Our travel was very limited in the last one-and-a-half years thanks to the arrival of our baby. But with the call of the wild getting louder day by day, we decided to head towards a place that can give firsthand experience of the wild to our toddler, although the summer was getting harsh. This is how we ended up at the nature camps in Bheemeshwari and Galibore, in the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.
The wildlife experience we craved for began with a coracle ride in the Bheemeshwari Adventure and Nature Camp on a warm and sunny day. As the sun set on the river, we had the usual sightings of storks, River Terns, deer and a few glimpses of Marsh Crocodiles. When we got close to the riverbank on the opposite side, my wife suddenly spotted a Sloth Bear which had come down to drink water. We then had some fun watching a flock of Small Pratincoles. Back in the camp, a short walk in the night revealed a healthy presence of deer in the region.
An early morning walk by the river the next day resulted in spotting two big crocodiles which slipped into the water the moment they heard footsteps. During a short walk around the campus, we saw Grizzled Giant Squirrels, a Spotted Owlet, flycatchers (including a Taiga Flycatcher which was a lifer for me), woodpeckers, Blue-bearded Bee-eaters and Green Imperial Pigeons. White-bellied Drongos were seen near our cottage throughout the day. We walked along the riverbank looking for a Lesser Fish Eagle that we had spotted earlier but had clearly switched locations. While looking for the eagle, we unfortunately chased away a Brown Fish Owl.
With this walk, we bid adieu to Bheemeshwari and headed out to Galibore Nature Camp. Although the map shows that the nature camps at Bheemeshwari and Galibore are close by, we had to travel through a longer route to avoid the restricted forest route.
The drive through the forest road to the camp itself was an adventure. We saw a Four-horned Antelope and a lot of elephant dung, some of which looked fresh. This camp was comparatively less hot than the one at Bheemeshwari. There was a lot of bird activity and it was easy to spot most of the common birds here, like the Indian Pitta. A small walk later in the afternoon had a surprise in the form of a Barn Owl. We also saw bee-eaters perched near a beehive, busy catching bees. The Brown Hawk Owl was one of the resident birds we spotted in the campus.
A coracle ride in the evening yielded a Lesser Fish Eagle, a crocodile resting just few feet below our coracle and the famous feral buffalo.
The moment darkness set in, we could hear the calls of Pallid Scops Owls, Brown Hawk Owls and even a distant call of a Jungle Owlet. While walking to the dining area, I had goosebumps when I saw an owl perched on an iron beam at a close distance. By the time I fetched a torch, the bird was gone.
In the morning, we walked along the forest trail and saw lot of small birds like the Yellow-throated Sparrow, prinias, sunbirds, Hoopoes, Oriental White-eyes and a Pygmy Woodpecker. The highlight of the walk was sighting a Pallid Scops Owl near the camp. It was nearly impossible to spot it without someone pointing out its location!
When we returned from the walk, people were waiting to tell us about a unique natural history moment they all had witnessed. Apparently, a pack of Dholes chased a Spotted Deer, which in a bid to escape jumped into the river right next to the cottages, but was caught by crocodiles. Everyone in the camp had heard the commotion of the hunt, and I was able to see the crocodiles feeding on the deer in the water.
Other birdwatching experiences included the sighting of a Common Hawk Cuckoo devouring a caterpillar and two White-bellied Drongos fighting on the ground with their claws clamped together, very close to the dining area.
Just before leaving, we observed a funny incident between a Grizzled Giant Squirrel and some Bonnet Macaques. The squirrel was feeding on leaves when some young monkeys started interacting with the squirrel by touching it. In no time, there were four monkeys surrounding the squirrel. Finally, the squirrel just jumped away to another side of the tree.
Overall it was a satisfying outing in the wilderness, one I was craving for and involved many interesting encounters. It was also a good first outdoor experience for my toddler daughter.