A day with pachyderms

A day with pachyderms

Everyone loves elephants. Whenever we see them, they bring out the child in us, with a craving to touch, photograph and ride on them, and if possible, take a selfie with them.

Elephants also play an important role in some of our religious festivals. We see the sculptures of elephants in heritage places as well. The best places to get close to these awesome pachyderms are Dubare Elephant Camp in Kodagu and Sakrebailu Elephant Camp in Shivamogga district.

Dubare Elephant Camp

Dubare Elephant Camp is located amidst lush green forest, on the picturesque banks of River Cauvery, about 14 km from Kushalnagar in Kodagu district. This is a project undertaken by the Karnataka Forest Department and Jungle Lodges and Resorts. There are more than 22 elephants in the camp at present. All of them are tamed and trained, but are allowed to roam free in the forest in the afternoon and night. The elephants return to the camp for their bath and feeding sessions. Here, the visitors can not only observe and learn but also participate in various activities involving elephants through the ‘elephant interaction programme’ arranged by the naturalists of the Forest Department.

Driving down from Kushalnagar, we reach the bank of River Cauvery and have to cross over in small motor boats. The view of the river is breathtaking, with the water flowing gently over rocks and bushy trees hanging over the water’s edge on both sides. The chirping of different birds provides a pleasing background music. It is an open, seamless forest area and the only man-made constructions here are for training and feeding the
elephants. Trained naturalists explain the various aspects of elephants like their
history, biology, personality and food habits. They also facilitate our intimate interaction with the animals. This camp is said to have been started during the British era for taming and training wild elephants to be used for transportation and in war. Some of the trained elephants from this camp participate in the Mysore Dasara procession and other temple festivals.

The most enjoyable part of our visit was joining the mahouts in bathing the elephants. Every morning, the animals are taken down to the river for their bath, which lasts for an hour. It is a pleasure to see them lying down in the river and splashing water, with their trunks, all the while enjoying their bath. Visitors who are bold enough can roll up their sleeves and pants to give the mammoths a scrub. The bath is followed by an elaborate feeding session, in which we could also lend a hand. We can feed them with balls of ragi, jaggery, sugar cane, banana and coconuts provided by the Forest Department.

Elephant rides are arranged thereafter. It is an hour-long journey around the forest and this makes for a memorable experience. If we are lucky, we can catch a sight of animals like peacocks and Sambar deer during the safari.

There are places to stay near the elephant camp. Additionally, the elephant camp also conducts river rafting in the upper part of River Cauvery. In addition, coracle rides are provided for those who wish to ride the river in a different way and enjoy the blissful wilderness along the way. Boat rides and trekking are also possible for bird lovers as the forest is home to a variety of birds, which can often be seen flying across the river.

Sakrebailu Elephant Camp

Sakrebailu Elephant Camp is located about 14 km from Shivamogga town on the Thirthahalli road. This is also run by the Karnataka Forest Department for training wild elephants. Set amidst thick forest on the bank of River Tunga, this ecotourism centre attracts wildlife enthusiasts and tourists in large numbers. Here, also the elephants are taken to the river every morning for their elaborate bathing session.

Visitors are allowed to help in the bathing and feeding sessions. It is a pleasure to watch the giant animals enjoying themselves in the river. After feeding, all the animals are left free to roam in the forest. This an ideal place to enjoy a day out with the elephants.

Elephant rides and trekking are also allowed in this camp. An aane utsava is also held at the camp in the month of October.

Both the camps are open to the public throughout the year. When the waters of River Cauvery become very rough during the time of peak monsoon, the Dubare Elephant Camp closes down the route through the river for the public as it is not safe for people to go across in small boats. However, it can also be reached via road. But for obvious reasons, the bathing sessions are not held during rainy days.

Dubare Elephant Camp is open to the public from 9.00 am to 12.00 pm and 4.00 pm to 5.00 pm on all days. On the other hand, Sakrebailu Elephant Camp is open only in the morning, between 8.30 am and 11.00 am, on all days. September to June is the best time to visit as the elephants love to spend more time in the river when it is not raining and when the weather is humid and hot.

It is suffice to say that Dubare and Sakrebailu are a must visit locales for nature enthusiasts and those who love to have intimate encounters with the elephants.

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