Children love animals; hence zoos and sanctuaries seem to be ideal choices for taking them around. But, a relatively less-obvious option, but equally enchanting for the kids in tow is a bird sanctuary. Eighteen kilometers from Mysore, on the Bangalore-Mysore highway, is one of the oldest bird havens, called Ranganathittu. It is just three kilometers from Srirangapatna, the historic town where Tipu Sultan fought his last battle against British. Stop here for sure, before you proceed to Ranganathittu, for this town is also very famous for its uniquely-designed and crafted, colourful wooden toys.
Popular with ornithologists
What was once just a calm stretch of water from river Cauvery was impounded to make a reservoir, and as back as 1940, wildlife authorities adopted the place for conservation. At the behest of famous ornithologist, Dr Salim Ali, who would haunt this place regularly on his bird-watching trips, this became a designated bird sanctuary. Ranganathittu is made of a string of tiny islets, nearly 60 in number.
This deciduous scrub forests are also home to the animals like the common langur, bonnet macaque, and deadly snakes like branded krait, cobra and python. It throbs with the echoes of million insects, but above all, it is a haven for migratory birds.
Walk through bamboo forests
A pathway meanders through the sanctuary allowing tourists to have a closer look at the millions of birds roosting on the tree stumps surrounding the reservoir. As you make your way through the alluring bamboo thickets, you come face to face with with birds of different species, predominantly black and white, fleeting about, and seemingly oblivious of tourists. There are the big water fowls like ibises, storks, spoonbills, pelicans, and smaller ones like cormorants, darter birds, herons, and egrets. You can feast your eyes and snoop on them through your binoculars to heart's content as you walk through.
Boat ride for closer look
If that leaves you asking for more, take the boat ride which will take you comfortably close to the islets where the birds are constantly fluttering about. The boatmen here have been taking tourists for years and can reveal a lot of interesting nuggets if you prod and push. Of course, their knowledge is the rustic and earthy kind and you will have to glean through brochures and literature to figure out the bird species. You may have to wait in queue for a while for your turn for a boat ride, but that is a travel hazard you have to take in stride. The only saving grace is that you can still feast on the flurry of activity around and familiarize yourself some more with the rich bird life.
Birds of different feathers
Spot some of them - snake birds - resplendently sunning their large wings after a dip in the lake, while others take off for food and saunter about with gangly limbs. The birds seem pretty domesticated, in the sense that they do not shy away from people, and do not seem perturbed by their intrusive presence. You will also see flying foxes hanging upside down like dirty rags from fig trees, and camouflaged marsh crocodiles lying somnolently on the mud banks soaking in the sun.
Ranganathittu can be half a day's trip if you make it there early morning. Therefore, when you happen to be in Mysore, or are planning a trip to Nagarhole, keep this site on your itinerary, and on your mind.