This is about another journey of ours into the jungles of Karnataka. We had finally managed to get accommodation in JLR resort at K Gudi (Kyatha Devara Gudi) near B R Hills (Biligiri Ranga Hills) on a long weekend in September of this year. Usually we stay for 2 nights in all the wildlife trips that we do. We did the same in this case too. We had booked two log huts as Niranj would also be joining us.
We had come to Ranganathittu the previous day and stayed in Mysore overnight. After a hearty breakfast at the famous GTR (Gayathri Tiffin Room) we commenced our journey to K Gudi around 10 AM. Some stretches of the road were bad past Nanjangud town. After crossing Chamarajanagar the beautiful hills came into view.
We crossed the B R Hills Sanctuary check post around 12 PM. We were asked not to stop anywhere within the forest. The resort is around 15-20 kms from the check post. Beyond the checkpost, most of the road was in a bad state and in the process of getting repaired. Therefore one would be well advised to approach K.Gudi from Yelandur instead of from Chamarajnagar; that is also a closer route from Bangalore. The uniqueness of this JLR resort is that it is inside the jungle and not fenced. There is no electricity here and a generator is used in the early mornings and for 3-4 hours in the night. It can get quite cold here, especially in the monsoon and in the winters. We had therefore booked the log huts instead of tented cottages and also carried warm clothing.
When we entered the resort the people at the reception welcomed us and took us to our loghuts immediately. We chose the Biligiri hut while Niranj got the Nilgiri hut. These huts were at the edge of the property. The JLR guy who showed us our room told us that we might get to spot some wild animals in the night after the lights were off and we were silent enough. The huts were well furnished and beautiful.
We spotted a pair of Scarlet Minivets on one of the trees near our hut. Nagesh and Niranj took out their cameras and sat on a nearby rock happily.
Soon it was time for lunch and we went to the Gol Ghar (name given to dining area of JLR Resorts). Like all our previous experiences at JLR the food was excellent here too. Given the fact that we were in the jungle, it was an excellent effort by the cooks and they never disappointed us throughout our stay here. After a hearty lunch we went for the noon siesta. It was drizzling. The evening safari would start at 4.30 PM and we had to assemble near the reception around 4 PM for tea/coffee and biscuits.
By the time we woke up the rain had abated. We set out to the reception and had tea. The safari started on time. Our companions on this safari included a friendly couple from Chennai and their little daughter. We saw some tame Chital Deer and Elephants as we left the resort.
As we crossed the check post at a diversion from the main road, we came across some Soliga homes. The people of this tribal community live in harmony with nature and worship all forms of nature. The first sighting was of a Brown Fish Owl which was deep asleep atop a tree. The visibility was not great for taking pictures due to the gloomy weather after rain.
The birds that we spotted were Black Drongo, Greater Racket Tailed Drongo, Orange Headed Thrush, Yellow footed Green Pigeon, Jungle Owlet and White Throated Kingfisher. The “cats” did not make an appearance. Our driver told us that summer is usually the best time for viewing Leopards and the occasional Tigers. There is a point called Leopard Rock where the Leopards supposedly sit for hours together some times in the evenings when it is sunny.
An unusual sighting was of a Black Rumped Flameback Woodpecker feasting on the side of the jeep track with a group of seven Jungle Babblers. Nobody knew the reason behind this behaviour. We later got to know that different species of birds sometimes get together to feed on the Termites which come out post the rains.
The safari lasted for a good two hours and we were back at the resort by around 7 PM. A pack of Dholes (Wild Dogs) had been spotted near the property by the staff when we had been on the safari. We had missed a golden opportunity. Hot Pakoras and Coffee/Tea awaited us at the hall next to the reception area. A documentary on Dholes was being played. We did not watch the entire screening and left for the hut as we had already seen it during our trip to Kabini. After having some nice dinner we retired early for the night since the generator is switched off by around 10 PM.
We woke up early the next morning by 6 AM to the sounds of birds. After having some coffee and biscuits we set out for the safari at 6.30 AM. The forest looked so pristine. It was misty as well.
Next came the sighting of a baby Elephant which got petrified on seeing our jeep and started making noises. The mother came immediately and seemed very much annoyed and worried. She started shaking the bushes vigorously. We were worried that that the Elephant would charge us. The Elephant seemed to try and smell the danger (we humans). Given that we were upwind from the elephant, it probably did not smell us and hence did not charge. Our driver told that it was not safe to remain there anymore. It was a scary experience! We immediately left the place.
The next sighting was a momentary glimpse of a Tree Shrew which disappeared immediately. It is endemic to this region and elusive. We then stopped near a water body in the forest to see if any animals were there. But we did not sight anything. This is one place within the jungle where we were allowed to venture out of the jeeps. This place had Leeches and Niranj got bitten when he stepped out from the jeep to take pictures.
We returned from the Safari around 8.30 AM and had breakfast. Afterwards we went for a walk on the main road. We spent some time with the tame deer just outside the resort.
We spotted a Great Tit on a tree nearby. It seemed impossible to get a picture of this hyperactive tiny bird. It was never still for a moment. It started raining and we rushed back to the resort. When we reached the reception area we heard a bird making distressed sounds. It turned out to be a juvenile Rufous Treepie which seemed lost and constantly screeched for its mother maybe. It could not fly due to the rain. It is hard to believe that such a colourful and beautiful bird belongs to the same family as the Common Crow.
The resort was arranging for jeeps to take those interested to the temple at B R Hills. We decided not to go as we would be staying at Gorukana resort in B R Hills the next day and the temple would be closer from there. We went back to our rooms. We sighted some birds near our room. Some Black Drongoes were trying to shoo away a Greater Racket Tailed Drongo.
A Black Hooded Oriole was sitting close to where the Drongoes were creating a ruckus.
During lunch we spotted some Bonnet Macaque Monkeys and Langurs as well. One of the monkeys had managed to steal a Phulka and was happily gorging on it. Another one stood on its hind legs to show us that it can also stand on two legs :)
The evening safari did not yield any different sightings. The Brown Fish Owl was sleeping at exactly the same spot as the day before. The Racket Tailed Drongo and Orange Headed Thrush seemed to be following us everywhere. We even went on the main road for reasonable distance as many sightings had happened there in the past. But we were not lucky enough on this occasion.
The last safari on the next morning also did not yield any new sightings except for a Grey Junglefowl. Even the Deer seemed to have grown weary and decided not to come out. The Crested Serpent Eagle gave an occasional appearance.
Our driver took us through a path called Mooradi Raste (Three Feet Road) in the forest. This narrow path was engulfed by Lantana bushes and we had an adventurous ride. By the time we got out of this path, we were covered with leaves and Lantana flowers. The driver had got bitten by a leech.
As we were walking back to our huts after breakfast we saw a juvenile White Bellied Drongo.
We checked out of the resort at around 11 AM and set forth for Gorukana.