Also known as Bhadra Tiger Reserve, the sanctuary is situated along the Western Ghats in Karnataka’s Chikmagalur and Shimoga districts. It is surrounded by the great expanse of the Baba Budanagiri range. The Bhadra River and its tributaries drain the reserve. A dam has been built on the Bhadra near Lakkavalli.

In 1974, the Jagara Valley Wildlife Sanctuary – established in 1951 over an area of 77.45sq miles – was further expanded to incorporate adjacent areas and reconstituted as the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary. Spread over an expanse of 492sq km, the reserve was brought under Project Tiger in 1998. The Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary is home to not just the tiger and elephant, but to the panther, bison, sloth bear, wild dog, flying squirrel (including the giant Indian squirrel) and wild boar. It also has over 120 species of flora, such as teak, rose-wood, mathi, honne, nandi, tadasalu and kindal. A big teak tree, known as Jagara Giant, is one of the attractions of the sanctuary. The 300-year-old tree has a girth of 5.21m.

An Indian bison
An Indian bison

About 200 species of birds are found here, such as the singing shama, southern tree pie, Malabar whistling thrush, quaker babbler, yellow bulbul, black-winged kite, king vulture, great horned owl, great pied hornbill and black-naped blue flycatcher. Unfortunately, poaching of flora (some of the most exotic and prized timbers, such as rosewood and teak grow here) and fauna, especially in areas close to the plantations, is a growing problem here.

Bhadra Widlife Sanctuary can be reached from Chikmagalur (23km away) via the small towns of Joldal and Mallandur, from where you head to the Honnala checkpost, the sanctuary’s main entry point. The other entry is the Muthodi Gate. There is a distance of 2km between the two and it is in this part that you will find the Forest Range Office (Muthodi village). There is another route that offers amazing views of the Baba Budanagiri range and its lush environs. Down the Tarikere Road, just 6km away from Chikmagalur, is the Kymara Junction. Past coffee estates and up the Baba Budanagiri incline, you reach Kavikalgundi. Teak plantations, a legacy of the British, can be seen in Jagara village, which is located in the immediate vicinity of the wildlife sanctuary.

Dinodia Photo Libary
Red-vented bulbul, a common sight in the sanctuary
Red-vented bulbul, a common sight in the sanctuary

The mist-covered Chandra Drona mountains (also part of the Baba Budanagiri range) form a horseshoe-shaped boundary around Bhadra; it has moist-dry deciduous forests and high bamboo groves. Shola forests are also found here. The area is wet for most of the year. The view from the lofty reaches of the mountain range (the highest peak in the sanctuary is Kallahathigiri at 1,875m) will leave you spellbound.

Forest jeep safari Indian  400 per person; Foreigners  1200 per person Timings 6.00–9.00am; 3.30–6.00pm

Things to See & Do

There are plenty of opportunities to explore Bhadra’s magical environs – be it through trekking or on a jungle safari. The chances of spotting animals are quite high.

Nature trail

There is a 3.5-km-long nature trail at Muthodi for those keen on seeing the forest on foot. About 8km from the Range Office is the Nagarbhavi lake, where elephants congregate. There is a waterhole at Talbidrekere, where you can spot plenty of wildlife. Melgiri and Kesarhalla too offer excellent sightings. Tigers are sometimes seen in Chandanahadlu, Doddahadlu and at a rocky escarp-ment near the Jenkalgiri caves.

Jungle Safari

Hire the forest department jeep unless you have your own transport. A guard will accompany you to make sure you find your way back. If you are in a big party of over 10, you can hire the forest mini-bus.

According to the latest census, Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary has about 33 tigers. Other mammals found in the sanctuary include elephant, black leopard, gaur, sloth bear, wild boar, jungle cat, jackal, wild dog, sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, mouse deer, common langur, slender loris, bonnet macaque, small Indian civet, common palm civet, pangolin, porcupine, flying squirrel and the Malabar giant squirrel. Besides, there are other carnivores such as the leopard cat, rusty-spotted cat, ruddy mongoose, stripe-necked mongoose and otters.

Where to Stay & Eat

The Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary has two forest rest houses, which can be booked at the office of the Deputy Conservator of Forests in Chikmagalur. The Muthodi Nature Camp (Tel: 08262-234904; Tariff:  1,000, dorm  600), located in the forest, has two tents and two dorms (each with eight beds). The dorms can accommodate more people, but you will need your supply of pillows, bedsheets and blankets. For food, you could ask the caretaker to prepare meals. There are no fancy restaurants in Bhadra, so be prepared to rough it out. However, there are many hotels and restaurants in Chikmagalur and outside the sanctuary. The tourism department-run River Tern Lodge (Tel: 08261-215425 Tariff:  7,291 for Indians,  9,505 for foreigners) is one of the better options.

Around Bhadra WLS

Sitalayyanagiri (18km)

The drive to Sitalayyanagiri is in itself a treat. It offers excellent views of the Western Ghats, Chikmagalur, rolling valleys and coffee plantations. Ancient estate houses, with their moss-covered sloping roofs, green lawns and white picket fences, make for an enchanting pastoral scene. Further up the same road is the highest peak in Karnataka, Mullaiya-nagiri (21km). At 6,300ft above sea+ level, it offers excellent views.

Getting There

Air The nearest airport is in Bengaluru (285km/ 5hrs). Taxis charge around  10–14 per km

Rail Hassan (90km/ 1.5hrs) is the nearest railhead

Road From Bengaluru via Hassan; then drive via Joldal and Mallandur to Chikmagalur, which is 32km away from Bhadra Widlife Sanctuary

Fast Facts

When to go From October–December and March–June

Wildlife/ Forest Dept offices

Deputy Conservator of Forests

Bhadra Wildlife Division (Project Tiger)

Chikmagalur

Tel: 08262-234904

Department of Tourism

Govt of Karnataka

Email: info@karnatakatourism.org

karnatakatourism.org

karnatakaholidays.net

STD code 08262

State Karnataka

Location Nestled in the Baba Budanagiri hills

Distances 285km NW of Bengaluru, 90km NW of Hassan, 220km NE of Mangalore

Route from Bengaluru Magadi Road to Kunigal; NH48 to Hassan via Channarayapatna; state road to Kemmannagundi via Chikmagalur; district road to Muthodi.