Thursday, February 20, 2014

Top 13 Things to do in Dandeli, Karnataka

Dandeli, a small river side town in North West Karnataka is very popular with tourists from Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore. A lot of people visit this town primarily to indulge in adventure water activities on the mighty Kali river and to see some wildlife in its wildlife sanctuary. But, Dandeli, which literally translates into 'by the river’ offers much more to the tourist apart from adventure sports and wildlife safaris, which is how this location has been historically promoted. Last month, I visited Dandeli after a gap of 10 years and indulged in the place to find out all the interesting things that can be done here. And these are my list of top 13 things to do in Dandeli, the next time you plan your holiday there.

1) Kayaking on the Kali river
Kayaking is fun on Dandeli's Kali river
If you love the white water and want to be high on adventure, then kayaking on the Kali river can offer year round adventure. If you are a professional, then there is nothing more crazy than kayaking on the class 4 rapids of the Kali and if you are a beginner, you can try and hone your skill in its calmer waters and smaller rapids. Basically, my top pick here.

2) Rafting on the rapids of the Kali River
Kayaking on the river Kali at Dandeli, Karnataka, IndiaRiver Rafting is a great team activity and the class 4 rapids on the Kali offer the perfect group getaway. There are half day or full day options and the river has water for most time of the year as the dam above the river is opened every morning to generate electricity. In my mind, the Kali river is possibly the best river to do high adrenaline river rafting in Karnataka.

3) Looking for the elusive Black Panther at Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary
Changeable Hawk Eagle at Dandeli National Park, Dandeli
Dandeli is one of those few places in India where the extremely rare black panther is spotted quite regularly. While most of the tourists just go to see the Black Panther, this wildlife sanctuary also has a lot of tigers, leopards and other interesting fauna and flora. A Dandeli wildlife experience is right on the top of most of South India’s wild experiences.

4) Visit some of the unique tribes of Dandeli
Elderly Gowli Tribe Woman near Dandeli, Karnataka
What most of the tourists do not know and that I found out is that a lot of unique cultures live in and around Dandeli through a variety of tribes. There is the Lamani tribe, the gypsies of Rajasthan. Then, there is the very famous Siddi tribe, who are people of African origin and who were brought to India as slaves. Then, there are the Gowli tribes who manage cattle and the Medar tribe who work in the forest and are bamboo craft artisans. Spending time with these tribes is a great way to know some interesting customs and to be a part of a unique culture.

5) Birding at Ganeshgudi

Malabar Pied Hornbill (Female) on the banks of the Kali river, Dandeli
Ganeshgudi is one of those places near Dandeli where one will often see professional bird watchers with their big bazooka lenses waiting patiently to capture the pretty small birds in their lens. The hornbills are the largest birds of Dandeli, but Ganeshgudi is known for its smaller birds that are endemic to the Western Ghats. If you are a true birder, this is one of those places you have to check out.

6) Watch the sunset from Ganeshgudi Hill

Sunset over the confluence of 4 rivers as seen from Ganeshgudi hill
Imagine that you are on top of a hill looking at the joining of 4 rivers and on the hill opposite you, the sun is setting down slowly behind the hill and its reflections make the 4 rivers glimmer in golden light. Well, such is the view you can get from the Ganeshgudi hill, which you can reach by hiking through the forest for 30 minutes from the Old Magazine house. If you get lucky, you will sight some rare and beautiful birds too.

7) Relaxing and soaking in lush green nature in Dandeli’s countryside

Unlike other wild places, Dandeli is still young and rough at its edges. This means that the development is much lesser and hence there are more rustic homestays than big hotels. If you like rustic holidays amidst pristine and tranquil nature, then the countryside of Dandeli offers the perfect blend of greenery, nature and peace. All you have to do is put your feet up, soak in the sun, sip a cup of tea and read a nice book.

8) Taking a coracle boat ride on the Kali
Malabar pied hornbill in flight in Dandeli's blue sky
For those who are not so adventurous, but still want to feel the Kali river, the coracle boat ride is for you. This is a great way to see the hornbills, the crocodiles basking in the sun and to see Dandeli from a totally different perspective, but at a much easier pace than the kayak or the raft.

9) Wildlife Safari inside Anshi National Park
For those true wildlife aficionados, the Anshi national park offers that special oomph factor. It has black panthers, leopards, tigers and much more. A true tropical forest that offers a special wild experience.

10) Finding Spirituality in the dark Kavala Caves
Shiva Linga inside Kavala Caves
Deep in the forest are caves where large stalactites and stalagmites exist and locals worship them as Lord Shiva. One has to descend quite a number of steps to reach this cave and have to crouch on all fours to reach its inner sanctum. Here, with the help of flashlights and candles, one can see these limestone formations. It is quite a steep climb back to the parking lot, but the Kavala caves offers enough thrill to overcome the tiredness.

11) Watch the umpteen Beehives at Sinteri Rocks
Sinteri Rocks of DandeliSinteri rocks is a place of eerie looking rock formations, underground river systems and lots of beehives. This is one of those places where you can go with your family on a picnic and enjoy half a day out. The waters in this place are very dangerous and hence swimming is strictly prohibited. Other than that, it is a great place and you can spend all your time counting the number of beehives on these rocks.

12) Trek to Nagjhari Falls
Deep inside the forests of Dandeli lies a seasonal waterfall called the Nagjhari falls. It may not be the biggest or the most beautiful one, but it sure presents a pretty picture in an otherwise dry looking terrain. Plus, the trek takes you through the deep jungles of Dandeli.

13) Trek to bird’s eye view point of Kali
Bird's eye view of Kali riverA little bit upwards of Kavala caves is a place where one can get a bird’s eye view of the Kali river. A steep, but short hike takes you to the place where you can see the Kali meander amidst lush green forests and mountains. This place offers a total different perspective to the mighty Kali river.

Courtesy: I planned this recent trip to Dandeli through

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