The plains were draped with prosperous paddy fields. Coy hills peeped out from behind veils of mist. The sun was cozily tucked into a heavy blanket of cloud. Neatly lined areca palms and healthy stems of sugarcane interspersed the seemingly unending stretch of paddy. Frequent cloud bursts ushered trails of new life. Heavy downpour and swirls of wind created a mystic aura in Malnad, a land no stranger to the Rain God. Painted green, even the bus I boarded at Shimoga seemed to be sporting the colour of the season.
Surrounded by the Sahyadris (Western Ghats) and fed by Tunga, Bhadra, Varada and Sharavati rivers, the Shimoga district is resplendent with plush hills, picturesque valleys and splendid waterfalls. My lungs had to quickly adapt to the unpolluted air of the countryside and my eyes to the unspoilt shades of green.
Following a good spell of rain, the Bhadra Reservoir was filled to capacity. Unprecedented showers meant that the water level was constantly on the rise. The fear of my holiday being washed away in the October rain, an anomaly for this time of the year, was lurking in my mind. I soon realised that this land looks beautiful when the sky is clear and even more beautiful when the rain is near. River Bhadra begins its journey in the Western Ghats and flows eastward across the Deccan Plateau. It joins Tunga and proceeds as Tungabhadra, which then meets Krishna on its way into the Bay of Bengal. The Bhadra Dam is built across the river at Lakkavalli, a hamlet on the border of Chikmagalur and Shimoga districts. Lakkavalli is abuzz with activity owing to its proximity to Jnana Sahyadri, the main campus of Kuvempu University and the Bhadra River Project (BRP). The BRP has a hatchery where fish like common carp and major carp (catla, rohu, mrigal, silver carp and grass carp) are bred through bund breeding. The green ponds in which eggs are hatched add to the diversity and splendour of the picturesque scenery.
There is a steady inflow of people into Lakkavalli and I was surprised to know that the locals even offer paying guest accommodation in their homes. Making my way through a sea of students flaunting colourful umbrellas, I reached the River Tern Lodge after rides on a train, a bus and a rickshaw.
The fatigue from my overnight journey evaporated as I settled into the comfort of the idyllic environs of the resort. Rustic cottages and log huts spread across the sprawling property offer splendid views of the looming hills, the vast Bhadra reservoir and sunsets over the water. Time seemed to freeze as I stood in the balcony of my cottage watching the waves gently caress the land.
Thousands of river terns that flock sand banks near the resort during the warm summer months are just one of the many attractions on offer. Those who like a splash in the water can try their hand at kayaking, surfing and canoeing here. Nature lovers can go on boat rides into the reservoir. In good weather, mountain biking, star gazing and island camping are also viable options. A jungle safari in the Bhadra Tiger Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary, which is about four kms from the resort is also included in the standard package. While the adventurous can choose to have an action packed day, others can unwind amidst nature’s breathtaking beauty.
A day with tuskers
Shimoga is about 38 kms and an hour’s drive away from the River Tern Lodge. Sakrebayalu Elephant Camp, Mandegadde Bird Sanctuary, Gajanur Dam and Tavarekoppa Lion and Tiger Safari are some places of interest near Shimoga Town. My personal favourite is the Sakrebayalu Elephant Camp on the banks of River Tunga. At present, there are about sixteen elephants in the camp. The elephants make their way into the camp at about eight in the morning. They are bathed, fed and taken back into the forest by noon. Visitors can watch the elephants being tended to and trained by their respective mahouts. Those who don’t mind getting down and dirty can follow the elephants as they wade into the water and join the mahouts in scrubbing the pachyderms. The elephants even oblige you for joy rides. The Shivappa Nayaka Palace in the heart of Shimoga is also worth a visit. Beautiful sculptures that are reminiscent of the glory of empires of yesteryear are displayed on the lawns of the palace.
The fabric of Malnad’s verdant landscape is a treat to the eye. From ancient temples and museums for those who like to walk down memory lane to well kept secrets of the wild for nature lovers, this green belt has a lot to offer. It is a place to explore, experience and enjoy the enigma of this state of many worlds.
Bhadra Tiger Reserve Fact File
An area of 77.45 sq.km was declared as the “Jagara Valley Game Reserve” in 1951 by the Government of Mysore.
This area was extended to 492.46 sq. km and was reconstituted as “Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary” by the Government of Karnataka in 1974.
The sanctuary is the 25th Tiger Reserve of India and was brought under “Project Tiger” in 1998.
The sanctuary spreads across the Chikmagalur and Shimoga districts of Karnataka and is surrounded by the hill ranges of Mullainagiri, Hebbagiri, Gangegiri and Bababudangiri. Kallathigiri is the highest peak in the sanctuary.
The Bhadra River and its tributaries Somavahini, Tadabehalla and Odirayanahalla flow through these forests.
The santuary is open to visitors from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The River Tern Lodge is a venture of the Jungle Lodges and Resorts and is set amidst bamboo shoots and tall trees on the slopes of a hillock leaning into the Bhadra Reservoir. It has twin-bed accommodation in cottages and log huts. The resort offers boat rides, and jungle safari and you can also indulge in water sports.
For more information log on to http://www.junglelodges.com/
By road - From Bangalore, drive on NH4 towards Tumkur. Take the Shimoga bypass road at Tumkur and reach Tarikere via Arasikere, Kadur and Birur. Lakkavalli is about 275 Kms from Bangalore and 18 Kms from Tarikere.
By train - Reach Shimoga or Birur by train and take a bus from there to Lakkavalli. Lakkavalli is at a distance of 38 Kms from Shimoga and 45 Kms from Birur.
This article was published in Bangalore Mirror on the 29th of November 2009. Below is the link to the online version of the article.