Our architect friend Namit had told us about GORUKANA, an Eco resort in BR Hills (BiligiriRangana hills) in Karnataka. He had designed this for Dr. Sudarshan – A Magsaysay award winner – who is doing pioneering work for upliftment of Soliga tribals in the region for last three decades through his NGO Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra.
This story was written few years back in 2011 and we have kept it likewise and updated wherever needed. Please read on….
On a lazy Saturday afternoon last week we just decide to go and check it out. We call up to see if accommodation was available and having confirmed it, we pack our bags and within half and hour we are on the road.
Staying close to NICE road is advantageous and we hit the Kanakapura road and drive towards Malavalli and then onwards to BR Hills via Kollegal.
On the way, we see the beautiful barrage on Kaveri near Shivanasamudram. We do not deviate to the falls which we have seen number of times. (Please check One day trip to Shivanasumdra falls with detailed itinerary in this blog)
We have been to BR Hills as kids to the famous Ranganathaswamy temple on the Hills and have vague memories of the region. We are amazed at the beautiful landscape as we near the forest check post after Kollegala. The undulating hills with dry forests look beautiful. Having come from Kanha the previous week, it is like returning to the wilderness again!
We cross the check post and start driving on the lovely road in the forest of BR Hills. We see a water hole and lo, there are two huge wild boars playing in water! They were really huge. As we drive to the resort, our expectations grow of seeing more animals.
But we have to wait for the grand spectacle to unfurl the next day!
Evening is spent quietly and soaking in the song and dance of Soliga tribals. These songs talk about nature, forests, gods etc. A tribal community – we were told by Jadey, our guide – that there are few villages deep in the forest even today. They have their own distinct culture and traditions.
They speak a distinct language which is a remote dialect of Kannada. Jadey was telling us how they hunt for honey and other adventures in Kannada. The most interesting part of their tradition is that of a boy choosing the girl for marriage.
They celebrate “Rotti Habba” in which tribal villages come together to cook Rottis and have feast from dusk to dawn. Dancing goes on through the night. In Soligas, boys dance and girls sing. As the boys dance, if he likes a girl in the group, he throws a stone at her and both boy and girl run away into the forest and stay for a week in caves living out of forest. After a week, they will come back when the marriage is solemnised by elders with the boy giving a penal fee of Rs 12.50 to the village head! It is as simple as that!
We retire for the night in the cozy hut designed by Namit.
Jadey our guide is ready at 6 in the morning to go for a drive. The forest department has stopped safaris due to forest fires and we have to go only on the road. After a cuppa, we are ready to go. We cross the check post – we are the first ones and wake up the guard to open gate. As we drive towards K Gudi, Jadey spots a Bison. The chap is very close to the vehicle and we could clearly see the famous “white socks” they wear.
Barking deer, Sambhar are the next ones. We stop at many places to see beautiful birds. Suddenly Jadey ask us to look up and there we see the Malabar Flying squirrel with long tail.
We move on as the grand spectacle open up!
Jade shouts “Leopard”. We stop the car and switch off. The cat is majestically walking on the road. It comes closer, does potty and start moving towards us. We are all excited and hoping for a life time chance of the cat coming and sitting on the Scorpio! He comes less than fifteen feet from the vehicle. We don’t know what happened and suddenly turns left and vanish into bushes. Seeing the spotted cat in all glory is something we had not bargained for!
BR Hills is a birders paradise. We could see numerous birds and Jadey explains us the details.
The adventure is still not over!!
As we drive back from K Gudi, Jadey asks Poorna to stop. There on the road is a lone tusker. Jadey asks Poorna to back up. The guy possibly senses us and start walking towards us. We back up more. As we were keeping our fingers crossed, the guy vanish into the forest as we heave a sigh of relief!
We return back to the resort for breakfast and then drive back home.
GORUKANA – word taken from Soliga folk song – is the eco resort promoted by Dr. Sudarshan of Vivekananda Girijana Kalyana Kendra (VGKK), an NGO working for welfare of tribals for last thirty years. It has beautifully designed rooms by Award winning architect Namit Varma. The profits earned out of the resort will fund his NGO .
BR Hills is so close to Bangalore, it makes an ideal weekend getaway. Plan it on one of the weekends.
If you are lucky, you may also spot Tiger like Mithun Hungund was. Take a look at this link
Postscript – We were there again in March this year. We went to the BR Hills temple. You can see lovely views of the surrounding landscape from there. This time we had a bonus. That’s why wildlife trips are always fun. See the last picture below….
Looking for other Wildlife stories in this blog? Please check these……..
Distance to Biligiri Rangana hills from Bangalore – 180 KMs. One can also travel from Mysore to BR HIlls.
By Road – Three hours in my Scorpio without break. Keep four hours for easy drive.
Bangalore – Kanakapura – Malavalli – Kollegala – BR Hills
Google map – https://goo.gl/maps/om7P1J3G7gM2
There are direct buses from Bangalore to BR Hills
There are only two good options
a) Jungle Lodges and resorts – This used to be the only one until Gorukana started recently. http://www.junglelodges.com/
b) Gorukana – Excellent cottages, Nice location. Good team. We had given many tips to improve food which was average. The very fact that this resort is run as a part of NGO makes it worthwhile to stay here. http://www.gorukana.org/
a) Carry good Binoculars and a torch
b) Get up early and hit the road at dawn. Chances of seeing wild animals will be bright at this time
c) Don’t worry if you can not see a tiger or leopard. There are other wild animals to be seen.
d) BR Hills is a bird watchers paradise.
e) The naturalist at Jungle Lodges and Gorukana are knowledgeable about flora and fauna. Do not hesitate to ask questions.
f) Trekking inside forest at this time of the year is not allowed.
h) VGKK, The NGO has a retail outlet from where you can buy organically produced items. Look out for the furniture made out of Lantana shrub. Looks very good and cheap.
i) The park looks beautiful after rains.
j) Check with Gorukana or Jungle Lodges for Safari. Sometimes Safari will be banned due to forest fires.
k) The other places to visit in BR Hills are – Ranganathaswamy temple, VGKK Shop, Tibetan Monastery. Please note that the temple is closed till Oct 2018 for renovation.
l) The place is lovely for cycling. Take your bicycles along and enjoy the ride in the morning.
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