Do they exist?
Faint yellow spots are visible when one keenly observes the black panther, revealing the wild cat’s original family species. Spread over 475 sq km, the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka is one of the few bastions of these rare cats. Jungle safari in Karnataka’s wild, which has the highest count of tigers in the country, is an exciting activity. A possible encounter with the wild cat makes the visit quite exhilarating.
Chances of sighting a panther are slim because of the cat’s nocturnal activity. But recent camera trappings by the forest department have recorded the presence of a good number of black panthers in Dandeli and Nagarhole and Bandipur forests. The shy animal spends most of its time during the day on trees — resting and waiting for prey and usually moves around during the dark. That might be the reason why most sightings of the black panther happen during an evening safari.
The Kali Adventure Camp near Dandeli is ideal to explore the wild. Tents with cots and beds and attached proper bathrooms here make for a comfortable stay. Waking up to the calls of hornbills, koels and plenty of other birds, besides squirrels, is a lovely way to welcome the day. You can watch Malabar giant squirrels, macaques and langurs play around in the trees. You can take a coracle (traditional round boat) ride into the Kali river with a local navigator, who can show you gentle turtle or take the boat away from a crocodile.
Morning safari starts early, with the smell of dew and sounds of early morning bird calls. Deer and wild boars are common and a wild buffalo, an elephant, a tiger or a sloth bear is a rare sighting. Endangered wild fowl makes unique calls. Follow the adventure with a sumptuous breakfast. Then, there is a choice of trek into the forest to explore flora and a climb on a hillock to crawl through ancient limestone caves of Kavala that open into a chamber of amazing stalactite formation. The trek further to the Sykes Point reveals a majestic view of the Western Ghats through the Kali valley.
Another trek, a climb up to the volcanic Syntheri rock near the Kaneri river is an enjoyable exercise. Carry your fishing gear to fish some mighty Mahseer at the natural pond beneath the rock. Avoid swimming in the waters. A visit to the Gowli tribal village inside the jungle gives a peek into the hard-working lifestyle of the nomadic tribe. Their huts are made of bamboo and straw.
River rafting is possible on the days when the dam water is let open. Class 3 rapids of the river make rafting more exciting. Non-swimmers and first timers can also partake in rafting that follows high standard of safety with state-of-the-art equipment. Canoeing, kayaking and rock climbing are also provided.
Evening safari is all exciting in anticipation of spotting a black panther. If you are lucky and alert, you can spot its ferocious bright eyes staring at you through the woods at dusk. The big cat, that has light yellow patches according to guides who have watched it from close, is only found in very few places in Asia, other than in Karnataka.
By Anand & Madhura Katti
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