Into the jungles of Srisailam

Anybody who has seen this blog long enough would know how frequently we visit Srisailam, considering its proximity to Hyderabad, the beautiful forest drive, the Divine Jyotirlinga and the bliss of being surrounded by nature. There is no way one would refuse a trip to Srisailam, especially if you have a parent who needs a dose of Srisailam once a year and a family that simply loves to drive. So, in the 3rd week of December 2017, we drove to Srisailam from Hyderabad with family driving in from Nellore.

Hues of the forest

The drive began around 7 AM, we were in for a surprise when we spotted that good food courts have come up near Kalwakurthy, earlier, the Hyderabad-Srisailam route did not have any pitstops. We had breakfast at KVR Food Court, a little after Kalwakurthy.

Since we have already written a lot on the amazing Srisailam ghat road, we will let the pictures do the talking.

This is one of the trips where we gave our camera a break, we had our mobile phones as a proxies. Here is a click from the car’s wind-shield, the direct sunlight looks like some Divine light was leading us to Srisailam or so we think !

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This is why Srisailam is an ever green place to visit !

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A peek into thick jungle.

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Winter colours of the Nallamala mountain tops.

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The icon of Hyderabad-Srisailam road – Srisailam Dam !

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And finally, the life giving Krishna River.

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We reached Srisailam around lunch time, checked into AP Tourism’s Haritha Hotel, we usually book rooms at Pathaleswara Guest House, this time for a change, we chose Haritha Hotel. One can count on Haritha hotels anywhere in Andhra Pradesh or Telangana.

We experienced the electric feeling of the Maha Harathi Sparsa Darshan at 5 PM. We went walking around the temple as night set in, checking out the beautiful sculpture around the temple walls. Each time, we end up seeing something interesting, like this sculpture, a queen or a Goddess being attended to by hand maidens, look at the royalty !

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A few yards away, we could see Goddess Brahmaramba’s temple covered in gold and dazzling under the lights.

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Whether you are believer or not, one cannot deny the charm of a pilgrim place !

A simple dinner at one of the Devasthanam canteens, some walking in the cool breeze, Goli Soda, shopping and we were done for the day.

Nagarjuna Sagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve

Our trips to Srisailam are usually for 2 days and 1 night, this time, deviating from our regular schedule, we decided to stay in Srisailam for 2 nights and 3 days, there was no specific reason except to relax. Early mornings at pilgrim places are most beautiful – the air is fresh, devotees going and coming back from the temple, shops opening for the day, sacred chants from the loud speakers – these are lovely scenes on any morning at a temple town.

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The 2nd day of our trip began with complimentary breakfast at our hotel, a quick visit to Phaladhara-Panchadhara, the spot where Adi Sankara is believed to have written Sivanandalahari and Hatakeswaram, one of the several ancient temples in and around Srisailam. Then we wanted to check out the Farhabad Tiger Reserve near the Mannanur Checkpost on the Telangana side of Srisailam Forest. However, after checking the distance, we thought it was good idea to visit the Tiger Reserve on the Andhra side, which was much closer.

Nagarjuna Sagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve in Andhra Pradesh, has been opened recently, in fact, it was started only a week before our visit. The Reserve is about 25 kms from Srisailam on the Dornala route. They have a Jungle Safari starting from 8 AM and till about 4 PM. We reached the place around 10.30 AM and had a waiting time of an hour because there are only 2 vehicles and each trip takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour. In the meantime, we purchased some T-shirts and bags from the souvenir shop at the Reserve. There is also a small information centre which has exhibits of the flora and fauna of Srisailam forest.

After about an hour of chilling under the green trees, it was our turn for the safari. The safari is on open air pick up truck onto which seats have been attached. In addition to the driver, there is a forest guard who accompanies you on the safari. The safari took us through some dense parts of the Srisailam forest.

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Our driver told us they had spotted a Tiger and cub in one of the morning safaris. The Nagarjuna Sagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve is the largest in the country and also has the maximum tiger population. However, since the Reserve is so vast and the safari is only through one part of the Tiger Reserve, it is not very easy to spot Tigers.

The safari is total fun as you go deeper inside the jungle.

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Some parts are so dense that sunlight doesn’t pass through, we spotted Sambar deer and langur.

At a particular spot, the driver stopped the vehicle and pointed towards the grass that seemed to flattened and crushed, he told us that was a tell tale sign that a tiger had been there before, it must have rolled and relaxed on the grass !

A few meters later, he suddenly stopped and pointed towards pug marks in the mud.

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Note the marks that have been circled. These marks were circled by the staff during their morning checks before safaris begin and also during each safari. He then pointed to new marks outside the circles, he told us those marks were not there in the previous safari, it meant a Tiger had passed that way shortly before us !

We could trace the pug marks by beside the path until they disappeared into the forest. The driver and the guard who accompanied us shared stories of their night time checks, animal behaviour and so on. We drove on until we reached a water body which is where animals are supposed to come for a drink.

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On the wet mud, we were shown some fresh pug marks of a tiger. There were pug marks of a bear too. The guard felt the tiger pug marks were not yet dry, the guessed the tiger must have passed that place less than half an hour ago !

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It was all very interesting and exciting, it was like we were a set of detectives looking for an elusive forest creature like in those Hollywood movies ! The guard asked us to get down, it was thrilling to be standing at the spot where a Tiger had treaded before us, it was slightly scary as well, what if a tiger suddenly jumped out from the behind the shrubs?

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The guard did not allow us to stay too long. The water body is the last part of the safari and we turned back. The return route takes a deviation towards an exit that takes you back on the ghat road. It was fun travelling in an open air vehicle at high speed on a ghat road, the wind just knocks you back !

No, we did not spot a tiger, not that it mattered to us. A safari is not about spotting animals, it is about the experience of taking a drive inside the jungle and the excitement of what lies in inside and what you might see. So, if you do not spot any animals, don’t say it is a waste of time ! A jungle safari and the animals are not for your entertainment. We thoroughly enjoyed our safari.

It was past lunch time when we returned to Srisailam, we had a quick lunch at one the several hotels near the temple and dozed off. In the evening, we went for a long drive around Srisailam, walked a bit, while the Senior Citizens went to listen to some philosophical discourse, the rest of us lazed in the gardens beside the main temple entrance. This has been newly developed and very pleasant. We stayed on till it was dinner time and with this click of the main temple entrance, our trip drew to a close.

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The next morning at 10 AM, we began our journey back to Hyderabad while the family headed home to Nellore. We are already looking forward to our next visit to Srisailam !

Info tidbits

  • The Tiger Safari is open from 8 PM to about 4 PM we suppose. The safari takes about an hour. There will be a waiting time of 30 minutes to 1 hour, go prepared.
  • To reach Nagarjuna Sagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve, one has to drive beyond Shikaram on the Dornala route, you will spot the board after about 25 kms.
  • The safari charges are Rs.800/- per vehicle and a maximum of 6 people are allowed at a time. If you are less than a team of 6 and other people join the safari, they charge on per head basis, it comes to around Rs.300/- per head roughly. We do not remember the exact number.
  • Do not go with the expectation that you will spot animals, just enjoy the forest drive.
  • Do not litter, shout or talk loudly, the forest is the animals’ domain and we have no business to behave like we own the planet !
  • There are no food options at the Reserve, plan your trip after breakfast or you can plan to be back at Srisailam by lunch.
  • Washrooms are available.
  • One can also try the Farhabad Tiger Reserve under Telangana Forest Department. This would be around 60 kms from Srisailam. We do not have information on this as we did not visit this Reserve.

 

 

 

 

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