Himawad Gopalaswamy Betta
Himawad Gopalaswamy Betta is a small hill located on the outskirts of Bandipur National Park in Karnataka. It is located at a distance of about 90 km from Mysore, and is also the highest peak in the Bandipur National Park. The entry to this peak is controlled by a small check post/gate at a village near the base of the hill. The entry to this peak is closed from 6pm to 6am. The closure is due to huge number of wild animals that roam around the hill.
Elephants at the peak of Gopalaswamy Betta
If you want to spot some wildlife at this place, it is good to reach this place by 5 AM and wait for the check post gate to open. If you are lucky, you can even spot a few when waiting at the gate. I have been at the gate by 5 AM several times, and spotted several elephants while waiting. While initially, I was excited to see the wild animals in the village, I soon realized that this is actually a nightmare for the locals living here. They end up chasing elephants away (which otherwise destroys their crops) every other day!
Villagers chasing elephants away!
If you start from the gate as soon as it is open in the morning, you can spot several spotted deers, bisons, elephants, and sloth bears on the way to the top. You can also enjoy some beautiful views of the villages at the base when driving through the steep road to the peak. You can find various places to stop your vehicle and get a glimpse of the forest below, and few villages on the outskirts of the forest.
View from the route to Gopalaswamy Betta
On the top of the hill, there is a temple dedicated to Gopalaswamy. It is believed that this temple is almost 700 years old. The temple has been renovated every now and then by the rulers of this place.
The peak is around 1450m/4700ft above sea level, and is the highest peak in Bandipur National Park range. The place is generally covered with dense fog and clouds for almost throughout the year, and hence the place has the prefix of Himawad.
Bisons at a distance
If you want to wander around, you can explore the place behind the temple. The place has several hills covered by green grass that grows up to a foot long. The occasional green patches of trees are good enough for many wild animals to find a suitable place to call it their home.
Hiking around this place is very tempting. The farther you get from the temple, more are the chances of spotting some animals. However, the hill around the temple is the highest in the area. From that hill, you can actually spot animals that are wandering around in the surrounding smaller hills. If you have a good pair of binoculars, you are sure to get a good glimpse of the wild animals. As people start visiting the place during the day, the animals find a “safe” place to hide behind the trees. Hence if you visit the place around 9 am or so, you may not spot any animals until late in the evening (around the gate closure time).
While trekking/hiking around the temple, you also would have noticed an abandoned guest house. The forest office used to allow people to stay in this guest house. However, it is now discontinued as it is very dangerous due to the number of wild animals that roam around the place during night. There also have been some fatal encounters with the wild, where guests used to wander out of the guest house at night (even after repeated instructions on not to do so). To avoid such circumstances, the guest house is not used anymore!
Where to stay?
- Forest guest house (Permission Required)
- Bandipur (Few resorts and forest guest house)
How to plan a visit?
Himawad Gopalaswamy Betta can be visited at anytime during the day. However, for the best wildlife experience, it is better to be at the gate at 6 AM when it opens. If your vehicle is the first one to hit the road after the gate opens, then you are sure to find a lot of wild animals on the road itself. Gopalaswamy Betta is about 5-6 hours drive from Bangalore. So if you are (or your driver is) not comfortable driving overnight, you can stay at one of the resorts/hotels at the outskirts of Bandipur National Park, and reach the place by 6 AM.
You can also take public transportation to reach Himawad Gopalaswamy Betta. Since the frequency of the buses is very less, and it is during the day time, spotting of wildlife is very minimal if you opt for it.
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