Sunday, April 15, 2018

Old Magazine House and Rafting in Kali River

Place: Old Magazine House and Kali River, Dandeli

Distance:  472 km from Bangalore
Type :  Bird Watching, Photography, and Watersports
Ideal for:  Friends and Family

With its dense forest, enchanting river, fascinating resorts, thrilling rafting, chirping birds and wildlife, Dandeli is a one-stop destination for all the Adventure seekers and wildlife lovers. Dandeli is an emerging hotspot for it's for the long list of experiences like Jungle Safari, Rafting, Kayaking, Watersports, bird watching that are curated and housed in this region.

Best of the Beast: River Rafting in Kali River, Dandeli

A photographer’s paradise and an adventurer’s abode, Dandeli deserves all the attention that it has been getting in the past many years. Yet another great reason for the recent popularity of Dandeli is the ease of access that this town has and connectivity with major towns. Getting to Dandeli from Bangalore, Pune, and Goa is almost a cake walk, resulting in the kind of influx of people who seek the same adventures.

Planning: I got my travel planned by which made our Dandeli trip not only easy but helped us experience the beauty of Dandeli. Mr. Rajesh took care of booking our stay at Old Magazine House and Dandeli Jungle Camp. He also arranged the end to end transportation for us after reaching Dandeli.

The best mode of transportation to reach Dandeli is on a bus. Private bus services like VRL and SRS offer both semi seater and sleeper coaches to this place. There's also an option to reach by train but you have to get down at Alnavar railway station and catch a local bus to reach Dandeli which is 30 km away from Dandeli.

Bangalore to Dandeli: Reservations are recommended hence we had our seats booked on the VRL bus which departed on Friday night at 9 pm.

When I opened my eyes it was already 6 am and we were in Dharwad. I lived in Dharwad for my for +2 study during 2006, the nostalgic feeling hit me when the bus passed by my college.

The road condition is excellent until Dharwad. After Dharwad, the bus took a left turn and joined a single lane road. Another 50-kilometer journey would take us to Dandeli. Last few kilometers were through the forest area. I peeked out of the window hoping to spot wild animals but I wasn't lucky enough to spot one. We reached Dandeli at 8 in the morning.

Adventure Begins: As soon as we got down from the bus I called Mr. Sanjay from who assisted us to reach his office which was hardly 100 meters from the bus stop. We had a discussion about the plan for the next three days. I inquired if rafting is available as I badly wanted to do it. He checked with his local contacts and confirmed the availability. Sanjay mentioned that he would be closely monitoring us to see if everything is going smooth and we are getting all the promised facilities.

We boarded the cab and started driving towards OMH. I initiated the conversation with the driver who was in his 40's. He explained how Dandeli has evolved from being just a paper factory town to tourism hot spot destination.

A peek into the Dandeli Town

On the way to Old Magazine House. I wonder how this road would look in monsoon

Old Magazine House (OMH):
A name enchanted by most of the bird photographers and nature lovers was originally a warehouse used to store ammunition and dynamite used for the blasting of rocks nearly many years ago. It has been turned into the resort and is maintained by Govt of Karnataka. The beauty of this property lies in its very nature of attracting various species of birds.

Last stretch towards Old Magazine House. The general public doesn't have access to it

A name enchanted by most of the bird photographers and nature lovers 

The Old Magazine House is in Ganeshgudi which is 20 kilometers from the Dandeli city. Its a private property and the general public doesn't get access to it until they book a stay at this place. We reached OMH at 9 30 am but the standard check-in time is 12 pm hence we had to wait. As soon as we reached the Old Magazine House I could see a group of photographers gathered around with their huge camera. We kept our luggage in the office and freshened up at common bathrooms in the dormitory room. After freshening up we proceeded for the breakfast as I was extremely hungry.

  It was used to store ammunition and dynamite many years ago.

OMH has been turned into the resort and is maintained by Govt of Karnataka

Dining area: The dining area is big with a 360-degree panoramic view of the surroundings. Food is buffet system with a variety of dishes to choose from. The food was extremely good. After the breakfast, we moved to the bird watching spot.

The dining area is big with a 360-degree panoramic view of the surroundings.

What's on my plate for the breakfast
Where the Magic Happens: Birdwatching spot is just in front of the dining area. 6-8 bird feeders have been installed and a green net has been put up with small opening making it look like a bird studio. Since the surrounding forest is dense and rich, a variety of birds stay in its vicinity and come to this spot to quench their thirst. You don't have to run around looking for birds but the birds will come to you and pose for the camera. The only thing you have to do is be quiet and wait.

Bird watching spot in front of the dining area

Photographers on one side and birds on the other seperated by the green net.

So many bird enthusiast with their huge cameras

One can spot around 40 species of the bird at this place alone. If you are a bird photographer or a bird watcher then this is the place you should be staying when you visit Dandeli. Most of the co-visitors were photographers with a really high-end camera and big lenses. They not only had the big camera but also had knowledge about the birds.

Should I take my camera out?: Even though I had 2 DSLR's and a point and shoot camera I didn't take them out for nearly an hour as I felt nervous among the ardent bird photographers. I convinced myself that I don't fall into the category of bird watchers hence I shouldn't be worried. I took our my Nikon P600 point and shoot camera which has insane 60x optical zoom. I managed to capture nice shots of the birds. Vinayak who is a staff at OMH explained about different birds we spotted which was a good learning for me. After 2 hours of bird watching and photography, I checked in into the room at 11.30.

While everyone was bust capturing the birds we were capturing the glimpse of this chameleon.

The oriental white eye was the first visitor.
Then Indian Yellow Tit came to quench its thirst
Orange-headed brown thrush posed for the camera

Tickel's Blue Flycatcher.-- another commoner, but a mass entertainer. He did some acrobatics in front of us before entering the pool.

Red-vented Bulbul looked cool with its spikes

Seems like bulbul was shouting at me cz I was taking her pic

Emerald dove - -Frequent visitor to this camp.

Bird name 

Bird feeders where birds come drink water and also bath :D

The rooms at OMH:
The room is big and cozy with double size bed on one side and two chairs on the other. The bathroom was clean and hygienic. I realized OM house is a value for money after looking at all the facilities they provided which include three times meal.

One of the newly constructed wooden house overlooking the thick forest
Dormitory rooms for budget travellers. 

The rooms where I stayed
I spent some time in taking a video footages for my youtube channel and then got freshened up. The ideal itinerary would include a short trek to Supa dam backwater viewpoint from where we can witness the magnificent sunset. But due to the unfortunate event happened at Tamilnadu the trekking was banned at most places in Karnataka including here. We decided to go for rafting instead. We were informed that the pickup for the rafting will be at 1.15. We had lunch which was amazing.

Had a full meal before the rafting

The vehicle facility to the rafting point was arranged by Old Magazine House itself. In fact, they are the only authority who has the license to conduct 9.4 km stretch rafting. Other activity organisers do short rafting. So if you are planning to do rafting at Dandeli book it through or you can call Mr. Sanjay who will make arrangements for you. Don't get fooled.

The Jeep used in the Old Magazine House
Judge lodges jeep was ready at 1.15. The rafting begins at 2 pm sharp. It was a 5 km drive to the rafting point.

River Kali: The river is surrounding by dense trees stretching along the river and the water is so clear that I could see the river base with naked eyes. Because of the manganese ore on the bottom, the river looks black in color which is the reason behind the name Kali (black).

Kali River surrounded by the thick green forest
One of the crew members gave a brief description of rafting and safety measurements. He educated us about how to wear the life jacket and choose a right size helmet.

Rafting in Kali River: Mr. Sahadev was our rafting guide and instructor for the day. We boarded the rafting boat and left the shore. Sahadev briefed about the paddling techniques and commands like forward, back, stop and get down. After briefing about the techniques he asked us to jump into the water. A dip into the water helped us cool down for the entire rafting. Peddling along the current was easy. Sahadev mentioned there are totally 9 rapids among which first rapid is the best one.

Smile for the photo: There were two photographers waiting near the first rapid. The first rapid falls under grade 2 which is thrilling for the beginners like us.

The first and the best rapid 

The best part is when the water splashes on you and hits you hard.

Peddling against the rapid

We then encountered some more rapids which were easy and smooth. Along with peddling, we enjoyed the serene water and beautiful surroundings. Not only the surroundings were pleasing even the group was amazing. We laughed to death and totally enjoyed the rafting experience.

The complete 9 km stretch took around two hours. While we were completely satisfied with the rafting experience a big surprise was waiting for us at the last rapid. We stopped after the last rapid. Instructor asked one guy to sit in the front and everyone else to move forward so that the weight of the raft is to the front. We started peddling towards the rapid and instructor managed to lock the raft in the rapid and we started surfing for more than 15 seconds. With two failed attempts we repeated this for 6 times until everyone got chance to sit in the front of the boat.

Our driver was waiting for us near the end of the trail. We got into the jeep and started driving towards the OMH. I was extremely tired and hungry. We reached back at 6 pm. We came near the dining area and requested for a hot cup of coffee. I talked with a co-visitor named Vinod Bartakke who is a passionate photographer. He was holding a big camera, out of curiously I asked the cost of his giant camera to which he replied "4 lac for the camera body and 4 lac for the lens". I was awestruck for some time hearing the cost.

A Hot cup of coffee after the rafting is all you need
Beautifully lit up dining area at the evening

After 30 minutes the staff arranged the chairs in round fashion and served hot pakoda with hot soup. The pakodas were yummy that I gulped 2 plates. Ideally, there should have been a campfire at evening but since the climate was hot they didn't put up the campfire. All the guests gathered and sat there with peaceful mind mostly discussing the birds they saw on the day.

Pakoda and hot soup at evening

Tried to capture moon with 60 x optical zoom
We waited till 830 for the dinner to be served. We had dinner again it was tasty and good. I inquired for the next day itineraries, for which Vinayak said there will be nature walk in the morning at 7. I slept at 10 pm hoping to get up early.

Note: I was invited to this experience by who are dedicated to responsible tourism in Dandeli. However, this has no bearings on my opinion and understanding as shared in this post. My views are completely and honestly my own.

For an end to end Travel, accommodation, itineraries and activities contact either through online or call them +91 9483940400
Important Notes:
1. Many brokers offer tourism services in Dandeli but most of them don't fulfill the promises and provide fewer facilities at lower cost and then charge for everything else.
3. Book the rafting only through Most of the water activity services would fool you to choose the short rafting.
4. Photos taken by the professionals can be collected at the cost of Rs. 500 for all the photos. Make sure you ask the rafting guide at the end of the rafting.

Don't forget to give this post a Like. See you in the next post.


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Nandi Hills - A visit at Evening 20/11/2016

Place: Nandi Hills, Chikkaballapur, Karnataka

Distance:   62 km from Bangalore

Type:          Sightseeing, Hill
Ideal for:   Friends and Family

I had been to Nandi hills an infinite number of times. But had never visited in the evening especially to witness the sunset. One fine day we were relaxing in the room that's when my friend Chanda said his car is available and we can go someplace. Even my PU friend Akash was with us, so decided to visit Nandi hills. For the first time, my brother Vasant also joined the trip. We were 7 on the confirmed list, Mahindra TUV300 is a perfect car for 7 people.

Best of the beast: View from Nandi hills after sunset

Sunday Evening: We started from home at 3.30 in the afternoon. The traffic was more than usual. Chandu's driving skills were good enough to get out of the Bangalore traffic in no time. Riding on Nandi hills road is always fun on the bike than in the car. I had no other task than humming to the songs played in the car. We reached Nandi hills at 5 pm.

Time 3.30 pm: On the way to Nandi Hills
Nandi Hills at evening: I was surprised to see there was more number of cars than bikes. One thing was clear that most of the visitors were family. Usually, in the morning, we get to witness many energetic groups of friends who are at the peak of their craziness level. But at evening the experience was totally contrasting. Everyone was so calm and cool. The crowd arrived here to spend great quality time with their family. People were interested in capturing the beauty of nature from their eyes than from the camera.

There we go. On nandi hills enjoying the sunset

View point

Nandi Hlls at Morning Vs Nandi hills at evening

After parking the car we first visited the viewpoint. And then moved to the sunset viewpoint where most of the people had perched down watching the setting sun, enjoying the breeze with their family. Unfortunately, the sun was covered by the clouds so we couldn't see the clear sunset.

Tried capturing timelapse. Unfortunately it wasn't good enough to show you guys

Setting sun. Clouds blocked the view of the sunset

Selfie with my brother

My old friend Akash

The entire gang. Off couse my brother is behind the camera

View of chikkaballapur from Nandi hills
We sipped a hot cup of tea before leaving the place. Just after the sunset, the atmosphere grew darker and the security guards started clearing the crowd. It happened to be a bit of traffic jam when we were descending as everyone dispersed at the same time.After a point, the highway was traffic free till we crossed Hebbal. Chandu got some urgent call so he dropped us at the metro station and proceeded. we reached home by 8 pm.

Conclusion: If you are fed up with the crazy crowd at Nandi hills then you should visit it at evening. It's wonderful to spend the evening at Nandi hills watching the sunset with your friends or family.

Read my more detailed experience of Nandi hills:

Nandi Hills - Heaven On Earth 21/06/2014

Nandi Hills - Experiencing the Heaven Again 31/08/2014

Important points:
1. Timings: Nandi hills will be open till 6.30 pm.
2. You can also visit Bhoganandeeshwara temple.

This article is a part of #SuperBlogggerChallenge 2018 Hosted by and should be not repurposed, republished or otherwise. the content is here owned by blogger. superbloggerchallenge2018 is not responsible for any kind of infringement caused.



This article is a part of #SuperBlogggerChallenge 2018 Hosted by and should be not repurposed, republished or otherwise. the content is here owned by blogger. superbloggerchallenge2018 is not responsible for any kind of infringement caused. 

Don't forget to +1 or Like and leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Makalidurga Hills Trek - With Decathlon Anubhava 28/01/2018

Place: Makalidurga betta / Makalidurga Hills, Doddaballapur, Karnataka

Distance: 64 km from Bangalore
Type: Trekking
Ideal for: Friends
Trek Difficulty: Easy
Trek Length: 3 kilometres one way
Trek Duration: 1 hour one way

My friend Smitha, a talented blogger invited me for the trek to Makalidurga on Sunday. The trek was sponsored by Decathlon - Anubhava hence the trek cost was just Rs. 100. I immediately confirmed my participation and also invited few of my colleagues.  My colleague Vijay registered for the event along with his 2 friends. I had been to Makalidurga hills twice before, one was a night trek and other was a day trek. The main intention to join this time was to vlog, I have uploaded a video to YouTube. Don't forget to watch the vlog at the end of this post. The meeting point was Decathlon Anubhava located on Airport road at 5 am.

Best of the beast: View of Gundamagere Lake
Sunday morning: I got up at 4 in the morning, got ready and left the home by 4.30. I picked up Smitha on the way and headed to the meetup point. Riding on Airport road early in the morning always reminds me of my countless trips to Nandi hills. We reached Decathlon Anubhava at 5.15 am. Most of the participants had arrived, Vijay and his friends were waiting for us. 

Buses arranged by Decathlon Anubhava
We exchanged greetings with Vijay's friends with a short intro. It's very unlikely that I go on trips arranged by some event organization with strangers, but I do want to try it out. After few instructions, we registered our attendance and boarded the bus at 5.45 am. The bus stopped in between to load the food and refreshments. It delayed the journey by 45 minutes within which we could have reached the Makalidurga hills. I took a power nap until we reached the base of the hills.

Sunrise as we were moving towards Makalidurga
The base of the hills: Idli-vada, energy drink and water bottles were distributed by Decathlon organisers. After the breakfast, the organisers gave us a short introduction and instructions for the hike. The headcount was 90. Maintaining such huge crowd wasn't easy. Kudos to the Decathlon team who managed to handle it quite well. 

Idli-vada for breakfast

Brief up about the trek by organizers
We started the trek at 8.30 in the morning, the climate was cool and soothing. The trail is marked by the arrow marks till the peak though the initial starting point may be confusing. After crossing the railway track you need to continue behind the temple. After 100 meters a right diversion leads the way to the start of the trail. Finding this path shouldn't be much tougher as there are arrow marks everywhere to guide the trekkers. 

Makalidurga hills and the railway track

Railway track is the starting point of the trek
Ascend: There are three routes to scale this hill the one we took was the easiest and the most recommended. Other two trails require rock climbing skills and demands hiking instruments which can be done only by the experts or with the help of certified trainers.

Around 90 people trekking together

The trail is marked by such arrows till the summit

Sun was already up and shining
Hiking Shoes a must for any trekker

We were accompanied by junior trekkers as well

Our group was very huge (90 people to be precise) hence it resulted in congestion at the beginning but after some time the crowd was distributed across the trail. After 15 minutes of the climb, we could see the Gundamagere lake. It looked wonderful. The view was getting better with every step we took towards the peak. There were few stretches which are difficult but can be crossed with a little bit of effort. Without taking any break we climbed till the summit.  

This was the most difficult part of the trail. Don't believe me?

Now? You believe its the toughest part right?

First view of the lake. Every step offers a better view of the lake

Almost there

Fort walls mark the end of the trek
Summit: The summit was overcrowded by our group. We found a perfect place to crash with the best view of the lake. We sipped the energy drinks and did a small photo shoot. This is the only place to find the shade other than the temple. So we spent more time here relaxing here and enjoying the lake view.

The summit and ruins of the fort

Watchtower and resting place.

My gang. Selfie at the peak. 

Gundamagere lake view
After an hour the organizers asked everyone to start descending that's when we realized we had not seen anything so we all rushed and visited the temple on the peak. It's a Shiva temple which is beautiful in its own way. Surrounding the temple, there are few trees to provide shade and relax. The trails on the summit were mostly dry due to the onset of summer. The old ruins of the fort still stand strong and surround the entire Makalidurga hills.

Ruins of the fort. Walking towards the temple

Temple on the right

Shiva linga inside the Makalidurga temple

Makalidurga temple atop

Hanuman flag at the corner of the peak

Gunjur lake on the other side of the hill

One of the organizers of Decathlon team

After trekking the perimeter of the fort we started descending. The descend was quicker and easier. We reached the base in 30 minutes. At few places, the descend was little difficult but manageable. We hydrated ourselves with coconut water and boarded the bus. That was so refreshing after the trek.

We reached Decathlon Anubhava by 2 pm. After having lunch at Itihaas restaurant we bid goodbye to all and headed back to our respective home.
Reached Decathlon Anubhava at 2 pm.

Full batting at Itihaas restaurant

Itihaas restaurant just beside Decathlon

A group photo before we dispersed.

Don't forget to read Smitha's blog which is very precise and written in detail.

Also, read my previous visit to Makalidurga

Watch my vlog of this trek:

Important points:
1. Makalidurga trail is part of the Govt's Eco trails which means that we have to pay Rs. 450/person for the trek. But we didn't say any such amount neither other trekkers paid the amount. So I am still unsure if it attracts any trek charges.
2. You can also visit this place on Train which would include a nice trek along with the train track. Check Traveller hoots blog for the detailed train timings and other public transportation.
3. Makalidurga is also very famous for night trekking. So if you looking for night trekking then this place is a very good destination for you.
4. I got many queries regarding trek difficulty in my previous post. It's a very easy trek which can be done even with aged but fit people as well.
5. There are no public toilets available near the hill.

Recommended read
Makalidurga Trek by Travellerhoots
My previous visit to Makalidurga Betta 


This article is a part of #SuperBlogggerChallenge 2018 Hosted by and should be not repurposed, republished or otherwise. the content is here owned by blogger. superbloggerchallenge2018 is not responsible for any kind of infringement caused. 

Don't forget to +1 or Like and leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.