The Jungle Look

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Lakkavalli Forest Range, Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary - 30 Oct to 01 Nov 2004

Wow! Superb view and a fantastic place - Those were the words we uttered seeing the Lakkavalli forest guest house, situated on top of a hill, overlooking the Bhadra dam. It was around 1 pm when Chaitra and I reached the guest house. The road was good and the drive was quite scenic. We took the Bangalore-Tumkur-Tiptur-Arsikere-Tarikere route. Thanks to Mr Vijay Kumar, RFO, for reserving the guest house for us. The Jeep was at our disposal, and as soon as we reached the guest house, took our gear and headed into the forest. We were accompanied by driver Manjunath and watcher Pasha. Though it was 2:30 in the afternoon and we knew that it was not the best of times to sight the creatures of the forest, we wanted to spend more time in the forest.

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The forest was crawling with millions of Giant Wood Spiders. The webs spread across trees, and the huge spiders waiting patiently for their prey. The Lakkavalli range has a good concentration of mammals, but as the driver said, the sighting is poor. Also, the range is well know for poaching and smuggling. The guards always carry guns with them. The other interesting fact about the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary is the work done by the then DFO, Mr. Yatish Kumar, who was successful in re-locating 17 villages from within the sanctuary to the outskirts of the park. As the forest officials say, people in these villages admire him so much for his accomplishments, that they have named one of the villages as Yatish Nagar. The day’s sightings were limited to some Deer, Sambars and Gaurs. We came back to our guest house just in time for some spectacular sunset scenes.

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The next morning, driver Suresh along with guard Shivarudrappa picked us up. At the sanctuary entrance a forest watcher joined us. We were very eager to sight the tiger, as a particular route (Paramagudda) was quite famous for frequent tiger sightings. We never knew what the forest had in store for us but it turned out to be my most memorable safari ever. An hour’s drive into the forest yielded nothing, not even the sambar or the deer. Suddenly the watcher, seated at the back of the jeep shouted, “Chirte sir, Chirte” (Leopard sir, Leopard). Suresh stopped the jeep and we looked in all directions, but could not see anything. Then, hardly 10 ft from behind the Jeep, the Leopard got up and moved into the bushes. We could hardly believe it. It was resting around 4-5 ft from the safari track and we had crossed it. It had not even moved an inch even after hearing our Jeep and was so well camouflaged. It was quite dark coloured compared to other Leopard pics I had seen. It was smaller in size. We backed up our Jeep and was lucky enough to sight it, staring at us from behind the bushes. Because of the poor lighting conditions, I changed the ISO to 800 and clicked away to glory. Then it disappeared into the jungle. Those gleaming eyes, just cannot be forgotten. When I previewed the images in the Canon 10D, I knew I had my prize cat(ch).


After having lunch, we took some rest and were back in the forest by late afternoon. Suresh took us to an anti-poaching camp, located in the core forest area, on the banks of the backwater. Such a lovely place, overlooking the Western Ghats. After spending some time there, we headed back towards Paramagudda route which was around 10 km away. Meanwhile, our Jeep broke down and we had a tough time pushing and getting it started. Then, we heard the voice in the walkie-talkie, “Sir, Tiger sighted at the Suklatthi and Paramgudda junction,” but we were around 8 km away. By the time we reached the place, there was nothing but the silence of the jungle. When we headed back to the RFO office, we were told that they had sighted a huge male tiger. ah! what a time for the Jeep to have broken down.

The next morning safari was another of those silent trips where we got nothing. With fond memories of those mesmerizing eyes, we thanked the RFO Mr. Vijay Kumar and left for Bangalore.