The 523 sq km Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka draws its name from the sacred river that forms its northern and eastern boundary for the most part (the state of Tamil Nadu lies to the east and northeast). The tiger is sighted, but very, very rarely, as is the leopard. Mammals like elephants, sambhar, wild pigs, spotted and barking deer, the Malabar giant squirrel, four-horned antelopes, otters and hares are more commonly seen. Cauvery WLS lays claim to being one of the last few places where the highly endangered grizzled giant squirrel finds protection in Karnataka. Significant reptile species include marsh crocodiles, turtles, pythons, cobras, Russell’s vipers and banded kraits. And there’s some fantastic birding coming up.
Lush with deciduous, riverine and scrub forests, nurtured by the waters of the Cauvery and a munificent southwest monsoon, this sprawl of biodiversity flourishes despite ranging over the otherwise densely populated districts of Bengaluru, Mysore and Mandya. The Cauvery WLS’s altitude varies steeply from 125m to 1,514m, with Ponnachibetta looming over the southern edge of the sanctuary as its highest point. It’s somewhat better known for animal sightings, but birding doesn’t lag behind either: the sanctuary’s first-ever bird survey, which was completed in early 2014, recorded 19 more bird species than were noted earlier, of which 13 were confirmed to have been seen at the reserve for the first time, among them the large-billed leaf warbler, the fairy blue-bird, the Indian blue robin, the yellow-throated bulbul, the crested goshawk, the fork-tailed swift, the orphean warbler, the European bee-eater and the rare Eurasian crag martin.
LOCATION AND HOW TO MAKE THE BEST OF IT
The Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary is rather easy to reach—down the Kanakapura Road from Bengaluru (87km), or via two routes from Mysore (100km)—either Malavalli-Halaguru or T. Narsipur-Kollegal. Other popular tourist spots such as the Hogenakkal Falls, Mekedatu, Sangam and Muthathi fall within the sanctuary’s boundaries, so the footfalls are plentiful here. But perhaps one of the best ways to sight wildlife here is to stay at Jungle Lodges and Resorts’ Bheemeshwari Adventure and Nature Camp, a Karnataka Tourism undertaking that offers log huts and tented cottages scenically overlooking the river. There’s also a satellite camp at Doddamakali, which falls further upstream. The JLR brand has opened up wildlife watching in the state admirably by providing reliable infrastructure in spectacular locations (www.junglelodges.com).