haliyal, roads are in dire straits and not advised to take this route during the night).

Accomodation: Kulgi Nature camp - 08284 231585
JLR Old Magazine House - Ganeshgudi -

Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!
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