A Quick Trip to BR Hills!
A Quick Trip to BR Hills!
(Original date of events: Mar 30-31st, 2018)
My most recent getaway has been to BR Hills just last week (March 2018). Accompanied by 3 of my colleagues - Himanshu, Kushal and Shakul - we set off on a hot Friday morning for the nearby sanctuary. At just 170 km from Bengaluru, BR Hills (Biligiri Ranga Hills) is a forest spread across an area of ~300 sq.km and was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2011.
As is common with all wildlife sanctuaries in Karnataka, JLR has the monopoly of operating accomodation in BR Hills as well, as private construction is prohibited within protected forests. However, since BR Hills is also home to the popular Biligiri Ranganathaswamy Temple, there is a stretch of land just 2 Km long and 1 Km wide in the midst of the sanctuary where some small settlements and plantations have propped up. Three of these plantations also serve as homestays which can be booked by telephone for stay by tourists. Unwilling to spend the usually-exorbitant prices of JLR, we decided to stay at on of these plantations instead, at a little less than half the cost.
Having left from Bengaluru around 8 AM, we reached the forest check-post around noon. Shortly after entering the sanctuary we sighted an elephant and her calf, strolling away in the bush, parallel to the road but at some distance from it. A little ahead, we saw a watering hole on the same side of the road and decided to wait, as we anticipated that this waterhole must be where the elephants were headed. Sure enough, a few minutes later the pachyderms arrived, for a quick dip and a drink to quench their thirst from the scorching heat:
We checked into the homestay, had lunch, and rested for an hour. After a brief discussion with our host, we learnt that our original plan of driving about in the dark later that day for animal sightings wasn't viable, as there are small checkposts on either side of this small hamlet which are locked at 6 PM, and moving in or out of the area was not possible beyond that time. So we decided to take the evening JLR Safari from K.Gudi Wilderness camp which was to start at 4 pm, and then do a self-driven safari on our way back when it begins to get dark. However, after waiting for an hour for the jeep, the safari was cancelled as it started pouring! We were advised to get back to the homestay at the earliest, as it was about 20 Km away, and in the event a tree were to fall on the road we would get stuck in the forest.
Just as we had started back from the camp in the heavy rain, a hailstorm caught us unawares! In what was a very memorable experience diving through the jungle under the downpour and of rain and hail stones, we sighted bison (Indian Gaur), barking deer and wild dogs!
A little later we saw a car halted on one side, eased behind it, and heard a langur's alarm call! Now intently listening for any movement, i heard a sharp cry - a sambar deer's alarm call! We were now positive that a member of the cat family was around, and waited patiently for things to unfold. However, shortly another vehicle reached the spot, and between the three vehicles a lot of commotion ensued as each group tried to be the wiser by either moving ahead or backing up, eventually causing the alarm calls to stop. I suspected that the animal must have either grown wary of our presence and fled the scene, or had settled in by some bush - in which case, it could be hours before it decided to be up and about again - so we decided to move on. It is most annoying when less-experienced tourists move about the jungles, making noise & creating chaos, ruining any chances of sightings in such favorable and infrequent circumstances!
We returned to the homestay and spent the rest of the evening lazing about. It started raining again shortly after dinner, so we called it a night and decided to go on another drive the next morning.
It had rained all night. When in the jungles, i can never remain asleep all night, as I'm used to waking up from time to time to peer outside and spot any wildlife that may be about. When it was finally 6 AM I woke the others and we headed for one last safari drive. We found the same pack of wild dogs, sighted some more bison, a peacock, a few other birds, and some barking deer. I got a nice footage of a kingfisher feeding on what seemed to be a grasshopper. After a quick breakfast we slept like logs for a couple of hours due to being sleepy after the early morning's long drive, before the homestay owner reminded us of the time and we checked-out to head back to Bengaluru.
Video channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5AL8DvSi5sgNpblAEA2lnA
For any recommendations on your upcoming wildlife trip nearby Bangalore, feel free to get in touch and i will be happy to provide any information that will make your wildlife trip adventurous and memorable!