Savandurga : Adventurous Rock Climbing

Location: Savandurga
Date: Nov 1st 2010
To get there: [Click here for Google Map].
There are 2 routes to reach the place from Bangalore.
1) Take the Mysore Road. Turn right after Kengeri, right after Rajarajeshwari Dental College. There is break in the divider here and the road leads to Big Banyan Tree and Country Club. Go along this road passing Big Banyan on the way until you reach an intersection in the middle of a village. Turn left here towards Manchinbele (ask somebody just to make sure). Go past Manchinbele Reservoir (on the right) until you come to an Village where there is a sign to turn right for Savandurga. Now the road goes through some wonderful greenery. After about 10km, you will see a right turn with a big signboard for Savandurga, facing the other way though. Some shops with lot of Autos will be there. Ask to confirm you are the right track. About 4km after this you will reach Savandurga.
2)(We returned by this route) Go on Magadi Road past Tavarekere and Thippagondanahalli. You need to take a left towards Savandurga before you reach Magadi. Best to ask when you are about 6-8 kms from Magadi. Then its a left from this road where the big signboard is.
Distance: About 70kms from Bangalore
Trail type: Solid rock! Savandurga's 2 hills Billigudda and Karigudda are Monoliths. So, you are walking on rock surface at a fairly decent incline. Route is marked with white arrows. A local person latched on to us as a guide and he was able to show us a route which even my 5 yr old managed without being carried. However we only went 1/2 way so not sure after that. Beware that climbing in wet conditions is probably very dangerous.
Facilities: Several shops sell snacks and water near the temple at the base. Some basic dhabha type hotels were also present. We did not try them as we had carried our food. Magadi, I am sure will have decent hotels. Toilets... are on your own. Our guide let us use the marriage hall.

It had been some time since we had done a family trek close to Bangalore. Nov 1st being Kannada Rajyotsava which made Monday a holiday, it seemed like a crime to let it go waste. So, us and Bipin, my college friends family, started searching for a nice place to go. It had to be kid friendly as between us we had a 12(kruthi), 9 (Nithila), 7(Samitha), 5 (Swarup) yr olds. Finally, it was the Kruthi who suggested Savandurga. We settled on it after a quick Internet research and it turned out to be a great choice!

We started out around 7.30 choosing route 1) as it was closer to us. By 9am we were at the Big Banyan tree. After stopping to take in the sight of this large tree, we continued until we crested a hill and came upon the magnificent view of Manchinbele reservoir. Using our experience during our last visit here, we decided to take the road along the reservoir for a short distance and have our picnic breakfast by the side of the reservoir. Kids were of course happy with that decision!

All along, this trail we birded where ever we could. Highlight was about 25 Baya weaver nests in a roadside Palmyra tree, half of which seemed active with birds building, fixing and just living in them. Doves, bulbuls, sunbirds, cormorants could be seen all along the way. Manchinbele hosted lots of Red-rumped Swallows, some Grey Herons and a pair of Spot-billed Ducks among others.

We proceeded along some beautiful roads and quite thick forest to Savandurga. The hills looked magnificent as we approached it. Soon we were parked opposite to the temple and asking for directions to the start of the trail. Everybody knew it! An old local man, Mr Rajanna, approached us asking if we needed a guide. We were not sure. He hired himself as our guide and tagged along. After seeing the menacing the rock surface, we decided to let him take charge. That was a good decision as he chose good routes and helped the kids over tough parts. This I think is the easier Billigudda, though we never did ask anybody there. The other Karigudda is supposedly much more difficult to climb.

The climb itself is awesome for anybody who does not do much rock climbing. The slope is not too daunting once you get used to it and feels quite adventurous to trek over. Since we had only couple of hours and with small kids we asked our guide to lead us only half way up where one can find remnants of Kempe Gowda's fort. The kids had a whale of a time scrambling over the hills to reach this spot which is about one km from the starting point and with 100 mtrs or so elevation gain.

The views from here were fantastic. We savoured it over cookies, drinks, chips and what not for more than 30 mins. Reluctantly as thunder clouds started moving in, we descended fairly quickly to the trail head near the temple. After a well deserved tender coconut, sandwiches and snacks, we headed back to Bangalore around 2pm.

This time we took the Magadi route, then hopped on to NICE road after Tavarekere to exit at Banashankari via the Link Road or PES College Exit. At 62Rs it was close to a rip-off but both the Magadi and NICE Roads made the drive easier and maybe it was worth it.

So, what do I think of this place? I recommend it as a great spot for an adventurous family outing. The drive along Machinbele and the forest before Savandurga adds to the experience. The trek or climb itself is quite exhilarating and kids are sure to enjoy it provided due precautions are taken. Wear good shoes and don't do anything stupid like running up or down, especially when the shoes get wet in the various small streams of water. Rajanna or Thathappa as we called him warned us about many mishaps ending in broken bones.

As always, if you do choose to trek here, take all the photos you wish and leave only footprints, that is, if you can on the rock! Yes, I mean do not litter and keep the area clean which it surprisingly was compared to other such spots in Bangalore.

More photos can be found at:

Birding at a resort - Georgia Sunshine Village

Last month, (April 2010), we spent a couple of days at Georgia Sunshine Village celebrating the start of the summer vacation along with another family. This cannot really be grouped under family trekking spots near Bangalore as per this blogs charter, but I thought I will share a short account anyway as we enjoyed the nature during our stay there.

First some information about the place. You can reach it via Mysore Rd or Kanakpura Road, both of which will need about 3hrs. Directions, cost of stay etc can be found on their website. If you need more information, you can ask them directly or add a comment/send an email to me.

We chose to take the Kanakpura route just for a change and left early (6am) to do some birding along the way. There is a nice large water body right after Harohalli which has good possibilities.
Plenty of Pheasant-tailed Jacanas, Purple/Pond/Grey Herons, Little Grebe and Egrets. Nothing exotic as we were past the migration season. Lot of Sunbirds and Prinias along the bushes also.

It was stop and go all along that route for us with highlights being, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Long-tailed Shrike, Green-billed Malkoha. A culvert about 3-5 kms after Kanakpura gave us an excellent spot for picnic and birding in the fallow fields opposite as the family leisurely go through their buns/biscuits and fruits!

The resort itself has a active bird life. You can find Sunbirds (both purple & purple-rumped), all 3 Bulbuls (Red-vented, Red-whiskered, White-browed), Tickells flower pecker and Yellow-billed Babblers all over their garden. There were also several resident Spotted Owlets near one of the cottages. I enjoyed them perching and staring at us for long minutes and even got luck to see 2 of them try to hunt a lizard on the ground. Other not so common birds we saw were Indian Grey Hornbill, Small Minivet and Golden Oriole.

They take you on a trek around the place in the morning and fishing (catch and leave) in the evening. The trek provided us with some nice birding, especially in a large Ficus tree close by. We went back here next day morning also for some quiet birding and were rewarded with Tickels Blue Flycatcher, Coppersmith Barbet, Asian Paradise Flycatcher and a Fantail (not sure of the ID). During the trek itself, we got to see the Greater Flameback , Ashy Woodswallows, Shikra and Common Iora. Highlight was spotting all 3 Munias (scaly-breasted, Black-headed, White-rumped) along with a Baya Weaver all foraging in the same spot!

Overall, enjoyed the "nature" during our stay here!

Bannerghatta Butterfly Park

Location: Bannerghatta National Park
Date: Mar 21st 2010
To get there: [Click here for Google Map].
Distance: About 25kms from Bangalore
Trail type: Gravelly road, asphalted in some places. There are cross country paths to reach temples or ponds.
Facilities: Near the national park (about 2kms from the starting pt of the trek) has plenty of road side eating places and a KSTDC restaurant. Constant development is taking place here. Bannerghatta town is bustling, though I have never explored it.

Mar 21st being the 3rd Sunday we decided to tag along for the bird watching outing co-ordinated by Geethanjali. I was giving this the miss since getting the family to the starting point by 6.30am is a task by itself. However, we decided to give it a try and managed to make it just 10minutes late. That was enough to catch the group before they set off.

The trail, she had picked for this month started from the turn-off to the right at the circle in the center of the town. The road was muddy/gravelly and asphalted in spots which is what we walked on. The group was large and so the pace was slow. Suited us fine as my son is 5 and daughter is 9.

We walked for about 2kms along this road. Initially we crossed a village, then a hillock and dry shrub vegetation. In this stretch we were able to enjoy a foraging Hoopoe, a flyby of an Oriental Honey Buzzard, melodious Ashy prinias, Pied Bushchat, Red-Wattled Lapwings, Bulbuls among others.

The road then curved around a stagnant water body where buses were being washed. On the right after that, there were a nice clearing and an inviting stone bench. Kids immediately wanted to open our backpack and have a go at the buns, cakes and biscuits which was our breakfast. It was indeed a fantastic spot as while eating we enjoyed the antics of a Green Bee-eater close by.

Few metres after that, the group was looking to climb a hill to reach a pond and temple. It being already 9am, we decided to head back home instead. Our car-pool group, 3 engineers (Gautham, Gautham and Krupa) and our family decided to check out the Bannerghatta Butterfly park. So, we deviated to take a look. Good decision.

The foliage from the ticket counter to the enclosed building housing the butterflies was great. We got to see Asian Paradise Flycatcher, White-Browed Fantail (could be White-throated as we didn't ID properly) and a large flock of active Small Minivets. Fantastic birding.

The butterfly building was quite good. About 8-9 species could be enjoyed flitting around flowering bushes. At the back they have a museum with display that is quite large and informative. A continuously playing film on butterflies can also be seen.

After spending a couple of hours here, we headed back and were in Jayanagar by noon after a surprisingly easy drive.

Overall the bird trail may have been better enjoyed further down from where we started. The butterfly park is great for kids 4-12. Well worth a stop when visiting the zoo or trekking near this location.

Some more images: