Have you ever heard of Dandeli? A few years ago, I came to know about it from my friends – and the word that followed Dandeli was Whitewater rafting. Yes, Dandeli is the well known – unique destination in south India for white water rafting. This is known by many, but what’s more in Dandeli always pondered me. A place that has chances of river rafting must be well amidst nature, right? Well, why not explore what’s more in Dandeli. This was the only thought I had and I decided to explore Dandeli this weekend. What I discovered on visiting Dandeli is a ton of experiences which I have curated in these series of posts. This post is dedicated to Old Magazine house and Birds of Dandeli.
Brief on Dandeli
A small town situated in Uttara Karnataka district, right in the lap of dense nature – Dandeli – the perfect destination for nature lovers, adventure enthusiasts, wildlife photographers, bird watchers and explorers. It is well known for adventurous water sports from the popular Whitewater rafting to calm Kayaking on Kali river. Dandeli is also Bird watchers hotspot and is the home to several rare and migratory bird – spotting 300+ species every year.
Dandeli is the second largest wildlife sanctuary in Karnataka and is designated as a tiger reserve in 2007. Dandeli Anshi reserve forest is a haven for tigers, leopards, black panthers, elephants, sloth bears and many more wild animals.
Without any second thoughts, I booked the bus tickets to Dandeli. For accommodation, I called up Dandeli.com – The website dedicated solely to developing responsible tourism in Dandeli. Being the official travel partners for Dandeli Tourism, Mr Rajesh suggested Old Magazine house in Ganesh Gudi – which is a part of Government of Karnataka. Staying amidst thick forest had always been my wish. Hence I booked the accommodation with them well in advance.
Journey to Dandeli
The day of travel arrived and I was all set to explore Dandeli. Friday night I boarded the direct bus Bangalore – Dandeli at 9:30 pm from Anandrao circle. Dandeli appeared as a complete black box for me as I was visiting this place for the first time. An imaginary Dandeli circulated in my mind with a sound sleep and a bus journey of 450 km. The sun bloomed the next day and I rubbed my eyes to peep out from the window. The deciduous forest and thick jungle view from the window made me excited. I was curious and keen on spotting wild animals if any. . . Thankfully I spotted few peacocks and deer. With these finally, I had reached Dandeli at 8 am. The moment I stepped out of the bus, I called up Dandeli.com, Mr Sanjay guided me to reach their office which is adjacent to Dandeli bus stop. I started walking towards post watchtower and met him. He greeted me with a healthy conversation and had already arranged a vehicle to drive to Old Magazine house.
Brief on Old Magazine house / OM camp
The only place that is repeatedly humming in bird photographers heart – Old Magazine house, Ganesh Gudi – a part of Government of Karnataka. This private resort is located in the evergreen thick forest at a height of 1,800ft and is the beloved spot for bird photographers. The place is definitely a bird watcher’s heaven where I could spot 30+ species alone. That’s Incredible!
Well, the name – Why is it called the Old Magazine house has a small story. In 1974, the Government decided to build Supa dam against the Kali river. To store the cartridges used for blasting the rock boulders, they choose this place in the jungles away from human habitation. Two lightning proof buildings were built to store the magazines ( a container for holding a supply of cartridges to be fed automatically to the gun. Not to be misunderstood with paper magazine 😛 ). Once the Supa dam was built they decided to convert this place into a resort with the name Old Magazine House and it became part of Government of Karnataka.
Reaching Old Magazine house
Old Magazine house is located in Ganesh Gudi, which is 20kms / 30mins drive from Dandeli. The road is a bliss to drive as it is through the reserved forest area. The calm roads appeared like long never ending path. The adjourning deciduous forest appeared dry but the drive was serene and worth it. After a drive of 30mins, I noticed a green board of Old magazine house. From here the mud road of 500m led us to Old Magazine house.
It was 9 am when I reached the Old Magazine house. The moment I stepped out, the only sound I could hear was the melodious chirping of the birds. As I walked further the whole environment is covered with tall trees touching the sky and the melody of nature echoed. I was excited about this trip right from that point and I knew it would be great. I entered the details near the office and started walking further to inquire about the accommodation.
As I walked further, I noticed the lovely ethnic hut cottages with balcony built sturdy and elevated from the ground. There are rooms for comfortable stays and dormitories for budget travellers also. The room comes with the essential amenities to stay in the Jungle – includes torches and umbrellas too. There are no TVs installed with the motive to break from the daily routine and enjoy the pleasant environment in the jungle. Here people wake up to the chirping of the birds and sunlight glancing through the dense forest. The condition of rooms and hospitality is really great and one can comfortably stay here without any hassles. Further, there is a small office and a rooftop restaurant to dine in listening to the music of the birds.
It was 9:15 am and I was early as the room check-in time was at 12 pm. Hence I freshened up in the dorm next to the office and moved to have the breakfast. The rooftop cafeteria is cosy with strong wooden seatings, spacious dining area and a calm place to have the food. The breakfast served here was homely and delicious with more than 3 varieties.
The Bird studio
After the breakfast, I noticed the bird watching viewpoint and photographers dressed in camouflage already lined up with their high-end lenses. As I already told you that the Old Magazine House is a home to ardent bird watchers. The perches and 8 to 10 bird baths were arranged at certain points in front of a green net secured area maintaining a distance of 15ft from the birds and its admirers. The green net has an opening of 30cm through which the birds can be viewed. Due to this innovation area of bird studio suggested by a foreigner, the bird actually cannot notice the human movement (or Do they? :P). The feathered beauties fly to the bird baths, quenches its thirst, playfully enjoys with the cool water and the bird photographers swiftly takes the burst shots.
As I spotted the first bird
The bird studio should be maintained with great silence. Only sounds I could hear here were the chirping of the birds and the busy camera shutters. I stepped further empty handed to see the birds closely without much knowledge of the birds. A person pointed out and started whispering – Black Naped Monarch and the shutterbugs followed. I opened my eyes widely and keenly observed the bird – it was so far perched on a tree branch, it looked blue and small. The naturalist here Mr Vinayak observed my difficulties 😛 and lent me binoculars and whispered to focus on pointed direction. Then the Black-naped monarch appeared close and beautiful with a black crown and blue body, playing in its own world. I smiled in excitement and thanked him for the binoculars 🙂 Vinayak is an amazing naturalist and very knowledgeable about the birds. He helped me in spotting many more birds and explained about them. A ten minutes talk with him gave me a exhaustive information on the bird facts and the surrounding nature. Old Magazine just doesn’t give you the experience but it also gives you the right knowledge through its naturalists.
Me and my tiny camera 😐
It was almost 10:30 am and I was still thinking whether to take out my small humble camera in front of high-ended cameras. Reluctantly, I decided to take out the camera Nikon Coolpix P6000 point and shoot with 60X zoom borrowed from a friend came to rescue and it was worth it. When I started shooting birds, I understood how difficult is Bird photography. You focus on the bird difficulty and it flies away randomly. It is very difficult to spot the small birds, they are just so actively moving around fooling the photographers. One needs to be as quick as lightning to capture their swift movement. All that I had to do was wait till the bird arrive and pose to the camera, then click instantly. I captured some amazing shots and are here below.
Let the show begin 😉
white Bellied blue flycatcher (Females) – Togetherness!
Meeting amazing people
I met few amazing wildlife photographers who were passionate about wildlife. Being familiar with the species of the birds captured, they were able to name all of them. Looking at their wallpaper level shots, I was really impressed and somewhere my heart said me – “Look at those amazing pictures. Just buy those lenses at any cost!”. The great part is they were just doing this for hobby and invested 20 lacs on lenses. That’s a huge investment for hobbies. Looking at their album I was so thrilled and learnt a lot about wildlife photography. I could just bow down to their passion and interest in wildlife.
After healthy discussions on travel and wildlife over a sumptuous lunch, I inquired about the next activity. Due to the summer trekking ban from the forest department (due to TamilNadu trekking incident) the hiking to the sunset point stood cancelled. The hope of sunset timelapse from the sunset point doomed. Then I enquired about the white water rafting. The rafting depends on the Supa dam water release. One gets to know on that day morning whether river rafting is available for the day. So this is the very unpredictable. Thankfully it was on this day as the dam officials had released the water. There were no bounds to the excitement of the visitors. For the detailed experience on White water rafting at Dandeli, check White Water Rafting Dandeli – Through the rapids of River Kali.
After a successful rafting experience, we headed back to the resort. Freshened up, had a cup of coffee with pakoras and relaxed in the lap of nature. Discussing rafting experiences with co-travellers, I spent time till the moon bloomed in the dark sky. At 7 pm, the night had already arrived and the nature sounds conspired with the rustling leaves. There was no campfire that night as it was summer and the climate was already warm. As I waited for the dinner to be served, I held my camera along to check the shots captured. I was happy to scroll the pictures and experience Dandeli was all about. The dinner was ready at 8 pm, had enough meal and dozed off to sleep.
The Last Note
Staying at Old Magazine house was an entirely different experience to me. I’m mostly an adventure seeker, hiking enthusiast, history and architecture buff, endless greens and a beach lover. The bird watching was something which I had never tried. When I met passionate people in Old Magazine house, I’m really inspired and thrilled to know the facts of wildlife. Even people from a watchman to the naturalists, everyone is a bunch of knowledge here. Yes, OM camp and the birds here are magical and I have developed a bond between bird life. To my utter surprise, any bird call now in Bengaluru, I look keen to find out which bird it is. This journey is memorable and has inspired me to the world of birds.
Dandeli has emerged as the tourism destination in past years. Due to this, you might be fooled by travel agencies for higher costs and unorganised. Always book with official travel partners of Dandeli Tourism – http://www.dandeli.com or call them +91-94839-40400 for an end to end travel, accommodation, itineraries and activities. They are dedicated to developing responsible tourism in Dandeli.
- How to reach Dandeli – The place is 450 km from Majestic, Bangalore.
- By train – Alnavar station is the nearest railway station. Make sure to book train tickets well in advance as the seats get filled up on weekends because the same train leads to Goa.
- By bus – There are direct buses from Bangalore to Dandeli main road.
- By private vehicles – If you have the privilege to drive a car, you can take it and the stretch is little long but worth a long drive.
- Accommodation – Always book with official travel partners of Dandeli Tourism – http://www.dandeli.com or call them +91-94839-40400 for an end to end travel, accommodation, itineraries and activities. Just go for it and relax in the lap of nature.
- The Old Magazine house is 20km from Dandeli. Since I booked via dandeli.com, they arranged the local transportation within Dandeli. Otherwise, you might have to take an auto or a local cab from bus stand. OM camp is best for bird watchers and bird photographers. It is also the perfect place to spend time
- When to visit Dandeli- Since Dandeli is a hub of wildlife, water sports and bird hot spot, each season is unique. So you choose what activity you need and visit accordingly. I visited in March last week.
- Jan, Feb, Mar
- Ideal for bird watching with the winter already set in.
- Best for hiking and trekking in the jungle camps and capture amazing greenery.
- With abundant water during this period, Whitewater rafting is another adventurous water sport to dive in.
- Tips – Onset of winter demands warm clothes. Moisturisers/sunscreens are a must.
- Apr, May, June
- Best time for wildlife enthusiasts as spotting wildlife is fairly easy in dry vegetation and peak summer.
- Dandeli Anshi safari is great to spot leopards, black panthers and tigers. Best of luck.
- An ideal time for all water sports – Whitewater water rafting, Kayaking, Zorbing, Natural Jacuzzi and Coracle Rides.
- Tips – Sun is really harsh and sunscreen is a must even for 10 minutes of walk. Wear lightweight and body covering clothes for easy hiking.
- Jul, Aug, Sept
- Monsoons rains and Dandeli greenery is truly romantic for nature lovers and couples.
- Best time Rappelling, Trekking, White Water Rafting, Monsoon Camping, Monsoon Cycling, Coracle Rides, Jungle Safari and Nature walks.
- Tips – Raincoats, umbrellas and long boots to protect from rains. Mosquito repellent can be handy.
- Oct, Nov, Dec
- Best time for the activities at Dandeli from wildlife to water sports.
- Weather is pleasant at this time. Keep yourself warm with jackets. Torches may be handy as the days are shorter.
- Jan, Feb, Mar
- General tips :
- Dandeli is a small town and only basic things can be bought here from local shops. So carry whatever is needed.
- A pair of shoes is mandatory for hiking and walking in jungle camps.
- Hats and sunglasses to protect from beating sun.
- Umbrellas or raincoats for the rainy season.
- Sunscreens are a must – I repeat!
- Torch, mosquito repellant can be handy.
- No mobile network/internet is available.
- Please don’t dump trash anywhere. Be a responsible traveller.
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