Camera adventure

Kambalakonda Wildlife Sanctuary in Visakhapatnam is buzzing with adventure sports activities

Wrapped in a cocoon of greenery, the Kambalakonda Ecotourism Park is buzzing with action after a long pandemic-induced hiatus

Wrapped in a cocoon of greenery, the Kambalakonda Ecotourism Park is buzzing with action after a long pandemic-induced hiatus

The piercing call of a cuckoo echoes through the trees. Behind the thick bushes on the sides, a spotted deer looks surprised, licking its lips and wiggling its ears. A little further, the dusty path along the wooded area leads to a body of water surrounded by rolling hills. Here, a few kayaks wobble over calm waters before picking up the pace. Half an hour in the waters, kayakers exit to enter the adventure sports area for an adrenaline rush at the Burma Bridge and zipline.

Shrouded in greenery, Kambalakonda Ecotourism Park is buzzing with action after a long pandemic-induced hiatus. Close to town, the ecotourism park is part of the Kambalakonda Wildlife Sanctuary which covers 7,100 hectares. As boating, hiking, and adventure sports began to hit the park in full swing, the PA Department of Forestry began a wildlife mapping project in the forest zone. About 75 cameras were placed across the sanctuary recently as part of a camera trapping exercise. “The forest is rich in various species indicated in previous surveys such as wild dogs, pangolins and leopards, herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians) as well as resident and migratory bird species. In a month, we will be able to assess the data and make a list of species,” says Anant Shankar, district forest officer. For the exercise, the forest was divided into grids each measuring one kilometer long and one kilometer wide. A camera is placed in each grid for wildlife monitoring.

People enjoying Burma bridge and zipline in adventure sports area of ​​Kambalakonda ecotourism park in Visakhapatnam

People enjoying Burma Bridge and Zipline at Kambalakonda Ecotourism Park Adventure Sports Area in Visakhapatnam | Photo credit: KR Deepak

The Kambalakonda Evergreen Broadleaf Forest is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna and has been under the control of the PA Forestry Department since 1970. In 2002 it was declared a wildlife sanctuary by the Ministry of Forestry. Environment and Forestry (MOEF), following which the Kambalakonda Ecotourism Park was developed. About 20 people from Sambhuvanipalem village located in the forest area are employed by the forest department to manage the ecotourism park limited to 37 hectares.

A herb garden, wetland rejuvenation, forest boundary fencing and renovation of a training center are some of the plans undertaken by the PA Forestry Department to enhance the experience visitors to Kambalakonda. “We also plan to showcase native plant species by developing an herb garden. The plan is currently in the proposal stage,” adds Shankar. One of the biggest challenges currently facing the Forest Department is solving the problem of invasive plant species that are engulfing native species. “The forest area has a large presence of Acacia auriculiformis, which is an exotic species and invasive in nature. This species was probably introduced to the area several decades ago and is affecting the growth of several native plant species. We design ways to eliminate this species, but it’s a huge task,” he says.

A dabchick enjoying a swim in the pond at Kambalakonda Ecotourism Park

A dabchick enjoying a swim in the pond at Kambalakonda Ecotourism Park | Photo credit: KR Deepak

Steps are also being taken to fence off the edge of the forest, as last year a sambar deer was killed after it strayed onto the national road and collided with a moving vehicle.

But lack of funds has delayed many proposals and projects to improve the valuable forest ecosystem; the forest department now plans to reach out to companies to support projects as part of corporate social responsibility initiatives.

adventure sports

Over the past two months, adventure sports activities and tourism have picked up in the area after travel restrictions were eased and Kambalakonda has received a steady stream of visitors. According to Livein Adventures, the company that runs the adventure sports area in Kambalakonda, corporate team building workshops have also started arriving in recent months.

“The body of water inside the forest is overflowing this summer, thanks to the rains. And that has attracted more people for kayaking and boating,” says B Satyanarayana Naidu of Livein Adventures.

A man walking on Burma Bridge at Kambalakonda Eco Tourism Park in Visakhapatnam

A man walking on Burma Bridge in Kambalakonda Ecotourism Park in Visakhapatnam | Photo credit: KR Deepak

Whether it’s an early morning paddle in the silence of dawn before the hustle and bustle of a busy day or a quick mid-afternoon retreat from the world, kayaking through the waters of Kambalakonda surrounded by the green carpet of the Eastern Ghats can be a meditative experience. The waters are home to species like dabchicks, which you can spot dipping their heads into the water and popping up the next moment in another corner. “It was a calming experience to kayak here because there are no waves like in the Bay of Bengal,” says Raul Ravi, who came early in the morning to kayak in Kambalakonda.

Chameleon spotted at Kambalakonda Ecotourism Park

Chameleon spotted at Kambalakonda Ecotourism Park | Photo credit: KR Deepak

The forest is home to nearly 150 species of birds such as lapwings, bee-eaters, flycatchers and magnificent birds of prey such as white-bellied sea eagles. While the winter months are a good time for birdwatching, an early morning hike through the three kilometer trail in the forest can throw up many surprises. The forest has two other hiking routes – a 10 kilometer route and a shorter route of 600 meters.

A bulbul dives into the water to beat the heat at the Kambalakonda Wildlife Sanctuary in Visakhapatnam

A bulbul dives into the water to beat the heat at Kambalakonda Wildlife Sanctuary in Visakhapatnam | Photo credit: KR Deepak

Abseiling, Burma Bridge, Zip Line and Tire Ride are some of the Adventure Zone activities that bring the place to life. If you are brave enough to open your eyes at high speed, the view from the 75-meter-long zipline and the Burma Bridge at a height of 40 meters from the ground can give you a panoramic view of the forest. Abseiling is done on demand from a rocky hill in the forest and can be an exhilarating experience descending from the top into a carpet of greenery below.