I’ve visited Dandeli years ago when I’d just begun this blog with my friends. Yet I still remember passing through the canopies of the woods with our run-down open SUV, watching the calm Kali river bearing its visitors with all their eccentrics of watersports, and sitting by the mellow campfire at our homestay. What is special in Dandeli, you ask? Here are some of the best places to visit in Dandeli, to begin with.
Dandeli is one of the hotspots for tourist destinations in Karnataka and boasts rich dense forests and the vast Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary. One can spot the infamous black panther, elephants, and tigers if lucky on a safari trip here. Not to mention the Kali River is the most popular spot for vacations where you can stay at resorts right by its streams.
A good 3-4 days is perfect to give the little town a tour. More to those looking to sink their feet away from work. After all, it’s a getaway spot for many in and around Karnataka – a budget-friendly one too if you’re careful.
What is Special in Dandeli? 5 Spots You Shouldn’t Miss
When you opt to stay by the river, you’re already sitting with Dandeli’s most coveted places. The Kali River passing through Dandeli is popular among tourists for river-rafting, jacuzzi, and several other watersports. And of course, the origin of the vigorous water flow is another attraction itself, the Supa Dam.
While travel sites hype one up with titles like ’55 things to do in Dandeli’, there aren’t that many places to get around to in Dandeli. Sure, there are a lot of things to do like enjoying numerous water activities, but they’re all clubbed closely to one another in the same spot.
When you visit the river, you can enjoy the jacuzzi, boating, kayaking, and even river crossing all at one go. To help plan your Dandeli trip with clarity, I’ve clubbed all the places to visit in Dandeli with things to do in each of these spots.
So here’s what is special in Dandeli – the best places to visit:
1. The Kali River
The main reason why Dandeli is famous is for its river-rafting. It’s one of the few spots that offer this escapade. Moreover, with Dandeli being a town offbeat in Northern Karnataka with less concrete structures and more greens, it’s a budget-friendly escapade for everyone.
Things to do at the Kali River:
- River rafting
- Natural Jacuzzi
- River Crossing
- Coracle Ride
- … and watching crocodiles!
Keep in mind that river or white water rafting is temporal. It remains closed during the rainy season or when the water levels are low. Before you book accommodation, ask your host or agency about the rafting availability for the dates.
Typically, all the watersport activities at Kali River offered by agencies fall under one package except rafting. It’s a little more expensive but with the 12 kilometer stretch of rafting for 3-4 hours, it’s worth spending a day for it.
2. Dandeli WildLife Sanctuary
When we visited Dandeli, we had a “trek” scheduled on our package list. We wondered what we’d find – only to realize that it wasn’t a trek. A man simply took us for a walk around the forests in the morning. Yep, humorous.
But for the actual Dandeli Safari, visit the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s said to be a haven for bird-watchers with over 200 species of birds here, but the safari ride is worth experiencing for everyone.
Anshi National Park now referred to as the Kali Tiger reserve, is another part of the sanctuary that features animals like tigers, black panthers, elephants, and lots of deers. While many exaggerate on how it’s one of the few spots in Karnataka to find a black panther, the number of tigers and other carnivores distinctive creatures are not many.
Enjoy touring the sanctuary, the jungle safari, and the Shiroli Peak viewpoint inside the Tiger Reserve, watch the birds (I hope you spot the Great Indian Hornbill), and if you’re lucky you’ll spot an exotic fauna!
3. Supa Dam’s Backwaters
While this isn’t the most exciting of the attractions, it’s a great way to end your day and another place to visit in Dandeli. This is a viewpoint, a curved stretch where vehicles aren’t allowed and can get a view over the backwaters of the Supa Dam. It’s a road built in a curve and elevated with large stones on either side.
There’s no entry fee to enter the backwaters here as far as I’m concerned.
It’s best to visit the backwaters in the evenings at the end of a long day. When we visited the waters were far aback at low levels, yet it’s a great picturesque spot for the ‘gram. However, there isn’t much to see here. At the end of the tar road stretch and after its rusty gates is a tribal shop with local organic products.
4. Kavala Caves and Nagzari Valley Treks
Though inside the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, I decided the caves needed their own title. With a natural formation of Shivlinga inside the caves, look out for peak hours. With the pandemic still in pursuit and people careless with their masks, avoid the crowds by visiting it soon after dawn.
What’s special about the Kavala caves and the Kulgi Nagzari Valley is that you’ll need to trek to experience them both. When Dandeli is known for its nature experiences under the dense canopies, then why not participate?
For the caves, you can opt to trek by yourself, with a private guide, or a forest department official. However, I’d recommend taking along a guide on your journey.
For the caves, the forest department organizes one trip at 6 am every morning where the 3-4 kilometer walk down the hills, through narrow tunnels to the main Shivalinga that’s naturally formed. It’s said that the caves were formed over volcanic activities ages ago.
As for the Nagzari Valley Trek, approach the Kulgi Nature Camp for guide facilities. Here’s an old travel blog I read by a couple who ventured on this trek.
5. The Crocodile Park/Animal Shelter
Last but not least is the crocodile park which serves as the latest addition to the best places to visit in Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary. I haven’t had a chance to visit it yet, but it opened earlier this year on January 30, 2022.
One can find mugger crocodiles lying by the Kali River and the park is included on most packages when visiting the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary anyway. What’s more, is that the park has been on and off with construction since 2019.
In contrast to the dim details I just gave on it, I recommend visiting it as it’s described to be Karnataka’s first crocodile park recognized by State’s tourism department. The ‘park’ has always been around the river for crocodiles.
But it’s now open to travelers as an attraction with parking spots, an amusement park, seating facilities, and close viewpoints to watch the crocodiles.
My Favorite Resorts and Homestays in Dandeli
Writing this article, I found tons of sites on Dandeli and I couldn’t tell which had all the correct information at times. With Dandeli being an offbeat spot, I recommend sticking to trusted sites like Booking.com for accommodations. Here’s my complete guide to the best homestays in Dandeli.
If you’re booking from a mutual contact or a site you found, negotiate and agree on pay after you see the site yourself. Booking.com lets you book without having to pay beforehand.
For a family vacation, here are some great stays I picked out along with their reviews:
Distance from City
Nadi Mane Resort
Under Rs. 6000
Starling River Resort
Under Rs. 4000
Dandeli Deer Haven
Jungle Homestays and Nature Camps for Travelers
While resorts are great, homestays aren’t that bad either. For someone looking to stay close to the locals, save money on travel and have home food or travel solo, it’s a great alternative. We chose a decent homestay from a local agency inclusive they had the water activities, accommodation, lunch and dinner, and campfire.
There are dozens of such homestays which offer such itineraries. Here are some that I found for budget stays:
*This post contains affiliate links from Booking.com with no additional cost of the bookings to you. I only recommend things I trust.
Things to Make Mental Notes of
When visiting Dandeli from nearby localities like Dharwad, Hubli, Yellapur, or Belgaum, it isn’t a problem as the trip itself isn’t very far from your onset.
But when you’re looking to come from Bangalore, here are some things to consider and keep available:
- Keep cash with you: ATM cards and online payment services aren’t available everywhere here. Even if they do, getting a network can be an issue. So keep cash with you at all times.
- Enquire your stay for transport: Unless you’re visiting Dandeli with your own car, have your transport to your destinations planned out. Enquire your stay or travel agency on transport – it’s usually an additional expense to charter a car.
- Carry minimal gadgets when heading to Watersport activities: Have that one member who’s afraid to dip his feet in the water? Well, you’ve got this covered then. But if you don’t, keep a close eye on your phones and cameras. When going for rafting, it’s best to leave them behind lest they’re waterproof and firm in your hands.
- Some essential to pack: A waterbottle, extra sets of warm clothes, mosquito repellent, sunscreen, and sports shoes if you’re trekking.
Everything In a Nutshell
I hope I visit Dandeli again soon. I loved the campfire we had though it ended with all of us immersed in our phones – our tiny little worlds. But that’s where this spot touches most, doesn’t it? Dandeli brings one a step away from our daily hustle-and-bustle.
Whether you visit the river or the sanctuary, the whole aura of being secluded under the canopies of dense forests is worthwhile. I hope you have a great trip. Tell me if you found something more offbeat in Dandeli, I’d love to hear it!