For me, holidays are meant to go to places away from crowds that can rejuvenate one’s soul battered by routine works of daily life. So during one of those trips away from my work station, I came to know about this little known place called Dandeli. Well, it was the first time I was hearing the name so naturally, I was a bit apprehensive. Regardless of my initial feelings, I went there with an open mind and without much expectation, and I’m so glad I did.
Nestled in the lap of the Western Ghat mountain ranges along the western coast of India, Dandeli is a tiny township developed around a paper mill. But the real fun starts when one goes outside of the city limits and into their dense forested area. So dense is the forest that one can hear the constant buzzing sound of different insects, frogs even at 12 PM in the afternoon! It was like one of those places we see in National Geographic or Discovery channel.
Although with the improvement in connectivity, Dandeli is fast developing as a go-to place for travelers from all around it is still a quiet place perfect for long weekends thanks to its remoteness. The old-world charm is still present. This is an ideal place for both nature lovers and adventure junkies.
If you’re planning a trip to Goa, Dandeli is a must-visit. Here’s some of my suggestions.
1. Visit Ganeshgudi and if possible stay there
No travel to Dandeli can complete without visiting this place. In fact, all good lodging options are situated in this place right inside the dense forest. Ganeshgudi is by far the most well-known place among travelers surrounding Dandeli and is just 25 km from Dandeli town.
The river Kali – the lifeline of the region – crisscrosses this beautiful place at several places. The road from the nearest big city, Belgaum, to the coastal city of Karwar passes through this place. Long walks along this road especially during evenings just before sunset is very romantic as rays of sun filtered through the thick canopy of tall trees along the banks of the Kali River present a beautiful vista of light and shadows.
Those interested in birds will find Ganeshgudi an excellent place to see and photograph giant birds like Malabar Pied Hornbills. Just be aware that venturing out in the night on foot is not considered a good idea as an encounter with wild animals including leopards is not uncommon.
2. Go White Water Rafting
If a high adrenaline rush is what drives you, then experiencing white water rafting at Dandeli could well be the activity you are looking for! Dandeli is well known for its white water rafting on the river Kali. The best time to experience this activity is the period just after the Monsoon, from October to January. Many travelers or adventure seekers come here only for rafting and there are plenty of operators from nearby larger cities who operate day trips only for this purpose.
3. Visit Syntheri Rocks
If you’re interested in rock formations then I have some good news for you. Head to Syntheri Rocks, which is around 28 KM from Dandeli. The road to Syntheri Rocks travels through a very dense forest and once you reach it, all you need to do is climb down some 200 or so steps to reach this hidden treasure.
Once you reach the base you will be surprised how tiny you are in front of this monolith whose height ranges between 300 ft to 400 ft. The river Kaneri, which is a tributary of river Kali, flows at the base of Syntheri Rocks, and create small but swift moving waterfalls.
Years of constant flow have made several cave-like structures on the walls of this giant rock and the different colors and textures make the origins of this monolith very intriguing. The write-ups about the stones and different trees by the Forest Department on the way will interest anyone who is intrigued by history as well.
4. Go on a Safari at Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve
If you want to explore the real forest and its local inhabitants, then a morning or afternoon safari to the Anshi Dandeli National Park is perfect for you. Known as Kali Tiger Reserve as well, after river Kali, this tiger reserve is an amalgamation of two protected areas, namely Anshi National Park and Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, and it is spread over an area of 875 square km.
The forest is huge and comprised of undulating streams, huge bamboo growths, and diverse wildlife. As per the latest tiger census figures, 14 tigers call this reserve forest their home. Apart from the tiger population, this forest is also home to a good number of leopards, Asiatic Elephants, and a large number of other animals and birds.
The safari takes you inside the forest in an open jeep and believe me, it’s a different world altogether. You’ll enjoy the rich biodiversity of this forest and may spot some of the animals living here. If you are lucky enough you may spot a majestic Royal Bengal Tiger or an ever-elusive Black Panther.
5. Bird Watching
Dandeli has everything a nature lover could want. The areas around Dandeli boast around 300 species of birds, of which many are native to this region. Kulgi, Ganeshgudi, Syntheri Rocks, and the adjoining areas of reserve forest are some of the best areas to watch and capture photos of birdlife.
Some of the birds which can be easily spotted are Malabar Pied Hornbill, Malabar Grey Hornbill, many species of flycatchers, kingfishers, honey birds, peacocks, black-crested bulbuls, blue-headed pittas, brahminy kites, broad-billed rollers, crested serpent eagles, great hornbills, and woodpeckers, among so many others!
If you want to spend some time with nature, away from hustle and bustle of city life then Dandeli could be just the place you are looking for. Dandeli is an all-season destination but the weather remains most pleasant from September to February. The place receives heavy rainfall during the Southwest monsoon from the end of May to almost until August. Entries to the national park’s rafting remain closed during the rainy season.
How to Reach Dandeli:
Nearest Airports: Hubli (75 km), Dabolim, Goa (135 km). Dabolim airport at Goa is well connected with all major cities of India and select international destinations.
Nearest Major Railheads: Hubli, Karnataka (75 km), Madgaon, Goa (118 km).
By Road: Dandeli is well connected with bus service from nearby major towns like Karwar, Madgaon, Belgaum, Hubli, Bangalore etc. Direct Bus services are available from Mumbai as well.
Stay: Dandeli has some very nice resorts. Pre-booking is advisable. The price depends on location and season. There are economical homestays too and can be booked from most major hotel booking sites online.
Local transport: Auto rickshaws are available within the township area. But Dandeli is surrounded by dense forests so having your own transport is certainly helps. However, the resorts or homestays generally help in the hiring of vehicles as per the need of the client on direct payment basis. Some resorts do provide the local transport as per the package booked.
Precautions: Dandeli is a heavily forested area and has many wild animals so taking care is of utmost importance especially during the bird watching sessions or exploration of nature trails. It is advisable to seek guidance from locals before venturing out to unknown trails.