Sunday, 9 December 2012

Trip to Sinhagad Bird Valley and Sinhagad Fort

         I was looking for half day trip nearby Pune and then we decided to visit Sinhagad Bird valley and then lunch at Sinhagad fort. Being a bird watcher, I always like to visit Bird valley in the winter and fort is a most popular weekend destination for local people. In Bird valley, you can spot too many bird species. Many armature and professional photographer visit this place during winter.

Crested Serpent Eagle
Crested Serpent Eagle .... © Pritesh Kulkarni

About Sinhagad Bird Valley and Sinhagad Fort:
           Sinhagad Bird valley is an amazing place for bird watching. You can spend 2-3 hours along with your camera and binoculars. More than 40 bird’s species can be found in this valley.
            It is a fortress located roughly 30 kilometres southwest of the city of Pune. The fort has been the site of many important battles. It is a popular weekend destination for many residents of Pune, with some enthusiasts trekking to the top of the fort from the base near Sinhagad village. The site also houses a memorial to Tanaji as well as the tomb of Rajaram, Shivaji’s younger son, who also died here.
            There are two ways to reach Sinhagad bird valley/fort. One is Kothrud, Pune – Rajaram Bridge – Take a right turn at the end of the bridge – follow the main road – (Do not turn at national highway bypass flyover, follow Sinhagad road only) – Khadakwasla - Donaje Phata – Do not take right for Panshet Dam.
            Another route is Kothrud, Pune – Warje Malwadi road – Uttam Nagar – Near Khadakwasla Dam there is a junction – Take left (Straight road will take you to peacock bay) for Khadakwasla - Donaje Phata – Do not take right for Panshet Dam.
           Go straight from Donaje Phata till the base village parking. There is a Road which will take you ll the way up to the fort parking area. From base village parking area you need to take the road which leads to the top of Sinhagad by foot. The point where the road starts climbing to the top from the right there is a similar road which leads to the left. This road will take the valley.

Way to Sinhagad Bird Valley

Travelers for this trip were Me, Renuka (My wife) and my friend Tejas and his wife.

9th Dec 2012: Sinhagad fort (Total Distance travelled: 70 km):
           We started from home at 5:30 AM and reached the base village by 6.15 AM. It was still relatively dark and cold. We had our coffee & breakfast in base village. My friend Tejas along with his wife joined in and we all headed for the valley. The valley is a modestly wooded area and is famous for sightings of such attractive bird. As we ambled along, we saw our first bird. It was male Asian Paradise Flycatcher. Wow, what a great start. This bird is very shy a very slight moment and it would immediately hideaway. This time I used my binocular more than my camera. Bird watching is the first love, I clicked very few snaps and did more of watching. I’m posting a photo of Asian Paradise Flycatcher which was taken from Wikipedia for your reference.

Asian Paradise Flycatcher took from Wikipedia

           After spending a good amount of time nearby water stream, we headed further into the forest. The place fell silent. Only one old age bird watcher was sharing deep forest area with us. We saw too many species when we went inside the deep forest in the valley. After spending an hour we decided to move back near water stream. On our return trail, we saw Rufous tree-pie bird.

Rufous tree-pie bird...... ©Tejas Katke

Home! Sweet Home.... ©Tejas Katke

Plum Headed Parakeet
Plum Headed Parakeet....... © Pritesh Kulkarni

Magpie Robin?......© Pritesh Kulkarni

Here is the list of some of the birds found in Valley:

Red-throated Flycatcher
Black-winged Kite
Crested Bunting
Asian Paradies Flycatcher
Red vented Bulbul
Indian Robin
Ticklle’s Blue Flycatcher
Purple Sunbird
Red Munia
Ultra-marine Flycatcher
Black Drongo
Common Iora
Fan-tailed Flycatcher
Common Kingfisher
Small Minivet
Golden fronted Leaf Bird
Pied Kingfisher
Jungle Babbler
Red-rumped Swallow
Cattle Egret
Jungle Mynah
White-breasted Kingfisher
Green bee-eater
Tree Pipit
Blue naped Monarch flycatcher
Little Bee eater
Yellow Sparrow
Crested Serpent Eagle
Tailor bird
Ashy Prinia
Oriental White-eye
Marsh Harrier
Jungle Prinia
Orange Headed Thrush
Eurasian Black bird

Pied Crested Cuckoo
Magpie Robin

Scaly breasted Munia
Grey Babbler

Red whiskered Bulbul

ID please! ......©Tejas Katke

Common Jezebel butterfly....... © Pritesh Kulkarni

Scaly-breasted Munia..... ©Tejas Katke

          It was quite bright now, and we slowly made our way back to start of our trail. Lots of bird-photographer were at the water stream site and busy with their work. It was 10.30 in Clock and then we decided to leave this beautiful bird valley.  Tejas and his wife went back to Pune whereas I and Renuka decided to go to Fort for sightseen and lunch. The road to reach the top of the fort is really in bad condition. Last 3-4 km road patch is just renewed. There is a lot of parking space at the top but as it is one of the famous picnic spots, you rarely get chance to park your vehicle. It takes about half an hour to drive to the top. Best time to visit this place is Monsoon or just after Monsoon.

Photographer at work!...Avoid water stream area to sit for photography...keep safe distance camera and Birds

Bird valley trail!

            Once at the fort, it takes about 2-3 hours to see the fort. There are various points on fort like military stables, brewery and a Kali (goddess) temple along with a Hanuman statue much to the right side of the temple, as well as the historic gates, Dev takes (Freshwater well) and memorial of Tanaji mature. This fort has been the site of many important battles, most notably the battle of Sinhagad in 1670. This fort is of high historical importance and interested people should read a bit beforehand to know more in order to know various points and places on the fort to have a more enjoyable experience.

Parking at the top!

Dev Taake! (Freshwater well)

Memorial of Tanaji malusre

Tanaji Malusare Warrior and military leader in the army of Shivaji Maharaj

            Our main intention to visit fort was tasty food for lunch. We have visited this place twice or thrice so we were not so much interested in sightseeing. Still, we saw few places and took a break for lunch.  We ordered Pithle-Bhakri (Maharashtrian dish), Kanda Bhajji (onion Pakoda), Buttermilk and curd from Mataka (clay pot). After tasty and heavy lunch, we took a power nap and then visited the memorial of Tanaji. We started our return journey by 2.00 PM after some sightseen.


Kanda Bhajji (onion Pakoda) & curd from Mataka(Clay Pot)

  • Sinhagad road toll: INR 50/- per car (INR 20/- for Bike)
  • Kanda Bhajji: INR 25/- per dish (Rates hikes in monsoon)
  • Pithle-Bhakri: INR 20/- per Bhakri including Pithle.
  • Mataka Curd: INR 15/- per Mataka(small clay pot)
If you are planning to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city lives on a weekend exploring these beautiful sites then for what you are waiting for. 
Happy travelling.

Pritesh Kulkarni.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Scuba Dive trip to Malvan

         After a long break, we decided to go for our most waited Scuba diving trip to Malvan. It was pending from last 8 – 9 months. Due to lack of holidays, we decided to cover this trip within 3 days. My friends Anway & Rupesh (PADI certified Divers) arranged dives near Sindhudurg fort on 18 Nov i.e. on Sunday.  I and my Wife Renuka learned Scuba diving when we were in Andaman and we are very excited for our Dive number 2 & 3. Travelers for this trip were Me, Renuka and our friend Gauri and Swapnil.

Sindhudurg Fort

About Malvan – Tarkarli
           Malvan is a town in Sindhudurg District, Maharashtra. It is known as Sindhudurg Fort, Malvani cuisine (Fish curry and Solkadi), Alphonso – Mango and local food. Malvan is considered as heaven for the non-vegetarians especially seafood lovers.
Tarkarli is just 7 km from Malvan with very beautiful long coastline with white powder sand beaches, clear sea water. Tourists get attracted towards Malvan - Tarkarli because of clean, beautiful beaches, Fort, lovely nature and very less crowd. People generally opt to go to Goa as it is hardly 100km away from Malvan. Now it is a famous spot for Snorkeling and Scuba diving.

Our main intention to visit this place is scuba diving and snorkelling with our own gears.

About Scuba diving in Malvan:-
         Scuba diving became one of the popular activities in Malvan now a day. Even though, the traditional method is not fallowed for diving in Malvan behind Sindhudurg fort area. In Andaman or in Goa, you have to carry 10kg/12kg oxygen cylinder on your back during dive. In Malvan, Cylinder/Air compressor is kept in the boat and you have to take air from pipe + value which is attached to the air compresses. Your underwater distance/depth depends upon the length of that pipe (from air compresses to diver's mouth). Maximum depth for Dive in Malvan is around 25 – 28ft. underwater visibility is in excellent condition from Nov to Feb end.

Our Route:-
           Best way to reach Malvan is Pune – National Highway 4 (NH 4) – Reach to Kolhapur – from Kolhapur city either you can join Radhanagar forest road OR Gaganbawada ghat road – Vaibhavwadi (If you opt Gaganbawada ghat road) – Take a right at Phonda and join state highway 116 – Join National highway 17 at Phonda Phata (Humbrath Titha village) – Take right at Kasal - state highway 118 – Malvan.
          To reach Tarkarli, take a left turn after Malvan Bus stand. The distance between Malvan and Tarkarli is 7km. Resort MTDC is considered as endpoint of Tarkarli and you can go ahead to visit Devbag by the same road which is the end point of Malvan – Tarkarli road.

Gaganbawada ghat

Day 1 (17 Nov 2012): Pune – Malvan (Distance travelled: 395km)
           Our Journey began early morning at 5:30AM. We wanted to have our lunch in Malvan and also wanted to avoid traffic on the national highway. Driving on a highway in the early morning was a good start of our trip. Due to less traffic on the highway and at the toll, we easily able to cover the maximum distance with very less driving time. We took small pit stop after Khambatki ghat for tea and coffee.  By 9 AM we reach in Kolhapur city and took a break for breakfast. After tasty Kolhapuri missal, we left for Malvan via Gaganbawada route.


Surmai Fish at Lunch in Malvan

          The road up to Gaganbawada was in horrible condition due to which we lost journey’s momentum. Actual ghat section is very smooth and curvy. This route offers breathtaking mountain views which forced you to take halts for photographs. We reached in Malvan by 2:00PM and had our Lunch in my favourite restaurants “Atithi Bamboo” which is famous in Malvan for Fish. Girls ordered vegetarian meal whereas we ordered Surmai fish meal (king mackerel or seer fish in English). We booked rooms at Annapurna Nivas at Tarkali. This was homestay and our last stay (In the month of May) was here only. After resting for a while, we planned to visit the beach for swimming. The beach slope was gentle and sea water was clean enough to see the seabed. This beach is much better than any other famous beach from Konkan area. We witnessed very beautiful Sunset from Tarkali beach. The weather was too clear so we were able to see the sun on horizon spreading orange-red colour all over the sky.

Tarkarli Beach
Tarkarli Beach

Sunset @ Tarkarli Beach

Sun Set @ Tarkarli beach

           When we came back to our rooms, we got to know about the sad dismissal of very popular political leader Balasaheb Thakre.  Entire Maharashtra state came to a virtual halt immediately after his death, with shops and commercial establishments closed. We got to know that Malvan city was closed and only Medical shops were open. We asked Gosavi aunty (Hotel owner) to cook something for dinner and we had egg Burgi at that night. The political party declared Bandh (Everything will be closed for the entire day) terming it 'Shradhanjali Day, on 18 November as a mark of respect for Thackeray. I and Renuka were worried about our Scuba dive but later we got to know that our lives will not affect and some of the tourist places will be in running state.
After our dinner, we ended our day 1 and were dreaming about our Scuba dives.

  • Car Petrol: INR 3800/- (Avg INR 72/Lit, Total distance cover by car was 856km)
  • Toll on NH-4 (Khed-Shivapur): INR 70/- one-way entry
  • Toll on NH-4 (Anewadi): INR 60/- one-way entry
  • Toll on NH-4 (Taswade): INR 62/- one way
  • Toll on NH-4 (Kini): INR 62/- one way
  • Breakfast in Kolhapur: INR 120-140/- for 2 along with tea/coffee
  • Surmai meal at Atithi Bamboo restaurant: INR 150/-
  • Veg meal at Atithi Bamboo restaurant: INR 60/- (with sweets)

Day 2 (18 Nov 2012): Scuba Dive at Malvan and Visit Devbag
           We woke up with lots of enthusiasm. We had breakfast and were mentally prepared for our Scuba Dive. Our friends decided to stay back at home so they can enjoy the Tarkali beach. My Friend Anway came to our hotel for pick up. The weather was perfect for dive and a cool breeze was playing on sea water. We were amazed at the water visibility; we were not expecting so much clear water visibility. In short, all natural conations were perfectly set for us. Soon we boarded the boat to Sindhudurg fort.

Our Dive Boat

           As we learned our Scuba diving in the Andaman Islands, we were ready to dive without any training sessions. We geared up with wetsuits and did some warm up in the water as the temperature was very low. Our dive instructor was with us for entire dive and we requested him to leave us alone for some time in the water if he feels we were comfortably doing scuba skills. He agreed and slowly we went down.

Ready for Dive No 3

          As we swam into the deep waters, I couldn’t believe my eyes; I felt I was in a different world altogether. There are plenty of Corals, Rock patches and fishes around us. We were surrounded by beautiful and colourful small fishes, they aren’t harmful and watching them is a treat to the eyes. It is really hard to describe just how awe-inspiring SCUBA diving is … the underwater world is just so unique. Shoals of fish swim past you whilst some fish poke their heads out of small cracks in the rock. The more you look around, the more you see – Flat coral, Finger corals, Catfish, sea cucumber, urchins, Blue Line Grouper, Parrot fish, damsel fish, Curious batfish and even red snapper fish (my mouth was watering seeing them).After 25-30 min our instructor left us alone and we were exploring underwater life independently. Our confidence was boosted due to our solo scuba act in the water. After some photo session, we came back on our boat after 45 to 50 min dive.


Photograph taken during our Dive

Diver Renuka Kulkarni (My Wife)

It's Me!

          We were quite exhausted but still we wanted to have another dive. It was not possible for us to again for 45-50 min dive so we requested them for another short dive. Our dive buddy was very happy with our diving skills set so he took us again in the water for 20 min short dive. During our second dive we were surrounded by a school of small fishes. Overall experience was just mind blowing.

Blue Line Grouper fish

surrounded by a school of small fishes

Red snapper fish

          When we came on boat, we were hungry and had some snacks which we brought on boat. After relaxing for 20 odd min, we jumped into water for snorkeling. We had our own gears along with tube so we were free to swim and enjoy the underwater beauty with the safe distance. After some time our dive guide came close to us and told us to follow us. He then took us at the point where number of fishes swimming nearby underwater rocky caves like shapes. Generally they don’t show this area as it is known as so called rich area nearby fort. Special thanks to our instructor for such a lovely ride.

After Diving...Happy!!!


          Our friends were waiting for us on Jetty so we came back after our fun filled dives. Everybody was hungry so we went in the restaurant for sea food lunch and proceeded to Sindhudurg fort. We took ferry tickets to visit Sindhudurg fort. It takes hardly 10 min boat ride to reach there. We hired guide so will get to know the history of fort. Sindhudurg (Sindhu = sea, durg = fort) was built by the great Maratha warrior King Shivaji in 1664. Fort was built over a period of three years spread over 48 acres area. The main entrance is concealed in such a way that no one can pinpoint it from outside. This fort has the only temple of great Maratha warrior King Shivaji. The fort also has a Bhavani temple and the impressions of hands and feet of Shivaji Maharaja. Construction of fort is very solid. Due to time restriction we came back with hour and came back to at our rooms for relaxation.

Veg Meal

Pomplet fish meal

          Evening time was allocated for Devbag beach and Tsunami Island for watersports. This island has emerged in 2004 after Tsunami waves hit the coast. A local fisherman told us that prior to 2004, this place used to be under water at least by 3-4 feet even during the low tide. After the tsunami wave hit the coast, it has turned into an island during low tide but gets submerged by 2-3 feet during high tide. This island is very small and you can see it during low tide. Water sports are arranged on this island and even during high tide you can go there. It was low tide so we able to see Island, unfortunately due to low light I was not able to take Island’s photo.

Swapnil, Gauri, Renuka & Me (From Left to right)

         We spend 30-40 min on Island beach and did Bumper ride and Jet skis ride. Bumper ride was simply awesome. Few rides are far better than rides from Goa. Today we miss sun set bcos of watersports activity. For Dinner we went in Malvan city where most of the restaurants were open. We headed to my favorite “Atithi bamboo restaurants”. First time in my life I ate Crab Meal which was very delicious.

Crab Meal

Prawns Fish Meal

Atithi Bamboo restaurant
Atithi Bamboo restaurant, Malvan

  • Scuba Diving: INR 1500/- per hear per dive.
  • Snorkeling: INR 300/- per head for 20-25 min (We have our own gear so it was free for us)
  • Pomplet meal: INR 250/-
  • Prawns meal: INR 150/-
  • Veg meal: INR 60/- (without sweet)
  • Car parking at Malvan jetty: INR 30/-
  • Boat ride to Sindhudurg: INR 38/- per head (return ticket)
  • Guide charges: INR 100/-
  • Boat ride to Tsunami island: INR 300/- for boat
  • Bumper ride: INR 200/- per head
  • Jet skis ride: INR 250/- per head
  • Crab meal at Atithi Bamboo: INR 100/-

Day 3 (19 Nov 2012): Malvan - Pune
          Today we have to start our return journey so we got up early and went on beach for swimming. We had our breakfast and left Malvan by 10 a.m. After our little ‘Malvani items shopping’; trip was over and we came Pune by10:00 PM via Radhanagari ghat.

Visit to Kaju factory

Drum Kaju Process

Malvan's Monday Local Bazar

Monday Local Bazar

  • Home-Stay at Annapurna Nivas for 2 nights: INR 1200/- for 4 person
  • Breakfast at Annapurna Nivas for 2 day: INR 350/- for 4 person.
  • Toll on NH-4 (Kini): INR 62/- one way entry
  • Toll on NH-4 (Taswade): INR 62/- one way
  • Toll on NH-4 (Anewadi-Satara): INR 50/- one way entry
  • Toll on NH-4 (Khed-Shivapur): INR 70/- one way entry
            A Beautiful scuba diving trip was over and now next locations for scuba dive trip are South Goa, Karwar and Netrani Island.

Contact numbers for your reference:
  • Annapurna Nivas for Homestay: Vandana Gosavi – 02365-253537, 9404442990.
  • Snorkeling and scuba diving: Rupesh – 9766420038, Anavay – 9823857576.
  • Atithi Bamboo restaurant: Sanjay Gavade – 9423304327.

For more details about Malvan-Tarkali, read my old travel blog at "Trip to beautiful Malvan-Tarkarli"

I will try to upload more and more travel blogs. Thanks for reading this Travel Blog.

 Pritesh Kulkarni