Day 1 at Dandeli

This post is in continuation of the earlier one here. I was very pleasantly surprised to find a mail from one Mr.Kumar in my inbox a few days back. He asked me when I was posting my further days at Dandeli, and then so did Sharmila, a dear blogger friend who keeps introducing me to innovative cooking through her food blog here - so yours truly is here to fill in the gaps.

In the last post we had just reached the resort - Hornbill Resort.......

After a light lunch, the housekeeping staff showed us to our cottage. I had my first sighting in the resort.....uggh!! That of a huge lizard shitting.... Considering that we are in a forest resort close to nature, and had come all the way to see nature...this is no surprise, but I cannot stand lizards and I couldn't escape because my legs turned to lead when I saw it! After this incident I made sure that I was wrapped up completely in the sheets while sleeping and sitting in the never know with lizards around, and what if one falls from the roof?!!

We had a good sleep and woke up refreshed and ready to explore in two hours. P and V talked to Kumar who is in charge of arranging and guiding trips for the guests. V was keen on starting off to the jungle immediately. Kumar informed us that the Forest Department allowed only two visiting schedules. In the morning starting at 6:30a.m. to 10.30a.m., and in the evenings - 4.00p.m. to 7.00p.m. We had enough time to look around before going on the 4.00p.m. jungle trail, and decided to explore the resort surroundings.

The resort itself is huge. There is a lot of greenery and the sight of such well grown tall sturdy trees is so soothing to our eyes that have seen more concrete than green - and sprawling. The dining area is in the center and the cottages are housed all around it, as though radiating in all directions. The cottages themselves are spaced wide apart, except for the tent houses. Ours is a brick cottage. V got a nice log cottage. Somehow I just forgot to take snaps of the rooms we stayed in (so much for the chronicle!). The rooms are huge about 20'x20' (may be more than that). Each room has a spacious attached bath with the regular facilities you would expect, a large double bed, two single sofas and a tea table. The dark drapes matched the interior perfectly. There is a small cupboard for two, a simple full length mirror and the flooring is made of wood. It has nice cozy feel to it. The houses are set a little higher than ground level (About 6feet), and there is a small balcony too made of logs of wood. There are cylindrical wooden blocks as in Flintstones' Bedrock home, and cane chairs, for lounging in the evening. Our room faced the river Kali (The 'a' is short - not as in Kali Devi), and was next to a little stream that ran into the river. Very idyllic surroundings! We would watch out for the hoarse screech of the mighty looking hornbill and the chameleons - lots of them, and you even get to see them changing colours:)

The river Kali runs beside the resort, and from the resort itself you can see a small island a little away. This is the Jacuzzi Island with natural jacuzzi. We did not get to visit it as we spent most of the time in the jungle hoping to sight jaguars. You can also see small waterfalls gushing furiously over the rocks which is where the resort conducts its white water rafting from. I wanted to go for this, but since nobody else was interested, the idea got dropped. P felt a glass of beer would do more justice to the idyllic surroundings than getting thrown and drenched over rocks and V despite being the jungle man actually is allergic to half the things we normal people are used to! We had a big time fight over this one:). I am definitely doing this with a girl gang next time:)

I saw this small vine snake, in one of the plants the first day before we went off for the trail. Did not realise that it was a snake till I went closer, and before I could even take a decent photograph, V disturbed it. Here is the 'not so good' snap:

We also saw lots of butterflies, and a river tern hovering above the river, and feeding on fishes by performing some sharp neat dives. I could not take a snap as you require a really good lens to capture a diving tern. It happens in moments and you have to admire the strategy, swoop and the precise dive! Splendid job! BTW, there were quite a few sunbathing spots near the river, and you are also allowed swimming, but do not venture deep. Since my own swimming capability is basic, I did not even attempt it, as I genuinely feel that in such places, the current may get strong any time and unless you are an ace swimmer, you may get pulled with the current.

Mr.Kumar introduced us to our guide - Manju, and driver - Babajaan. The trails costs Rs.600/- per person. Manju works at the resort on temporary basis and has picked up his birding knowledge mostly from books and visitors. I was quite impressed, as he would recognize calls, and could detect the slightest movement in the jungle. We went in the open jeep, first to the Forest Department's office where you have to obtain a permit for each person, for carrying cameras and camcorders(Rs.50/- per piece), and if you need you could also buy their birding booklet for Rs.10/-. The book is quite informative.

As for the trip, we hardly saw any animals unless you count the omnipresent monkeys! We did see some action, as a giant malabar squirrel caught by an owl managed to escape from its clutches and scurried away from tree to tree. We saw some pear shaped fruits which are actually monkey berries, and not for human consumption(Not that I have heard anyway). We also saw a jungle fowl, three lesser adjutant eagles, some moor hens/water hens, kingfishers etc. All in all not a very eventful day.

We returned to the resort by 8:30p.m., as it is quite away from the jungle. On the way to the jungle from the resort we also saw a fence, with only five hut like cottages. It turned out to be a relatively new accommodation started in a small way by some local people. If you are only keen on visiting the jungle, it is ideal as it is really close to the jungle.

The dinner consisted of tomato soup, rice, roti, dal, fried cauliflower in cashew gravy, and shahi tukra. There was a bonfire going blazing at one end, and Mr.Satish, one of the waiters, tossed foil wrapped potatoes in the fire. Later, he removed them, cut the potatoes into two to form two cups lined with foil. He sprinkled some chat masala and mish-mashed the potato with a fork and served it to us. I really loved the smoked potatoes - it was a nice starter to go with the wine, which Satish had preserved from his boss' visit the previous day:) Most of the people, I noticed were in big groups. One group was playing Dumb Charades, and though none of the teams could, I guessed the names of the movies though we were quite far....he he! I guess playing on a regular basis with the kids has honed my DC skills:) I was dead tired and retired before the others.

Day 2:
P and V and had already decided to go on the morning trail the previous night, and arranged with the staff. Manju woke us up at 4:30 a.m, far earlier than necessary. Piping hot tea and coffee awaited us at the dining area and this time we were bundled with three other people. The driver was a young man, and he drove so furiously that we got to the jungle real fast, and accumulated sheets of mud all over our faces. I could literally hear my bones rattling, and the cold wind stream into my ears. We again stopped at the forest Department's office before we went on.

We saw a serpent eagle this time, and one of the guys who was with us tried to show off with his camera and went closer, making a lot of noise in the process. The eagle was devouring a prey, and had to take off midway through its meal thanks to one nosy human being! It is a code of the jungle, whether you are professional or not, never to disturb the jungle inhabitants. It is their dwelling, and by visiting we are already intruding their space, the least one can do is try not to disturb the birds and animals especially if they are involved in some activity. We saw a few bisons, an Indian Gaur etc. on route no.5 of the trail, which is said to be the best route for sightings. We were then taken to 'Sunset Point'. From this point you can see all the peaks in the area. The way up is all cut up due to mining for manganese(P claims it is iron). The Govt. has since two years, banned any more mining. You can see the remnants of the blast though, and it looks like a scene straight out of 'MacKenna's Gold'. When we got back to the vehicle, Manju served tea, coffee and sandwiches which he had packed without our knowledge. I particularly liked this gesture from the housekeeping staff - it speaks volumes for their service. We had planned to visit Kavla Caves from there but the mud on our faces made us feel really filthy, so we just returned to the resort for a lazy afternoon. V took a snap of mine in which I actually looked like a langoor, what with black eyes outlined with red dust!

We returned by 12:00p.m., took a nice nap as we were dead tired with the bumpy ride, and disappointed as we did not sight any other living creature. We explored the resort's surrrounding more after we freshened and saw a hornbill at a distance and many many butterflies near the river opposite our cottage. I amused myself by photographing a whole lot of butterflies that evening.

Sometime later at I returned and sat admiring the view, when this domesticated deer made its way up to our cabin. It ran away when I got up!

Another stroll led me back to the river. I sat on a stone bench clicking snaps of the river.....

It was quite late! At about 7 in the evening, we decided to explore some uphill areas! Mr.Kumar and Manju found it a good deviation, and walked along with us. It was a refreshing walk, and we also sighted a couple of nightjars, saw the rock climbing spot, and took in a lot of fresh cool air. We were hungry enough to gorge down the smoked potatoes that Satish prepared in the resort. The ministrone soup that night was really good but I can't say the same about the main course. The calorific shahi tukra was yummy!

V again wanted to take a third chance the next day (incidentally our last day of stay) just in case the jaguars he had been told of decided to honor us by granting us a glimpse the next day! The same thing happened the following morning. We woke up early had our packed breakfast set, and this time we had made a special request saying we wanted a vehicle to just us, and Babajaan as the driver! We did not see any animals!

Note: The reason we did not get any sighting was that there had been some unseasonal showers, which filled the waterbodies in the jungle itself, so animals did not need to get out! During the months of May and June, usually the jungle is dry, which means that animals have to stray out of their habitat to look for water which could also be the reason why you get to see them! Please keep the weather in mind when you plan your visit!

We did see these birds, but then the moorhens pay visits to my backyard all the time!

Babajaan took us all over route no.5 and 1, and after a disappointing ride we decided to go to the only other place that was left to be seen - Kalva Caves! This is a little interior, and you have to complete a 5 to 6km trek before you reach the caves. See it for yourselves here:

We saw many interesting things like the pug marks of elephants, bisons, a fox etc. The long trek to and fro made us tired. We saw a few peacocks during our stay, but disappointed that the season had turned out dry! That afternoon we checked out at 12:30p.m. for Belgaum. That and more about my exploring Bangalore will come in a few days! Do leave comments if you come here and read this part of my travel! I always love hearing from you people! You make my day, and writing more fun:)

Tips: According to Manju and Babajaan the best periods to visit Dandeli is between November to February, especially for sighting birds! By mid-june animals dwindle as these rains receive light showers and the monsoon starts setting in. Please plan your visit accordingly to make the most of it!

Mr.Kumar had queried about the vehicle we traveled in - it was an alto, and the drive was smooth all the way!

Activities: The resort offers rock climbing and we are told by Manju and Kumar that they are good at this, but it doesn't look as though they have any professional help at hand. Please consider this as the trip is for relaxation. I prefer adventure sport at closer quarters!!

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