For a view of Moyar gorge
The Bandipur region offers excellent trekking opportunities. B V Prakash goes on a two-day trek of about 35 kms, and catches a breathtaking view of the Moyar gorge, also called the ‘Mysore Ditch’, and the Mangala Dam, with a hillock on one side and the plains of a village on the other.
The tapering mountains of the Western Ghats flank the western side of the Bandipur National Park, while the towering Blue Mountains or the Nilgiris stand guard to the south, encompassing between them a moderately undulating landscape with a few high hills, depressions and river gorges.
A good spread of dry and semi evergreen forests blanketing this topography has made the area conducive for a variety of animals and birdlife. From what was a tiny patch of about 90 sq kms in the 1930s, the reserve forest was expanded in later years and named Venugopala Wildlife Park after the deity atop the Gopalaswamy Betta within the park area.
The year 1973 saw Bandipur being included in the list of wildlife areas identified for conservation of the tiger. Today, the Tiger Reserve not only extends over 800 sq kms in Karnataka, but also spreads along contiguously with the Mudumalai Sanctuary of Tamil Nadu and Wayanad of Kerala forming a focal point for wildlife enthusiasts. One can see herds of deer, wild boars and peafowls as one passes along the highway to Ooty.
For the trekkers
Though Bandipur is more often visited for its rich wildlife, there are ample opportunities for someone wishing to walk through the jungles and be one with nature. Thanks to the Forest department, quite a few trekking routes have been specified and trekkers are allowed to follow these trails along with a guide/naturalist.
While admitting that permitting trekking inside the park causes some intrusion into wildlife habitats, Forest officials also feel that by allowing trekking, not only the involvement of and appreciation by the public is ensured, but the tribal populace of the area is benefitted by the employment. Smaller the group the better it is.
Story of the trek
Official formalities completed, we were joined by the guide with his gun and the walk began at once. The trail led us through the forest in a southeastern direction and the even ground made it easier. As the path began to fade, the jungle became denser. Though the Bandipur area has varied species of trees, particularly sandalwood, the symbol of the state, teak and bamboo abound. The lantana bushes too are profuse.
After about four kms we reached the Mangala Dam. It is a green lake with a hillock on one side and plain lands of the village on the other. Circumventing the lake, the path went westwards. Having covered another seven kms, we arrived at the Volakalare Anti-Poaching Camp (APC).
Several such APCs are installed at strategic spots throughout the reserve to avert poaching activities. They often serve as halting camps for trekkers. These are very basic structures manned by one or two guards. The all-round trench ensures no wild animal can get into them.
The Moyar river running deep down in a narrow gorge has made the location famous as Moyar Gorge. Also called the ‘Mysore Ditch’, this gorge affords a breathtaking view. The return trail passed through Kekkanahalla five kms away, from where a bus brought us back to the park headquarters. The second day’s walk was longer.
Crossing the highway, we followed a thin jeep track for five kms to reach a simple hill named Bolgudda. The rest house here used by poachers for night watch commands an extensive view of the valley with trees and lakes.
The trek from here went down gradually to Dhanahatti APC, seven kms away. Sighting a group of elephants from behind the bushes added excitement to the trek. Further along we were also lucky enough to spot a pack of wild dogs though from a distance.
The last stretch involved a steep climb beside a cluster of boulders to reach the high point Santheboli which rewarded us with panoramic views of Nilgiris and various shades of green forest cover.
Having hit the road, we bid goodbye to the guide and headed towards the temple of Gopalaswamy Betta nearby. The two-day trek of about 35 kms had given us the chance to be one with nature apart from the sighting of elephants and wild dogs.
Bandipur on Ooty road is reached easily by bus/driving. The nearest and convenient railway station is Mysore. Prior permission from the forest dept. at Bangalore or Mysore is required.