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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

On the Kali River at Dandeli

The Kali River is the lifeline of Dandeli. It flows through the town, not just providing water for all its needs, but is also a haven for the flora and fauna of the area. Rapid urbanization once threatened the river, and all its inhabitants, but the efforts to preserve it seem to be working, if the lush greenery and abundance of birds around are any indication.

The river has also turned out to be the biggest draw for visitors, in search of excitement and adventure, for this is where they head to, for all sorts of adventure sports – from kayaking to rafting. During our recent Dandeli trip, we began and ended our tour at the river, which, looking back, seems rather apt, considering the important role it plays here.

We started off with a kayaking session at the Bison Resort. This was Samhith’s first attempt at solo kayaking, and, much to my surprise and pleasure, he not only managed well, but enjoyed the experience to the hilt! He came back from the jaunt, completely soaked and muddy (having fallen into the water while getting off), but exhilarated, and looking forward to more such experiences!

This was also where we saw our first hornbills of the trip, my attention frequently getting diverted from the kayaks..

Malabar Pied Hornbill

We had originally intended to explore the river further here, going on a coracle ride, and also to what is called a ‘natural jacuzzi’ – a portion of the river where a clump of  rocks make it safe to sit and enjoy the water, and also cause the currents to give you the most natural massage possible. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, we weren’t able to try this out. Well, like I always say, we should leave something for another time, right?

We did go on coracle rides later, twice. First, near Ganeshgudi, and later, at the Kali Adventure Camp.  At Ganeshgudi, we alighted near a bridge much patronized by birdwatchers to sight and photograph the beautiful hornbills, and descended a steep staircase to approach the river near a Shiva Temple.

The bridge. If you look close, you can see the number of people who have stopped on the bridge to see the hornbills. Also take a closer look under the bridge and you will see a huge number of bee hives! 

The highlight of this jaunt was the presence of a multitude of birds – from the White Breasted Kingfisher, which we see all the time, to Hornbills, which we were getting used to seeing, and the Wooly Necked Storks, which we had never seen before!


Wooly Necked Storks

Wooly Necked Stork ... up close

Malabar Pied Hornbill, again

Brahminy Kite

Our Coracle ride at the Kali Adventure Camp was just as interesting, but in a different way. Upstream, at Ganeshgudi, the river is still near enough to the Supa Dam to be in full flow. Further downstream, at the Kali Adventure Camp, the water level was low enough for the rocks at the bottom to be visible.

This of course, reduced the area we could explore by coracle, but, on the upside, we saw plenty of crocodiles.

There were birds here too, especially the hornbills – the Malabar Pied Hornbills, and also the Malabar Grey Hornbills.

(Yet another ) Malabar Pied Hornbill

And one more.. this time with a berry in its mouth!

Malabar Grey Hornbill, for a change

A flock of Yellow Footed Green Pieons roosted on a tree..

Yellow Footed Green Pigeons

Yellow Footed Green Pigeon

White Breasted Kingfisher

We could have stayed there forever, sitting in the coracle, watching the birds fly home, and the crocodiles slither into the water, but we had to get back home too.

Sitting at home, as I wrote this post, and wondered what to title it, my thoughts turned to a similar post, I wrote almost 3 years back – On the Kosi at Corbett. The two rivers are not similar, and neither are my experiences. However, I enjoyed that experience just as much, and  it seemed rather apt to use a similar title. Who knows, maybe this will turn into a series!

This trip was organised and arranged by, a website dedicated to developing tourism in and around the area.

I am also linking this post to Skywatch Friday. For more beautiful skies from around the world, visit the Skywatch Page


  1. Looks like you had a wonderful trip and got some beautiful photos to document your time. Happy SWF!

    1. Thank you, Joyful! we did have a great time, and came back with some amazing pics. hope you come back to see all of them. Happy SWF to you too!

  2. What lovely lovely shots of the water - so peaceful. And I love those hornbills!

    1. Thank you so much, Ladyfi!! we loved those hornbills too. never tired of seeing them!

  3. Dandeli sounds exciting. Can't wait to get there. Excellent post!

    1. Thank you so much, Niranjan! would love to see ur posts on Dandeli too

  4. Amazing to see those hornbills!! Nice snaps!!

  5. Looks like an interesting area for animal observation.

    1. Yes, Christian, Indeed its a wonderful place for animal observation, more so birds

  6. Lovely pictures of the river, and especially those of hornbills! They are gorgeous!

  7. Dandeli looks like an amazing holiday destination. Loved the pictures.


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