April 2018 | Bike Rides Bangalore

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Dandeli Day 2 - Syntheri Rocks and Dandeli Jungle Camp

Place: Syntheri Rocks and Dandeli Jungle Camp, Dandeli

Distance:  472 km from Bangalore
Type:  Bird Photography, Sightseeing, and Waterbody
Ideal for:  Friends and Family

The previous day was filled with adventure with Rafting in Kali River and spotting many species of birds in Old Magazine House. If you haven't read my previous day post then I highly recommend you to read it first before reading this post. Let's get started...

Best of the Beast: Tiny Waterfalls at Syntheri Rocks

Sunday Morning: I woke up to the chirping of birds at 6.30 am and got ready for the nature walk by 7. I spent 10 minutes searching for the naturalist who would take us for the nature walk. After inquiry, I got to know the group had already left hence another staff member named Joma agreed to take us for the walk. Nature's walk is a 2 km walk (one way) till Ganesha Temple and is mainly intended for bird photography in the open area. Joma mentioned that he has been working with OMH for the past 15 years and he was involved when the bird feeders were installed. He said that the original idea came from a foreigner who visited this place and suggested the plan.

Many such giant squirrels were spotted in OMH
Malabar Trogon (male) was spotted for the first time in this year.

Nature Walk to Ganesha Temple: We started walking towards the Ganesh temple on the main road. There were a lot of birds chirping around, taking flight from one branch to another. Joma's eyes were sharp enough to spot the birds which were hundreds of feet away. He had never been to a school yet he was able to remember birds name in English and was intelligent enough distinguish hundreds of species of birds. I was impressed to see his energy and passion towards the birds.

Nature walk along the tar road till Ganeshgudi
We spotted the famous Horn Bill for the first time. I tried to capture photos but most of them turned out to be out of focus or blurred. I realized how difficult it is to capture the birds in an open area like this.

We spotted Hornbill for the first time

A lot of monkeys hanging around. This mother and child grabbed our attention
We visited the Ganesha temple. The temple was simple yet beautiful with shrines of Lord Ganesha, Lord Rama, Lakshman, Sita, and Hanuman. After a short visit to the temple, we started walking back to Old Magazine House.

Ganesha Temple which is the reason behind the place name Ganeshgudi

Idols worshipped in this temple. Rama, Lakshmana, Sita, Hanuman, and Ganesha
We had breakfast and were ready for our next activity - Coracle Ride. Our Jeep was ready by 9.30. Coracle ride is done near Kaleshwara temple which is next to the river bridge.

As we were having breakfast this Spider Hunter grabbed our attention
Coracle Ride: After wearing life jacket we boarded the coracle and our guide started peddling. The ride is short yet calm and relaxing. One can spot crocodiles and a lot of water birds including Indian great Horn bills during a coracle ride. But since the water level was high there were no crocodiles. We spotted a couple of Hornbills and a few water birds. Soon after the Coracle ride, we left for OMH as the checkout time was at 11.

Coracle ride near Kaleshwar Temple

I couldn't stop humming this Kannada song - Doni saagali.. Mundhe hogali.. Dhoora theerava serali......

Coracle which can hold up to 9 passengers.

Serene Ride with beautiful surroundings.

Famous Bridge can be seen from here.

Spotted Hornbill and few other birds.

I wanted to visit the Shiva temple but sadly it was closed by the time we finished the ride. We stopped on the bridge to have a look at the Supa Dam which is visible from this point.

Kali River Bridge near Kaleshwar Temple
Kali River 
Supa Dam Reservoir can be seen from the bridge
Near the base of the Supa dam

We reached OMH by 10.30 and the checkout time was 11 am. Our next stay was booked at Dandeli Jungle Camp. We checked out the room and bid goodbye to the lovely birds at this place. Mr Sanjay had already arranged a cab for us.  We boarded the cab and left for Dandeli Jungle Camp.

Dandeli jungle camp is on the other side of the Ganeshgudi which is a 33 km drive and should not take more than 30 minutes to reach. The camp is inside the reserve forest which makes it stand out from rest of the stays in Dandeli. We took a right turn from the main road and entered the mud road from where the reserved forest started. Forest was looking beautiful even though it was dry and brown, I was wondering how beautiful this place would look in monsoon.

Dandeli Jungle Camp: We were greeted with the Coccum juice upon arrival which was tasty and refreshing. We met Mr. Dharmesh who is the owner of the property. Upon inquiring about the itineraries he said we can take rest and the activity will start post lunch at 3 pm. The entire property is maintained clean and decorated nicely with trees all around. I spotted a few birds outside my room but before I could take out the camera they flew away. I took a power nap and proceeded for lunch at 2. The dining area is neat and clean. The food is one best thing at this place. The menu is simple yet the food is lip-smacking.

Campus area of Dandeli Jungle Camp

The rooms at DJC

Dandeli.com is the official travel partner of this property

Greeted with this Coccum juice

Inside the room - graphical posters inline with the concept of the camp.

The tree house under renovation

Dining Area where homely food is served

Tasty and healthy food. I don't remember how many of s rotis I ate that day :D

Ideal Itinerary at DJC
Our cab was waiting for us to take to Syntheri rocks. We boarded the cab at 3 pm and started driving towards Syntheri rock which is 35 km from this place. Vijay was our driver for the day. While talking to him during the long drive I got to know about his passion for wildlife. He had sound knowledge about wild animals which he learned from Netgeo and youtube. He also mentioned that he has spotted many animals like black panther, tiger and wild bison during his past trips with other passengers.

The last one kilometer stretch after the check post
Listening to his endless encounters with wild animals I was hoping to spot any wild animal today as well. My eyes rolled over the surrounding forest in search of the animals till we reached Syntheri Rocks but we weren't lucky enough. Meanwhile, the conversation continued. Vijay told about the recent incidence happened in Dandeli where a sloth bear attacked a farmer. The farmer died before he could reach the hospital. I never knew bears could be this deadly.

Syntheri Rocks check post.

Brief about Syntheri Rocks: Syntheri Rock is a huge, massive limestone rock formed due to volcanic eruptions some million years ago. It is named after an English lady called Ms. Cinthera who is believed to have discovered this place in the 20th century. River Kaneri passes along the side of this rock. Owing to the flow of the river from the vicinity, erosion has resulted in the rocks getting hollowed. The corners of this rock cave are inhabited by numerous pigeons and honeybees.

We reached Syntheri rocks at 4 pm. There is a 15-20 minute walk from the vehicle parking to the rock. A flight of 200 odd steps downwards lead you to the base. Various types of rocks found in the forest are displayed along the steps. Few resting points are provided as steps are steep and its very likely get tired while climbing. Getting into the water at this place is nothing less than a call of the death. There are warning signs mentioning the number of deaths happened so far. The area is stinky near the water and we couldn't stay for long. After taking a couple of photos we started ascending back. The ascend is little tiring as the steps are steep.

200 odd steps would lead to Syntheri Rocks

Different kind of rocks being displayed along the staircase

The new logo of Dandeli which includes Hornbill and Tiger
Massive 300 ft tall rock and River Kaneri Flowing by its side.

Kaneri River flowing beside the Syntheri Rock

Deep caves have been created as a result of corrosion from the running water

We got into the cab and started our journey back. I had no hopes of spotting any animals so I  took a nap till we reached our stay at 7 pm. I had two cups of coffee and snacks which I got from my home. The campfire was arranged for us so we sat in front of the campfire for an hour talking about how the day went.  We then moved to the dining area for the dinner. The food was again amazing that I couldn't resist eating a lot even though I was on diet. Mr. Dharmendar told that the activity for tomorrow will start at 6 am so I went to bed early.

The campfire was arranged for us at evening

Tried to capture full moon using the 60x optical zoom

Note: I was invited to this experience by Dandeli.com who are dedicated to responsible tourism in Dandeli. However, this has no bearings on my opinion and understanding as shared in this post. My views are completely and honestly my own.

Important Notes:

  • Syntheri Rocks Timings: 10 AM to 5.30 PM Everyday
  • Syntheri Rocks Entry Fees: Rs. 20 per person, Rs.20 for Car parking
  • The ideal itinerary in DJC starts post lunch at 3 pm. If you want to start activities soon after your check-in then do let them know in advance so that they will change the plan according to your requirement.
For an end to end Travel, accommodation, itineraries, and activities contact Dandeli.com or call them +91 9483940400

Read My previous day post where I did River rafting and encountered some exotic birds Old Magazine House and Rafting in Kali River

Don't forget to give this post a Like. See you in my next post.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Dandeli Day 1 - Old Magazine House and Rafting in Kali River

Place: Old Magazine House and Kali River, Dandeli

Distance:  472 km from Bangalore
Type:  Bird Watching, Photography, and Watersports
Ideal for:  Friends and Family

With its dense forest, enchanting river, fascinating resorts, thrilling rafting, chirping birds and wildlife, Dandeli is a one-stop destination for all the Adventure seekers and wildlife lovers. Dandeli is an emerging hotspot for it's for the long list of experiences like Jungle Safari, Rafting, Kayaking, Watersports, bird watching that are curated and housed in this region.

Best of the Beast: River Rafting in Kali River, Dandeli

A photographer’s paradise and an adventurer’s abode, Dandeli deserves all the attention that it has been getting in the past many years. Yet another great reason for the recent popularity of Dandeli is the ease of access that this town has and connectivity with major towns. Getting to Dandeli from Bangalore, Pune, and Goa is almost a cake walk, resulting in the kind of influx of people who seek the same adventures.

Planning: I got my travel planned by dandeli.com which made our Dandeli trip not only easy but helped us experience the beauty of Dandeli. Mr. Rajesh took care of booking our stay at Old Magazine House and Dandeli Jungle Camp. He also arranged the end to end transportation for us after reaching Dandeli.

The best mode of transportation to reach Dandeli is on a bus. Private bus services like VRL and SRS offer both semi seater and sleeper coaches to this place. There's also an option to reach by train but you have to get down at Alnavar railway station and catch a local bus to reach Dandeli which is 30 km away from Dandeli.

Bangalore to Dandeli: Reservations are recommended hence we had our seats booked on the VRL bus which departed on Friday night at 9 pm.

When I opened my eyes it was already 6 am and we were in Dharwad. I lived in Dharwad for my for +2 study during 2006, the nostalgic feeling hit me when the bus passed by my college.

The road condition is excellent until Dharwad. After Dharwad, the bus took a left turn and joined a single lane road. Another 50-kilometer journey would take us to Dandeli. Last few kilometers were through the forest area. I peeked out of the window hoping to spot wild animals but I wasn't lucky enough to spot one. We reached Dandeli at 8 in the morning.

Adventure Begins: As soon as we got down from the bus I called Mr. Sanjay from Dandeli.com who assisted us to reach his office which was hardly 100 meters from the bus stop. We had a discussion about the plan for the next three days. I inquired if rafting is available as I badly wanted to do it. He checked with his local contacts and confirmed the availability. Sanjay mentioned that he would be closely monitoring us to see if everything is going smooth and we are getting all the promised facilities.

We boarded the cab and started driving towards OMH. I initiated the conversation with the driver who was in his 40's. He explained how Dandeli has evolved from being just a paper factory town to tourism hot spot destination.

A peek into the Dandeli Town

On the way to Old Magazine House. I wonder how this road would look in monsoon

Old Magazine House (OMH):
A name enchanted by most of the bird photographers and nature lovers was originally a warehouse used to store ammunition and dynamite used for the blasting of rocks nearly many years ago. It has been turned into the resort and is maintained by Govt of Karnataka. The beauty of this property lies in its very nature of attracting various species of birds.

Last stretch towards Old Magazine House. The general public doesn't have access to it

A name enchanted by most of the bird photographers and nature lovers 

The Old Magazine House is in Ganeshgudi which is 20 kilometers from the Dandeli city. Its a private property and the general public doesn't get access to it until they book a stay at this place. We reached OMH at 9 30 am but the standard check-in time is 12 pm hence we had to wait. As soon as we reached the Old Magazine House I could see a group of photographers gathered around with their huge camera. We kept our luggage in the office and freshened up at common bathrooms in the dormitory room. After freshening up we proceeded for the breakfast as I was extremely hungry.

  It was used to store ammunition and dynamite many years ago.

OMH has been turned into the resort and is maintained by Govt of Karnataka

Dining area: The dining area is big with a 360-degree panoramic view of the surroundings. Food is buffet system with a variety of dishes to choose from. The food was extremely good. After breakfast, we moved to the bird watching spot.

The dining area is big with a 360-degree panoramic view of the surroundings.

What's on my plate for the breakfast
Where the Magic Happens: Birdwatching spot is just in front of the dining area. 6-8 bird feeders have been installed and a green net has been put up with small opening making it look like a bird studio. Since the surrounding forest is dense and rich, a variety of birds stay in its vicinity and come to this spot to quench their thirst. You don't have to run around looking for birds but the birds will come to you and pose for the camera. The only thing you have to do is be quiet and wait.

Bird watching spot in front of the dining area

Photographers on one side and birds on the other separated by the green net.

So many bird enthusiast with their huge cameras

One can spot around 40 species of the bird at this place alone. If you are a bird photographer or a bird watcher then this is the place you should be staying when you visit Dandeli. Most of the co-visitors were photographers with a really high-end camera and big lenses. They not only had the big camera but also had knowledge about the birds.

Should I take my camera out?: Even though I had 2 DSLR's and a point and shoot camera I didn't take them out for nearly an hour as I felt nervous among the ardent bird photographers. I convinced myself that I don't fall into the category of bird watchers hence I shouldn't be worried. I took our my Nikon P600 point and shoot camera which has insane 60x optical zoom. I managed to capture nice shots of the birds. Vinayak who is a staff at OMH explained about different birds we spotted which was a good learning for me. After 2 hours of bird watching and photography, I checked in into the room at 11.30.

While everyone was bust capturing the birds we were capturing the glimpse of this chameleon.

The oriental white eye was the first visitor.
Then Indian Yellow Tit came to quench its thirst
Orange-headed brown thrush posed for the camera

Tickel's Blue Flycatcher.-- another commoner, but a mass entertainer. He did some acrobatics in front of us before entering the pool.

Red-vented Bulbul looked cool with its spikes

Seems like bulbul was shouting at me cz I was taking her pic

Emerald dove - -Frequent visitor to this camp.

Bird name 

Bird feeders where birds come drink water and also bath :D

The rooms at OMH:
The room is big and cozy with double size bed on one side and two chairs on the other. The bathroom was clean and hygienic. I realized OM house is a value for money after looking at all the facilities they provided which include three times meal.

One of the newly constructed wooden house overlooking the thick forest
Dormitory rooms for budget travellers. 

The rooms where I stayed
I spent some time in taking a video footages for my youtube channel and then got freshened up. The ideal itinerary would include a short trek to Supa dam backwater viewpoint from where we can witness the magnificent sunset. But due to the unfortunate event happened at Tamilnadu the trekking was banned at most places in Karnataka including here. We decided to go for rafting instead. We were informed that the pickup for the rafting will be at 1.15. We had lunch which was amazing.

Had a full meal before the rafting

The vehicle facility to the rafting point was arranged by Old Magazine House itself. In fact, they are the only authority who has the license to conduct 9.4 km stretch rafting. Other activity organizers do short rafting. So if you are planning to do rafting at Dandeli book it through Dandeli.com or you can call Mr. Sanjay who will make arrangements for you. Don't get fooled.

The Jeep used in the Old Magazine House
The camp's jeep was ready at 1.15 pm. The rafting begins at 2 pm sharp. It was a 5 km drive to the rafting point.

River Kali: The river is surrounding by dense trees stretching along the river and the water is so clear that I could see the river base with naked eyes. Because of the manganese ore on the bottom, the river looks black in color which is the reason behind the name Kali (black).

Kali River surrounded by the thick green forest
One of the crew members gave a brief description of rafting and safety measurements. He educated us about how to wear a life jacket and choose the right size helmet.

Rafting in Kali River: Mr. Sahadev was our rafting guide and instructor for the day. We boarded the rafting boat and left the shore. Sahadev briefed about the paddling techniques and commands like forward, back, stop and get down. After briefing about the techniques he asked us to jump into the water. A dip into the water helped us cool down for the entire rafting. Peddling along the current was easy. Sahadev mentioned there are totally 9 rapids among which first rapid is the best one.

Smile for the photo: There were two photographers waiting near the first rapid. The first rapid falls under grade 2 which is thrilling for the beginners like us.

The first and the best rapid 

The best part is when the water splashes on you and hits you hard.

Peddling against the rapid

We then encountered some more rapids which were easy and smooth. Along with peddling, we enjoyed the serene water and beautiful surroundings. Not only the surroundings were pleasing even the group was amazing. We laughed to death and totally enjoyed the rafting experience.

The complete 9 km stretch took around two hours. While we were completely satisfied with the rafting experience a big surprise was waiting for us at the last rapid. We stopped after the last rapid. Instructor asked one guy to sit in the front and everyone else to move forward so that the weight of the raft is to the front. We started peddling towards the rapid and instructor managed to lock the raft in the rapid and we started surfing for more than 15 seconds. With two failed attempts we repeated this 6 times until everyone got chance to sit in the front of the boat.

Our driver was waiting for us near the end of the trail. We got into the jeep and started driving towards the OMH. I was extremely tired and hungry. We reached back at 6 pm. We came near the dining area and requested for a hot cup of coffee. I talked with a co-visitor named Vinod Bartakke who is a passionate photographer. He was holding a big camera, out of curiously I asked the cost of his giant camera to which he replied "4 lac for the camera body and 4 lac for the lens". I was awestruck for some time hearing the cost.

A Hot cup of coffee after the rafting is all you need
Beautifully lit up dining area at the evening

After 30 minutes the staff arranged the chairs in a round fashion and served hot pakoda with hot soup. The pakodas were yummy that I gulped 2 plates. Ideally, there should have been a campfire in evening but since the climate was hot they didn't put up the campfire. All the guests gathered and sat there with a peaceful mind mostly discussing the birds they saw on the day.

Pakoda and hot soup at evening

Tried to capture moon with 60 x optical zoom
We waited till 830 for the dinner to be served. We had dinner again it was tasty and good. I inquired for the next day itineraries, for which Vinayak said there will be nature walk in the morning at 7. I slept at 10 pm hoping to get up early.

Note: I was invited to this experience by Dandeli.com who are dedicated to responsible tourism in Dandeli. However, this has no bearings on my opinion and understanding as shared in this post. My views are completely and honestly my own.

Important Notes:
1. Many brokers offer tourism services in Dandeli but most of them don't fulfill the promises and provide fewer facilities at lower cost and then charge for everything else.
3. Book the rafting only through Dandeli.com. Most of the water activity services would fool you to choose the short rafting.
4. Photos taken by the professionals can be collected at the cost of Rs. 500 for all the photos. Make sure you ask the rafting guide at the end of the rafting.

Don't forget to give this post a Like. See you in the next post.