Stories from the Field: Lakkavalli Forest Range, Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary

Lakkavalli Forest Range, Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary

Lakkavalli Forest Range, Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary; photo credit: Sudhir Shivaram

On Global Tiger Day Amie introduced the idea that I’ll be sharing my experiences as a wildlife photographer. Much of my time is spent doing workshops throughout India, but I’m happy to reach into the archives of my pictorial adventures to share with Organikos readers.

This is a safari from my earlier days photographing wildlife, and it’s an experience that I’ll always remember! It was around 1 pm when we reached the Lakkavalli Forest guest house, situated on top of a hill, overlooking the Bhadra dam. The road was good and the drive was quite scenic. We took the Bangalore-Tumkur-Tiptur-Arsikere-Tarikere route. As soon as we reached the guest house, we took our gear and headed into the forest. Though it was 2:30 in the afternoon and we knew that it wasn’t the best of times for spotting wildlife, we wanted to spend more time in the forest.

The forest was crawling with millions of Giant Wood Spiders. The webs spread across trees, with arachnids waiting patiently for their prey. The Lakkavalli range has a good concentration of mammals, but our timing wasn’t great on the first day. An interesting fact about the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary is the work done by the then DFO, Mr. Yatish Kumar, who was successful in re-locating 17 villages from within the sanctuary to the outskirts of the park. As the forest officials say, people in these villages admire him so much for his accomplishments, that they have named one of the villages as Yatish Nagar. The day’s sightings were limited to some Deer, Sambars and Gaurs. We came back to our guest house just in time for some spectacular sunset scenes.

Photo credit: Sudhir Shivaram

The next morning, driver Suresh along with guard Shivarudrappa picked us up. At the sanctuary entrance a forest watcher joined us. We were very eager to sight a tiger, as a particular route (Paramagudda) was quite famous for frequent tiger sightings. We never knew what the forest had in store for us but it turned out to be my most memorable safari to date. An hour’s drive into the forest yielded nothing. Suddenly the watcher, seated at the back of the jeep shouted, “Chirte sir, Chirte” (Leopard sir, Leopard).

Suresh stopped the jeep and we looked in all directions, but could not see anything. Then, hardly 10 ft from behind the Jeep, the Leopard got up and moved into the bushes. We could hardly believe it! It was resting around 4-5 ft from the safari track and we had passed by without seeing it! It had not even moved an inch even after hearing our Jeep and was so well camouflaged. It was quite dark coloured compared to other Leopard pics I had seen. It was smaller in size too. We backed up our Jeep and was lucky enough to sight it, staring at us from behind the bushes. Because of the poor lighting conditions, I changed the ISO to 800 and happily clicked away. Then it disappeared into the jungle. Those gleaming eyes just cannot be forgotten. When I previewed the images in the Canon 10D, I knew I had my prize cat(ch).

photo credit: Sudhir Shivaram

Read the full account here.

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