No matter how many times I go there, I never have enough of it. I had visited Dandeli region, where river Kali flows, three times in last 16 months. The place was enchanting enough to draw me again last week. And I know I will return there again many more times in the future.
My first visit to Dandeli was more of a sight seeing trip where we saw many beautiful places around the town. We stayed in the heart of Anshi National Park and Bison River Lodge on the bank of the river and drove around all the beautiful places. Next time was a river rafting trip on Kali(about which I shall write soon). The third time, we visited the dams and power stations built around Kali and also saw the nature at its beautiful best in the Monsoon. Like each of the earlier trips, this one was different too. It was a birding trip.
We took the car to Dandeli this time. I think that was not necessary, but we did anyway. We happened to see some kind of a fox on the way during the drive. Since most of our travelling within Dandeli was taken care by our hosts – Jungle Lodges and Resorts in Dandeli, I really did not need my own vehicle. But I did get to use the car a bit when their naturalist offered to take me to a few birding places nearby. We reached on a Thursday afternoon, tired after the drive and freshened up after checking in.
The Jungle Lodges And Resorts at Dandeli
In the evening, we drove to Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary in search of some wildlife. The JLR naturalist Shashi, who is very knowledgeable of the flora and fauna, showed us a paradise flycatcher, nightjars, emerald dove and a few more birds. We did not see many animals but managed to see a few Bison and a couple of Malabar Giant Squirrels. The thick forests and undergrowth in Dandeli make it difficult to sight mammals through they are in good numbers.
A Gold Mantled Chloropsis Taking Off
Pair of Jungle Babblers
At the end of the safari, we gave a visit to Shiroli peak to watch the sunset. Shiroli Peak is the tallest point in entire district of Uttara Kannada. It offers unhindered views of the peaks of the western ghats and the winter sun in the backdrop was very beautiful. We returned to the lodge soon after the sunset. After the tiring drive and the busy day, we had a quick dinner and retired to bed. They make a campfire at the lodge, which is attended by most of the visitors and there is quite a bit of noise during the night. But I was there to feel the nature, its quietness and the peace, so I stayed away from it during my stay.
THE NEXT MORNING
I am not sure if it is the chirping of the birds or my internal clock that woke me up. I got up early enough to feel the morning.
Kali River is hardly visible in the early morning fog
It was foggy outside. The cold in the air bit my skin mildly, just enough to keep me aware of it. Visibility was still good and I could see everything around me – the trees, the earth, the structures, all of them trying to hide under the fog without success. A couple of plum headed parakeets made loud noises declaring their presence, which was followed by the slow call of chloropsis. The human world was still asleep and it was a lonely and pleasant walk up to the river. I put aside my camera and seated myself just besides the water. It was flowing slowly and definitely, and you could feel the rhythm of the river. Few tadpoles were moving aimlessly and some insects walked on the water as easily as we walk on the earth. There was mist rising from the river in the early morning cold and it disappeared into the thick fog that crowded the air. A pair of hornbills were up at a distance and announced the arrival of the morning. The cold, yet nice water seemed to be inviting me for a swim and feel one with it, but the crocs in the water would not like me in there. A few egrets that woke up early in the morning were flying just above the water, looking for their breakfast. A grey wagtail flew in and walked around me for a while. A malabar giant squirrel came looking for its breakfast. All the time, the river kept flowing, ignoring all of it and inviting me into it with much greater force and inducing an irresistible temptation. The crocodiles were never seen but their thought still kept me away from the water. The Sun was nowhere to be seen and seemed to be playing a loosing battle with fog. The blare of horns from a motor vehicle at a distance kept reminding me of the civilized world I was surrounded with. More egrets flew past in search of morning breakfast. Few pompadour green pigeons decided to sleep a little more in the cold morning, and woke up late and started preening and removing the dew off their wings. The feel of the place, the silence, the river, everything occupied my heart and seemed to be blessing me and fill me with happiness.
Kali River. The two circles are coracles turned upside down
With the arrival of more light, and a few more people, I came back and walked around looking for birds. A little later, hunger pangs forced me to head into the restaurant.
LATER IN THE DAY
I met Shashi after breakfast, who was keen to show me around and do some bird watching. Within a few minutes, we had seen a large number of birds and I had some photographs captured in my camera. We wandered around, spotting bar winged flycatcher shrikes, pompadour green pigeons, yellow browed bulbuls, pied hornbills, jungle babblers and many more birds. It seemed as if the birds just decided to drop by and say hello to us. After an hour or so, we drove out to some wooded area where I could photograph a beautiful coppersmith barbet. We moved on to a big lake that housed some water birds, where I sighted many birds that I had never seen before. Just as we were planning to head back, a lovely blue tailed bee-eater showed up, showed off itself and flew off after posing me for a few shots.
Malabar Pied Hornbills. They are pretty common in Dandeli, but I never managed to get a good image
Shashi knew well about the birds. He explained me why some birds stay in a flock of different species. He told me about the trees, the birds that love the berries from the trees and taught me some basics on the behavior of birds. I would never have got to see so many birds without his help.
We decided to do some sightseeing later in the day and headed to Syntheri Rocks(Citheri, Cinthery, Sintheri, Sinthery, spell it as you please!). Cinthery Rocks are a tall rock formation on the bank of Kalindi, a small river that eventually merges into Kali. It was a beautiful place in a valley where you have a small waterfall that falls into a deep rocky ravine. As our guide fed them we enjoyed watching the masheer(a kind of fish) in the deep water fighting to get their share of dough. We stayed there till dark and enjoyed its beauty.
Back in the resort, and after dinner, I retired quickly while the campfire continued like yesterday.
THE LAST DAY
I was addicted to the river by now. I returned to the river as I did yesterday. Most of the things were happening like clockwork. The egrets flew over the water and the grey wagtail gave a short visit. It was not very foggy today and visibility was much better. The Malabar Giant Squirrel did not show up. I spent less time at the bank and wandered around in search of birds.
We took a coracle after breakfast and travelled down the river. It gets shallow and wide a little downstream and gathers speed and cruises quickly. You get a glimpse of people living by the river – washing clothes, taking a bath or waving a friendly hello to us. A few egrets and cormorants occupy the small islands we encounter. A little ahead is a den of crocodiles where we spotted three of them. They were pretty small and were not pleased to see us and decided to hide themselves. The ride lasted for an hour and yet seemed short, as we longed for more.
Coracle ride in the river
Our visit to Dandeli ended with the coracle ride. It seemed too short and I wish I could stay on. While I returned back unwillingly, I decided to come back soon which I hope to do very soon.
The number of places you can visit in Dandeli are plenty, so try and keep as much time as you can when you plan a visit. Dandeli is nearly 500km from Bangalore. It is also very close to Goa and Maharashtra and is hence visited by many people from Goa and Bombay.
To reach Dandeli from Bangalore, you can take direct ksrtc buses, but book in advance. But it is preferable to take your own vehicles since the distances are high and you can’t rely on public transport. To reach Dandeli, you can drive to Dharwad which is on NH4(via Tumkur) and then take a diversion to Dandeli. You can also choose an alternate route that goes via Shimoga, it is longer but is more pleasant and scenic. You can also deviate a bit and visit Jog falls on the way if you take this road. To take this route, take NH4 to Tumkur, turn left and reach Shimoga and then Sagar which are on NH206: Bangalore – Honnavar road. From Sagar, you have to go via the towns Siddapur, Sirsi and Yellapur to reach Dandeli. Jog falls is a short deviation between Sagar and Siddapur. Expect bad roads in the later part of this journey, but it takes you through forests and good landscapes unlike the Dharwad road.
There are a variety of places to stay at Dandeli. There are a couple of resorts costing Rs.1000+, a few tented accommodations from the forest department, and some budget hotels within the town. For tented forest accommodation at Kulagi and Anshi, contact forest department office in Dandeli. The resorts include the Jungle Lodges and Bison River Lodge. The only decent budget accommodation within the town is the State Lodge in front of ksrtc bus stand.
PLACES TO SEE
Here are some places to see in Dandeli. You can get directions for these easily after you reach Dandeli. But keep in mind that many places have restricted access and you will require appropriate permissions. Also keep in mind that each of these places could be anything like 15 to 30km from Dandeli in different directions!
Sykes Point: Named after the person who discovered this place. This is a vista point where river Kali flows throws a narrow valley. The vista point suddenly drops into the river, and hence offers amazing view of the river for a long distance. I can tell you without any doubt that this the best view of a river I have seen anywhere yet; and being here at the time of sunset is something I can die for. There is a power station just below Sykes point, which is operated by Karnataka Power Corporation(KPC). The sad thing is that they treat this as a high security zone and so you need permissions to get there. Permissions can be obtained at Ambika Nagar’s KPC security office. Sometimes they act tough, and last I heard they were not allowing people to go there owing to some non-existent security threat. Taking photographs is a strict no no!
Cavala Cave: I have not visited this place, but have heard from people that this is a nice cave with a shivalinga inside.
Anshi National Park, tented accommodations: Forest department has some tented accommodation for tourists inside Anshi National Park. You have to book at the forest department office in Dandeli and get a letter. Going directly and asking for rooms is a no no. If you are heading here, reach early enough before dark because they will have no stock of rations with them and will need to buy them only for you. An excellent place for birding, and the local care taker can take you around for some treks.
Kulagi village, tented accommodations: Tented acco from forest department again. Pretty much same as Anashi.
Shiroli Peak: This is the highest point in Uttara Kannada, the district where Dandeli is. Offers great vista of the peaks of the Sahyadri ranges and is not to be missed. Be there to watch the sunset. This is inside Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary and you may need permissions from forest department. Check once you reach Dandeli.
Dams on Kali: The river has been dammed at several places including Nagajhari, Thattihalla, Ambika Nagar, Kadra and Kodasalli. None of these can be accessed by public unless you manage special permissions from KPC somehow. The area around Kodasalli dam is especially beautiful.
Cintheri rocks: A rock formation and a small waterfall. See the image with this post.
Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary: Again, you need permission from the forest department. The sanctuary is really big and is a great place for birding. It is difficult to sight mammals due to thick vegetation, but you might see a few Bisons and Malabar Giant Squirrels.
Adventure Sports: KaliO2, an affiliate of Jungle Lodges runs several adventure sports activities around the Sanctuary and the river. The most popular is rafting, which is really great experience. Other activities include canoeing, coracling, kayaking, bicycle rides in the jungles and trekking. Check with Jungle Lodges for more details.
Birding: The biodiversity you can see in Dandeli is amazing. The sanctuary even houses tigers but are rarely seen. The variety of birds you can see here is excellent. I spotter more than 50 species in a single day, despite being an amateur with birds. Dandeli is more known its hornbill population.
Ulavi Channabasappa Temple: A famous temple for those inclined. It is more known for the fair that I think is an annual event. A local fisherman told me that there are some excellent caves around this temple which are much more beautiful than Kavala caves. But they are not well known and you may have to search for them or have to make long walks.
With all this, I think I still haven’t covered about everything you can do in Dandeli. For example, there is a really big waterfall you can visit just after Anshi village. There is a lake around 10kms towards Ambika Nagar which is a good place for birding. There would be many more that I can’t recall or I just don’t know about. You could go swimming in the river, catch some fish or get eaten by a croc yourself(!) Its an exciting place where you can do many many things. Just go ahead, take your time and explore. And if you discover something interesting, do post it here in the comments so that the information gets shared with everyone.