For the Republic day weekend, we decided to explore the Veerahosanahalli range of the Nagarahole National Park / Tiger Reserve. We had never been to this part of Nagarahole… all our earlier forays to Kabini backwaters.
This time our stay was at an unassuming property interestingly called Camp Leopard Rock run by a Bangalore-based outdoor enthusiast Sridhar Reddy. Camp Leopard Rock is a few acres of farm land on the banks of the fairly large Harige Lake en route to Nagarahole on the outskirts of Hunsur.
“We spotted a leopard in the camp just a day after I named it Camp Leopard Rock,” recalls Sridhar with a touch of pride. We later found out from him that the leopard had picked up a few of his dogs and one can occasionally spot jackals and jungle cats near camp. A set of two walk-in tents, a large common dining area, the kitchen and the toilet block are the key infrastructure in the camp. Given the outdoor background of Sridhar, it doesn’t take him long to convert this land into a tented camp for even forty people. Small two-man tents are pitched quickly and with dexterity to accommodate a sizable crowd, when the need arises.
The huge ficus tree in the middle of the property plays host to many birds – barbets, tits, ioras, bulbuls, sunbirds and wintering warblers. Sridhar has created a small look-out machan by the tree for guests to enjoy the view of the lake. The bank of the lake is very good for larks, herons, lapwings and other waders. As soon as you enter the Camp, one can realise that the lake is the mainstay of the entire place. Sridhar runs flat water rafting, kayaking, water-skiing etc. in these waters and has invested in all the gear and safety equipment. Given its proximity to Bangalore (175km), it is not a surprise that Camp Leopard Rock is a huge hit among the techie crowd especially during weekends.
The entry check-post to Nagarahole National Park is about an hour from the Camp and the first 30km is a metalled road going through the Park. After that one arrives at the Range Officers’ office where necessary permissions and a forest guide are required to entire the “game road” – the jeep trails inside the forest. Range Officer Poovaiah was very helpful in giving us a guide and the permission to go into the forest. Sudhir, Giri and Yathin had reached there in the morning and were at a watch tower near a waterhole through the day, with very little food and almost no animals to photograph – except a solitary King Vulture. Our ride into the forest was not very productive either. But, we were glad to be in the forest than in the city. Our drive back was eventful, with our jeep encountering a lone tusker, who was meandering on the side of the road. He quickly walked into the dense bush when other vehicles approached. We drove along to the camp looking for nightjars, but in vain. We could hear them around us but none could be spotted in the dark.
Next morning, after trying our hands at a kayak in the lake, we decided to drive to Kabini to try our luck. With a quick stop for lunch at Cicada (thank you Indu!) and some lark-watching near the resort, we drove into the Kabini backwaters. It surely was a good decision to drive all the way to Kabini (almost 2½ hours). We spotted small herds of elephants with calves, wild boars, chital, a well-built gaur bull, stripe-necked mongooses and several lone tuskers in the backwaters. The highlight of the evening, however, was a leopard crossing our jeep trail! It was almost sundown and the cat slowly ambled across the trail about twenty feet in front of the jeep. Just as he crossed the path he froze, turned towards us and gave a spine-chilling stare for close to a minute. He then slowly walked into the bush just as he had come out of it. Our excitement knew no bounds after this wonderful sight that we didn’t stop talking about it till late into the night!
On the third day morning we decided to bird in the scrubs and rocky areas around the Camp. Ashy-crowned sparrow larks, bee-eaters, house sparrows all gave us very good photo ops. The highlight was several Red Avadavat males in spectacular breeding plumage bathed in the morning light. After photographing the bird for a few minutes we decided not disturb their routine and returned to camp. After another sumptuous lunch we headed back to Bangalore. Camp Leopard Rock had still something up its sleeve for us. As we exited from the Camp, we saw a snake slithering slowly by the side of the road. We hurriedly got out of our jeeps and were lucky to get close to the snake to find out that it was the Indian Cobra!! We couldn’t have asked for a better ending to our holiday!