Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Exploring Karnataka: Feathers & Scales

Last Sunday, we set off on a day-long trip to see some of the sights near Bangalore. There were four of us: hubby & me, his bro & his wife (BIL and SIL for the rest of the post). On the agenda were the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Mysore Palace and Brindavan Gardens.

We'd decided to start at 7:30 a.m., so naturally, we only left at 8:15 :) We took the Kanakpura road out onto the Bangalore-Mysore highway, and planned to stop for breakfast at the much-hyped Kamath's. The place was packed as usual, though I don't know why, because the food doesn't live up to its reputation. It was all quite lacklustre and I found myself comparing it to the absolutely scrumptious fare I'd enjoyed at my local Adiyar Ananda Bhavan (A2B as its popularly known, and how I love that name!!!) Maybe its just that I prefer the Tamilian take on the dishes over the Kannadiga style ..... I am told that they are quite different and I will take hubby's word for it.

Anyway, after that filling but not satisfying breakfast, we proceeded on to Ranganathittu. I fell into a light doze and only snapped out of it when SIL made an offhand comment about how many crocodiles we would see.

"What???" I croaked. Crocodiles??? In a bird sanctuary?????

Childhood memories of Khoon Bhari Maang flooded my brain and I started having a silent, but potent, panic attack. What if something terrible happened? What if I lost a limb? What if I didn't make it back at all? I tried to pray, but images of Rekha being attacked by the croc still dominated.

Next to me, hubby calmly flipped through a guidebook and handed the part on the bird sanctuary to me. That's when I realised that Ranganathittu is a set of small islets on the Cauvery river and you have to go around in a boat (silent groans.......because I am not a boating fan) to see the birds. Whoever wrote the review apparently also flipped out after realising there were crocs, only to be reassured that the beasts are amply fed on fish from the Cauvery and so are uninterested in humans.

The worst of the panic subsided after I read this, though I still had serious qualms about what was coming up. But I didn't have any choice except to go ahead, and so ...... I did. One of the first things that reassured me on entering the sanctuary was the number of people there, all happily enjoying the place. I thought, hmmm ...... nothing seems to have happened to them, nothing will happen to me too.

From then on, I was my usual camera-crazed self ........ for a bit. We went up to this viewing platform with insanely steep steps. Climbing up was no problem, but looking at the steps from the top set off the panic again (yeah, I have issues with heights and with going down steps too :)) Basically, I have issues with a lot of things, but then I recalled this realisation I had a long time ago, even posted over here.

So I took a deep breath, told myself to focus and stop being a wimp and went down the damn steps. That same focus and hubby's firm hand got me on to the pokey little boat and then off we went. We were oohing and aahing over the many, many birds when hubs excitedly pointed out the first croc. And there it was, swimming just about ten feet away from us, not even looking at us. Seconds later, on the shore of the islet we were passing, a massive croc got up and turned its back on us. No baring of teeth, or snapping of scary jaws ....... just outright disinterest.

Well, that wasn't so bad, I thought. In fact, it had actually been pretty cool! Then on, I truly did enjoy myself. The birds were amazing, with the sweetest sight being the mommy birds feeding the little babies. Our boatman was quite the informative guide, who told us that these birds were the White Ibis, who'd come over from Nigeria, and that there were 50 crocodiles in the sanctuary (we barely saw five of them by the end, and I was actually disappointed :D).

We also saw cormorants, night herons, lapwings, wagtails ..... (or was it laptails & wagwings??? No, I'm sure I got it right the first time :)) On some of the taller trees, there were loads of what appeared like black leaves hanging from the higher branches. I looked at them curiously till hubby grinned and said they were bats! Thank heaven we were there in the middle of the day and nowhere around when those awful things woke up!!!

One of the best sights were the birds gracefully flying from islet to islet, swooping low over the water as they did so. SIL and me were frantically twisting left and right, trying to get those perfect shots of a bird with widespread wings that you see in magazines. Needless to say, we were unsuccessful. Wildlife photography requires the utmost patience and I stand in complete awe and respect of those people who patiently wait it out in the wild, to capture the animals in all their ...... animalness!

Our trip around the sanctuary was a scant half hour and it felt like we'd barely begun when we reached back. We walked along the banks of the river, trying to see if we could spot birds on the mainland, but didn't see any except the omnipresent crow! After some refreshing drinks from the small cafeteria, we then headed on towards Mysore ........ to be continued!

p.s.: In case you're wondering why there are no photos accompanying this post, well, that's because I'm seriously considering starting a photoblog (don't know why I never thought of it before). Hope to have it up by the end of this week.


  1. hey that must have been fun, i really love bird sanctuaries..
    lol @knoon bhari maang :D
    await the photoblog, put it up soon

  2. Good post:-D!!!!!!
    I was just wondering where the pics were when u mentioned why u didnt put it up:-D.
    An excellent idea...the photblog one. seriously, u shd have started one long back considering how good ur pics are.
    And u mentioned Mysore palace & brindavan gardens in the beginning but no details:-P

  3. ISH - yeah this was the first time I've been to a bird sanctuary and it was really great!

    Reflections - thanks!!! Decided to split up the posts; as you'll see it would've been too long for one :D