Even us Goans, dwellers of paradise and vacation land sometimes long for a minibreak. Call it an itch to explore other weekend getaways and then compare them to your backyard. Spoilt by the sun and surf, a beach destination is a definite no-no. The comparison would be just unfair. Thank Mother Earth for the thickly forested western ghats and enterprising hoteliers for their entrepreneurial spirit.
My passion for wildlife photography often leads me to scour for wildlife destinations nearby. There aren’t too many many options. Goa, though blessed with an abundance of avian wildlife, has no mammals to showcase and there aren’t too many options within the radius of a 3-4 hour drive.
Which is why I end up going back to a delightful place called the Old Magazine House. I’m told that in the British era, this place was used strategically to store ammunition – hence the name.
A comfortable three-hour drive from Goa Airport, Old Magazine House is a jungle resort operated by Jungle Lodges & Resorts of Karnataka. JLR, in fact, operates all the wildlife parks in the state of Karnataka. Situated in a quaint little village called Ganeshgudi (just 10 minutes away from Dandeli), OMH is a unique offering for bird and wildlife aficionados. If ever there would be a studio in the wild, this would be it.
OMH has a few cottages and a dormitory. The dormitory here is the best I have ever experienced. Clean, safe and well maintained. The staff are all well versed with wildlife and always willing to assist.
Vinayak is a guide at OMH and is very passionate about his job. He runs a WhatsApp group for photographers like me and keeps us posted daily on sightings here.
The last time I was at OMH was the last season. I was increasingly growing restless with Vinayak’s WhatsApp updates. The animal and avian activity after the monsoons had peaked and December seemed like a good time to make a quick trip.
I made my booking online for a one night stay. I normally choose the dormitory here (I wouldn’t at any other wildlife destination). Mohan Babu, the Manager, promptly called me to inquire about my time of arrival. I planned to arrive in time for lunch the next day. The food here is simple and delicious. I would opt for this rooftop restaurant at the OMH over any Michelin starred restaurant.
Old Magazine House is home to many bird species endemic to the Western Ghats. The most prominent sightings will be the Emerald Dove, Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher, Paradise flycatcher, Black Naped Monarch, Flame-throated Bulbul, Oriental White-eye, Brown-cheeked Fulvetta, White-rumped Shama and many more. The star attraction during my visit was the Indian Scimitar Babbler – a rare sighting here and my first.
If you decide to visit and want more than just the birding, you could also go to the Supa dam. Or drive to a nearby bridge and watch hornbills fly past. A 10-minute drive will get you to the Timber Depot at Dandeli which is another must see. If you visit when the trees here are fruiting, hornbills can be found in hordes pecking and foraging for food. But then you will need a lot of luck (which I don’t) or the ability to travel at short notice (which I can’t) when this phenomenon takes place. Better yet, ask Vinayak to take you on a trek in the forest, and you will not be disappointed.
You can find more information about Old Magazine House at their website. If you’re looking for places to visit in Dandeli, let this one be at the top of your list.