Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jungle Fever @ Sunkadakatte Forest Reserve

Ever since I watched Jurassic Park, I’ve been fascinated by dense, tropical rainforests which are full of surprises at every turn. I’ve always wondered where I’d find a place like that, closer to home, and it so turned out that such a forest is much closer than I imagined.
Sunkadakatte, a lesser known range of Nagarahole National Park and by far the best I have been to till date, is my Jurassic Park. Nagarahole is one among India’s best wildlife parks having many ranges under it, and Sunkadakatte is one among them with restricted access to public. The range is located close to the Kabini Reservoir, situated about 225 kms from Bangalore and 90 kms from Mysore. From Mysore, it can be reached by taking SH-17D (Mananthavady Road) to Antarasante via Chattanahalli and Hampapura.
Guest house
We were put up in a very beautiful solar powered guest house, about 4-5 kms into forest. A single-floor cottage with sloping roof having 3 suites, each of which had 2 spacious rooms and a big bathroom. A cosy and pretty dining shack put up about 50 ft away from the guest house serves up tasty food the cook is ever ready to provide us with.
The best thing about the location of the guest house is that at dawn and dusk, several animals are seen in its vicinity. We woke up early morning to be greeted by hundreds of chital deer, wild boar, gaur and the trumpeting of elephants. We were also lucky to get a glimpse of a pack of wild dogs (dholes) which are very rare to spot. At night, wild boars can be heard snorting and circling around the cottage with jumbled sounds of other animals. Several wildlife photographs are on display in the guest house, many clicked by M.N.Jayakumar, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests.
There is no official safari in this reserve but a forest employee, who patrols the forest for poaching activities, was asked to take us around on his jeep. We started the safari at 4 pm on the day we arrived, taking the trails typically used by employees for surveillance. The foliage on either side of the path is cleared to a minimum distance in order to prevent forest fires from spreading across the path. We were barely minutes into the jungle when it started pouring heavily. Our guide informed us that it was going to be difficult to spot animals, since they disappear into the heart of the forest when it rains. But we were far from disappointed. The forest itself looked magnificent when drenched in rain.
The paths leading into the jungle are narrow, sometimes very steep, and almost impossible to navigate in the rain. We skidded, got thrown off our seats several times, and got stuck right in the middle of a puddle as darkness approached — all adding to a perfect jungle experience. We were not that unlucky with animals either, as we spotted several hundreds of spotted deer and many sambhar, all huddled under the foliage against the rain. We also saw lion-tailed macaques near them, which are said to signal the deer of any approaching predators.

The drive along the backwaters of Kabini reservoir had much more in store for us. We saw many elephants, some with the calves running underneath the mothers for shelter whenever it rained, and adults flinging mud on their backs. There was also a massive group of about a hundred wild boars scattered along the bank of the backwaters. We also spotted a herd of gaur, one of the largest we had ever seen. On our way back, the sight of a large lone tusker got us both thrilled and scared. We moved quickly since it was getting dark as well. The experience was so novel and exhilarating that we requested our guide to take us out again the following morning.
And so we headed off at 7 am the next day, with all our senses feeling every bit of the fresh forest, still opening its eyes to the warm rays of sun. It had stopped raining the previous evening and the morning was a perfect setting to watch birds. We spotted several peacocks, peahens, kingfishers and kites. There is also a pond called Tiger Tank in the forest, named so as it is frequented by the big cats. Unfortunately we weren’t lucky enough to spot one. Nonetheless, an action-packed and unforgettable five-hour jungle safari spread over two days made this a trip we’d never forget. What we did miss though, was a stay in the Kabini River Lodge nearby, and a boat trip around the backwaters.
A must for photo enthusiasts if you are staying overnight is to fully charge your camera batteries as there are no sockets in the guest house. One can get really close to nature at Sunkadakatte, with its untamed forest and abundant wildlife. But do keep in mind the rules of forest, and follow them to the last word, since we must conserve to the best possible extent, what is left of our forest cover.

(Published in Star Of Mysore dated Nov.16, 2010)


Navi said...

I am Naveelal from Kerala, working for a leading daily in Malayalam. I like to visit Kabini on 9th of september hence I request you to please give any contact number for Sunkadakatte Forest Reserve

Unknown said...

Hi Apuurva
How do i get a booking in sunkadakatte guest house.Please help me with the contact number. Read a lot about this guest but coudnt find a working number. Any kind of referral or contact will do.

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