Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bhadra Tiger Reserve – The Terning Point

River Terns going fishing

The River Tern Lodge - for once a resort truly lived up to its name. This excellent property, run by Jungle Lodges gave us amazing sightings of the beautiful River Tern. We saw them (and the Lesser Pratincole) in their hundreds, flying, fishing and feeding for more than two hours on little islands in the middle of the reservoir. It was so engrossing that we forgot there were other things to see on that boat safari.



River Terns
It was my first trip to Bhadra (set in the Western Ghats, north-west of Bangalore) with my friends Ramki and Swarna and their three super-cool nephews, Tarun, Arya and Aniruddh. Needless to say, the 5 hour drives in and out as well as the three days were completely action packed and a whole load of fun.


Bhadra is a Tiger Reserve set in the Western Ghats north-west of Bangalore and while people do see tigers reasonably often (and even the occasional black panther) it is not Ranthambhore, Bandhavgarh or Tadoba.  So please do not go looking only for tigers, not only are you likely to not see one, you will miss so many other amazing things; like the river terns, pratincoles, ospreys, indian rollers, hornbills or even the Malabar trogon if you’re lucky.

The resort itself can stake a claim to be an attraction in itself; it is set across two small hills with a bridge between them. So, to have a meal we had to climb down our little hill, walk across the bridge and climb up on the other hill – the ‘golghar’ or dining area was right at the top. Three meals a day times two trips up and down certainly helped digest some of that excellent food!

Backwaters of the Bhadra Reservoir
The first afternoon we spent on the jeep safari. The drive yielded a lovely tusker and stunning views of the Bhadra reservoir, and we spent a pleasant half hour on its banks watching storks, darters and a pair of Eurasian thicknees.

Osprey taking off
The next morning was the boat safari. The guide took us straight to a little island where we saw the terns. There were so many around, each doing something different that it took me a while to get my camera to focus on one individual. After our hearts’ fill with terns, we moved to another island which was filled with the little Pratincoles, their brown-grey colour providing amazing camouflage amidst the rocks. And as we reluctantly moved away, we saw an osprey sitting on a tree stump in the water. He then proceeded to spread his wings and fly, giving us a super action sequence.


Lesser Pratincole
That afternoon, we had a mini-thunderstorm, accompanied by lots of lightning. We sat in our balcony, watching nature’s drama and taking in the lovely breeze. The rain let up in time for us to go for a safari and it was fresh and cool in the jungle and we encountered a few elephants and gaur, who seemed to be enjoying the weather as well. Add a couple of Malabar Pied Hornbills and a glimpse of the Malabar Trogon and it made for a lovely afternoon.

Skies gearing up for the thunderstorm
A glimpse of another magnificent tusker the next morning brought a superb trip to an end. For me, it was another reminder that while the big boys of the jungle can provide the dramatic spectacle, the little stars are no less endearing! A lesson I was to learn and enjoy several times over in the forests of South India.

Eurasian Thicknee 
Bhadra Trip Guide

Getting there

Bhadra Tiger Reserve is around 300 km North West of Bangalore on the Shimoga/Chikmaglur route. If your driving, your route is Bangalore-Tumkur-Gubbi-Tiptur-Arsikere-Kadur-Birur-Tarikere. You take a turn towards Lakkavalli at Tarikere and the whole journey should take you around 6 hours.

You can also take a train from Bangalore to either Kadur or Tarikere and the hotel can arrange for a pick-up from the station.

Stay

Cottages at the River Tern Lodge

Ramki on the 'Bridge'
At Lakkavalli, Jungle Lodges (www.junglelodges.com) has the excellent River Tern Lodge. Comfortable rooms and great food, as expected from a JLR property. Best to book in advance, since JLR does not accept walk-ins and they’re usually booked out especially in season and on weekends.

If you’re averse to walking or climbing (especially after a meal) ask for rooms in the older section, near the ‘Golghar’ rather than the newer rooms on the hill opposite.

Food and Service
Excellent as always, with the high standards of JLR impeccably maintained. The sambar and rasam are especially recommended, as are the dosas and chow-chow bhath for breakfast.

Safaris
JLR packages have safaris built in, so you don’t have to book anything else. Plan on at least 1 boat safari, preferably in the mornings to enjoy the park from another perspective.

Other tips
On your way, there are several places for a break and some food. Kamath Upachars are very good for breakfast or snacks and there is also the Café Coffee Day near Tumkur if you prefer something non-South Indian.