God's own sanctuary

Ecotourism

God's own sanctuary


BIODIVERSITY: According to the 2007 census, there are 34 tigers and 500 plus elephants in the region.  Photos by Shyam Sundar Vattam

Calling all avid trekkers and nature lovers to Kyathadevara Gudi Wildlife sanctuary in Chamarajanagar. Any visitor is sure to be bowled over by the rich flora and fauna.
Popularly known as K Gudi, the sanctuary is an idyllic setting to spend some quality time with nature. Although Chamarajanagar is one of the most backward districts in Karnataka, it is blessed with rich flora and fauna.

K Gudi is just one of the many sanctuaries, which are part of the Biligiriranga Swamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary (BRT sanctuary) created in 1988 by the state government.
Rich in biodiversity, the place is home to a variety of birds and animals and spreads over 520 sq km. Grab any chance to visit the place and you will be rubbing shoulders with Asian elephants, leopards, spotted deer, Indian gaurs, sloth bears and owls. And if lady luck is on your side, be prepared to behold a tiger too.

Huge expanse
The BRT sanctuary is divided into five wildlife ranges — K Gudi, Yelandur, Kollegal, Baikur and Punajanur Wildlife sanctuary. Among them, K Gudi is the most sought after. In days of yore, it was a favourite place of the Wodeyar dynasty of Mysore. A rest house was constructed here by the rulers of Mysore way back in 1908 while two additional wings were added to the main structure in 1930. The 102-year-old building is still in a good condition and is being maintained by the forest department. The USP though is the picturesque view it provides of the lush green forests that lie ahead. Another building adjacent to the century-old-building is handed over to Jungle Resorts and Forests, a subsidiary of government of Karnataka.

The range of forests has a stock of rich medicinal plants. The total area of K Gudi is itself around 117 sq km which is quite big when compared to other wildlife sanctuaries in BRT. More than 300 varieties of migratory birds visit the sanctuary every year and it is also home to rare animals as it is a junction between the eastern and Western Ghats. Within the BRT Sanctuary, there are five watch towers which offer spellbinding views of the forest cover.

According to the 2007 census, there are about 34 tigers and 500 plus elephants in the region. Out of these tigers, around 12 to 14 of them are in the K Gudi range. Speaking about his experiences in the region, Range Forest Officer of K Gudi Shashidhar points out that he has spotted tigers and captured them several times on camera at a water point near Basavana Katte near K Gudi. The big cats are also regularly sighted near Kumara Matti, Hanakad, Budipadaga and Bellatta.

Eco-friendly sanctuary
What makes the sanctuary close to nature and more real is that the area has no access to electricity. So, don’t expect to have those air conditioners or heaters! Instead, solar energy is used here. Post 10.30 pm, the lights are out and one can expect to be completely amidst nature as animals wander freely around in the area, enabling tourists to catch a  glimpse of the wildlife here.
Says Vishwajit Mishra, Deputy Conservator of Forests of Chamarajanagar Forest Division, “The flow of tourists has increased ever since the department launched eco-tourism at K Gudi Sanctuary. In order to involve local tribal people, the eco-development committee and forest department have provided jeeps for tribal people to conduct safaris for tourists of the resort.”

Also, in order to facilitate tourism, selected tribal youths have undergone training as drivers. A few have been trained as tourist guides to provide accurate information to all nature lovers who visit the place. What’s interesting is that the forest department and tribal population work together to conduct safaris and conservation activities in and around the sanctuary.

The sanctuary also has an education programme  under which hey are setting up a   centre at K Gudi.  The programme aims at showcasing  photographs of rare species of birds and animals spotted in the BRT

sanctuary. This has a philanthropic element because through these exhibitions the department hopes to fund the education of tribal children in the area. Last year, the department collected Rs 39,000 which was used for the purpose.

Educational element
Also, through the endeavour, the authorities aim to educate tourists who are not well versed about wildlife and ecology during their visits to the sanctuary. For instance, many people are not aware that sloth bears, four varieties of owls and a dozen types of birds live in the forests.

The photo exhibition aims to display 40-50 pictures clicked by various wildlife photographers including a few forest officials. The centre is expected to be ready within a few months. 

Adjacent to the centre, is an upcoming green house where rare medicinal plants will be displayed. The local soliga tribes will be co-opted and asked to identify the varieties available at the sanctuary. 

Nature lovers will give a thumbs up to the place, but what about trekkers? Mishra has the answer. “The forest department offers trekking facilities for youths. The department collects a minimum amount from trekkers and provides guidance. Within the BRT sanctuary, Sebinagudda and Koudayyanagudda are perfect  for trekkers,” he suggests.

Travel tips
*Carry eatables sufficiently as nothing is available at K Gudi.
* Carry mineral water.
* Ensure your vehicle is in a good condition as the road from Chamarajanagar to K Gudi is a rough stretch.
* Carry a small torch as a precaution.
* Never venture out after dark as wild animals move in the area.

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