A trip to River Tern Lodge Lakavalli- Bhadra Tiger Reserve

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September 19th 2018
Published: September 20th 2018
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River Tern Lodge, Lakkavalli is the ideal holiday destination for nature lovers who planned a trip to Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary. Located on the bank of Bhadra Reservoir, it is one of the prime properties owned and managed by Jungle Lodge & Resorts, having presence in various tourist destinations of Karnataka. Lakavalli is around 300 kms from Bangalore and can be reached by five hours on road.

One of the oldest tiger reserve in India, Bhadra Tiger Reserve is abode to wide varieties of animals including Tiger, Elephant, Sloth Beer, various species of deer etc and innumerable varieties of birds. Dense forest, beautiful rivers, high mountains of western ghats, the almighty is so bountiful there. As frequent visitor of national parks all around Karnataka we like its serenity and lesser exposure to crowd.

There are two main entry points to Bhadra, one from Lakavalli and other from Muthodi. Last year (November, 2017) we visited Muthodi Adventure Camp and stayed at the Forest Rest House, Muthodi, for two nights. That was a thrilling and memorable experience which I depicted in another blog http://www.travelblog.org/fred.php?id=1006947.

It was a spectacular location but maintenance of Forest Rest House was horrible.

River Tern Lodge, Lakavalli is synonymous to Bhadra Tiger Reserve. It is the most popular gateway for a visit to the forest. But the visitor needs to have deep pocket, compared to much lesser cost for a stay in Forest Rest House.

Our accommodation was booked on a week day (12th September, 2018) just before the auspicious day of Ganesh Chaturthi. I had the apprehension whether the recent devastating flood in Western Karnataka affected our destination. Prior to my visit I was assured by the manager of the lodge telephonically that there was no effect either in Bhadra or its surrounding areas.

We (myself and my wife) selected the following route to reach Lakavalli :-

Bangalore to Hariyur via Tumakuru, Sira thru NH 48 – 175 Kms

Turn left after Hariyur to take SH 24 upto NH 206 via Hosadurga – 94 Kms

NH 206 via Terikere – 7 kms

Turn left to take Lakavalli Road – 20 Kms (Total around 296 Kms)

Commencing our journey at around 6 AM we reached Hariyur at around 9.30 AM with half an hour break for breakfast. It was always a pleasure to drive thru six lane NH 48 . The two lane State Highway SH 24 was also ok except bad patches in between. However we faced a problem which we did not anticipate before the commencement of our journey.

There was intermittent blockade of road by local youths demanding Ganesh Chaturthi Puja subscription. Initially we were paying, but hurdles created virtually at every locality we crossed. We were compelled to be negative. To our relief, the crowd was not violent or forceful anywhere except oral claim.

At around 12 PM we entered River Tern Lodge at Lakavalli. Compared to our spectacular drive to Muthodi via Chikmagaluru thru hilly roads and thick forest, the present ride was a bit disappointment. Entire route (from Bangalore to Lakavalli) was driven thru localities and cultivated fields on both sides of State Highways.

But when we reached our destination we could delightfully realise that we made the right choice. With Bhadra Reservour on the front, this resort was articulated step by step on the adjacent hills with careful planning in a vast area. All the cottages were built with vast lake view in two separate hills separated by the lake. They were connected by a magnificent hanging bridge.

While welcoming us Mr Vijay at the front desk explained to us our program schedule for the next 24 hours as follows :

Day 1

1.30 PM - 2.30 PM – Lunch

3.45 PM - 6.15 PM – Jeep safari

6.30 PM - 7.00 PM – Tea/Coffee Snacks

7.30 PM - 8.30 PM – Wild Life Film Show

08.30 - 9.30 PM Dinner

Day 2

05.45 Wake-up call

06.15 Tea/Coffee

06.30 - 8.30 AM – Boat safari

07.00- 8.30 AM – Nature Walk

08.30 - 09.30 AM Break Fast

09.30 – 10.30 AM Water Sports

11 AM Check out

Possibly due to weekdays we were the only occupants at the entire resorts. Nevertheless I must admit that the entire schedule was maintained with admirable perfection through out the period of our stay.

I felt a bit displeased when I was told to cough up additional camera charges of around Rs. 590 (Rs. 500 + 18% GST) per safari trip for carrying a camera with 55-250 MM Zoom lense. As an amateur with a craze for wildlife and being a regular visitor of various safari trips in other forests all around Karnataka, I never paid this exorbitant camera charges. I was compelled to shelve the plan for carrying camera during next day boat safari tour. Of course I was provided a receipt issued by the Forest department while paying at the end of the tour. According to me it was a bit regressive and may be reconsidered.

We were allotted a cottage adjacent to the dining hall. It was around five minutes climb uphill from the reception point. Our luggage was brought by the resort staff. Although finding slightly uncomfortable, we were accustomed to cover this space with ease later.

We were pleasantly surprised having a first look to our cottage. The exterior was nicely designed as reverse V shaped with wooden platform and hay stock on the roof, neat and clean, well maintained. Interior arrangement was also magnificent, equipped with all modern facilities required for a comfortable stay.

Most attractive was the room balcony facing the reservoir. Countless green trees flourished below as well as both sides of the balcony. We could witness butterflies and varieties of birds floating from one plant from another. It was a sunny day with lake water sparkling in sunshine as if innumerable diamond pieces glittering across white water. A mystic green hilly island was visible at a distance straight to our balcony. Wild forests originated straight from lake water wherever we stared. We could witness number of hillocks far away. Reservoir was filled with maximum capacity due to the recent torrential rainfall in the catchment area. Vastness of the Lake water was visible far away where it rolled away in the distant horizon. Overall it was a magnificent sight.

The island on our right having a significant number of cottages was linked thru a picturesque hanging bridge. It leaned further towards the lake like a curve. We decided to have a glimpse of that area. Although having a spectacular location, those cottages were far away from the dining area as well as reception. Occupants needed to go down the hill and to climb another crossing the bridge. It may not be a cakewalk for the elderly people but overall it would be a wonderful experience spending a night in any of the cottages.

Maintenance of this vast area with the required standard of house-keeping might be a stupendous task particularly in a remote area like this. We must acknowledge that the resort authorities achieved that goal successfully.

Lunch was heavy with multi-course veg as well as non-veg menu. Having an early breakfast on the way, we were hungry and enjoyed the meal with full stomach.

After a brief rest for nearly an hour, we received a reminder call to assemble at the reception for the Jeep safari.

Forest safari organised by Jungle Lodge & Resorts was far superior than the normal Bus or Jeep Safari arranged thru forest department in various forests of Karnataka, both in duration, trained personnel as well as coverage of forest area. We were five persons apart from the gypsy driver in that safari. Mr Vijay who received us at the reception also accompanied us as guide. Duration of the safari was around two and half hours.

September was not the ideal season for animal sighting. Since the forest was enriched with rain water and food, wild animals need not venture out of deep forest area to be spotted easily. Moreover, as we experienced elsewhere, sighting animals in the safari largely depended upon the effort and skill of the guide and the driver. We had no words to express our appreciation on our guide as well as the driver during the entire trip. We could spot different animal species like elephant, sambar deer, barking deer, Great Indian Gaur, Bear etc apart from varieties of birds like brahmani kites , Osprey, Jungle Fowl, Crested Hawk, Drongo, Hornbill, Kingfisher and Serpent eagles. Most interesting sight was a sloth bear with two cubs. I must mention the driving skills of the jeep driver and how he was negotiating with deep muds inside the kachha forest path. It was extremely difficult to drive in the forest during monsoon period if not impossible.

At one point inside the jungle our jeep had to completely stop since the road was fully blocked by a very large uprooted tree. Immediately the driver and the guide jumped from the gypsy and started cutting the tree into pieces with sickle already with them. It took around fifteen minutes to clear the path and our journey resumed.

When we returned to our room balcony, sun dipped behind the horizon. Sky was fiery with changing colours - pale yellow, orange and then reddish. The whole reservoir and surroundings also was beaming with the blazing skyline originated from the setting sun. We were spellbound to witness the painting of the almighty in its vast canvass.

Finally the light disappeared, moonlight and stars were looming large. It was a magical experience. Today was the third night after new moon. Soft, silvery moonlight was touching the lake water and it was sparkling. We could see small stars twinkling and shining. Entire atmosphere was calm and quiet except occasional sound of bettle insects somewhere from the darkness.

A small break with Coffee and pakoda. Although not having appetite, we were moved by the nice hospitality of the serving staffs and delightful taste.

We were called to witness a film show on the conservation efforts of forest guards at Bhadra Tiger Reserve. The documentary demonstrated the untiring efforts of those people to protect the wild life from poaching and destruction inside the deep jungle round the year braving all odds.

Dinner was an additional attraction. It was again a multi course menu with both veg and non-veg dishes and with mouth-watering taste. Most striking was the care and smiling faces of the cooking and serving personnel. They were really well trained and worth remembering.

We strolled towards the hanging pool after dinner. Entire pathway including the bridge were well illuminated but in a subdued manner in tune with the environment. Our night walk was exceedingly smooth and really enjoying.

Time to go for a quiet sleep after having a tight schedule since early morning. But the majestic room balcony again attracted us. Moon disappeared, only the twinkling stars. Sparkling fireflies at distant black bushes and the black water of the lake. It was time for angels from heaven to take over.

Morning started at 5.45 AM with wake-up call and serving tea/coffee. When we looked outside from the window we were dumfounded. Entire atmosphere was covered with deep fog. All we witnessed yesterday vanished like magic. Nothing was visible outside, not even the lake.

We were the only two riders apart from the driver, although the motor-boat could accommodate at least ten travellers. It was a two hour safari upto 8.30 AM. Gradually the fog retreated and morning sunshine appeared.

Lokesh was our boatman. He was a well trained and knowledgeable person. He briefed us about the origin of Bhadra Reservoir, its area, capacity, wild life, bird population and many other information. The reservoir was now full to its capacity and a substantial land area ordinarily visible during summer was submerged under the water. Best time for sighting wild animals was summer. But during winter thousands of migratory birds used to visit this lake making it a major attraction for bird watching. We could watch varieties of birds like Great Cormorant, Oriental Honey buzzar, King fisher, white wagtail etc. apart from peacocks. We were astonished to spot a huge rat swimming in deep water. We could not believe that was a rat. But Lokesh told that they were great swimmers and often used to migrate from one island to another for food.

A beautiful walk thereafter in the soft sunny morning amidst the forest on one side and the lake on the other.

8.30 AM was the breakfast time. Stomach was burning after the morning boat-ride and walk. Carefully prepared dishes with lot of varieties served with care and smile. Food was really enjoying although difficult to taste everything.

Our last program was water-sports. Immediately after breakfast when the designated resort staff reminded to join the sports, we were slightly hesitant since I did not know swimming and my better half although claimed to be a swimmer, I had never experienced that. There was one more alternative, Kayaking. That was totally greek to us. But with brief training and assurance by the resort staff we gained confidence. When we started, it was a cakewalk, really enjoying. Recapitulating my college day rowing experience long back, I could race the kayak in the blue lake water comfortably with my wife. After half an hour when we finally came out of the kayak, we felt tired but enjoyed. It was a delightful experience.

We started our return journey to Bangalore at around 11.30 AM with sweet memories at River Tern Lodge which we will cherish for a long time to come.

Additional photos below
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