A black panther lurked tantalisingly in my expectations as I met up with my guide at the Anshi National Park. I so desperately wanted to see a panther that I repeatedly told Rathod, the forest guard, about my heartfelt wish. Wise man that he was, he merely smiled in response.

As we set out in the jeep to explore the park on a beautiful misty morning, it dawned on me that the brooding, mysterious forests of Anshi were quite different from other parks. Anshi seemed like a world away – there is a quiet communion with nature here, a feeling that you get in only some wildlife sanctuaries now.

The jeep groaned as we drove up a steep incline and Kallimatti, the forester, pointed to a stream down in the valley and whispered, “That is where you normally find tigers quenching their thirst in the evenings.” But awed as I was by the striped mystery that is the tiger, at that moment, I most wanted to see the black panther – it was just one of those inexplicable yearnings.

We drove along the narrow, undulating road, and suddenly, everything else about my life seemed so routine, and dare I say it, unreal. Anshi amazed me with its wilderness that was so far removed from urban chaos.

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Malabar pied hornbill resting on a branch
Malabar pied hornbill resting on a branch

The woods seemed to have been deliberately crafted to instill in one a sense of mystery. The flowers blossoming along the sides of the trail enticed with their colours and fragrances. As I sat in the vehicle, absorbing the sheer beauty and majesty of the surroundings, I found myself being drawn into that magical world. I did not spot the black panther, but I wasn’t disappointed. The very thought that I was in its natural habitat, was somehow very soothing.

ABOUT ANSHI NATIONAL PARK

Anshi, a small town in Karnataka’s Uttara Kannada District, is located on the banks of the Kali river, off the Karwar-Londa highway. About 340sq km of the surrounding forests were designated a national park in 1987. The Anshi National Park and the adjoining Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary together make up the Dandeli Wildlife Division of the Karnataka Forest Department. The valleys here are deep, the slopes precipitous, and the vegetation dense. Rosewood, mathi, hindal, nandi and teak trees grow in amazing shapes and sizes, with lantana, acacia, bamboo and a myriad other species intermingling with the giant trees to create a canopy that is quite impenetrable and dark. The vines and creepers that lie entwined with the trees add to the air of awe and wonder that one feels in the forest.

Anshi village lies within the park; here, you will also find the Forest Range Office. About 3km away is the Anshi Nature Camp. Several perennial streams crisscross the sanctuary. Trekking trails are scattered along the length and breadth of the sanctuary. You can hire jeeps at Karwar and Dandeli. The charges vary from 2,000–3,000 per day. A forest guard (from the Forest Range Office) must accompany all tourists going on safaris or treks into the sanctuary.

Safaris 400 (includes entry fee and guide) Timings 6.00–8.30am, 4.00–6.00pm

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Trekkers making their way through grasslands
Trekkers making their way through grasslands

Tip To stay at Anshi, you need permission from the office of the Deputy Conservator of Forests at Dandeli. While Karwar is only 60km from Anshi, you will have to take a detour of 55km to Dandeli first

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

You can drive around the jungle or go trekking – Anshi is a trekker’s paradise. As the terrain is undulating, treks can be a bit challenging.

Jungle Safari

You will need your own vehicle to drive around Anshi as the forest department itself does not organise any safaris. The terrain is harsh and you will need to negotiate the various pathways with care. The experience is delightful. It evokes in one a feeling of freedom that’s powerful and unbridled, much like the jungle itself.

Trekking

Those who wish to trek in Anshi will need to be physically fit as the terrain is tough. The forest department offers four trails of varying distances. The first is from the Anshi Nature Camp, past Maigani, through Ulavi Road and back to the Nature Camp (5km). The second route takes you from the Nature Camp to Tiger Tank and through to Nesar Tham and Kajivada before returning to the base (10km). The third trek is the toughest and takes a whole day. Starting from Nature Camp, it takes you across a whole swathe of the jungle (Nature Camp – Matgaon-Kailvada – Chandkunagi – Vaki Road – Mardi – Kadra View Point – Kadra, a total of 20km). The last trek takes you to Vaki Halla from Nature Camp and then to Kodgali and back (a total of 15km).

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

Reservations for the Anshi Nature Camp (Tel: 08284-231585; Tariff: 1,000 per tent on twin share, dorm bed 150, log huts 1,200) have to be done at the office of the Director, Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve. Located about 3km from the Range Office in Anshi village, it is the only place to stay in the sanctuary. It has four deluxe tents and six log huts with attached bathrooms. There is also a dormitory that can accommodate 15 people. The camp has solar power. The only place to eat is at the nature camp itself. The caretaker cooks tasty meals.

AROUND ANSHI NATIONAL PARK

Dudgali (8km)

There’s an old temple dedicated to Vitoba Rukmani at Dudgali. It boasts of a massive tree reputed to be a hundred years old. The Kadra Dam and Power House, part of the Kali River Hydroelectric Project, is about 20km away. Seen from a distance, it looks like a sheet of glass enveloped by mist-covered hills – a very pretty sight to behold, especially during the monsoons, when the reservoir is full.

Barpali View Point (25km)

Located in the direction of Karwar, the Barpali View Point offers fantastic views, on a clear day, of the Arabian Sea, the Kali river, the forests, the Kadra Dam and Kaiga, the site of an atomic plant.

The jungles around the view point are dense and picturesque. The maximum sightings of black panthers take place around here.

GETTING THERE

State Karnataka

Location In Uttara Kannada District. Along with the adjoining Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, situated to its northeast near Kali river, it constitutes the Dandeli Wildlife Division

Distance 583km NW of Bengaluru, 106km SW of Dharwad

Route from Bengaluru NH4 to Dharwad via Chitradurga and Hubli; district road to Supa; state highway to Anshi via Kumbharvada

Air Nearest airport: Dharwad (106km/ 3hrs). Taxi to Anshi costs around 2,000–2,500. Alternatively, you can fly to Belgaum or Panjim, which have more connections

Rail Nearest railhead: Karwar (45km/ 1.5hrs). Taxi fare 3,000

Road There are regular buses from Karwar to Anshi (90 minutes). The fare is around 70 per person. Anshi can also be accessed from Panjim (200km/ 5.5 hrs/ around 4,000 by taxi) and Belgaum (150km/ 4hrs/ around 3,000 by taxi)

FAST FACTS

When to go Anshi is best visited during November–May when the chances of spotting wildlife are high. The rainy season (June–October) is best avoided. Leeches are a major problem during the monsoons

Tourist/ Forest Dept Office

Director, Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve, Dandeli

Tel: 08284-231585