At Ranganathittu, K.C. Vijaya Kumar discovers the colours and character of the avian world
Amere two-hour drive from Bengaluru on the highway towards Mysore, past the rolling hills of Ramanagaram with its “Sholay” memories, you are deep in the lush environs of the Cauvery basin. Sugarcane fields, dhoti-clad men revving their motorcycles while indulging in the odd profound conversation beneath banyan trees and bustling towns like Mandya are all part of the backdrop that zip past your car's window.
Soon the signboard ‘Welcome to the historical town of Srirangapatna' greets you. The options ahead are manifold. Drive straight to Mysore, Ooty and Wayanad or take that right just after Srirangapatna town and get goaded by the innumerable banners that point towards wildlife resorts and homestays in Coorg. And as you drive on that small road that leads to Coorg, another option dawns with the path on the right leading to Ranganathittu.
Ranganathittu is the classic story of riches in the backyard that somehow eludes attention with that procrastinating line — “some other day” — being the larger motive of tour operators or families driving towards their homes in Coorg or Malabar. It surely helps to pause, take a deep breath and head towards the bird sanctuary that remains Ranganathittu's sole brand identity. The Cauvery courses through the sanctuary, splitting around mini-islands before eventually stumbling into the distant plains of Tamil Nadu.
The constant chirruping of a wide variety of feathered delights and the famous ornithologist Dr. Salim Ali's words about the need to cultivate a hobby like bird-watching and not to get obsessed with the drudgery of work is displayed on a board inside the sanctuary. The entry fee of Rs. 50 per head is not much for the enormous joy to be derived.
Bird-watching in its purest form is about patience, a good camera and being ready for constant surprises. January is a good month to visit Ranganathittu as the sanctuary attracts winged visitors from across the globe. The relatively warmer climes of India is a big draw for the Siberian cranes, river terns and pelicans to build their nests.
Every tree within the sanctuary teems with birds. A massive tree is thick with fruit bats enjoying their siesta while hanging upside down. The pathway with its cement benches that fringes the Cauvery is good for a gentle walk. A better way to observe more birds is to go on a boat ride and the men, who row these boats, are treasure troves of avian knowledge. The boats gently float past the mini-islands and often a painted stork strikes a pose for the camera.
It's a scary moment when the guide says, “Do you see that boulder there? And do you see a small hump next to that? Well that's a crocodile.” Before you could say your prayers, the guide adds: “The crocodiles don't harm us. They are happy with the fish and the odd small bird.” And then the crocodile lazily paddles across to the island without even a sideways glance. “There might be hundreds of them but they are happy in their space,” the guide adds.
After a couple of hours, it is time to return to the urban jungle but those of you doing the regular Mysore-circuit tour, do pencil in Ranganathittu as a must-watch.
Drive down Mysore highway, after Srirangapatna town (127 km from Bengaluru), take the right that leads to Hunsur and then again another right that leads to Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary.
WHERE TO STAY:
The Mayura River View, a KSTDC resort, is the best option to stay though for Bangaloreans, Ranganathittu is just a day-trip away. Mayura River View, as the name promises offers unlimited vistas of the Cauvery. The room tariff starts at Rs. 2,000 ( lesser on weekdays).