Feb 17

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

Bhigwan is a small town around 100 kms away from Pune and is also referred to as the “Bharatpur of Maharashtra”, as it becomes a hotbed of migratory birds during the winter. Bhigwan is at one end of the huge Yashwant Sagar reservoir, forming the backwaters of the Ujain dam. One of the main attractions during the migratory season is the arrival of the pink greater flamingos. During the months of early jan – late feb, this place is thronged by bird lovers from all over Maharashtra.

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

To reach Bhigwan, take the Solapur road and drive for around 95 kms (from Hadapsar) or use the map below to reach Bhigwan (route from Magarapatta city).


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Most of the bird sightings happen around two places, Diksal and Kumbhargaon. The reservoir is dozens of kms long. Maybe, there are more (and better) locations downstream?? To reach the two places, do not follow the map as the roads can be misleading and the water levels depicted on the map could be very different than the current situation. If the monsoon was heavy, roads could disappear or for a bad monsoon, you would see uncharted roads appear out of the water! I went to Diksal last year (Jan 2012) and to Kumbhargaon this year (Feb 2013).

Diksal: Once you reach Bhigwan, you have turn left to go to Diksal. The “bird watching” place i.e. the waterfront is around 5-6 kms inwards. Ask for “Juna Phul” meaning “Old bridge” (photo below). This is the spot where many birds gather and also the place to rent a boat to go into the waterways.

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

Kumbhargaon: To reach this village, you have to drive ahead of Bhigwan for around 2 kms and look for sign boards saying “kumbhargaon” or “flamingo point”. There are multiple entry points to this village and we happened to choose the one with the “kuchcha-est road”, but the Xylo managed it with ease.

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

Plan your trip such that you are there before 7 Am. Even though it is winter, by the time it is 10 AM, it gets scorching hot and frustration starts creeping in if you have to wait in patience for the birds. We started from Pune at 5 AM and hence, when we got into the boat, it was around 6.45 AM and it was lovely. The chilly breeze with the rising sun made it a wonderful boating experience too.

If you are having a point and shoot camera or planning to take photo with a mobile, be ready for a big-time inferiority complex (if you are prone to it!). It is not uncommon to see “birders” here with lens longer and bigger than a typical walking stick. Note: My photos in this post are not so great due to various reasons including an old/unclean lens, typical touristy approach etc. When i was browsing around for photos from Bhigwan, i found a set which had amazing photos. When i looked at the EXIF data, the lens used was a 600 MM f4 and that costs 9800 USD !!! Many cars cost less! Anyway, whatever be the equipment, the photography is fun and it requires patience. When patience runs out and when birds dont come within the zoom range, guys (my friends who came along) started using me as a prop along with the birds.

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

The boating part from Kumbhargaon was fun. We were approaching a group of flamingos on the other side of the bridge and suddenly all of them took off. We watched them for a couple of minutes and once they settled down on the other side of the lake, we (both the boats) turned around and the chase continued. Boating costs 100 Rupees per person. Leave alone the birds, you get more than your money’s worth in just the boating experience.

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

The flamingos were very wary of approaching boats. But, probably they knew to differentiate between the locals and the ooh-aah noisy tourists with bazookas. They didn’t seem to mind the fisherman coming near them (he was using thermocol sheets sticked together as a floating device). As you can see from the second photo below, we had to be at quite distance to avoid disturbing them, but good enough to the naked eye to catch the details. The other boat had a guy with walking stick lens and a bazooka tripod. They tried to get closer and closer and at one point, the entire flock just flew off. It made a good sight, from our boat!

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

If you happen to catch a flock of flamingos landing, it is poetry in motion. See this series of photos of a group landing. The photos below don’t do justice to watching it for real

Slide 1

Flamingos at Bhigwan

Slide 2

Flamingos at Bhigwan

Slide 3

Flamingos at Bhigwan

Slide 4

Flamingos at Bhigwan

Slide 5

Flamingos at Bhigwan

Slide 6

Flamingos at Bhigwan

The boatman also throws dead fish in the water to attract gulls. The gulls don’t seem to mind our company and you can get to see them pretty close this way. I also tried my hand at rowing, but gave up after the boatman gave a slight hint that my car parked at the distance seemed to mysteriously keep shrinking by the minute. One advantage of going in early was that the light was just awesome if you managed to get your subjects in the right position.

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

The way i classify birds are as follows: Big bird, small bird, colourful bird and very colourful bird. Of course, this is apart from the crow and the pigeon. We saw lot of birds during our two trips and i put a collage of them below with letters against them. If you are one of the elite knowledgeable birder kind, please do name them in the comments section. The ones that i know. The first photo (also ‘d’): painted stork, j & n – Brahmini Duck, K – Pond Heron? , t – bee eater?

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

flamingos birds at bhigwan backwaters

You don’t have to get lost at Kumbhargaon finding help. Contact Sandeep Nagare (9960610615), a kumbhargaon resident. Any non-localite entering Kumbhargaon seems to ask for Sandeep :-) Call him up a day before and ask him to arrange boats for you. We found him (and his brother) to be extremely helpful and cooperative. He is knowledgeable too to help you go beyond “small bird” and “big bird”. After you finish the boating, you can have breakfast/lunch at his place.

written by Rajaram Sethuraman

Sep 24

bamnoli village to vasota,tapola near Satara

This is probably the easiest way to experience the lakes of switzerland, right in Maharashtra! Bamnoli village on the banks of the Shivsagar lake formed due to the Koyna dam is a small community of people, who mainly cater to the tourists wanting to visit Vasota fort, Nageshwar Shiv Temple and also Tapola.

bamnoli village to vasota,tapola near Satara

Click here to see a bigger version of the above panorama

How to go to Bamnoli: Bamnoli lies at the end of the Kaas plateau. You have to go to Satara, cross the city and then take the right at the fork at the end of the city. The road at the left (through a tunner) would go to Thoseghar. Once on this road you have to drive for around 30 kms (crossing kaas lake and the beautiful flower beds) and then climb down to the shore of the Shivsagar lake. Though google maps doesnt show this road, this exists and is a good condition road, not the offroading type. As you descend the ghats onto Bamnoli, you are rewarded with views as comparable to european lake destination (provided you visit this place around the monsoons/winter).

bamnoli village to vasota,tapola near Satara

bamnoli village to vasota,tapola near Satara

Once in Bamnoli, you can choose from lot of boating options. You can just go for a ride around the shivsagar lake. Or, go for a boat trip to Tapola, also known as mini kashmir. The rates are reasonable, provided you have a group of 5-6 people. Otherwise, you anyway have to pay the group price. If you have time, you can also go on a guided tour to Vasota fort or the famous nageshwar Shiv temple. The waters are right up to the roads inside the village. In fact, there are few buildings which are half-submerged. I guess the end of the village is defined by the amount of water in the backwaters. There is even a Bank of Baroda branch here. So, if you want to, you can even open an account here!

bamnoli village to vasota,tapola near Satara

bamnoli village to vasota,tapola near Satara

bamnoli village to vasota,tapola near Satara

bamnoli village to vasota,tapola near Satara

bamnoli village to vasota,tapola near Satara

I was just looking around for stuff to photograph, when i noticed something big flying overhead. Thinking it to be a big bird, i followed it and then when it came into view, i realised that it was a big bat. Then i saw the hundreds of bats on the few trees next to the shore. They were there only on these few trees. I was lucky to see this as i would have just returned to my car if not for this low flying bat.

bamnoli village to vasota,tapola near Satara

bamnoli village to vasota,tapola near Satara

You can go to Bamnoli as a separate trip and then spend the day with a boating trip to Tapola or combine Bamnoli with a visit/drive to the Kaas plateau, as we did.

written by Rajaram Sethuraman

Aug 30

drive to lavasa hill city from pune

Set over 7 hills, Lavasa calls itself “India’s first planned hill city”. I am sure it will live up to this when the project completes. Lavasa city is in the midst of many mountains and almost every part of Lavasa has its own lakeshore (dam backwaters).

drive to lavasa hill city from pune

Lavasa is portrayed as the retirement place and it is quite true. I am sure everyone would like to just get up in the morning, go for a jog and spend the day doing nothing amongst scenic surroundings. But, I am not sure whether the concept of a retirement home has still caught on in India.

drive to lavasa hill city from pune

How to go to Lavasa city from Pune (Magarpatta City): Go to Chandni Chowk. Proceed towards Mulshi Dam. Once you climb down Pirangut ghat, you woul start seeing big blue coloured signboards for Lavasa. After Pirangut, you have to take a left for Lavasa. Once on this road, you would cross Temghar dam. Keep going on this road until you see an arch on the right, which is the official entrance of lavasa. From this point, the road goes down to the dam and the city.


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drive to lavasa hill city from pune

The distance to Lavasa from the turn on Mulshi road (after Pirangut) is around 30 kms. It is a wonderful hill road to drive on. If the management of Lavasa wanted people to settle down at Lavasa, they realised that they should make this place easily accessible. The road is very smooth (too smooth for indian roads) and the curves on the road make it a biker’s paradise.

drive to lavasa hill city from pune

The promenade on the lake shore has been modelled on old europe with many stone bridges criss-crossing the waters. This makes the lakeshore an extremely scenic place for photography, particularly in the evening light.

drive to lavasa hill city from pune

drive to lavasa hill city from pune

drive to lavasa hill city from pune

drive to lavasa hill city from pune

drive to lavasa hill city from pune

Lavasa entertains casual visitors and it is a good place to go for an evening. You can just walk around the promenade, go for all kinds of watersports, dine at the various restaurants or even stay over for the night at the many hotels inside the city.

drive to lavasa hill city from pune

drive to lavasa hill city from pune

drive to lavasa hill city from pune

drive to lavasa hill city from pune

drive to lavasa hill city from pune

Inside their main office, there is a Lavasa experience zone, where you can see about the future plans of Lavasa and other details about the city.

drive to lavasa hill city from pune

drive to lavasa hill city from pune

The ekaanth retreat in Lavasa is a good place for an overnight stay or a buffet dinner. Be sure to be at the parking lot of this lodge at sunset. The view from the parking is awesome.

drive to lavasa hill city from pune

written by Rajaram Sethuraman