It’s a wild, wild world!

If wildlife in its natural habitat catches your fancy, then head to Tyavarekoppa Lion and Tiger Reserve near Shivamogga

Tyavarekoppa Lion and Tiger Reserve

Shivamogga is a treasure trove of scenic spots, as also a haven for wildlife lovers. Though I have been to the district several times, it has never failed to surprise me. One such pleasant surprise that it had in store for me during my recent visit was Tyavarekoppa Lion and Tiger Reserve. In fact, I discovered the place by accident. A friend in Bengaluru mentioned it in passing, and I latched on to it, without sparing myself till I visited the place. I have now fallen in love with it, and have resolved to go back to the place whenever I need a break from the hectic life of the city.

Close yet far

Located just 10 km from Shivamogga on the Shimoga-Sagar Road, it is a cute little place that was started in 1998 to rehabilitate lions and tigers rescued from circuses across India. It was almost 9 am when I reached the place after a short drive from Shivamogga town. A bunch of eager school kids were already waiting for the sanctuary’s gates to open. Excitement writ large on their faces, they chattered endlessly on the wildlife that was on the other side of the gate. I revelled in their excitement. As the clock struck 9, the gates opened. We all bought the necessary tickets for the entry and the safari and rushed in.

The inside of the reserve was a treat to the senses. Greenery as far as the eye could see, and the welcome chirping of birds that was almost like music to the ears. Nestled in lush green tropical forests, Tyavarekoppa is home to some of the most endangered animals including tigers, lions, leopards, bears, deer, stag, cheetah and the like. It is a treat for bird lovers, too, as it is home to many exotic birds that fly around without a care in the world. It was a pleasure to note that the wildlife sanctuary, spread over an area of 250 acres of dense forest, was maintained well by the forest department. As I seated myself in the jeep for the safari, I was told by Bheema, my safari guide and driver, that the weather was perfect to sight the animals. My excitement levels rose. As our jeep meandered through the luxuriant forest, we could spot many monkeys, birds, and wildfowl on the way. The best part about this sanctuary was that it had separate enclosures for tiger and lion safaris.

Tyavarekoppa Lion and Tiger Reserve
Tyavarekoppa Lion and Tiger Reserve 

While an area of about 20 acres is reserved for the tiger safari, about 9 acres is set aside for the lion safari, I was told. If the tiger safari enjoys the distinction of being home to some of the healthiest tigers in the country, the lion safari is home to Gujarat’s Junagadh lions. At this point, I should say that when it comes to wildlife sightings, I am quite lucky. And, Tyavarekoppa, too, didn’t fail me. I saw both lions and tigers roaming around freely. It was a matter of great pleasure to see wild animals in their natural surroundings. Enamoured by the majestic look of the animals, I wondered how such beautiful beings could be held captive to be forced to perform in circuses. After I had had my fill of the big cats, Bheema took me to the Deer Enclosure. Here, countless spotted deer and stag could be seen grazing away to glory amidst lush greenery. People were seen waving a handful of salt or green leaves while these animals came running up to them to treat themselves. Though feeding the animals is against the rules prescribed by the forest department, people take immense pleasure in doing it.

Next in line to see were the leopards, cheetah, bears, rhesus monkeys, fox and some rare species of squirrels in their independent enclosures. They were equally exciting to watch. The school children I had met at the gate were seen running from one enclosure to another, excitedly, while their teachers were having a tough time keeping a watchful eye on them. The many African love birds, peacocks and peahen, parrots, pigeons, and a host of other colourful winged beauties took the Tyavarekoppa experience to an altogether different level.

Spot them all

Taking the wildlife experience further ahead were the many watchtowers around the sanctuary for lovers of wildlife to let their roving eyes run wild. The sanctuary also houses a museum which introduces visitors to various facets of the wild world. In a bid to make people’s visit to the sanctuary a memorable one, the forest department organises regular recreation and sightseeing outings, I am told by Bheema. A park specially designed for children is a treat for children after they have done their wildlife rounds. The thick green cover, the roar of the wild, the twitter of birds, fresh air, captivating ambience, enlivening sights… After an exciting trip to Tyavarekoppa Lion and Tiger Reserve, I could not help but exclaim that the call of the wild is indeed hard to resist.

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It’s a wild, wild world!

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