The tawny grasslands of the Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary, replete with rare flora and fauna, are reminiscent of the savannas of Africa, writes Vishnupriya Bhandaram

Kurnool district won’t offer you a typical tourist experience, but tucked away in its unexplored nooks and crannies, you’ll find, sometimes, a glimmer or an expanse of surreal beauty. Pack your walking shoes, a set of binoculars, that fancy camera and of course clothing that will blend with the dry environs of the Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary. Located about 45 km from Kurnool town, it covers an area of over 614 sq. km. A meagre amount of Rs. 2 at the entrance will buy you a memorable trip through this fine grassland ecosystem. Comparing it to the African savanna would be a stretch, but it does come close for those who cannot afford a trip to Africa. Picture tall brown grass, and if you see something spring across, don’t be surprised, it is probably a black buck. Look further and you’ll find a herd leaping between the grass and the trees. As we try to get our adventure game on and go a little closer the guide warns us of the many snakes, including rattlesnakes. We concede defeat at the hands of Nature and back off.

The deciduous forests along the Eastern Ghats offer a wide variety of flora and fauna. The sanctuary was set up in 1988 to protect the endangered Great Indian Bustard and the Lesser Florican. According to the brochure, on a good day you’ll probably spot jackals, bonnet macaques, Indian bustards, Indian rollers, sparrows, mynas, Russell’s viper, Indian cobras and foxes. The wildlife sanctuary boasts of nearly 132 species of birds, both resident and migratory birds, including the small-sized warblers and short-toed snake eagles. The tall trees offer nesting sites for eagles.

The sanctuary is bordered by agricultural lands where sunflowers, tobacco and cotton are cultivated. The Alganur reservoir, a little ahead of the wildlife sanctuary (east of Rollapadu village) is a haven for migratory birds. With a vast expanse of water a lot of fishing takes place at the reservoir. A half submerged road leads you there and if you manage to get there early you can ride in the coracle.

Another place of interest is the Priyadarshini Jurrala Reservoir. The Jurrala project mobilises water for agricultural land in and around the district. The picturesque reservoir is located 60 km from Mahboobnagar district. The drive towards the reservoir isn’t the most pleasant; you will have to chug along bad roads but its well worth the journey. The setting sun turns everything a dull orange — the banks, the roads, the ripples on the water. Sit by the dyke, watch time fly and give way to the mysteries of the night.

Getting there

Travel to Kurnool from Hyderabad via train or car; the train journey takes longer. From Kurnool to go to the sanctuary head towards Nandikotkur which is about 60 km from Kurnool.

When to go

The best time to visit the sanctuary is between October and February. This is the time when a lot of migratory birds fly in.

Where to stay

There is a forest guest house available at the sanctuary but prior permission is required. It is best to keep your base at Kurnool and travel around via private cab services. While you are there, consider visiting the Alampur temples as well.

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