Bheemeshwari and Doddamakali fishing camps pack so much in your day that you lose count of time and keep going back for more fun under the sun
When the going gets tough, the tough go to Bheemeshwari. At least that’s what I did the other day. My friend and I hopped on to our four-wheeler and drove along the Kanakpura Road towards the Bheemeshwari Fishing Camp, 100 kilometres from Bangalore. It is home to Mahseer, one of the largest fresh water fish in the world. Stepping inside the facility of Government of Karnataka’s Jungle Lodges & Resorts made us forget the work we left behind.
Since it was a weekday, we didn’t have the boisterous touristy crowd to cut short our ‘alone time’ by the river Cauvery. After some swinging on the hammocks spread all along the river, we sat on the rocks leading into the river. After a sumptuous non-vegetarian north and south Indian lunch – the finest I had in a long time – I was as much pleased as the ever-smiling chef who cooked it. The positivity was evenly spread out. Every staff member I met was genuinely happy and sated. Even when I tipped one of them, he didn’t pocket it. He deposited it in the collection box meant for equal distribution amongst all. And each one of them excelled at whatever they did: taking you on treks in the early mornings to organising a mouth-watering bonfire by the river to accompanying you on coracle rides and kayaking. I also tried my hand at fishing, with the gushing sound of the Cauvery river for company. But no pair of fins fell for the bait. However, when I did go on a coracle ride around the river, I spotted a healthy green crocodile resting on one of the rocks and a kingfisher taking off from the river bank. I also saw a snake bird (also called Water Turkey known for its snake-like long neck) flying in the air and swimming on the surface of water to catch its prey.
However, the resort’s senior supervisor Mohamed Asif made me forget about the failed catch by retelling stories of courage and horror. Talking about his escapades at the Kabini River Lodge where elephants reigned supreme, he said, “My shoulders still hurt in the winter Because of my deadly encounter with a mother elephant. I was coming on my two-wheeler with a friend riding pillion, when a baby elephant coincidentally crossed our path. Fearing for her life, the mother elephant rushed towards me. My heart was in my mouth. If I hadn’t moved, we would be dead the next second. I charged towards the elephant on my two-wheeler and hit the elephant’s leg and fell down. When I got up to run, it first hit me on my shoulder with its forehead, and then my hip with its trunk. It felt like a tonne of bricks had fallen on me. I fell down, writhing in pain. Thankfully, the baby elephant had crossed the road and the mother hurried to her side. My companion, who had vanished from the scene, was watching all this drama unfolding from behind a tree. Later, I realised that there were no fractures. The blood had clotted in a few places. I took some injections and it went away. But even now, when the weather is extremely cold, I have to take 2-3 injections every day to contain the pain.”
Not that Bheemeshwari Fishing Camp was an exception. “One elephant in heat was spotted on the other side of the Cauvery river separating this resort,” Asif began. “Before we knew it, the elephant trumpeted and crossed the river in five minutes. We untied the elephants at the resort or they would have been targeted by the mad elephant. Only one male elephant was hurt in the melee. Thankfully, the forest guards fired bullets in the air and the elephant went back to the jungle by crossing the river.”
I was hooked to the camp, though. And within a few months, I decided to make the trip again. This time, with another friend who hadn’t been there. And like it happens on a road trip, I lost my way when I was forced to make a detour due to road works. After about half an hour on the road, I realised I was on the wrong road, when I saw a notice board that said, ‘Doddamakali fishing camp 50 km’. Since Asif had relocated to this resort, I booked a room through him. Since it was a weekday, the usually packed resort was empty. But the last five-kilometre rocky stretch leading to the resort was a treacherous drive. Later, I heard that one biker had skidded on the mud road covered with stones and almost lost his life.
After a bonfire by the river with chicken kebabs and fried pakodas, we went back to our tented cottages for some beauty sleep. The real adventure began when we woke up to see footmarks of a cheetah right outside the resort. The guide who was taking us for the jungle safari said two cheetahs had visited the camp in the night as the footmarks were fresh. A little way ahead, we heard the trumpeting of an elephant. My heart was in my mouth. To make matters worse, our guide said that it was a herd, and he would take us there. While my companion was all game, I was cagey all the way. Unwillingly, I followed them over rocky cliffs, dense vegetation and narrow mud clearings through the jungle. Soon, the sounds vanished and we never saw the elephants, much to my relief. However, we did get to see some rare colourful birds, including peacocks, macaw and parrots. Once we had reached the top of the mountains, we could see the dense green mountain range in the distance. It was as if we had reached the top of the world, a view to kill, no less.
Back at the resort, it was trampoline time. Though not a swimmer, I made my way into the water holding the rope that was tied to the highly inflatable water trampoline with a diameter of around six feet. You had to use the ladder and climb on to it. Once on top, I had two choices. Either to take a dive into the river or bounce on it as high as I can and land on my feet, without falling or hurting my leg. Since I was no swimmer, I opted for the bounce and did quite well, including one where I folded my feet midair in typical yoga pose and landed on the surface. I am aching to go back again. Just waiting for the Doddamakali resort to open again, after it was shut a few months ago because a vagrant elephant had trampled a villager to death. The resort should open sooner rather than later, according to resort officials.
However, the Bheemeshwari Fishing Camp is going great guns. What used to be just a weekend activity is now spread over weekdays. I am talking about adrenaline-pumping rope courses. There’s The Inca Walk, also called Burma Loops, where you walk across a swaying rope bridge. Then, there’s the Commando Drop or Zip-Line, where you have to slide down a wildly swaying rope that is forty feet above the ground. If that is too much for you, there’s the Mad Monkey Crawl or Parallel Walk where you have to walk on a two-rope bridge.
The next time you are down and out, you know where to head.
Have a happy stay!
P.S: Though both Bheemeshwari and Doddamakali are known as fishing camps, joy fishing is now banned by the state government following protests by animal rights groups.
UPDATE: Doddamakali is now closed.
Bheemeshwari, 100 kms from Bangalore and 2.5 hours by road
Doddamakali, 150 kms from Bangalore and 3.5 hours by road (now shut)
For rates, directions and online reservations, visit junglelodges.com
(Published in Touchdown, the official magazine of the Mumbai international airport)