Wilderness of Shimoga district - A trip report from 1999

It was about 6:00 am and we were at Tumkur town, 70 km away from Bangalore on theroad to Shimoga which was a further 205 km away. It had not rained for the past few days and the sky was clear. I was accompanied by four of my family members. We traveled in our car to Tiptur, Arsikere and one kilometre after Tarikere, we took a left deviation towards Lakvalli, Bhadra river project. To our left were the Baba budain (BB) Giri hills and in the foreground were the densely forested foothills of the Lakvalli wildlife range (Bhadra wildlife sanctuary / Project Tiger).

Route taken for the drive as seen on google maps. Click here for a larger map.

We reached Lakvalli at 9:15 am and walked to the dam site of Bhadra river. The water was about 6 feet short of the full level. The sight was very picturesque. The waters of Bhadra gently lapped its shores with forested islands and blue coloured hills of the nearby BB Giri ranges forming the scenically beautiful backdrop. Bhadra dam situated between latitude 13° 42' - 00' N, longitude 75° 33' - 20' E has submerged 28 villages in its area of 27,802 acres (11,251 hectares) for the sake of 33,200 kw of electricity and to irrigate 2,60,864 acres of land. The dam has a catchment area of 1968.50 Sq. KM (760 Sq. Miles) with the avg. annual rainfall varying from 1117 mm (46 inches) to 5130 mm (202 inches). The width of the river at dam site is 97.53 metres (320 feet). The dam has divided Bhadra Protected Area into 2 separate areas unconnected by forests.

From Lakvalli we travelled along the densely forested road bordering the northern part of Bhadra sanctuary (recently upgraded into a tiger reserve) amidst the Umblebylu reserve forest. After reaching Shimoga we immediately left south for Gajanur dam, a 12 km journey through lush green paddy fields and arecanut plantations. The Gajanur (or Tunga) anicut is unique, in a way that it has no huge crest gates like the Bhadra dam It is more of an earthern dam. The view surrounding the dam was fantastic with muddy water jumping over the earthern bund, small-forested island amidst the water, dense teak jungles on the shores and the Bababudain Giri range in the faraway background. Unfortunately I was not allowed to capture the scenic beauty of the area as photography was prohibited. We proceeded further south towards Mandagadde bird sanctuary situated a further 18 km away. We travelled through dense forests of Shettihalli wildlife sanctuary as the road almost moved along the backwaters of Gajanur dam. As it often happens in the western ghats, huge power transmission lines cut right through the forests even here. Mandagadde bird sanctuary was not as colourful as I expected it to be. There were hardly any waterfowls except for large (Egretta alba) and median egrets (Egretta intermedia) at the fag end of their breeding season. Most of the birds were sub-adults practising to take off on their wings. The road further down south lead to Tirthahalli, Udupi and ahead to Mangalore. But we turned back to Shimoga and had our lunch.

From Shimoga we left west on the Sagar road and reached Tavarekoppa lion/tiger safari at 4:00 pm. After paying an entrance fee of Rs. 10 we boarded the safari van. Sitting in the van I discovered very shockingly that photography was not allowed. To my knowledge this is probably the only forest / safari on earth (or at least in India) where photography is ''strictly prohibited''. I was very disappointed because the tigers in this park are very healthy and hence make very good photographs. The safari lasted for about 15 minutes after which I went to the museum where many animal trophies were preserved. After this I went round the mini zoo. Here I could see striped hyena (2), jackal(4), porcupines(3), crocodiles (3) in separate enclosures. I could also see about 9 leopards in a single enclosure- it was amazing how they could survive in the same enclosure with out fighting among themselves. We left for Sagar town after this. All along the way, the road was surrounded by dense deciduous forests and at some places with agricultural fields. But unfortunately, all along the road from Shimoga to Sagar, I could see about 5 power transmission lines with huge areas of forest destroyed underneath. The sun had set by the time we reached Sagar.

The next morning we finished our breakfast at 8:45 am and immediately left for Jog falls. As we approached Jog falls, the forest cover increased and was more of evergreen type. We approached Jog via Kargal village. Although the sceneries on the way to Kargal town were picturesque, the sight of Linganamakki reservoir and power transmission lines destroying large area of Western Ghat rainforests made a sad impact on me.

We stopped next at Jog. It was more than 16 years when I paid my first to the highest water falls of India. In between I had the opportunity to visit it on a few more occasions. But time had failed to weaken the impressions of this beautiful place on my mind. It could not resist photography it again, just as I had done during my previous visits. We decided to go down to the bottom of the falls. The crest gates of Linganamakki dam were closed and hence the amount of water which flowed down the Jog was less, although much better than it is during the summer. We descended down the stairs amidst the evergreen forests. But the sight was unfortunate as the entire path from the top to bottom of the falls was littered by plastic. There were about 7 makeshift shops selling all kinds of plastics and aluminium packaged snacks (biscuits, cool drinks etc). But the scene, which I saw at the bottom, was more horrifying- full of plastic. A small makeshift tented shop existed just near where the water touched the ground. This gentleman was supplying tea in polythene cups, which were dumped into the Sharavathy river along with plastic and aluminium cans, bottles and wrappers bought along the trek. On questioning, some of the shop owners replied that the area belonged to revenue department and no one questioned them regarding the plastic or other things- a disgusting fact.But all these could not dim the falls themselves. The Sharavathy although tamed by the Linganamakki dam, thundered down the cliffs into the valley below with its milky white water. It was a sight to behold. The area and forests around the falls were very rich in avifauna and butterflies. I could see a number of blue rock pigeons sheltering on the rocks just amidst the waterfalls. I could see a number of swallows (unidentified) flying around. Also I could see about 12 unidentified vultures circling a forested area about 800 to 900 metres away from the top of the falls, along the ridge. I could sight a number of red whiskered bulbuls and some times the elusive but very beautiful yellow browed bulbuls. Interestingly I could sight a number of very beautiful butterflies. Red Helens (plenty), blue mormons, blue bottles, striped tigers, oak leaf - it was a feast for any butterfly lover.

Climbing up to the top, we left for the 'British bungalow' on the opposite side. On the way we stopped and photographed the Sharavathy river with its banks clothed by evergreen forests. The view from the PWD guest house/bungalow (built by the British, hence its popular name British bungalow) was equally enchanting. A walk down few steps and I could see the densely forested Sharavathy valley from where the Mahatma Gandhi power generating station could also be viewed. On the way back to Kargal, I spotted a flock of scarlet minivets upon which I immediately stopped the car and asked the driver to back up quickly. But unfortunately a jeep coming from behind rammed into our car resulting in my costliest bird sighting till date. There were dense forests enroute Kargal town to Linganamakki dam. On the way we stopped to have a look at Talkalola reservoir, which again was built by destroying dense forests to generate power. I also searched, in vain though, for the lion tailed macaque, which is said to be found in good numbers in these forests, a part of Sharavathy valley wildlife sanctuary.

The Linganamakki dam is very huge and even here photography is not allowed. The dam premises is very well kept and maintained neatly. From the dam we could see the same lovely sight of forested islands and hill slopes clothed with evergreen forests. This dam had drowned about 125 sq. km of pristine tropical rainforests, but then it is providing about a thousand and odd Megawatts of electricity to power starved Karnataka. Karnataka would have been different if this dam had not been built. May be less electricity little 'development', but a wild river, virgin rainforests......

The museum of KPCL where models and charts of the hydroelectric potential of Uttara Kannada and Shimoga districts are kept is excellent. While walking back to our car from the dam site I saw a beautiful sight of a well-grown peacock on a half cut tree stump at the edge of an agricultural field.

I spoke to the security guards of the dam, who said that gaur and peacock sightings at the dam site along the forests edges were very common. Although they had not seen any tigers, they could occasionally come across leopards, they claimed. Elephants were absent in this area, they added. We returned to Kargal village, stopped at a ‘Kerala’ hotel to have delicious parathas with egg curry, and fried fish. Kargal is the village where the office of Assistant Conservator of forests, Kargal wildlife sub division is located.

It was about 4:00 pm by the time we left for Honnemardu, where an adventure sports school is located on the backwaters of Sharavathi. We took a right turn at the Hiremane post on the Kargal - Sagar road. For 8 kilometres we travelled along a very narrow metalled track. The landscape slowly changed from Arecanut plantations to evergreen forests. We could also sight the backwaters of Linganamakki dam as we progressed. The road turned worse about a kilometre before Honnemardu with recent heavy rains giving rise to deep slush all along the road. Having a family with me who had hardly experienced a single night in a real jungle, I feared very much, especially with the sun setting down fast. For half a kilometre we had to reverse the vehicle, as there was no place to turn around on this narrow road. Some how we managed to turn back the vehicle and began to proceed to the Kargal-Sagar road. A few minutes later we came across a lovely peacock flying over the backwaters of the beautiful Sharavathi and landing at the edge of the water. We turned back towards Tumkur and drove back.

Below is a video from a family trip to some of the above places in August 2007

For more information about a destination, have a tourist destination or your property listed on this page or to buy an image please email the author at tumkurameen@gmail.com 


Popular posts from this blog

Dhanaulti - A quaint, enchanting hill station in the Himalayan foothills

Bangalore to MM Hills - Travel through less traversed jungles and country-side (Part 1 of 3)

Super drive: Delhi by car from Bangalore