Well…its not that I didn’t travel these last two years after Valley of Flowers, its just that I didn’t blog about it! And had decided to return to blogging even before we left for our much awaited Goa- Dandeli trip last week. Dandeli, was on the list for a long time now. Actually, Hampi was much above on the list than Dandeli but then travelling to Hampi was too much hassle, specially when we realized there was just one train daily to Hospet from Mumbai, that too at 1.30am from Kalyan!!
So, when one of friends said they were driving down to Goa (my favorite place!) we just tagged along! And decided to visit Dandeli as well given that it is about 150kms from Goa.
The drive, obviously was going to be a long one. We decided to chuck the Mumbai-Goa Highway and take the Mumbai-Pune-Kolhapur-Nippani-Goa route. We took a night halt at another friends place at Pune before proceeding on the long drive. Pune to Kolhapur was smooth and safe, all on the highway! We did halt at the Virangula Restaurant at Karad for a quick breakfast of Poha and thalipeet.
Also, a highly recommended stop was taken at the famous Fadtare Misal in Kolhapur. Sadly, it didn’t justify the 90 minute delay as we had to drive inside the city and search for the place through the narrow bylanes and uneven roads. Fadtare missal, sadly didn’t live up to the hype.
The road through Nippani to Amboli was a disaster. This further slowed us down and our hopes of reaching Goa for a late lunch were crashed! Oh Brittos!!
The scenic drive through Amboli ghat, kind of made up for it. A relief prevailed on everyones’ face when we crossed the Banda village to enter Goa! The leveled and paved roads of Goa were distinct contrast to those in Maharashtra…..wake up Mr. Chavan!
We checked into the lovely Marinha Dourada Resort at Arpora. Just about a km from the super-happening Baga beach. The huge resort has a lake within its premises and guest can go fishing and boating too. However, we being hard-pressed for time with our Dandeli schedule didn’t do any of it!
Dinner was at Souza Lobo which unfortunately wasn’t the best we’ve had there. The fish was excellent, though according to the ones who ate it, but then that was the least that’s expected when you are in Goa. The Mackies Night market was ho-hum, not much happening. All the action was concentrated on the Titos lane and we did down a few drinks and shook a leg at the Cape Town Café. It’s a lively place and way better than the overhyped Mambos Club!
We rented a WagonR for Rs. 900/- per day for the Dandeli trip. Unlike the bikes that we rent in Goa, which have to be of a Yellow number plate, the self-drive cars are normally private cars. The yellow number plate cars are taxis and have to be hired with the driver.
An excellent breakfast at Café Lila set us up for the long drive to Dandeli. The omlette and croissants were brilliant and the strawberry smoothie was divine.
We left Goa at about 12noon. We took a long winding road through the Mollem Sanctuary in hopes to catch a glimpse of the Dudhsagar Falls and were looking out for it throughout the road. Later got to know that you have to trek it up to watch it or take a train which passes the falls. What a waste of time!
Another turn was missed and we drove 10kms ahead before we realized it. Also, there are hardly any signs directing the way to Dandeli, which was quite surprising. Google Maps was our savior!! Almost the entire drive was through sanctuary and forest area.
So eventually, reached Dandeli at about 4.30pm, collected our pass from the Forest Conservators office at the Timber Mart which is an ideal place for sighting Hornbills who come to roost here in mornings and evenings. A pair of the Malabar pied Hornbill was sighted on the tree right behind the Forest Conservators office. It was fun watching these magnificient birds.
The Kulgi Nature camp, where we were booked for 2 nights was about 12kms from Dandeli town. The Kulgi Nature Camp basically has tented accommodation (Deluxe tents with attached baths: Rs.550 and normal tents for Rs. 250. A 20 bed Dormitory is also available at Rs. 100 per bed). As the deluxe tents were all booked we had booked the Log Cottages. This is a separate property, close to the tented area. It has about 8-10 wooden cottages in a lovely forest setting. The cottages are equipped with a clean bathroom and WC and also a small dressing area is provided. The cute little sit-out is a perfect place to sip on coffee while enjoying the serene surroundings.
We didn’t take the option the Jungle Safari and I just went out on my own to explore and some bird watching. The lonely jungle roads were overwhelming and I decided to stay near to the car. I did spot a beautiful pair of the Grey Tit and a Velvet fronted Nuthatch (both a first for me!) through the binocs. It was a real treat. About the same area, I also spotted a lot of activity, probably a mixed hunting party (as later suggested by Adesh Shivkar, who was having a birding camp at Dandeli). There were Drongos, Black hooded Golden Orioles and Eurasian Golden Orioles along with a other birds which I couldn’t recognize. Back to the resort for some breakfast of Upma, Poha and Chai!
We then decided to go for River Rafting on the Kali river. This too was going to be a first for me and Hemant, and obviously we were excited. The charges are high though at Rs.1300/person for the 9.5km stretch of rafting! We had to travel about 20kms to reach the river. The rafting is arranged by resorts like Hormbill Resort (which is on the banks of Kali river and also have a Tree House right above the river! ) or Bison Resort. The water level plays a major role in the level of rapids while rafting. Unforunately, for s the water level was not too high as just one gate of the dam was opened that day. So the rapid level was barely at 3, more like a beginner’s level. We were provided with proper equipment like life jackets, head gear and oars. The Kali river is quite wide and it was not until we started rafting did we realize its magnificence. The rafting was an amazing experience and a great adrenaline rush. Not to mention the serene surroundings and some real good bird sightings including Wooly Necked Storks and a lone Fish Eagle.
We were pickup about 3 hours later and some 10kms downstream. We did not realize how hungry we were until then J. A quick bite at Mr. Bandekar’s restaurant in Kulgi made us feel better.
While we were at the rafting trip, we were strongly suggested to visit the Sykes point to spot the Great Hornbill. However, it is forbidden for general public and needed a special permission from Mr. C.R. Naik. We called him and expressed our interest in Birding and Photography and he agreed! So, about 10kms, 3 check-posts and 1 written application later, we reached the Sykes Point! And guess what, No pictures allowed!! Again some “Pure Indian Makkhan” and I was allowed to take my camera through. 🙂
The Sykes Point is a vantage point and overlooks the majestic Kali river surrounded by the dense Dandeli forest. It looks like a smaller version of Amazon (as Ive seen it in the pics!). Very beautiful and definitely worth the trouble. We reached well before sunset and were lucky to witness the emerald Kali river turn to into liquid gold as the sun set.
However, half an hour later, no sights of the birds yet L We decided to wait some more and there they were! The Great Hornbills down in the valley. In ones and two, gliding short distances and disappearing in the thick forest cover. A rare sight! We did hope for a few of them to fly a little up and give us a closer look which didn’t happen. But we were happy with what we saw.
It was dark by the time we reached back and decided to postpone the visit to the Bomanalli backwaters on the next morning. Dinner was at the Kulgi Nature camp. The dry chicken was the highlight of dinner, made in kannada style, dry and spicy. A nice compliment to the chilly weather!
We had to checkout early next day as we planned to visit a couple of birding sights. We were ready by 6am and reach Bomanalli backwaters in 15 mins. The dawn colors were all over the sky and reflecting perfectly on the backwaters of the Supa dam. The fog was rising off the water and birds were just waking up to the braking dawn. A few herons were already out fishing and a lone stork had taken up a yoga pose some meters in the water. A few minutes later the sun begun to rise casting a golden glow all over. A picture perfect moment. About half an hour and a few photographs later we moved on as we had to catch some hornbills at the Timber trail in Dandeli.
Again a pair was spotted in the Forest Conservator office premises. A saw a whole lot of Grey and Malabar pied ones flying over to roost. No great photo-ops, though.
We also made a quick stop at the private Crocodile park. Some 10-15 crocs were lazing around in the mud and a couple of them moved to take a dip in the murky water. We heard it’s a good place for some raptor sighting in early mornings. We saw none.
We tried to avoid our earlier mistakes on our way back and ditched the Mollem Sanctuary road. Took the highway and were in Goa in about 3.5 hours for a late lunch with friends at Brittos! From the serenity of Dandeli to the madness of Goa…it was a hard-hitting contrast. But we sure loved both.