Destination Dandeli - Hornbill Resort

If you haven't already been to Dandeli Wild life sanctuary, plan a trip soon before the area gets totally commercialised and robbed of its natural beauty and fun. This is one of the nicest places I have ever visited and a perfect getaway for short breaks:

This post is only on how to reach Hornbill Resort.The activities follow in the next post.

My children were already with my parents in Bangalore. We had sent them by Jet Airlines who I must mention, have always been a pleasure to fly with, and we have always felt secure sending our children with them. The original vacation plan was that we (Husband, hereafter referred to as 'H' & I) would join the kids in a month starting from Mumbai on 30th April. We had planned to visit Mangalore - H's hometown - spend a few days there and then to Bangalore. H loves long drives and because we had been informed that the roads were in great shape, we planned the journey by car.

A day later we were discussing the plan with a friend(V), who suggested the idea of adding Dandeli to our itinerary as it was enroute. My sis and BIL had been to Dandeli's forest reserve some time back and had raved about its beauty, so it seemed a really good idea. The only thing that held us back was the thought that our children were missing out on the trip. This was however put to rest by them when they made it clear that they were enjoying their stay with their cousins so much that they would not miss nature or birds.

So plan no.2 was - visit to Dandeli for 3 days, from there to Mangalore for 5days and on to Bangalore till 14th. Due to unforeseen reasons, we had to make some major alterations a day before we set off. H would cut short the trip and return from Dandeli and I would proceed to join the children.

Dandeli is a small city located in Uttara Karnataka and is famous for its beautiful wild life sanctuary, and forest resorts. The evening V mooted the 'Dandeli idea' we checked some tourism sites here and here.

We booked two rooms at Hornbill Resort the very next day - one for us, and one for V. The resort itself is at a distance of about 580km from Mumbai. Hornbill Resort was our choice as it was recommended by my sister. Hornbill offers you choice of staying in a tree top house, a tent house, or a regular log or brick house. We opted for the regular rooms only because the tree houses were all booked. We later got to understand that tree houses are very popular with honeymooning couples and you have to book them at least two months in advance.

Tariff in Hornbill: (Inclusive of only breakfast + lunch + dinner, a trip to jacuzzi island, one night trek, rappelling, and boating in the neighbouring Kali River)
Rs.4,000/- per couple per day for the Tree house;
Rs.3,000/- per couple per day for the tent house, stone or log huts.

The journey to Dandeli:
(Total time taken from Mumbai if you travel at a leisurely pace - 10hours)

I baked a banana nut loaf especially for the journey the night before we left. If you have the time and inclination, the recipe is here. I am one of those cautious people who always carry food which serve as lifesavers while traveling by train or by road just in case needed! We had travelled along this very route about seven years back and the journey had been literally back-breaking. I had taken a week off from work after returning to recuperate and get my discs back in place! This time the journey was pleasant, no potholes and really smooth and well tarred roads. We started on 30th evening at 5:30p.m. after a last minute purchase of rechargeable batteries for my camera. I carried two Louis L'amours (from the Sackett Series) to keep me occupied during the journey, which turned out quite unnecessary.

We had tea at Food Mall on the Mumbai-Pune Highway(Which is badly littered and unkempt for a NH!), and V (An avid trekker) showed us various trekking routes and points along the journey. I was in awe when I saw 'Sharadcity' - The mini city owned by Mr.Sharad Pawar, comprising of an Engineering Institute and all kinds of Technical Institutes all in one campus with state of art facilities. The city is located on a hill at Lonavla and is absolutely picturesque.

I drifted off to sleep as we neared Pune and when I woke up we had already reached Kolhapur famous for its bhadang, and hot 'n' spicy food. This area is also known as the 'Sugarcane belt' of Maharashtra and, is economically the most well off region in the State. It was nearly 9:30p.m. when we reached Kolhapur. V and I were ravenously hungry but H was enjoying the drive and insisted on stopping for dinner at Belgaum which he said was only an hour's drive away! This is where my bread came as a lifesaver and we munched on a few slices for temporary satisfaction. One hour later Belgaum was nowhere in sight. The milestones implied another hour's drive to get there. After lot of insistence H agreed and we stopped at Hotel Satyawati in Nippani as it seemed quite decent.

The only thing I am particular about is cleanliness and in that aspect the hotel was all right. It was a little after 11.00p.m. and we did not have much choice anyways, so we had dinner and stayed there for the night. The food was very good but the room was just OK. You can't expect better at Rs.400/- a day.

The next morning we started at about 7:00a.m. after tea. The road has been divided by arali poo shrubs, and bougain villea plants, and the entire stretch is a sight to behold.

From Kolhapur onwards the entire region received some unseasonal rains a few days back which lasted for nearly 10 days. This explains the unexpected beautiful blooms:), and sadly the tasteless mangoes this year:(. We reached Belgaum at about 8.00a.m. H always raves about Hotel Ramdev in Belgaum, so we stopped there for breakfast. The dosas, vadas and filter coffee were great. I really felt we should have traveled the extra hour the previous night and stayed at Ramdev instead of Saraswati. Just outside the hotel you also find booking offices for buses to Bangalore, Dombivli, Borivili etc., so if you are planning to travel elsewhere from Belgaum, Ramdev is the perfect place for you. Belgaum is a beautiful city famous for its medical college and kunda(A sweet made of milk). We left about an hour later from here and drove to Dandeli at a leisurely pace.

We needed to consult the route and check the way only from this point forward. The route map:

The lush greenery from Belgaum to Dandeli is worth mentioning. For this alone, I recommend traveling by road. There is not a single dry patch and you will find the roads lined on either side by trees especially the beautifully flowered 'flame of the forest'. We drove upto Khanapur (See map) and the map caused a bit of a concern as we did not understand which route would be advisable. We entered thick forests after sometime, and after lot of arguments, consultations with the map and calling 'Hornbill' resort, we reached Ganeshgudi:

The choice of route by road to Hornbill resort should be:
Belgaum - Khanapur - Londa - Ganeshgudi.

The 'Dandeli' referred to in the map is the city Dandeli which is opposite to the wildlife sanctuary. All jungle resorts are located in Ganeshgudi and not Dandeli proper. Hornbill Resort is not exactly in Dandeli but in the opposite direction as the forest itself is opposite to the city. Dandeli Forests are dominated by presence of the River Kali which meanders peacefully at this time of the year. It is also responsible for the water supply to the regions around. During rains when the water levels raise in this river the flow is regulated by the Supa Dam.

Unfortunately Hornbill Resort has not put up any boards along the way to show directions, the way Bison resort has. We reached Supa dam, and almost went the wrong way. From Supa dam about a kilometer ahead the road divides into two. Take the right side of the road and drive another 4 kms uphill to reach Hornbill. On way we saw a huge malabar pied hornbill. I alerted H but the backing sound made by the car was enough for the bird to take off. We know now why this resort is named Hornbill. It was just a few minutes away and I stepped out into a beautiful, scenic, peaceful place located just next to the flowing river, Kali.

We took lunch as it was already being served. The breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in buffet style. Food consists of two vegetables, one dry and one gravied, a flavoured rice, curd, dal and a sweet dish alongwith the usual accompaniments like pickles, pappads and salad. This was the only flipside of the resort. The food was mediocre, neither bad nor good. Rather plain. The only thing I really liked was the smoked potatoes offered at nights after the bonfire (Which I did not like at all!). I really never have understood why resorts like this which employ local cooks try North Indian dishes instead of opting for cooking local dishes with which the cooks are well versed and adept at. Except for this the experience was just great. You will find the resort staff very friendly and not intruding. They seem to be really happy to look after their customers. Mr.Kumar, who helps you plan your activities takes an extra effort to show us around when he sees that we are genuinely interested in the birds and the treks. He accompanied us for a short jungle trail in the night and showed us some nightjars (bird), and interesting places. The one thing that will accompany you throughout the stay is the 'tra-tra' sound of the huge bamboos.

Reviews by other people can be found here.

More about the safari in the next post.

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