Feathered Friends and Nature's Beauty: A Day Trip to the Kolleru Bird Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh
The Kolleru Bird Sanctuary is easy to reach from Eluru and is located between the deltas of Krishna and Godavari. It's just a 50 km drive from Bhimavaram, but it will take more than 2.5 hrs on the mud road.
Kolleru Lake used to be the second freshwater lake in Asia, but now I don't think that's the case. Half of the lake is illegally occupied by the locals for fisheries. The best time to visit the lake is early morning or sunset when the birds stay in their nests. We chose the sunset time. We started at home by 3 pm, and on the way, we picked some fresh Indian sweets like rasagulla, milk laddu, paneer jalebi, and Indian rice crackers (Pappu Chekkalu). By the time we left the city traffic, it was 4 pm. We are surrounded by green fields with coconut and palm trees as their boundaries.
Birds of different colors, some white and some black (Asian openbills), some with a combination of red and black, greeted us on our way. We spotted Painted storks that had scarlet tints on their beak and wings. Many marbled teal birds and spot-billed pelicans were resting on the trees in groups. Few were on their own, hunting fish, and when we tried to reach out to them, the entire flock took flight. It was a beautiful moment.
We took many breaks while going as we couldn't stop admiring them. More than me, our driver was so excited as he had never gotten a chance to explore this area even though he is native. The sun started setting, but we were half an hour from our final destination. Finally, we made it to the sanctuary, and guess what? It was closed!
At least, that was what we thought when we first saw the entrance gate padlocked and thorn-fenced. When I saw another car parked near the mud road, I guessed there must be someone inside the bird sanctuary as the area is an isolated countryside, and no one would park their car for any other business. We stood there for a few minutes, unable to decide what to do until we saw a native walking toward us from inside the gate. He jumped the thorny fencing and walked away. In any case, we wouldn't want our long muddy journey to go in vain, so we straddled through the fence and walked into a narrow mud road behind the gate for about a km, and then we realized that the long wait was worth it.
It was so beautiful with the sun just setting behind the lake, birds talking about their day, young ones in their nests crying with excitement for their fresh dinner, and a slow breeze causing ripples in the lake to reflect our flow of thoughts. A three-storied watchtower and a few park benches added to the mesmerizing view. Cool sun rays in summer, warm evening breeze touching our faces, and ushering unknown secrets!
There is a small boat tied up that visitors can ride to observe the bird nests up close, but unfortunately, there were no available boats for us to use. I realized why the gate was closed at the entrance. The habitat must not be disturbed because of traffic and noise. We spent time there taking a few pictures until it was dark, and by the time we returned home, it was around 9.30 PM. It is worth a visit, but let me warn you, the road is not good! While driving, the car hit a pothole and made a loud noise. I worried we might need a tow home. But our driver, Nagendra, was an expert and made our trip safe and memorable.
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