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The Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves , located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, about 11 Km off the coast of the Gateway of India, Mumbai, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to these caves, excavated probably in the 6 th century CE, is awe-inspiring, and also thought-provoking. Over the years, I have visited the caves a number of times, and also attended a number of talks by experts in the fields of art, history and archaeology on the caves. Together, they help me understand these caves, their art, and the people they were created for, just a little bit better. Every new visit, every new talk, every new article I read about the caves, fleshes out the image of what the island and the caves would have been like, at their peak. I last wrote about the caves on this blog, in 2011, almost exactly 11 years ago. Since then, my understanding of the caves has, I would like to think, marginally improved. Hence this attempt to write a new and updated post, trying to bring to life, the caves of Elephan

River Tern Lodge, Bhadra

As Diwali approaches, I have been re-living our trip last Diwali to Karnataka. We started on a devotional note, visiting SringeriUdupi and Kollur. But that did not stop us having unexpected surprises which had nothing to do with temples, as well as adventures that we had not planned for. We eventually reached our final destination - River Tern Lodge at the Bhadra Reservoir, and now, continuing with the story...

River  Tern Bhadra.... the resort is named for the two things which make the place so special – the Bhadra Reservoir, where it is located; and the River Terns, birds which come here every winter, to breed and nest. Most visitors come here to observe the sight of hundreds and hundreds of these birds nesting in the islands from Feb to June each year. We visited in October, and saw a completely different sight – the sight of the reservoir filled almost to the brim, due to the heavy rains, the islands completely submerged. No wonder Samhith thought it was the sea!

River Tern

The Bhadra reservoir was one of the first among such huge water projects initiated by independent India. All around the dam can be seen the immense variety offered by the Western Ghats. The forests here are of three types – Rainforest, Evergreen, and Semi evergreen, and between them, have a huge variety of flora and fauna. 

Together, they form the Bhadra Tiger Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary, and while the chances of seeing a tiger in the wild might be just as slim as anywhere in the country, this forest shows us so much more of itself to intruders such as us, especially thanks to the well informed and enthusiastic naturalists who take us around and take pains to explain the workings of the forest to us.

Due to paucity of time, we were able to go for only one safari inside the forest, something I will make sure to rectify the next time I am there. My luck with the wild cats hadn’t yet changed, so they stayed well out of sight when we were there. However, I had my encounter with hordes of Malabar Pied Hornbills – grown ones as well as juveniles, flying to and fro and creating a racket... and we were content to simply sit and watch them for quite  a while. Never have I felt more my lack of a good camera as I did then... for these were the best pics I managed to click..

We did spot Gaurs, as well as plenty of deer, but my photos of them aren’t too memorable. I was more fascinated by this old forest guest house built in the British Era....

We spotted more birds when we went on a nature walk... Brahminy kites, Little green bee eaters..Swifts..Spotted Munias...Cormorants... and a Grey Hornbill I couldn’t get a photo of..

Finding my camera no use for the birds, I busied myself clicking dragonflies...

Butterflies and flowers...

Samhith was fascinated by a centipede (or millipede.. don’t remember which this one is) which curled up the minute he touched it..... Ever since, he has been touching the centipedes we see at home, wondering why they don’t curl up! Answers, anyone?

However, the best part of the nature walk wasn’t the birds... or the insects... it was the wonderful sights which surrounded us...
It was only from this height that we could get an idea of the place we were at....

The lodge was located over two hills...our room was on the second hill, which, as we realised, was actually an island!

Which is why, we belatedly realised, we had to cross a bridge to get there!

The views were even better from the water, as we realised when we went for a boat ride....

The never-ending expanse of water..... the mountains in the distance....

The sight was just too beautiful for words, and most of us in the boat were tongue-tied, though our cameras kept clicking away. We were told that the chances of spotting animals were quite high during the boat safari, but none turned up while we were there... but we really didn’t mind. The landscape more than made up for it!

From the water, the island was even more clearly visible. From a distance, all we could see were the trees...

 but as we came nearer, the rooms started appearing...

It was wonderful to think how the lodge had been built, with so many rooms... each with a great view of the reservoir... each almost invisible to the others. Our admiration of JLR just went up another notch!

Stepping back on land seemed almost a pity, but our time there was almost up. However, there was one more thing left to do... for Samhith – water sports!

It took him some time to get used to the water... but once he did, it was tough to get him to come out. The adventurous father and son pair also went for a kayak ride, and came back all excited, because they had seen a monitor lizard!!! Lucky pair! As I rued about missing the sight, and wondered whether to send them off again, this time with a camera, one of the boys asked us if we had seen a jelly fish.

“Jelly fish! Don’t they live in the sea?” was the only response we could think of. He simply smiled, and scooped up a bit of water... and there... there was something wriggling in the water... something transparent... practically invisible.. sort of like an outline of a jellyfish. “It’s a fresh water jelly fish. It doesn’t harm anyone” he said. By now, Samhith was all agog, so that’s him, holding the tiny creature in his tiny hands...

We had already overstayed our welcome at the lodge. The weekend had arrived, and with it, guests were pouring in. But the staff were polite and helpful, and allowed us to take our time leaving...which we eventually did, filled with yet some more wonderful memories of a JLR property!

It has been more than a year since we were there, but for various reasons, I wasn’t able to write about it earlier. This year, as I sat planning my Diwali trip, images of River Tern kept cropping up so often, they were impossible to ignore, or put off any longer... And, in spite of the fact that my comp kept crashing, or workers in the building kept interrupting... I managed to sit down and write this post down. I had originally planned to do a long series on River Tern, to justify all the different experiences we had there, but thanks to the situation, I thought it would be better for me to put everything down in one post... which is why this one is so long. I hope you have enjoyed reading it, but don’t be surprised if images from Bhadra keep turning up now and then... they are impossible to get out of my head!

River Tern Lodge

  • Shimoga: About 40 Km
  • Mangalore: 200 Km
  • Bangalore: 300 Km

How to Reach:
  • By Road: The nearest city is Shimoga, and plenty of buses are available to Lakkavalli, which is the town or village nearest to the lodge. You can arrange for someone from the lodge to pick you up there.
Otherwise, you can, of course, like us, hire an auto driver to take you to Lakkavalli, and persuade him to take you a ‘little bit further’!

  • By train: The nearest railway station is at Shimoga, which is well connected to Bangalore.
  • By Air: The nearest Airport is at Mangalore.

River Tern Lodge is part of Jungle Lodges, and bookings can be made online, through their website, or from offices of Karnataka Tourism. 


  1. It sounds like such a beautiful trip! Glad that you were able to write about it finally.

    1. thanks Mridula!!! i am lagging behind so much with my travelogues! have a lot to catch up with!

  2. The place looks stunning! I must visit this lodge. Awesome post!

  3. Very nice!! Had been to this place some years ago. JLR was offering big discount at that time as it was just opened.

    And at that time rooms were built only on the first hill!!

    1. Thanks Aravind! I guess its high time you go again then!!!!

  4. one of the best recent posts,prompts one to think of visiting the feels happy that the western ghats've not been aggresively exploited for tourism. thanks& best wishes-srinivasan

  5. Absolutely marvelous place. The pictures are really stupendous so is the place. A definite visit at this place next time I visit Karnataka .

    Thanks for sharing

  6. Absolutely stunning account, you almost took us to a trip down there

  7. Absolutely stunning account, you almost took us for a trip down there


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