Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Dandeli - An idyllic forest destination in India


a little known unique destination in South India

Dandeli is a little known, rustic hamlet, near the borders of Maharashtra and Goa in North Karnataka in South India.

Dandeli is the gate way into the dense virgin forests and is a wonderful get away place within motorable distance from Hubli, Dharwad, Belgaum, Goa, Bangalore and Mumbai.

Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary

Bordering the hamlet is the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary sprawling over 834.16 sq. kms. of dense forests and harbouring a large number of animals and numerous species of birds and reptiles.

Animals in the Sanctuary

The most impressive animal in the Sanctuary is the Gaur or Indian Bison Bos gaurus gaurus. It is the largest and most powerful wild bovine - even larger than the Asiatic Water Buffalo.
Bisons are beautiful, majestic creatures. The males have a well developed muscular body, with a distinctive dorsal ridge and a large dewlap, giving it a very powerful appearance. The males are short and stocky, but sturdy. Female bisons are substantially smaller, and their dorsal ridge and dewlaps less developed. Though the females are only slightly shorter, they are much lighter.
On an average, the males are more than 2.5 metres long, stand about 2 metres at the shoulder, and weigh between 1000 - 1500 kg. The females are about 20 cm. less in height and weigh between 700 - 1000 kg.
Both male and female bisons have beautiful, near-perfect, well rounded horns. The bottoms of their legs are white giving the impression that the animals are wearing socks.

Earlier, there were plenty of bisons in the Sanctuary. They moved about in large herds. The Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary was known as the ‘Bison Sanctuary’. But now their numbers have dwindled. The bisons have become wary of humans and can be seen only in small groups.

Amongst the other animals are elephants, tigers, black panthers, wild pigs, sloth bears, wild dogs, jackal, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, mouse deer, common langur, bonnet macaque, slender loris, Malabar giant squirrels, giant flying squirrels, civets, porcupines, pangolin, mongoose and several species of snakes, including the graceful green vine snake and the dreaded King Cobra.

Jungle Safari

The jungle safari will take you deep inside the forests in jeeps which would be open or covered depending upon the weather. However, animal sighting in the wild depends on luck. You could see a number of different animals in a single day, or none for days.

During and immediately after the rains, the undergrowth becomes dense and animal sighting extremely difficult. A tiger, panther or some other animal could be lurking just a few feet away, but the thick growth and the animal’s camouflage could make it practically invisible.

The best time for animal sighting is dawn. Though, you could see some animals at dusk too. A night safari is interesting. It is surprising how your guide will shine his torch on the animals and suddenly you see pairs of eyes glowing like small lamps.

Birds and Reptiles

There are over 200 species of birds in the Sanctuary. Dandeli is a bird watcher’s paradise. You will hear the vibrant horn like call of the Hornbills; see flashes of dazzling colour as kingfishers dive into the water; observe darters and egrets dart into the water and come out with a wriggling fish in its beak and watch the herons standing still near the banks for their unfortunate prey. You will also see serpent eagles, falcons, magpie robins, bulbuls, orioles, woodpeckers, weaver birds and many more birds.


The sanctuary is covered with deciduous and semi-evergreen forests.

It is famous for its high quality Teak (Tectona grandis), Silver Oaks (Grevillea robusta), Eucalyptus, Acacia and Bambusa.

The area is also rich in bamboos; and herbs and climbers - many of which have medicinal value.
Coracle ride

The Kali River at the edge of the hamlet winds its way through the forests.

Your visit to Dandeli would be incomplete without a coracle ride in the river. The original coracle is an indigenous, saucer-shaped boat made of bamboos and covered with thick buffalo hide. It looks flimsy, but is surprisingly sturdy and flows along with the current.

Modern versions of the coracle do not use buffalo hide, but synthetic material. The latest coracles (which look so unnatural) are made of iron and wood.

As your coracle passes the many islands in the river, you will see numerous birds.

If the weather is sunny, you will see crocodiles lazing on the banks because crocodiles love sun bathing. Don’t be afraid of the crocodiles. They are harmless. Actually, they are far more afraid of us! At the slightest sound, they slither away into the depths of the river.
You will find people washing clothes, bathing, or swimming nearby. They will tell you that there never has been a single attack by a crocodile so far. This is a wonderful example of man and animal living together in complete harmony.

White Water Rafting

Dandeli is one of the two places in India where you can do white water rafting. The other place is Rishikesh in North India.

White water rafting season starts after the monsoons and lasts from November to June. You will be taken several miles up the river in a jeep and asked to get into an inflatable boat. You will be given some introductory lessons. After that the fun begins. Your boat will go hurtling down the river, tumbling and jostling over the numerous rocks and rapids.
Depending upon the duration, at the end of the rafting, you will either be picked up by a jeep or walk back to your camp.

Places to see

The Karnataka Forest Department runs the Kulgi Nature Education Camp, spread over 10 acres of forest land near Kulgi village in Dandeli.
Here, you can rent well furnished tents and dormitories at nominal rates.
There is also a herbarium, well stocked library, video film screening arrangements, etc.
The staff here will make arrangements for jungle safaris, coracle ride, etc. for the tourists.

Sykes Point (21 km from Dandeli)

Sykes Point is one of the most beautiful spots in Karnataka. From here, you get a panoramic view of Kali River flowing through the valleys deep below. You will see miles and miles of lush green forests all around. During the rainy and winter seasons, you will see fluffy clouds sweeping down from the skies to the valleys below.

Nagajhari Point (14 km from Dandeli)

This is another ideal location for observing the hills, valleys, dense forests and the running streams.

Kavala Caves (25 km from Dandeli)

These ancient limestone caves bear signs of human habitation during prehistoric times.
You have to walk down a thousand steps to reach the entrance. There is a gigantic naturally formed Shiva Linga inside. You have to crawl into the caves to see it. Colonies of bats roost inside the caves.
The caves remain largely unexplored. You can explore the caves, but don’t go alone. Hire some one who knows about the caves.

Syntheri Rock (32 km from Dandeli)

The Syntheri Rock is a beautiful 300-metre monolithic granite rock formation located deep inside the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary. The Kaneri River flows at the bottom.
Thousands of pigeons nest in the innumerable nooks and crannies of the rock. You can also see large hives of rock bees literally clinging to the rocks.
You can bathe in the river below.

Bats of Barapede Caves

Barapede Caves are located north of Dandeli between Krishnapur and Talewadi. Here you can see the highly endangered Wroughton’s free tailed bats (Otomops wroughtoni). Barapede Caves are the only roosting site of these bats in the world.
Krishnapur caves are one of the three places in the country where the little known Theobalds tomb bat Taphozous theobaldi are found.
The rare Megaderma spasma bats are found in the Talevadi caves.

Siddhi Tribals

On your way to Dandeli, you could meet odd looking tribals - black skinned with curly hair. They look like negroes.
They are the Siddhi tribals, whose ancestors were brought by the Portuguese from Africa as slaves over four centuries ago. You can visit their settlements and study their simple life style.

Industries and Manganese Mines

There were two wood based industries in Dandeli. The Indian Plywood Company Ltd. which closed down long ago and the West Coast Paper Mills Ltd. which is now largely dependent on imported wood.
There is manganese in the earth below the forests. There were several open quarry manganese mines inside the forest area. These were damaging the entire environment. The pollution had driven away all living creatures and killed all vegetation. Fortunately, all the mines have been closed down.
You can see the remains of the old mines. Vegetation has started reclaiming the abandoned mines. Birds, insects and other living creatures are returning to the area. The place is a living laboratory and vividly shows how much damage man can do; and given sufficient time, how nature has the tenacity and versatility to rebound back.

The endangered Kali River

As many as six dams have been constructed on the 184 kms. long Kali River for hydroelectric power stations, submerging most of the river course and huge areas of the surrounding forests. Four of these are at Supa, Bomman-ahalli, Kodsalli and Kadra. The other two are on its tributaries at Upper Kaneri and Tatihalla.
The Murdeshwar Power Corporation Limited (MPCL) is doggedly trying to construct the seventh dam. The Central Government has time and again refused the requisite permission. If the project is approved, and the dam ultimately built, the only remaining free-flowing stretch of the Kali River upstream of Dandeli would be destroyed. And white water rafting would have to be abandoned.


You can spend a few days simply idling, resting and recouping. If you are fond of nature and adventure, you can explore the hills and valleys, forest and rivers. Dandeli is an animal and bird watchers paradise. You can enjoy natural jakuzzi in the gurgling waters of the Kali River. You can do boating in the unique coracle. You can take your first lessons in white water rafting and kayaking. You can learn rock climbing and grappelling. You can do a little bit of cave exploration and a lot more.

Fact file


Dandeli is well connected to Bangalore, Belgaum, Dharwad/Hubli, Goa, Karwar & Mumbai by good roads and all kinds of public transport.

You can get down at Dharwad/Hubli and take a taxi/bus to Dandeli.

Distances from Dandeli:

Bangalore - 480 kms.
Belgaum - 95 kms.
Dharwad - 57 kms.
Goa - 145 kms. &
Hubli - 72 kms.

Railway stations
The nearest railway stations are:
Belgaum - 95 kms.
Dharwad - 57 kms.
Hubli - 75 kms. &
Londa - 35 kms.

The nearest airports are:
Belgaum - 95 kms.
Goa - 145 kms. &
Hubli - 75 kms.
Air Deccan has daily flights from Mumbai and Bangalore to Belgaum, Goa and Hubli. Kingfisher Airlines has daily flights from Mumbai and Bangalore to Goa and Hubli.
There are several flights by other airlines to Bangalore and Goa.

Where to stay
1. Kali Wilderness Camp, owned by Jungle Lodges and Resorts Ltd (a Government of Karnataka undertaking): Ph: 080-5597021/24/25.
2. Bison River Resort, owned by Indian Adventures Wildlife Resorts of Bombay: Ph: 022-26433622 or 26408742.
3. Hornbill River Resort. Ambeli, Ganeshgudi - 581 365, Karnataka Ph: 094481 36539.

All the three offer daily packages, for about Rs 1,000 - 2,000 per person, per day. This includes meals, jeep ride into the forest, a coracle ride and sightseeing,
You will have to pay extra for boating, canoeing and white-water rafting (rafting is suspended during the monsoons).

Best time to visit

You can visit Dandeli any time of the year. During and immediately after the monsoons, you may see less animals and miss white-water rafting, but the forest becomes a mass of luxuriant vibrant green and you can feel freshness all around.

The place acquires a unique fairy tale ambience.

Binoy Gupta

1 comment:

Raksha Varma said...

Excellent Post! Rejoice life during holidays through Dandeli Resorts; located in Uttara Kannada, Karnataka state.