I was sitting in the dining hall of the Blackbuck Resort and Nature Camp, which overlooks an expanse of trees, when two swallows came soaring in. Swiftly, they circled the hall and flew away, only to come back to repeat the cycle three more times.
This delightful sight is actually quite common at Blackbuck, which is located 18 kilometres from Bidar and 130 kilometres from Hyderabad. As the name suggests, it is a popular destination for blackbuck sighting, but that is not all it offers. Located in the Honnikeri Reserve Forest, Blackbuck is run by Jungle Lodges and Resorts Ltd., a company that promotes eco-tourism all over Karnataka. The cottages here are tastefully done so they do not disturb the natural landscape. They overlook Vilaspur Lake, a human-made seasonal lake that fills up during the monsoon. The lake was constructed more than four decades ago to combat a severe draught. When it is full, the camp also offers boating on its waters.
The first time I came here, I had covered the distance from Hyderabad on my bicycle and wanted a quiet place to crash for the night. But the experience proved to be more than just that. The staff welcomed my husband and I with a spread of lunch and planned our stay in detail. We went on a short hike in the evening, watched wildlife documentaries later, gazed at the night sky lying on their star-gazing net, and went on a safari the next morning.
A few weeks ago, when I wanted to escape the heat and noise of Hyderabad, I chose the calm of this dry forest again. This time, our stay started with an evening safari. The forest is not a single large stretch, but is instead multiple patches spread between intermittent villages. Hussain, our safari guide, drove us 22 kilometres to open grasslands, where blackbucks are often seen in herds. On the way we saw a peacock dancing on a hilltop and other birds, most memorably the red-wattled lapwing. Hussain explained that this was the bird that cleans crocodile teeth.
We spotted a lone male blackbuck, and Hussain pointed us toward the entire herd of over 30, quietly grazing until a mild noise from the road nearby disturbed them. They took off instantly, running in single file—graceful coordinated at high speed. They looked like they were flying. When asked about the challenges to their habitat, Hussain said that because of the notoriety of the Salman Khan poaching case, hunting was not a major problem. However, industrialisation, which is causing a rapid destruction of the natural terrain, is an issue.
We woke up early the next morning to prepare for a nature walk. As I walked out of the cottage, I saw a black-faced langur, sitting atop the tree adjoining our balcony. They are constant company all over the camp, coexisting with human beings.
Siddappa, our guide for the nature walk, took us on a leisurely walk in the surrounding forest. He was quick to observe and showed us bulbuls, doves and babblers, along with less common species. He told us that during the migratory season, and when Vilaspur Lake fills up, over 60 different species can be found.
We returned from the hour-long walk to breakfast. Another guest who had joined the bird watching expedition marvelled that Bidar had so much more than its history to offer. My husband agreed, amazed that there was so much wildlife less than three hours from Hyderabad. Weekend getaways amidst nature don’t immediately come to mind when thinking of Hyderabad, but Blackbuck Resort changes that perception.
Doubles from Rs7,600 inclusive of three meals and taxes; day visits cost Rs950 per person. www.junglelodges.com/blackbuck-resort.
Swetha Dandapani is a freelance writer who prefers staying, immersing herself & exploring a place, instead of a weekend trip. With a love for the mountains, she tries to go to a part of the Himalayan mountains every year.