Introduction In the middle of summer, in the middle of school holidays, it was too late to plan a holiday but at the last minute, we decided to go on a three-day break. My son and I enjoy being on nature trails at Jungle Lodges Kabini, Bandipur, and Dubare. Having heard about River Tern lodge (RTR) from a good friend at Bhadra we booked with a tinge of hesitancy given the hot summer up north.
The journey We left Bangalore by the last train and reached Shimogga by sunrise. After a cup of good coffee, we decided to try the local buses and to our surprise found that a good number of buses leave from the Shimogga private bus stand to Lakkavalli which is about 4 kms from the River Tern Lodge. The manager was kind enough to pick us up from Lakkavalli to the resort.
River tern premises The highlight of the tourism property at River tern lodge is the location on the edge of a hillock that leads to the edge of Bhadra reservoir. We booked a cottage that is a few minutes walk from the main reception. The experience got better as we crossed a suspension bridge to reach the island on which the cottages are located. Once we opened the doors and got on to the balcony we had the breathtaking view of the vast reservoir with distant hills covered by forests and birds at (terns, cormorants, and sallows) plenty. We took a few minutes for the solitude and soothing views of nature to sink into us and then decided to explore the resort before the temperature soared up.
Armed with our cameras, my wife, son and I walked around the island and the reception area and after an hour reached the golghar (dining area) for a cup of coffee. We headed back to our rooms for a quick shower and arranging the daypack before leaving for a sumptuous lunch. At the bridge, we had a good view of the calm waters on both sides, taking time to snap the flying eagles, terns, and egrets at the water's edge.
RTR had a very good spread for lunch and on a full stomach, we headed back to our cottage only to come back for the safari point a couple of hours later. Now we realized that for people who can't trek back and forth for food and safaris, it's better to stay at the log huts closer to the main reception.
The jungle safari We headed for the safari full of anticipation and our son immediately spotted a young monitor lizard. En route to the gates of the Bhadra tiger reserve, we spotted peacocks, coucal, babblers, Malabar pied hornbills. Inside the forest, we were awed by the rows of endless tall trees and shrubs with decent greenery given the harsh summer conditions. We also spotted a good number of birds, a group of elephants and deer. To the disappoint of our son we didn't spot the big cats.
Night at Bhadra Back to the resort after a much needed coffee in the middle of loud thunder, lighting and a quick shower we saw a wildlife documentary that portrayed the endless efforts of the wildlife staff who ensured the safety of the jungle and its treasures; hat's off to these guardians of Bhadra who live a harsh life away from their families!
It was a unique experience to walk back to our cottages in the dark with few soft orange lamps giving us the only light. We had a few anxious moments at the amplified sounds of the scampering lizards, small animals, and frogs from our paths across the bed of dry leaves into the darkness. Once the lights are off, it was a peaceful moonlit night sky that we could see from the large glass window from our room. We soon fell asleep amid the only sound of the gentle waves in the reservoir.
River safari At dawn, we got the wake-up call, quickly got ready for our boat safari. After a cup of hot coffee, we got into our boat and set off across the vast stretch of water. Our first stop was on a small rocky island to see the cute and pretty lesser pratincoles busy doing rounds to catch insects to feed their chicks. It was an amazing sight to see each parent with a fly in the beak landing on the rocks and then quickly locating their chicks and feeding the eager young chicks. It was interesting to note that the birds didn't mind our presence and the boat!
After the shutterbugs were satisfied with the snaps, we moved on to the star attraction - river terns that were nesting on an island. We saw plenty of them, busy with a range of activities. A few terns were incubating the eggs in the nests (just holes in the ground, few with fish in their mouths trying hard to woo the females, few fighting off other competitors, few obsessively washing the fishes at the waters edge and plenty hovering around in the process of catching fish. The hustle and bustle resembled our busy weekend vegetable markets where people jostle for space and go about carrying on various activities!!
Then we gently moved across the reservoir to the backwaters in search of other wildlife. Suddenly, close to the water's edge, we heard sharp persistent alarm calls of langurs very close by, signaling the presence of a big cat. We spent an anxious 10 minutes scanning the forest edge but unfortunately didn't sight any tiger or leopard that we were dreaming off.
The next day After a hearty breakfast, we took another long hike from the golghar to our rooms and then back to the watersports spot. We had a wonderful time kayaking on the shallow waters and playing around for an hour. Later on, we decided to walk along the rocky shore for some time and then had a quick nap.
The same routine repeated for the rest of the day (lunch, evening safari, dinner) and the next morning (safari and breakfast). After two wonderful days at the river tern lodge, we left early by taxi to the nearby Sakerbyle elephant camp. Although we were late to participate in the elephant bathing activity, we had a good time seeing the gentle giants being groomed, fed and the last two batches of visitors having elephant rides.
From the elephant camp, we decided to go to Mandagadhe, a local birding spot. The drive was soothing as we traveled through forest buffer zones. True to the season, we could see only a few terns, ibis, egrets and ducks.
With the temperatures soaring, we had lunch and set off for the lion and tiger safari. The place is okay, similar to Bannerghatta, but on a much smaller scale. Given the hot afternoon, we decide to drop the visit to Jog as we were told that the water was very low and not worth visiting at this point in time. After a relaxed evening coffee and dinner, later on, we boarded our night train back to Bangalore.
We wished we had milder weather, we wished we had seen a tiger or perhaps a leopard, we wished we could have seen Jog after coming so close; but like in any holiday, these events were beyond us. We are glad that we had a splendid holiday in the majestic vast Bhadra forest and reservoir and met friendly people and would certainly treasure the memories for a long time. We have already added this trip to our bucket list to have another unique experience just after the monsoons when the greenery would be plenty and weather would be more friendly.
Briding experience in this trip To our delight, we found that Bhadra forest and the River tern lodge premises were a bird watchers paradise. One can just watch these colorful winged beauties and have a bird log or snap pictures with a good birding/ wildlife camera.
We were lucky to see close to 60 species of birds of which we loved the Shama, Malabar pied hornbill, racquet-tailed drongo and of course the river terns. If one wants to watch the courtship rituals, mating, and feeding of River Terns, this is one the best locations in Karnataka.
Mammals of Bhadra tiger reserve We spotted wild boar, three types of deer (barking, spotted and sambhar), elephants and mongoose.
We did not sight a leopard or a tiger but saw footprints and a deer kill stripped bare. Nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts will understand that sighting wildlife is just a matter of sheer luck.
Getting there River tern lodge is located 275 kms from Bangalore and 32 kms from Shimogga that is well connected by good roads.
Nearest Airports The airports nearby are Bajpe International airport, Mangalore (195 kms) or Kempegowda International airport, Bangalore (275 kms).
Train stations Shimogga town is the station stop for which there are many connecting trains from all major cities and towns of Karnataka.If you are traveling by train and buses, please do not expect things to be very neat and clean and you have to accept the local crowds at in the rural areas.
By Road From Bangalore, it's a 5- 5 1/2 hours drive. The route from Bangalore passes through Dabspete, Tumkuru, Hiriyur, Hosadurga, Haliyuru, Lakkavalli. The resort is next to the Ranganatha Swamy Temple. There are regular buses to Shimogga from Bangalore and other large towns plying regularly in the mornings and the night. From Shimogga, one can hire a taxi or take the private buses to Lakkavalli and then complete the last leg of the journey (4kms) by an autorickshaw or a taxi,
Other places of interest close by From the river tern lodge, one can plan to visit:
3.Kemmanagundi hill station
4.Sakkrebyle Elephant Camp
5.Tyaverakoppa Loin and Tiger Safari
Contact details River tern lodge
Bhadra Project, Lakkavalli,
Around Chikmagalur - 577 115 Karnataka, India
Email Id: firstname.lastname@example.org
Resort charges The tariff for an adult inclusive of coffee, tea, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and two safaris comes to around Rs 3,500 - 4000/per person/day. The check-in is around 12:30 pm and check out is around 11:00 AM after breakfast the next day. Soft drinks are available but charged extra. It is worth staying for two days to enjoy the beauty of nature and the calm hilly surroundings close to a very large water reservoir.