Monday, April 21, 2014

Dandeli Anshi Tiger Reserve

Dandeli Anshi Tiger Reserve is in north western Karnataka and was on my radar for quite sometime. Finally weekend of 18th to 20th of April took me to this green and beautiful stretch of nature.

I came to know that the best months to visit Dandeli is from October to May, it was April, so I was on time range.

Accommodation was secured by calling office of the Director of Dandeli Anshi Tiger Reserve (DATR) to stay at Kulgi Nature Camp. Luckily I got one Log House and so this set for my travel plans.

Though there are many private resorts, Homestays as well as Jongle Lodge's resorts also there in and around Dandeli, I always prefer the accommodation by Forest Department as its most close to nature. Flip side is that there is no "luxury" here.

From Bangalore, buses are there for Dandeli, but I took the train to Dharwad. From there, Dandeli is about 60 KMs.

My train reached Dharwad at about 525 AM; a little late. Initially I had plans to wait there for sometime till sunrise, but then I changed the plan and took an auto to reach Dharwad Bus station.

Dharwad station is very small as compared to its cousin Hubli. Hubli being a bigger junction commands over rail routes in this region.

I took the NWKRTC bus to Dandeli at 615 AM, reaching Dandeli about 90 minutes later.

It is said that Dandeli is named after Dandelappa, a local deity. As per another legend a king named Dandakanayaka passed through the forests and named them after himself

My destination, Kulgi is about 12 KMs from Dandeli.

Great Indian Hornbill
I enquired the forest office there. Shared Taxi ply between Dandeli and Kulgi, but because of elections, many taxis were busy there hence, I had to hire an auto to reach Kulgi. The Kulgi nature camp is about 800 meters from main road.

If you have some time you can spent at Timber Depot forest office at Dandeli and enjoy the Hornbills there, if its early morning or evening.
Beautiful Bird @ Kulgi
The Kulgi as well as Anshi camp of the Dandeli Wild life sanctuary is nestled in pristine forest area.

It was a beautiful stretch of road as the Bajaj auto took me from Dandeli to Kulgi.

Kulgi is a small village, which has two camps setup by Karnataka Forest Department, one is Kulgi Nature Camp, which has dorms and tent houses and another is Kulgi Timber Trails Camp, which has log houses. Both are adjacent to each other.

These Kulgi Camps are spread over 10 acres of area.

It was around 9 AM, when I reached Kulgi camp.
Nest of Crow
The officials there told me that check-in time is 12, so I need to wait. Also I was shocked to learn that from April 1, the rates have been reduced, but as I had paid in advance so no refund possible.

A bit annoyed, I waited in the open "cafeteria". Surroundings are beautiful, calm and serene which pacified me.

Caretaker Mr Baburao approached me, If I need breakfast. I happily jumped on it and took Poha, Upma and hot tea.

I also realized that my mobile has become out of network. Luckily one paid phone at Forest office helped me in getting connected to my family.

Next two days, I was out of Mobile connectivity! Sometime as I roamed the area it came and went off but largely I was away from it.

View from Cottage
By the time my cottage was ready so I moved into it. It was a good decent accommodation surrounded by lush greenery.

Getting refreshed after a good bath with cold water, I got back all energy to roam in the surrounding Jungles.

The jungle is home to Tigers, Bison, Black Panthers, Leopards, Sloth Bears, Deers as well as several varieties of reptiles and many varieties of birds including Horbill.

I enquired with caretaker there about the places to visit and accordingly planned myself.

1. To take "Birder's Trail" at Kulgi.
2. Evening 4 PM to take Safari from Pansoli Village about 3 KMs from Kulgi.
3. Next day morning take Taxi to Anshi forest, take "Birder's trail" there as well and also to visit Chenna Basvanna Temple at Ulavi and Cyntheri rocks.
4. Finally on Sunday, morning visit Bommanahalli Backwaters about 4 KMs from Kulgi and then to Dandeli to take bus to Dharwad on way back to Bangalore.

There are other trails also but all are similar.

Cafeteria @ Kulgi Timber Trail Camp
There was no guide charge at Kulgi, though I gave 100 Rs. At Anshi, Trail entry fees was 300 and guide charge Rs 500/- .......too high.

It was about 11 AM, when I decided to take on "Birder's trail". It starts from just infront of Kulgi Timber Trails Camp, where I was staying.

From enquiries, I came to know that I can go on the trail alone, the path can be easily identifiable through pug marks of human movements.

I started for the trail, but after moving about 500 meters, I realized that it will be a folly to enter forest alone. Reasons were that path was not easy to identify because of dead leaves spread everywhere so chances were high to get lost in Jungle. Another reason was I got a bit afraid being alone there, So I decided to go back and come with someone.

My Log House @ Kulgi Timber Trails Camp 
I have read a lot of stories of heroics by Jim Corbett, Kenneth Anderson, Ajay Reddy etc. All that descriptions started coming infront of my eyes.

Ignorance is bliss, knowledge is dangerous thing!!

I talked to caretaker and got a Guide. Along with "Guide" (he was a local boy Ramdas alias Ramu), I started back the trail.

Ramu was carrying a sickle, to cut into vegetation but perhaps more to protect against some surprises from charging animals.

On Birder's Trail @ Kulgi
Soon we were in dense forest. The Langurs were running high on the trees as they saw us. They were particularly afraid of my camera, as soon as I used to aim on them they used to disappear with loud sounds of warnings to fellow comrades.

Walking on trail, soon we were away from human settlements. Jungle was abuzz with Chicada sound and occasional sounds from birds and Langurs.

Little later, we reached a watch tower there on the banks of a small water body. It was almost dry but Ramu told me that black panther sighting is very high in this area. The forest department cameras there confirmed this.

Ramu also showed me some scratching marks at a place which he mentioned are by Panther. Though I doubted that.

On a nearby tree one woodpecker was trying to prey some insects. As I targeted my camera on it, in an instantaneous reaction it disappeared in jungle, and also there was a sound of running of Jungle Fowl. I had not seen it earlier, but it was having a close watch on me.

Dense forests at Kulgi
I took some snaps from watch tower and then came down and walked to the bed of almost dried stream. There were visible pugmarks, which Ramu told were of wild boar and Bisons.

Nearby was cameras installed to capture Panthers. The Black Panther is very rare cat and it is said that about 8-10 such big cats roam these jungles.

Camera to spot Carnivore @ Kulgi
The majestic Tiger is very elusive and I did not got any hint of it being somewhere close. Once one alarm call, perhaps from Muntjac was heard, I got a little cautious but the alarm was not repeated.

Langur and Muntjac are good to give information about movements of carnivores. Anyone in jungle should keep following their call.

Slowly we moved further on our trail. The sound of dead leaves alarmed the herd of Cheetal, who sped away from us. I tried to "shoot" them with my Canon but they were away before I can click!

On way to Pansoli from Kulgi
Similar was the case with birds. I spotted many beautiful birds, but they did not allowed me to get clicked. Good amount of patience is required to shoot these beautiful creatures. At that moment I realized the requirement of Camera Tripod stand. It was hard to be motionless with camera in hand for long.

Natural Jungle sound of Chicada was quite prevalent there. I was expecting some snakes as well but did not encountered any.

Sloth bears are also in this area, but could not see any.

It is good to move in groups and with a guide. This is not a picnic spot. Small kids, a strict NO.
Beautiful Bird @ Kulgi
Soon we approached the Kulgi Pansoli road. From here about 1 KM walk and I was back to my camp.

Just before camp there is Kulgi Nature Interpretation Centre. It houses good information about animals found in these forests etc. Ramu bring the keys from the Caretaker at Kulgi Nature Camp, and I went through it. This is in between Kulgi Nature Camp and Kulgi Timber Trails Camp.

A very nice experience indeed, but it would be great to take this trail in early morning when the Jungle is pregnant with movements of its inhabitants!

A little rest and then a good lunch was waiting for me.

It was quite hot and humid afternoon. I took some half an hour rest and then started scanning the nearby areas for some birds and flowers.

Jungle Safari is arranged by Karnataka Forest department at Kulgi. It starts from the Village Pansoli, which is about 3 KMs from Kulgi. I asked the forest officials there to drop me to Pansoli. As the Jeeps involved in safari were parked at Kulgi, so I got a lift till Pansoli.

On way from Kulgi and Pansoli, there is a Nagjhari valley view point with a watch tower build there. The view from there was quite fascinating. There is a trek tour to Nagjhari Falls. But it was not part of my itinerary.

View of Nagjhari Valley
The Jungle safari is a bit costly. It charges 400/- Rs. When I asked the concerned official, he replied with a stern message that they don't welcome crowd!

Camera fees is 1000/- Rs. Further enquiries revealed that if Camera is of 14 MP or above then only this fees, otherwise its free. Luckily my Canon is of 12.1 MP.

I am clueless on this logic!

There was good rush for safari. As its in open Jeep, a maximum of 8 people were allowed in it. One 6 members family, probably from Mysore were waiting for two more guys to join them.

The ticket clerk asked about me. I replied I am single. Hearing this many beautiful girls and ladies smilingly saw me with love.

I felt great! Bachelorhood is very rewarding tag indeed.

A couple of minutes later one gorgeous lady from that 6 member family asked me to join them, which I happily agreed.

Soon we were in Jungle. Initially it was buffer zone, where I saw a Village, which the Guide told us that it belonged to Gawali tribesman. The Gawalis are basically shepherd community. They sell milk in towns nearby.

Other Gawali villages are near Kulgi towards AmbikaNagar and Yellapur.

Loghouse @ Kulgi Timber Trails Camp
There is another tribe called Siddi lives around Dandeli, Yellapur and AmbikaNagar etc. part of Karnataka. These Siddi people are descended from slaves or military mercenaries brought to India by Portughese as well as Nawabs in 16th century onwards.

There are some Siddi population in Maharashtra and Gujarat also.

You can spot these Siddi people in Dandeli and in towns nearby.

Coming back to safari...

Hardly we had moved about a KM in Jungle, the old jeep started giving troubled. The Diesel pipe was leaking and so Jeep came to halt.

Very frustrating and disappointing...

The driver was trying to contact the forest entry gate for another vehicle but by that time other Jeeps were coming but were all full. Luckily in one Jeep there was one place available so I switched to that immediately.

Happily standing on open Jeep I started scanning the Jungle with Camera. I came across water hens. Serpent eagle, Cheetal herd and a couple of wild boars.

Suddenly the weather took a turn. Cold breeze and showers started and this shower turned into heavy downpour!!

We are always on the mercy of nature. If we feel we are an extension of it, then there is no problem. Issue happens when we alienate ourselves from the mother nature.

So I surrendered to nature (no other option, in dense forest and in open Jeep!!). Within few minutes I was fully drenched. Luckily I was carrying a plastic bag, which saved my camera.

I was in that rain shower for about 45 minutes or so getting the blessings of Lord Indra. Then we were back to forest gate.

There was a group of (perhaps) college guys and girls shouting and playing in rain away from Jeep in Jungle. We should understand it is not a picnic spot.

My original Jeep mates were walking back to forest gate, but midway on return path got another Jeep. That evening it was difficult for them to take Safari as it was quite late and also weather was not good. I came to know that they were offered safari the next morning.

I took one Jeep returning to Kulgi and reached my room by 530 PM to the comfort of Log House.

I took some rest and then a good dinner completed my first day at Kulgi.

Blissful Morning @ Kulgi Timber Trails Camp
I was quite tired but still didnot got quick sleep. I wanted to explore the stars, but cloudy night prevented me. As the night became deep, I heard a few alarm call from Muntjac. Perhpas it had noticed some movement of big cat.

By this time the mother sleep took me firmly in her sweet lap!

Saturday morning weather was excellent as I woke up at around 530 AM. Cool breeze from lush green forest and Western ghats refreshed me.

I quickly got ready and took bath with cold and sweet water which comes from Kali river. This river which originates from western ghats feeds all these nearby areas with its sweet water.

Western Ghats
Breakfast was scheduled for 830 AM, so I had some time to roam around the camp with my camera in search for birds and other animals.

I walked about a KM towards Pansoli, there was a man made waterbody, which feeds many animals. Just before that I spotted on Malabar Squirrel on a tree, though it was quite quick in its movement from branch to branch, patiently I was able to click a couple of photographs.

Giant Malabar Squirrel 
A little further, there were some Langurs playing near water and birds chattering. It was very pleasant site.

I tried to capture some birds in my camera.

Jeeps were returning from Morning safari. I realized it was time for breakfast.

In the Cafeteria, there was a Mirror, and two birds were trying to hit the peak with themselves in Mirror!

After breakfast I was back to my Log House and waited for some 30 minutes till Murli with his Maruti Van (Taxi) came to take me for a trip to Anshi, Ulavi and Cyntheri rocks.

Bird @ Kulgi
It was around 9 AM, when we started for Anshi, about 60 KMs from Kulgi.

Anshi also has Tent houses like Kulgi nature camp. The forests at Anshi are evergreen forests, hence more dense. The forests at Kulgi are deciduous.

Anshi National Park and Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary togeather form the Dandeli Anshi Tiger Reserve.The Anshi Park togeather with Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, and along with adjacent protected areas in the states of Goa and Maharashtra, forms an protected forest area of over 2,200 square KMs.

The initial stretch of road was not good, but later when we hit the road coming directly from Dandeli to Anshi, it became better.
On way to Anshi
Weather became hot and humid as the day progressed. Slowly I could feel the change in pattern of trees, evergreen forest took the place of deciduous ones.

On the way we crossed Kaneri river. The view was spectacular with Western Ghats and lush greenery surrounding it.

At a couple of places, we spotted deer herds, but nothing more than that. The Jungle was quite silent as well as roads, For many KMs we hardy got any vehicle or human activity.

At around 11 AM, we were at Anshi Nature Camp.

I enquired about the Jungle trail. It was a little costly affair here. 300 Rs for Jungle trail entry and 500 Rs for guide. I had no option but to accept. The receipt made me convinced that it has gone to forest department.

So me along with forest guide Narayan, entered into the dense forest of Anshi.Like Ramu, Narayan was also carrying a Sickle and also a wireless Walkie-Talkie.

Harvester ants nest @ Anshi
Just like Dandeli forest at Kulgi, here also the forest floor was full of dead leaves and so the path was not visible. Here the forest was quite dense, the rays of mighty Lord Anshumaan were struggling to kiss the mother earth.

Slowly we moved ahead in Jungle. A couple of times, I felt sudden activity on earth, perhaps some lizards or small snakes etc ran away. I became little more cautious now. I was wearing the thick woodland shoes and denim so was a bit comfortable

Weavers Ants Nest
Narayan showed me the Harvester Ants nest. They make their nest on ground with underground chambers, where they keep their provisions. There are another type of ants also here, which are known as Tailor Ants, or Weaver Ants, they make their nest on tress by weaving the leaves together.

I also came across a few lizards and many different types of trees.

Lizard @ Anshi
As I was just scanning the jungle, I sensed some sound of "heavy animal" running. I asked Narayan, but he did not responded. I guessed it to be some Sambhar or Bison. One thought was that it might be a bear also. Thoght of being close to sloth bear in Jungle send a chill through the spine, but I convinced myself that it was not bear.

Moving further, we came across a small valley. Perhaps it was a small stream, with some water in patches. It was flanked by dense forest on both side.

Narayan told me that we would like to go for nature's call there. I did not liked the idea, but remained silent. Narayan went about 100 meters and disappeared in thick bushes.

I got little tensed. The sound of that "heavy" foot steps were still in my ears. I scanned the area around me, but could not find a suitable tree, which I can scale with my heavy shoes. I took the sickle of Narayan in my hand firmly and stood on a high ground watching carefully in all directions to do away any surprise charging from any animal.

Another things, I was worried that alone, I can't go out of Jungle. I checked my mobile. It was out of network area as expected!

Finally after about 10 minutes of those tense moments, I saw Narayan coming. I got a sigh of relief.

Then again I heard that sound of heavy foot steps from jungle just behind from where Narayan was coming. As he cam ecloser, I asked him about that. He confirmed my suspicion that it was a Bison herd.

We again started our trail. Going through thick bushes and dense forest for further about 45 minutes, we reached a village road.

From there, it was about a KM walk to Anshi Nature Camp.

Good experience indeed!

I was feeling good after the trail, but suddenly realised that something is pinching my left foot. My shoes were still not full dried after getting wet at safari at Kulgiu the day before. They had peeled off my skin.

Soon it started paining and walking became a tough job. Slowly I managed to reach the camp and ask the waiting Murli to start for Ulavi.

Ulavi is a small temple town a little off from the Dandeli Anshi Road. I ws a bit worried if temple will remain open as I will be there by noon time. Murli assured me that it will remain open, even Narayan had confirmed this.

Around 1245 noon, I reached Ulavi.

Temple at Ulavi is dedicated to Channa Basavanna, who was Basava's nephew and one of the foremost VeerShaiva saint of the 12th century.

Ulavi Chenna Basvanna Temple
The temple faces the east. Thrice a day the Mahasamadhi of Channa Basavanna is worshipped with all ceremony. On the Samadhi is placed the face of Nandi. To the left is Sangameshwar, to the right Mallikarjuna and to the right of Mallikarjuna is Basavanna.

Ulavi Chenna Basvanna Temple
Very peaceful and blissful atmosphere. I bowed to the saint and sat for sometime in temple premises.

Here my mobile got connected so I was able to read some SMSs which got delivered to me now.

Getting blessed to be in vicinity of blessings of saint, now we were on way to our last destination for the trip, the Cyntheri rocks.

This place is also a little off on the road from Dandeli to Anshi.

Lord Anshumaan was in full glory by now and the Jungle atmosphere was very hot and humid.

To have a clear view of these monolithic granite rocks, one has to go down some 50-60 steps. With my injured left foot, now this distance was becoming difficult for me, but I continued.

Murli showed me the skin of snake. Perhaps it ws last night or early morning. Murli identified the sanke as a poison less water snake.

Snake's skin
Karnataka Forest Department has showcased here different types of rocks here. That was a good information indeed. Thanks for the effort to KFD!

Slowly I descended to the river bed.

Cyntheri Rock is monolithic granite structure having a height of 300 feet. The River Kaneri that flows at this place passes along the side of this rock. Due to the flow of the river from, the rocks have become hollowed with erosion. These rock cave are inhabited by pigeon colonies.

Hives of bees can be seen hanging on these rocks.

Cyntheri Rock & Kaneri river
Spending some time there, we ascnded back to drive back to Kulgi Camp.

I was badly tired now. Without lunch and with hot and humid weather, my strength wanted some rest to recharge.

Cyntheri Rock & Kaneri river
It took about 45 minutes to reach Kulgi camp from here.

I took about an hour rest to get recharged again. By this time the sky again got covered by clouds and soon shower started. I sat on the varandah looking the cloudy sky and rain waters coming down, like mother nature is showering her bliss to all.

I felt good. Nature does not expects anything from us, it only gives. That's true love. We are involved in petty desires, confined to our small boundries of useless notions. We burn our peace in rat race, worthless things,  show and pomp.

Just feel this peace of nature... no rat race, no show and pomp... just bliss, just love. Here the subtle message originates, come surrender to me, be one with me and get everlasting peace and happiness.

Soon it was dark. After a good dinner, I went to bed. Soon I was in sweet lap of mother nature.

Around 230 AM, I just woke up, felt thirsty. The jungle was silent except the sound of Chicada. Then I heard the alarm call of Muntjac. It happened only once. I waited to here more, but didn't. The guess is that some big cat was seen roaming in vicinity, hence the call, but perhaps the cat was not hungry, so the no second alarm.

I slept again to woke up at 530 AM.

It was beautiful Sunday morning and my last day of visit here. Getting ready I took a cup of tea. Murli came at around 730 AM to take me to Bommanahalli Backwaters and then to drop me to Dandeli bus stand.

Peacock: On way to Bomannahalli backwaters 
This backwater is about 4 KMs from Kulgi and is on Kali river. Not sure why it is called as backwater, perhaps owing to a dam nearby, which can be seen from here.

I spotted a beautiful peacock and a few jungle fowls on the road, bt as the vehicle approached them, they all disappeared in thick bushes.

Bomannahalli backwaters (Kali River)
To reach here one need to walk about 1/2 KMs. I should not have used shoes as it was further damaging my broken skin, but I had no option. I was not carrying slippers and also to roam in jungle, only good shoes are advisable.

It was very beautiful over there. A lot of birds I saw. Though there w no animal movement, but I observed bison and elephant dung.

Birds at Bomannahalli backwaters 
I wss there for about 15 minutes just observing the beauty of nature, then slowly started back.

Now I ws on way back to Dandeli to take bus to Dharwad.

Dandeli is on the banks of Kali river. Perhaps the dark colors of waters gave it this name, not sure though!

Kali River @ Dandeli
There are many resorts who organise rafting in these waters. They are mostly at a place called Ganesgudi. I am always scraed of water so not shown any interest in it.

There is a village called Kerwad nearby. Here a lot of Crocodiles get assemble to eat the pulp thrown in water by a paper mill in Dandeli. I heard that forest department has put some restriction on tourists so I dropped the idea to visit there.

I reached Dharwad at around 1030 AM. Here I took a city bus to reach Hubli.

My train to Bangalore was at 2 Pm, so I have some time to roam in city, but my injured left foot ws giving me lot of trouble so I took some refreshment at station and waited for train to come.

The day journey was quite boring and the train dropped me to Bangalore with one hour delay.

Sunday 1130 PM, I was at home sweet home after a good and adventures trip!

1. Note that Safari is at Pansoli Village about 3 KMs from Kulgi camp. Anshi camp is about 60 KMs from Kulgi.
2. To book accommodation at Kulgi Nature Camp or at Anshi Camp, call office of the Directer, Dandeli Anshi Tiger Reserve.
3. Check the accommodation status, charges and ask to block it if available. Three types of accommodation are there, Dorms, Tents and Log Houses.
4. Fax the Application letter, DD (SBI only) and ID proof to them. fax is a bit slow, you may need to try multiple times.
5. After Fax, Send the above documents through Speed Post. Enquire after 3-4 days, if they received your post.
6. Tel: 08284-231585, Fax: 08284-232981, Address: Director, Dandeli Anshi Tiger Reserve, Dandeli PIN-581325 Distt Uttara Kannada, Karnataka.

1. Better not to go with kids.
2. Having own vehicle is good.
3. Go to Jungle trails in group and with guide.
4. Always keep one plastic bag with you to protect Cameras and other costly item from sudden rain.
5. This is not a picnic spot but a dense forest. Respect the sanctity of place, don't honk and tease the animals. Don't get out of vehicle.
6. Carry all required medicines with you.


  1. Excellent write up, enjoyed your journey

  2. Very good description sir, I have been to anshi .Narayan took us to nesar thamb view point.

  3. Your post reminded me of the best moments spent in Dandeli. Hope to visit this place soon.

  4. Great blog. This blog is providing so many useful information about Dandeli.

  5. Enjoyed your blog about DATR, well written.

  6. Good work the blog is interesting and gives overall experience of Dandeli. I am planning to visit Dandeli and already made my booking.

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