An Aura of wilderness

I have visited Nagarahole many times by now, if I plan a wildlife trip to Nagarahole my parents and friends ask me one question “how many times you will visit the same place again and again?? Aren’t you bored???

My answer to everyone is a big smile on my face and a brief narration about wilderness I encounter every time when I visit Nagarahole… the jungle is as new as it was to me when I first visited the place…new sunrise… new excitement…a new ray of hope to sight big cats… Ahhh it is as fresh as new…


The trip was planned for 2 days from 1st April 2013 to 3rd April 2013 to Nagarahole aka Rajiv Gandhi National Park. The previous day we drove to mysore for a stopover at my cousin’s place, we made some free time in the evening to visit mysore city including Chamundi hills. Just for a change we planned to visit SubWay, after 2 hours of worthless search we ended up in a beautiful Punjabi hotel called Jwala. I recommend this hotel for all those who just can’t stop eating. yummmm

 Next morning we started at 4.30Am and reached Veerahosanahalli gate by 6.00Am, the first rays of the sun was peeping towards mother earth, the forest was engulfed with its warm golden sunlight. The splendid combination of the morning chills along with the warmth of the sun kick started our day.
A slow drive observing the forest took us more than an hour to reach FRH, hot upama for breakfast was ready to gobble. Mr. Lokesh is appointed as new RFO, a young and dynamic chap. A small introduction and casual chat with him explained his plan of actions with regards to conserving wildlife. 
Some times you have to be at the right place at the right time. Few things were lined up to buy from kutta a small village just outside Nagarahole. While returning back from our so called “shopping” we caught a sight of the big bird perched on top of the tree. Though we were not so sure of its identity we just continued watching the bird observing its behavior. As the excitement of spotting a new bird came down our focus widened only to spot 10- 12 more birds of the same family resting on the entire tree. We identified it was a vulture but which family it belongs was known later after referring the book. It was Red-Headed Vulture which is a critically endangered species of bird found in INDIA.
The Mantra still hold good. Few meters ahead a jumbo family crossed our path; it was so nice to see the little one veiling safely with its mother.
By now the sun was up in the sky and radiating his most sharp rays on to us. The scorching heat made us feel low and wanted a nap for sometime. The alarm woke us up for evening safari, Nagarahole game routes can be accessed only by govt. bus safari which is organized by forest department not always we are blessed with like minded people. The bus was filled with a variety of people, some who were interested in wildlife and few others who treat national parks as picnic spot. All our energy was exhausted in making them understand the importance of wildlife and national parks.
We had completed half the journey in the game route when our driver spotted a tiger beside the waterhole which was sitting on the boulder, the disturbance and loud noise chased the tiger away into the bushes. We waited for 10 mins hoping it might come out of the bushes; neither the bus driver nor passengers were interested or had the patience to wait.
A glimpse of the tiger made us happy; the safari came to end by sightings a herd of elephants and a lonely tusker.
The same evening we drove till Karmadu junction to try our luck for sightings but returned without any. After dinner we took a seat in the balcony listening to the sound sof the forest, the cicadas were calling in a unique pitch. The alarm calls of barking deer’s faded distantly, we could hear wild boar scratching the ground…

 

Next morning Siddanna care taker requested us for a drop to kutta, we crossed kutta check post and while nearing the village, a car approached us in the opposite direction , as we slowed down to give way we noted that the car was driven very hastily and in full speed. Not more than 10 seconds had passed since we passed the full speed car, we witnessed a huge male spotted deer lying beside the road badly injured. Unfortunately the deer was killed by road accident. We then related as to why the car flew past us in a hurry.
Immediately I called up my friend at Nagarahole FD and informed about the incident. A wireless message was passed to all 3 gates to ensure he would not escape. Finally the culprit was caught at veeranahosalli gate the car bonnet was torn and badly damaged as it had hit the spotted deer antler.
We did not leave until slayer was brought back to the spot where accident took place. RFO / Veterinary doctors and patrolling crew investigated and filed a hit-and-run case and took him to custody.
After tiring hours we came back to guest house with a mixed feeling, satisfaction for catching the killer, on the other hand we lost one huge male deer.
We had lunch and relaxed till next safari. Apart from sambar deer the forest was dry with out any sightings. The culprit and his family with the car were sitting at forest department; he was staring at me as if I have done a mistake by alerting the guards to catch him.
It was our last day at Nagarahole and next morning we had to leave for Bangalore, we started towards karmadu junction slowly observing things around us, forest was alive in the evening, herd of gaurs were gazing beside the road, we could hear elephant breaking the twigs in a nearby bush, but no alarm calls from any direction. All of a sudden from no where a sloth bear crossed the road. I was not prepared to capture the photo though I could only manage few shots.
Few meters away we spotted a crested serpent eagle – CSE on the perch, its watchful eyes drew our attention towards it.
After our final drive from veeranahoshalli gate we returned back to forest rest house, gazing the sky full of stars hearing cicada’s call all around we sat back and relaxed.
Nagarahole – is pristine and full of surprises….
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Unwinding tales of Nagarahole

I weren’t an actor; I’d be a wildlife biologist or forest ranger.  – Rick Schroder

 This statement by Rick is so true; my body & soul always meander in wilderness though it is practically difficult to chase our passion because of our current profession.
This time I planned for Nagarahole aka Rajiv Gandhi National Park, it was almost 4 year since I visited the place. It is a pristine forest full of surprises which gave me an opportunity to sight tiger in the wild for the first time.
The booking at Gangotri forest rest house is made easy via telephone and booking can be confirmed by sending an MO to ACCF – Mysore.
Raghunath helped me by providing information of hotel Jungle Residency situated just before Veeranahosalli gate. Hmmmmm you should be lucky enough to get better half with the similar interest, I am blessed in such case. I and Sindhu [My wife] started our wildlife odyssey on Wednesday at 1.30 Pm and reached Nagarahole around 6.00Pm. The accommodation is decent enough for transit visitors like us.
 The next morning, at the break of dawn we left for our jungle drive. Luckily ours was the first vehicle to enter the check post. I began recollecting my old memories of Nagarahole. Few kilometers from the check post, we were fortunate to sight 5 wild dogs by the road which hurried into the woods as we slowed the car.

I would like to share my experience at Nagarahole in the form of tales which unfolded in front of me during the trip. The serene calmness engrossed the forest, we moved on slowly towards Nagarahole passing karmadu junction.  

Tale1: Encounter of Indian Sloth Bear

 Watching closely through the depths of the forest, we spotted a black object sitting beside the road. It took us few seconds to realize that the animal which we were seeing was a sloth bear, it calmly came on the road and started walking in front of our car. It was first time I was seeing a sloth bear in such close proximity. It sniffed the bumper and started moving ahead.
I shifted the gear to reverse and parked my car giving space for the bear to walk. This bear was very daring and walked for almost 2 km in front of us.

Sloth bears are nocturnal and insectivorous; it was strange to see such a huge bear in the day light walking on the road without getting intimidated.  The scene was unforgettable, sighting wild dogs is a sign of good fortune for us…and needless to say we had already spotted the sloth bear.

 We reached Nagarahole forest department, showed the photos and narrated the story to them, curious to know about this strange behavior. We later found out that bears usually go sniffing around in search of honey combs.

Our reservation was made at Gangotri forest guest house, Gangotri is a beautiful place built in 1972; it has four rooms and a balcony where one can relax and get a glimpse of the wild.

Sidaanna, room caterer came in search of us to take order for lunch, it is a simple menu consisting of chapati curry along with rice, sambar and rasam.
What more can one expect? With the rains pouring through the lush green forest… sending a whiff of earthy odor into the air. Enjoying this perfect set up we laid back in the balcony watching spotted deers, and listened to the distant happy calls of langur… Ahhh it was simply superb.

In the evening we started driving along HD kote road, there was pin drop silence in the jungle, it dint yield any sighting. It was long since I had spoken to Chikkanna, a guard at Kallala guest house, the wooden bungalow stood magnificently in the middle of the jungle. After reaching the guest house we enquired with a caterer named Deepak and later found out that Chikkanna had been transferred. 

We called for the day without any sightings thereafter.

 Tale 2: On the prowl – Wild dogs
After dinner we grabbed the chair out in the balcony and settled listening outside, it was pitch dark as the check post at both the ends were closed from 6.00Am to 6.00Pm no vehicle moment was there. It is a strong belief that in the night predators will be on prowl and most of the animals might cross the roads and move through game trails.
I might call it is a coincidence, when I switched on the torch and threw the light on the road side of the forest bungalow I was surprised to see a couple of  gleaming eyes, crossing the road it took me few mins to conclude it was wild dogs… 🙂
Sindhu was thrilled to see the predator roaming around the guest house.
We were awake for an hour or so listening closely for any kind of alarm calls by chitals, but the wild dogs dint gave any clew and pushed off to its hide…

The next day morning we planned to hit the roads before the sun rise. It was a windy weather, last night the rains had poured like cats & dogs. The road was wet and welcoming. 

 A morning welcome by Indian Peacock our national bird made us happy photographing the beauty on the road we preceded towards karmadu junction. A herd of elephants were gazing peacefully beside the road. We moved on photographing the elephants.
 On the way back towards Nagarahole we spotted Lapwing, greater flame back woodpeckers and lot of tree-pies. It was time for breakfast and reached back the guest house and had sumptuous break fast served by sidanna.
 We returned to the cottage and opened the windows to breathe the fresh air. I dint believe my eyes when I saw the pack of 5 wild dogs relaxing near by, we then concluded it was the same pack we spotted the previous night, I took my camera and rushed outside without getting noticed by wild dogs. I spent a considerable amount of time observing and photographing the wild dogs in the close encounter a tempo traveler filled with tourist passed making loud sound which made them move swiftly into the woods..

Tale 3: Fight for the pride 

 The sighting of wild dogs was still fresh. I was ready with my camera mounted with macro lens to photograph insects around the cottage. The sound of dashing antlers made by spotted deers drew my attention, the combat between male spotted deers to flaunt its mate was spectacular, males sporting hard antlers are dominant when they are in rut they fight to defend small group of females with which they mate.
In the mating season male deers make a distinctive call to attract the females in the group. It looks like deers are soft in nature when it comes to prove its territory the power is truly amazing.
The fight between the male deers was for few mins; finally a male deer won the prize catch and walked away with pride… the scene was mesmerizing. The jungle is the teacher; learn every moment … 🙂
 The car was running out of fuel we planned to visit Sri Mangala which is around 20Km from Kutta to fill the tank. Kutta is a small village which is in border of Kerala and Karnataka. One can also visit Waynad Wildlife Sanctuary [Tholpetty Range] from Kutta.
 We also figured out the timing of Tholpetty national park and reached the place; unfortunately due to monsoon the forest was closed.
It made me happy to see a traditional post office which is still functioning at Nagarahole. I remembered the Kannada film featured on post office and postman’s routine job in “Abachurina Post office” by KP Poorna chandra tejaswi.
 By the time we reached Nagarahole it was 1.00Pm, we felt very tired and wanted to relax for sometime and grabbed a quick nap. We started our evening drive towards HD Kote road by 4.30Pm; guars were in plenty nibbling beside the road and found a single tusker near Karmadu junction. Apart from this we were not lucky enough to sight any big cats and drove back to guest house by 6.00Pm.
 
 Next day morning we checked out from the cottage and started back to Namma Bengaluru. The time we spent in the forest without hustle life style was fantastic.
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