Amidst B R Hills Wilderness

We (Kalyan, Phillip Ross and yours truly) set off on a pleasant Sunday morning, amidst not so much traffic, far far away from concrete jungle and towards a more natural forest. I was very very impressed with the quality of Mysore-Bangalore 4-lane highway (last time around, I had slept for much of the journey) and also the food at Kamat Lokaruchi, one of the several popluar drive-in restaurants. Discussions for much of the journey hovered around bird watching (not the colloquial type but the literal one) and needless to mention, much of it flew past my head in a jiffy.


Wild Life

We adopted the outer ring road near Mysore and about 90 minutes drive, through snake-like roads through the hillish area, took us to Jungle Lodges & Resorts in Kyatadevara Gudi (popularly known, amongst the people who know it, as K Gudi). Being an ardent admirer of natural beauty, it wasn’t hard at all for me to figure out why Kalyan, Phillip (and many more) had fallen in love with this place, especially when one takes into account the variety of flora & fauna it has on its menu!

B R Hills Entrance

B R Hills Entrance, from the Chamarajanagar/Nagavalli route



Red Wattled Lapwing

Red Wattled Lapwing, B R Hills



B R Hills

One of the many views while driving up the hills



As I was slowly beginning to fall in love with the surroundings myself and food was getting ready, Kalyan was busy with something else – very pretty to see him play with (and feed) monkeys in a seemingly effortless fashion 🙂

Kalyan @ K Gudi

Kalyan Varma, B R Hills



Jungle Lodges & Resorts (JLR) have done (been doing) an excellent job here – the accommodation (and other facilities) are nothing short of 5*, given the location and its remoteness. There are several log huts to sleep in and a common dining place. If monkeys keep company during daytime, wild boars take up this duty at nights 🙂 While we were busy with our (very tasty and filling) food, bunch of monkeys decided to have their group picture taken!

Log Hut

Log Hut where I stayed with Phillip Ross, B R Hills



Log Huts

Other Log Huts, B R Hills



Dining Area

Common dining area, B R Hills



Monkey Group Picture

Monkeys posing for a group picture near common dining area, B R Hills



For the next 72+ hours, barring food & sleep times, all we (Kalyan, Phillip and myself) did was go on safari (with Mandanna, Thapa, Sudeesh, Dr. Prashanth), watch wild life and/or talk/discuss about it. I did few stupid things and let me explain them in detail, so that you shouldn’t repeat them:

  1. Literature Search & Clothing: Very unlike of me, I didn’t do any literature search about this place and/or what it has to offer. As a result, I carried few wrong colored clothes (shades of green, brown and deep blue are the preferred ones) and was feeling dumb during many a discussions. For some reason, I didn’t carry warm clothings and the forest can get pretty nasty cold at nights. Might not have been cold cold (as in Michigan’s Upper Peninsular) but my not-so-great health forced me to buy JLR sweater and jacket.
  2. Good Equipment: I wouldn’t say what I had was bad but a 70-200mm VR lens and/or 200-400mm VR lens with camera that shoots more frames per second (like Nikon D200) would have been simply great. I am still happy with quality of some of my pics. Other things that I should have carried include a decent binoculars, a compass, etc.
  3. Keener Eye: During one of our safaris, Kalyan and Phillip were busy shooting a Crested Serpant Eagle and after about a minute, I quitely ask, Mandanna, where is the bird?. Keener eye would definitely have helped me shoot more birds and Birds of Southern India (or something similar) would have been a good book to read up (and use it as a reference) to help myself identify the birds.
  4. Forest Manners: During the same safari, I was very very previliged to see a tigress (with two of her cubs). Well, how much lucky, you ask? It has taken some people few 10s of trips to this place to sight their first tiger and one of them, I have been told, hasn’t been able to see one even after 20 years. Actually, I wasn’t deserving to see it but people surrounding me (Kalyan, Mandanna, Phillip) were all long due to see one and I was just lucky enough to be with them at the right time 😀 That wasn’t the stupid thing I did – we drove around a bit and rest of our group saw the tigress and the cub (while /me had zoomed in and was seeing only the cub). Like a tube light, it took a while for me to see the tigress and immediately started shouting in a mellow tone, Tiger, Tiger; there is a tiger too and everybody else thought I had seen another! Failing to curtail my dumb excitement would have costed us dearly – in terms of some better shots of the tigress and did cost heavily w.r.t. shots of cubs 🙁
  5. Jumping out of the jeep on the wrong side to shoot Wild Dogs
  6. and so on…

Below are some pictures taken during many of our safaris – most of them were through the unusual routes that even some of the regular visitors hadn’t seen before.

Some flower

Some wild flower seen during a safari, B R Hills



Caterpillar

Caterpillar seen during a safari, B R Hills



Sambhar

Sambhar at night, B R Hills



Wild Dog

Wild Dog, B R Hills



Barking Deer

Barking Deer, B R Hills



Indian Gaur

Indian Gaur, B R Hills



Little Green Bee Eater

Little Green Bee Eater, B R Hills



Gecko

Gecko at night (shot with Kalyan’s SB800 flash), B R Hills



Kyata

Kyata, playing around in a pond, B R Hills



Wondering as to how did I learn so much about these birds/mammals in such a short span of time? Phillip, Kalyan and Mandanna were kind enough to identify most of them, especially birds, for me after (or in between) safaris. Though not as crisp as any of the above and though not my best shot, following is my proud possession – shot of tigress looking directly towards us. Upon sighting this, we notified the other jeep in the vicinity and by the time they came, tigress had disappeared. One of them was so disappointed that he recorded a video clipping of this picture. Not only that, it gave us bragging rights for the rest of our stay in K Gudi and gave us a proud topic to discuss with friends/relatives 🙂

Tigress

Most prized sighting of this trip, B R Hills



Apart from the fact that this 4-day stay in the forest helped recover my health while providing some awesome sights for my camera, I did learn quite a few things – mostly DOs and DONTs about the area. During some of our safaris, we saw plenty of a$$holes honking their way to glory (glory of what, I have absolutely no clue), even when there was absolutely no need to honk. A bunch of people showed up the second night turning the dining area into a Babbler Zone (Babbler is a bird, often found in groups, that can drive one crazy with its sound and hence the name Babbler) though Kalyan (and Mandanna) informed that the group was lot polite and well behaved than most others. I was also very happy to learn that sale/usage of plastic is prohibited and so is excessive use of booze & smoke – those found guilty of violation are usually hung upside down from a tree deep inside the forest & rest of your group usually gets banned for life from entering this area again! Probably, most important lesson of all was that this place is not a get-away from your mundane, busy city life (there are other places designed just for that) but only for those who have a wild orientation…

If you are wondering as to what’s the point in shooting such wild life (insects, birds, animals, etc.), you probably aren’t the first one. And, it’s probably in such situations that DVG’s Kagga comes to one’s rescue:



Kagga 66



A crude transliteration of the above verse/hymn means: “Doesn’t a major portion of creation seem wasteful? Is there any meaning in creating millions of worms and insects? The creator is being extravagant without thinking” — is the explanation given by people with half-insight.


Back To Bangalore

The return journey was pretty much similar and we decided to try out the much talked about Nandini Infrastructure Corridor. There were couple of good things – first, there was no toll fee and second, road (and side views) is an awesome piece of work. For a while, I felt like I was zooming through some freeway in US and I just cannot wait to see this road in full glory – when one can travel from Bangalore to Mysore in just about an hour! Health seems to be better but still there are some nagging issues – if they don’t vanish soon, you probably know where I will be for much of my remaining time in India 😀

41 Replies to “Amidst B R Hills Wilderness”

  1. again, what can I say to the sequel article on travel after kerala ? the pictures are the highlight here, esp the monkey family and the elephant… Even I admit the great job done by the Jungle lodges, they deserve a pat on their backs. Infact, I heard from my brother that Jog is at its best now… Do visit if u get a chance…

    To sum up, its a wonderful article, makes ppl pack their bags immediately and get going ( excluding our lazy gang !!!)

    On the flip side, I could see some profanity in your article… guess u must avoid using such language atleast in your own blog 🙂

  2. @Prashanth (and everyone else),
    Apologies for the profanity of language: but if you were me, trying to capture a Gaur with your camera in a quiet setting and someone passes by honking all along for no reason, you would use such (or more) profane words. I just thought about writing things as I felt & experienced.

  3. Lovely snaps, actually, Gowtham, no need for the disclaimer! Don’t worry…all of us have begun as tourists, become wildlife tourists, and slowly turned into wildlifers. You have been very, very lucky, in various ways…having Kalyan with you at B R Hills (that’s HIS territory!) for one…the tiger sighting for another… the wild dog sighting for a third….so it looks as if Nature in the forests loves you! And you seem to have seen such a wide variety of flora and fauna too…amazing!

    Hope you will keep coming back to the beautiful forests of Karnataka…we are so lucky to be able to get to the lap of Mother Nature within a few hours’ drive!

    Kyatha is so unmistakable…

    I enjoyed this post so much, will be forwarding the link to two of my friends who are at BR Hills right now…I couldn’t go with them but am planning for next week…I liked your website a lot too!

    I am also someone who has fallen in love with the jungle and am learning about wildlife, birds, and photography, all at the same time…quite tough! So I really appreciate someone like you who seems to be well up in photography.

    I will be following your posts; will ask Kallu to create cross-blog feed for me on LJ. Thanks for the lovely account!

    How long are you in India? Do post about your other travels too…!

  4. Wow, that’s awesome man. It’s nice that you are enjoying. I know what it feels like going back after 4 years. Ask me; I went to India after four and half years. Many a times most of our experiences and feelings are lost or vaguely remembered. You pen them…It needs lot of interest and enthusiastic diligence. Continue your fun…

  5. @Deepa,
    Glad you liked the write up. I used to go quite a bit (whenever my mother managed to get her LCA thing from her bank) to the forests (mostly in Karnataka – nisargadhama, nagarahole, coorg, etc. and some outside too) but didn’t have the camera to capture what I saw then and what I felt were written down in some diary I used to keep.

    It’s very true that I was very very blessed to have taken this B R Hills trip with right people around right time 🙂 I will be here in India till 11th Sept and my return journey starts on 12th evening. For sure, I will (try my best at least) be visiting once a year, with much of my time to be spent in the wild…

  6. Hey Gowtham… Smashing article and awesome pictures. I still keep flaunting the picture of the tiger, to every homo-sapien i meet, regardless if i’ve met them or not. Anyway keep up the great work…

    Cheers ,
    Phillip

  7. @Prashanth,
    Glad that you found the information useful 🙂

    Yo Phillip,
    Same here (about flaunting about tiger shot) – I actually asked my mom to make a sweet dish upon my return from BR Hills to celebrate the fact that I had seen one (honestly, it was more like an entry fee to see the picture, lol). Haven’t found any place from where I can connect my lappy to the network and as a result, all the RAW files are still not in my server. Will mail you once I do it 🙂

    Cheers,
    gowtham

  8. Amazing photographs. u should have gotten used to this comment. but i must say they r just beautiful. i agree with u on the fact that whenever we decide to go to a place on vacation be it a jungle or a historic place, the whole experience is different if you have read or have some info or knowledge about the place u r going to.

    Your description of the place is most tempting and since we r planning to have a trip next week i would like to suggest this place. And thank u for the info u have given about the do’s and dont’s like about the clothing, it is realy informative – especially for first timers like me.

  9. You don’t need a better lens for your pictures, they can’t be possibly much better than they already are!

    Nice writeup BTW. BR Hills is a fabulous place and you just can’t get enough of it. Did you ask Kalyan to show you his pictures from the camera trap he set up near a gaur kill?

  10. @Kartik,
    Thanks for stopping by and reading this write-up 🙂 B R Hills is probably the only reason for me to make (at least) annual trips from here. May be it was Kalyan’s kick-a$$ lens that made everything else look sub-mediocre equipment (lol) but looking back, I feel happy about the quality of pictures I got from that lens. I think I remember seeing pics from the camera trap near the gaur kill (the one during which they saw leapord few feet from them and then camera had recorded tiger shots, right?)

  11. Wonderful post. You have no idea, how lucky you are spotting tiger on your first visit. I visited 3 times, but couldn’t manage to see anything beyond the pug marks. Then again, it doesn’t matter; it’s a forest with one of a kind. Sometimes I think, we might have actually started polluting such kind of place by bringing the urban crowd. I was there on last week of Feb., coudn’t sopt even a single elephant (Thapa tried at his best). But it was amazing, just by realizing the fact that there are only three (me, my wife and Thapa) of us in the middle of this wilderness. Keep posting.

  12. @Sabir,
    Thanks for taking time to read and leave a comment! I agree that I got extremely lucky on that trip but if you go with the right people, I have been told by many others who have gone on such safaris with the same people I went, wildest of animals automatically come your way 🙂

    Urbanization is something I completely hate/dislike, at least when it comes to, like you said, one of a kind forest such as B R Hills. We didn’t have too much of crowd during our visit but Thapa and few others did tell me that some crowds get pretty noisy…

    Thanks again for your time and interest!

  13. Hi,
    Nice pics… esp the monkeys. Need a favour – We are planning to visit KGudi (the JLR camp) sometime soon. Can you pass on some info about getting there? Is it advisable to take a train(from Blore to Mysore) and then a bus (from Mysore to KGudi)? Or should we stick to driving by ourselves?

    Thanks,
    Divya.

  14. @Divya,

    Thanks for taking time to read and post a comment. Transportation between Bangalore and Mysore is upto you – and since the roads are good, driving by yourself is not a bad idea either. But as far as I know, there is only one KSRTC bus that goes from Mysore to B R Hills via K Gudi. Road condition, at least via Chamarajanagara / Nagavalli side is not extremely good but manageable by most cars / automobiles.

    That said, I would personally recommend driving by yourselves to save lot of time and use the saved time to see more on your way through the forests.

    Hope this helps..

  15. These pictures are absolutely amazing. A Tigress!!!! How exciting!!!! Thankyou so much for sharing with me, it was greatly appreciated.

  16. Hi Gowtham, the pictures are truly awesome. From my experience as a wildlife enthusiast, and having done a lot of wildlife trails in munnar, chinnar, valapari, athirapalli and challakudi, I can understand how difficult it is to shoot good pictures like these and how fulfilling it feels to see and enjoy them. Thanks for the wonderful treat. Good luck.

  17. @Frank:
    Thanks for stopping by and for your words of support/encouragement. Since that trip, whenever I see a picture of any aspect of wildlife, it makes me pause and admire it a lot more than I used to before…

  18. hi gautham, in continuation of appreciation of ur good work!!!
    i actually took one of ur photo (bunch of monkeys!!)and made it my desktop item(sorry for violation!!)could not resist!!!
    all my colleagues were in AWE for ur photos!!!
    keep up the good work

  19. @Manoj:
    Don’t worry about violating rules/regulations – as long as it is for personal and/or non-commercial usage, I have no issues with it. Glad you like them 🙂 And, make sure to visit Kalyan’s website as well as Phillip’s postings in India Nature Watch 🙂

  20. just happened to stumble upon this page while searching for accommodation. Looks like you had a great time man! have been searching the internet for DAYS on end looking for places to stay apart from Jungle lodges (they’re booked till after new year!!!) we’re biking down , about 6 of us and since you seem to have a few phone numbers that “might help”, i was wondering if u could help with places to stay! would really help man. we’re kinda running out of time…

  21. @Fuzz,
    It was over a year ago that I was in B R Hills/K Gudi and I have learnt that quite many people that worked there have moved on to other jobs. I am not sure if there are other places nearby that provide food/accommodation. Please do check your mail and I will CC you my email to few people that I think know much better than I do myself.

  22. Hi Gowtham,

    I went through ur blog about ur trip to B R Hills. It was a wonderful blog describing the scenic beauty of that hills. we are planning a trip to that place this weekend. can you tell me some information or some pointers sort of for accommodation? please send the details to the email mentioned.

  23. @Mathi:

    Glad you like the write up and pictures 🙂 The only possible accommodation, at least as I know it, is through Jungle Lodges & Resorts. I believe their office is located in M G Road, Bangalore.

  24. Hi Gowtham,

    Thanks for the information… Pls send the link for ur blogs about ur trips to places liek this… i enjoy reading blogs/articles regarding these.

  25. hi,, wonderful description and good photography included i was searching fot literature about BR hills and landed up with yours.. nice info i got from you. thanks a lot.

  26. please get us some details about accomodation facility at B.R.Hills with their contact numbers, for experienceing similar to like all of you

  27. @Ramadas:

    For accommodation, safari, etc. at B R Hills/K Gudi, your best option is to get in touch with Jungle Lodges and Resorts. I believe their office is located in M G Road, Bangalore. Please note that the facility is in K Gudi (and not in B R Hills).

    Hope this helps!

  28. Thanks so much for the post. JLR has just set up its own blog and we would like all wildlife enthusiasts to be a part of this. Request you to take a look at the blog and give yr feedback..would also appreciate it if you can share any of your experiences..Thanks

  29. @Jungle Lodges:
    I am honored to learn that you like this post. I have sent, in an email, some other possible options for setting up a JLR blog. As I am currently living in the United States, I may not be able to contribute travel reports often but will try my best to do so in other capacities.

    I have bookmarked your site and will visit it often to follow the posts/writings.

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