It was 10.30 p.m. when the power went off, just as scheduled. The sound of howling wind and heaving branches grew louder as my eyes struggled to adjust to the pitch darkness. I strained my ears for signs of wildlife: Would our fenceless hut draw any guests from the lush forest surrounding it?
At Kyathadevara Gudi (K. Gudi) Jungle Lodge, a Karnataka government-run wilderness camp, it isn’t unusual to have animals walk into the premises at will. While we were lucky enough to spot wild boars and herds of prancing deer around our log hut, other guests have reported seeing leopards and hearing sloth bears at night. Unlike India’s other national parks, the ones in Karnataka conduct safaris even during the monsoon. The desire to see these protected forests come alive in the rains had brought me to Biligiriranga (BR) Hills, where the Eastern and Western Ghats meet.
Under the spell of a generous monsoon, the slopes were resplendently green. Thick mist rolled off the mountaintops and descended upon us as we drove on red mud paths. This little known sanctuary was declared a tiger reserve in 2011, with a reported 44 tigers, 75 leopards, and 600 elephants. Over four safaris, we spotted the crested serpent eagle, changeable hawk eagle, the rare nightjar, and the jungle owlet. The bright red fur of Malabar giant squirrels stood out in the lush greenery and the stripe-necked mongoose, the largest of Asiatic species, scurried across the banks of a brimming pond. At one point, the brilliant yellow of a tiger pierced through the thick undergrowth.
Back at the resort, the “Sighting of the Day” board gave us a chance to gloat. But we weren’t the only lucky ones. Other visitors had reported seeing the big cat during that week. In the evenings, wildlife documentaries screened in the hall educate guests about the region’s biodiversity.
Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple, located on the highest cliff of the range, makes for a quick detour. The temple itself is a bit of a dampener, but the view from the peak is stunning—with the sparse scrub of the Eastern Ghats on one side and the verdure of the Western Ghats on the other.
There was never a calm moment over the three days that I spent at K. Gudi but it was a welcome clamour. I’d exchange the sound of frenzied rain and screeching insects for the crush of the city any day.
Appeared in the October 2014 issue as “Wild Encounters”. Updated in October 2017.
Accommodation K. Gudi has eight tented cottages and three log huts, furnished with twin beds and cane chairs. Electricity supply is available from 6.30-10.30 p.m. and for 45 minutes before the morning safari. Meals are simple, spicy, and fresh: veggies and milk are brought in every morning from Chamarajanagar, since there is no way to preserve food (080-22111401; www.junglelodges.com/kyathadevara-gudi-wilderness-camp/; doubles from ₹6,700 including meals and a 3-hour jeep safari and a nature walk).
Getting there K. Gudi in BR Hills is 86 km/2 hrs southeast of Mysore and 225 km/4 hrs south of Bengaluru. Mysore is the closest airport, but Bengaluru is better connected with other Indian cities. The nearest railhead is Chamarajanagar, 80 km/2 hrs away.
Neelima Vallangi is an itinerant freelance travel writer and photographer who enjoys purposefully getting lost in the mountains and going to faraway corners where Google Maps fail. She tweets as @i_wanderingsoul.