Delightful discovery! As you traverse through the winding ghat road from Londa railway junction, the endless expanse of greenery never ceases to amaze you. From thick deciduous teak forest to dense evergreen jungle, one can see them all here. And set smack in the middle of this incredible expanse is a secret waiting to be discovered – Ganeshgudi – a tucked away birding paradise in North Karnataka.
Our adventure started even before we officially entered Ganeshgudi. Few kilometers before our destination, we stopped for a flock of Scarlet minivets flitting less than ten feet from us. As we continued our drive, we were welcomed by a Malabar Trogon sitting pretty on a tree just a few feet off the road! An overall brown bird (from the back), it can camouflage itself very well in the dense foliage, till it turns to face you to give away its most magnificent red underparts! Though we weren’t rewarded with good pictures this time, we were pretty sure better photo opportunities lay ahead in paradise. We stayed at the Old Magazine House, a Jungle Lodges property, which was once the ammunition store during the construction of the nearby Supa Dam. The center of Ganeshgudi is a well-laid out township which houses employees of the Supa power project. With the calm Kali flowing nearby and the protected areas of Anshi Tiger Reserve and the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, Ganeshgudi would very well be known for its biodiversity than megawatts of power. A nature lovers paradise and a bird watcher’s dreamland, Ganeshgudi offers endless trails of greenery and adventure at every turn. The Old Magazine House is a small camp of 5 cottages and a dormitory for guests who are typically nature lovers and/or rafting enthusiasts. The dining area is on the open terrace of the dormitory – a great place to bird from. The drive off the main road to reach the camp is through a jeep trail through dense forest along a stream where Blue-eared Kingfishers frequent. The trail leads to camp and ends at a large ficus tree, completing the overall green picture. While the cottages, built recently, are spacious and can house three adults comfortably, they require a more thorough interior job. Ganeshgudi receives exceptionally heavy rainfall and the moisture has taken its toll on the cottages. The surroundings of the camp more than make up for the inadequacies of the cottages. One wakes up to a riot of green and serious bird activity. On the first afternoon after a sumptuous lunch, we decided to explore the camp surroundings. The camp’s local guide, Pundalika, spotted a pair of Malabar trogons just behind our cottage. We were thrilled see this beauty again. Pundalika informed us about the resident flock of Malabar Pied Hornbills that fly daily across the bridge on River Kali to their roosting site. As a prime objective of the trip was to photograph these hornbills, we rushed to see the sight just before sunset. As flocks of them glided across the river and landed on the bamboo nearby, we couldn’t help but pray that this picture perfect setting is left unspoilt forever. The next day morning was frenetic birding. We found sunbirds, munias, Malabar, orange-headed and blue-capped thrushes, Great (a couple flying overhead), Malabar pied and grey hornbills, etc. all literally popping out of the bush as we walked on the jeep track from the camp. We were even lucky to see the white-bellied blue flycatcher out in the open which we have unsuccessfully tried to photograph elsewhere in South India. Ganeshgudi was already turning out to be our favourite! After lunch at the camp we were witness to a natural drama that unfolded in front of us right beside the large fig tree. Bird baths placed strategically among the bamboo in the shade were action packed. First came the daring sunbirds, then the beautiful flycatchers, followed by the bulbuls (yellow-browed & flame-throated), and then the chatty dark-fronted babblers. We also spotted the monarch, the green-backed tit and the not so often sighted brown-cheeked fulvetta. A pair of emerald dove also flew in to entertain us and so did the feisty shama. The gigabytes filled as the afternoon progressed and finally drama ended as the sun went down. Before we reached Ganeshgudi we spent a night at Jungle Lodges Kali Adventure Camp in Dandeli. Set along the banks of River Kali, the camp is a good base for birding and white-water rafting. The first evening was a jeep safari into the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, which was unproductive thanks to dense vegetation and also the vastness of the protected area. A coracle ride along this stretch of Kali got us very close to crocodiles of all sizes. The highlight however was a lone White-bellied sea eagle sitting steady atop a tall tree along the river bank. He did not move for a long time and left us wondering what he was doing so far inland. Unfortunately, we missed the resident fishing eagles. As advised by DFO Mr. Vijay Mohan Raj (VMR), we decided to explore the Dandeli Timber Depot the next morning. An amazing birding spot with a profusion of parakeets, hornbills, green pigeons, woodpeckers and bee-eaters. We also stepped into the saw mill to get better shots of the hornbills that were warming up for the day ahead. Thanks to VMR for helping us plan another memorable trip to N Karnataka! We wrapped up and headed to Ganeshgudi. Shown below is a route map for Dandeli & Ganeshgudi:
Enjoy the images and please share your feedback. Cheers! –ramki Bangalore | March 2008