A rejuvenating weekend in Dandeli
We decided to go to Dandeli in early March during the extended Holi weekend. It is an 11 hour drive from Pune to Dandeli, which is located close to the Maharashtra-Karnataka border. We started after an early lunch, stopped for the night at Dharwad, an hour and a half before Dandeli, as we did not want to go off the highway and drive into the jungle in the night. Next morning we started early and entered the forest area.
On both sides of the road, there were huge white anthills, some even as tall as a human on the remains of dead tree trunks. The forest looked dry, with trees bare of leaves as spring was yet to arrive with the new leaves. The best time to visit, we were told is after the rains, when the forest is at its green best.
We reached the Kali Jungle Lodges Resort just in time for breakfast. It is a spaciously laid out resort within the forest, with comfortable accommodation, without the frills. It is not for people who cannot exist without Television, though the AC was a blessing in the mid-day heat. Rooms opened out to balconies facing the river, which flowed right behind the resort. The central dining arrangements were on a side lawn, in a vast circular area, with a thatched roof called Gol-Ghar. The buffet meals were mainly local cuisine (South Indian) and fresh, home cooked and delicious. However, one needs to beware of the monkeys present in the resort, especially if carrying food.
The resort manager informed us that water is let out from the dam up the river every afternoon. This increases the water levels in the river making it suitable for rafting. The resort vehicles conveyed the rafting enthusiasts to the starting point, further upstream. Though it was a short rafting stretch with not too many dangerous rapids, the fast flowing water provided a fun experience, especially towards the end. After a pretty steep 10 feet drop, the rowers steered the rafts back towards the sides of the mini waterfall. It was great fun to then the raft back into the falling water and the two sitting in the front had a glorious dunking. This was so exhilarating that all the rafters beseeched the guides to repeat it multiple times, with everyone taking turns to be upfront.
I stayed back with the grandchildren, and we had a nice-time playing in the resort itself, which had some climbing, rope-climbing and obstacle courses for the kids to scamper up and down and some swings as well. There was a view point, built high in the trees like a machaan, from where we could view the river over a far distance on either side. Later we went on a coracle ride in the river, which turned out to be a real adventure. The coracle is a small round basket-like boat with small wooden seats. It is controlled by a single boatman, and though it looked precarious at first, it turned out to be quite stable. The trip upriver required some strenuous rowing by the boatman, while downstream was very delightful, because of the current. We even managed to go across to the other bank. He suddenly signaled us to be quite and pointed towards the bank, where we saw a crocodile fast asleep. The children were simply thrilled! When the rafters came back and heard of our adventure, they too insisted on a coracle ride next morning and were also rewarded with a crocodile sighting.
The first evening we went on a pleasant nature walk with a guide from the resort in the woods surrounding the resort. We returned to a lovely born-fire arranged in the lawns. All guests were seated cosily around the bonfire and snacks were served. Since playing music was not allowed within the forest area as per regulations, some of the guests sang and it was a warm & relaxed atmosphere. Dinner was served in the restaurant and absolutely delicious as we had come to expect from the resort.
Next morning was an early wake-up call at five, and everybody was excited to go on the Jeep-safari to the watering-holes to sight animals in the wild. There were three jeeps which left with the guests at 5:30 am from the resort. It was a long drive into the dense forest. Unfortunately we could not sight any Tiger or Elephant but only saw some Peacocks, Hornbills, Wild Boar and a Fox. On our way back, we stopped at a viewpoint. It was a short walk to the viewing platform which offered a panoramic view of the forest and valley below. However, we did sight a giant red squirrel in the resort grounds itself which was 5 times the size of the regular tree squirrel.
Around 4 pm in the evening, we went on a bird-watching trek on a path close to a lumber yard. This area was the roosting place for the Great Indian Hornbill. Imagine our awe when we came across 6-7 of these large birds with their prominent yellow bills, which were once feared quite close to extinction. There were many other species of birds as well, pointed out by the guides, but my favorite was the large red-headed woodpecker noisily pecking away on a trunk. Only a few of us sighted the majestic bird before it disappeared into the shadows.
Next morning, after breakfast we started on the long journey back home after a very satisfying and relaxed 3 day holiday. We not only connected with nature, but also as a family in the absence of the noisy distractions of the city.