Place: Kunderipallam Dam, 20 Kms from Sathyamangalam, Erode District, Tamil Nadu.
Day & Time: Saturday, 21 April 2012; 6.00 p.m. – 7.15 p.m.
People: My Wife Jayalakshmi, my son ArulEzhilan, and I.
Kunderi pallam has been an enchanting place, both to my wife and me, for long. With no outings for the past several months, she’d been asking me for an escape somewhere. The scorching Sun proved as a put-off for any thought of going out of home before sunset, but today I decided to pay a quick visit to Kunderipallam dam and the idea was received with enthusiasm. Little did I know then that, what I thought would be a bird watching trip, with a remote idea of glimpses at wildlife due to summer water shortage in adjoining forests, turned out be a really exciting experience !!!
Kunderi pallam or Gunderi pallam dam is built across wild streams at the confluence of Kadambur hill and an adjacent hill, which themselves are the last bit of cascading mountains that offer an exotic view for anyone. It is a small dam, supporting agriculture in roughly about 3000 acres of agriculture – mostly by increasing the ground water level, rather than direct canal irrigation. Steep hills with dense jungle takes off in both the right and left (East and West) sides of the dam – where wild varieties of flora and fauna are seen. The animals that can be spotted include Spotted Deer (Axis axis), Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), Indian Gaur (Bos gaurus), Indian Wild Dog (Cuon alpinus), Monkeys (bonnet macaque – Macaca radiata), and some times even Leopard (Panthera pardus fusca). Apart from these animals (most of which are spotted only in summers when water inside jungles become scarce) the place is mostly known for its bird population – with egrets, storks, lapwings, and ducks included in the often spotted list.
A view of the western ghats adjoining Kunderi pallam dam ( downloaded from: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/968723)
The dam can be reached from Sathyamangalam by travelling in the Anthiyur road up to Vaniputthur (approx 14 kms), and taking a left turn from there and travelling another 6 kms via Kongarpalayam. The road is fairly good, but for the last kilometer. No permission is needed to visit the dam, but any adventures beyond that shall be viewed seriously if spotted.
We started around 5.30 p.m. – pretty late to travel there, and the failing light in mind, I maintained a good speed in my motorcycle through the crowded village roads to reach there by 6.00 p.m. As we entered the dam, an old man coming out informed us there were 2 elephants engrossed in water games ! I had to pat on my own shoulders for not giving in to my temptation to carry my heavy SLR camera and accessories, and instead deciding to carry my trusted Olympus 8-16 X 40 binoculars. I wish I had carried both, but with my three old son around, for his naughtiness and with all necessary food and water to be carried for him, I can afford to carry either the camera, or the binoculars. It turned out to be good decision at the end.
Then unfolded the drama… slowly in ones and twos in the beginning, and a big herd of 14 arrived at the scene from the Eastern side of the dam – taking the number to 28. This having been the largest number I have seen being together, I was really excited. While scanning through the banks of the water for any other creature worth watching (my ultimate wish was to spot a carnivore), we saw spotted deer enjoying themselves in a lush green patch of a place which appeared to be a dry rivulet. Some guys watching the animals from the road on the dam dared enter the forest and proceeded up to the place where deer were grazing, which fled on the sight of these fellows. Later they told us that they did not venture further as they saw many pugmarks of several carnivores on the banks of the rivulet. Meanwhile on the centre part of the dam, directly opposite to the dam wall there were a couple of Indian Guars, which seemed undecided on whether to proceed further to the edge of waters. Their indecision, I believe, was contributed mostly due to the presence of large number of pachyderms. A few spotted deer were also crowded there, with the same dilemma. The indecision didn’t prevail long. They, both guars and deer, retreated into the thickets as there emerged another herd of 6 elephants from the western side of the dam – the hill on which Malli Amman Durgham, a tribal hamlet is situated. This herd also slowly inched towards the ones which were already in the water. There were 34 elephants now !!! Largest number I have ever seen together in the wild !!! Incredible… I was thrilled.
Slowly night was creeping, and the light failing, the animals became blur and a little later only the silhouettes were visible. Then we saw four people inching towards the place in a small rowing boat. We thought it would be the fishermen out for the Sunday catch, (which was proved wrong later, as we saw a car parked on the gates of the dam after every one had left and nobody in it). I was here, I did that I will never dare do in the forests that too in the presence of pachyderms – with my experience of practice to bark like a kakar (Barking deer) – I barked. First there a reply with a small ‘grunt like’ trumpet, but when I did that loudly and continuously again thunder struck – there was loud roar, bark, trumpet, rumble – every kind of sound that elephants can make that rained on us for over a full minute, which seemed to last forever. We had goose bumps immediately and were terrified, especially my wife. Meanwhile, the people who went in the boat had moved closer, and perhaps the elephants had seen them, which would have been the reason for the continuing of the rumble. The people in the boat froze, and moved no further. I thought I had played spoil sport. Normally I believe in NOT DISTURBING THE WILD IN ANY WAY, but now I had did this ‘cause of some excitement that gripped me. After all these excitements, the elephants were still not willing to leave the water and stayed there.
By now every thing was pitch dark to the naked eyes, and even silhouettes were difficult to see with the binoculars. We waited for a few minutes more, listening to the sounds of the nature. And as the night had crept, making it no longer safe for us to stay there anymore, we retreated unwillingly but with hearts full.
On the whole, it was an exciting and a memorable trip that will linger in our minds for a long time.