Daroji Bear Sanctuary, Hampi, Karnataka – Home of Indian Sloth Bear.
I have grown up in a small town in North India where pet cows and chirpy parrots in the balcony are still a thing.
My mother has grown such a lush garden that while growing up I always spent my evenings looking at the garden activity when bulbuls flew home or the tailor birds settled in their chosen tiny branches. A Sunday was less about Popeye or Duck Tales and more about protecting ripe guavas from monkeys who were attracted to our garden from miles. When we got relief from the monkeys we were chasing away squirrels who were adamant to build their nests out of our school socks.
My affinity for animals often sends me to national parks around the world (I found many during my travels in Karnataka.). No prizes on guessing that you can also find me strolling in Indian jungles just to get a glimpse of the local animals.
When I traveled to Hampi this September, I hadn’t even heard of the Daroji Sloth bear sanctuary. But when I got to know that Daroji is just an hour away from Sanapur, my stay in Hampi, I postponed the ruins and other things to see in Hampi to another day and instead we jumped in our car to drive straight away to the Daroji sanctuary.
But what is a sloth bear anyway? Found in lower hills and dense forests, sloth bears are thinner than brown and Asian black bears. With a rough mane, a shaggy fur, and a slow gait, sloth bears were first thought of as sloths but then someone in the sane mind saw the sloth bear size and figured.
So if you are Googling Is a sloth a bear, let me tell you the answer, no.
I didn’t expect sloth bears near Hampi for who would think that Hampi was once mainly occupied by leopards, Indian sloth bears, and wild boars roaming around freely. These animals used to stay in the caves of the boulders that Hampi and the surrounding area is still dense with.
With time as Hampi became a popular tourist destination, visitors and settlers started pouring in Hampi in large numbers. Soon the Karnataka forest department was getting a myriad of complaints from the villagers that the sloth bear had attacked their children or their cattle and even the adults.
To protect the villagers and their cattle, the forest department decided to restrict the sloth bears and other animals to a preserved forest area.
Thus Daroji bear sanctuary was founded in 1994 in the Bellary district of Karnataka. The total area of the sanctuary is more than 8000 hectares and you can find more than 130 slothbears there.
After winding down the road from Sanapur to Daroji, we paid 500 rupees at the gate of the Daroji bear sanctuary to take the car inside.
You can’t walk inside the sanctuary and must remain all-time in your cars, declared the guard.
What else can I see in the national park? I chirped.
Only a few days ago, a biker saw a leopard crossing a road. He said proudly.
I smiled, and with the ticket in our hand, we rode on.
As you drive inside Daroji wildlife sanctuary (using the names sloth bear sanctuary, wildlife reserve, national park et cetera interchangeably for Daroji), you hear peacocks as if they are welcoming you.
But only someone who doesn’t know peacocks would assume their calls to be welcoming for the peacocks are mostly calling out to each other. I remember that sometimes during my college days in the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi we couldn’t even sleep just because some peacocks had decided to karaoke on a Wednesday night.
We could hear the peacocks well but couldn’t see any until we climbed the watchtower hoping to spot the giant bears that had suddenly popped up in my Hampi chapter. And as soon as focused in with our Nikon in the direction of the sound, I spotted not one but many of the blue beauties going about their day.
Also Read: Finding wild orangutans, pygmy elephants, and proboscis monkeys on the tour of the Kinabatangan river on Borneo, Malaysia.
Now the wait for the giant ones began.
From 3 pm until 5, we waited. During these two hours while we played the roles of wildlife lovers patiently, we clicked numerous pictures of the view of the ochre landscape of Daroji, spotted many peacocks, and wondered if we would be lucky enough to see any bear that day (featured image of this article has disclosed this secret earlier than I had planned).
Weather was cool, and the rains had just withdrawn from Hampi, but still the thorny scrubs of Daroji sanctuary seemed dry.
Also the task of avoiding the tourists who came and left after clicking selfies and group photos over the boulders while making more ruckus than the peacocks took some energy.
Around 5 pm, the guard watching the watchtower shouted and pointed out to my North-east. I saw two black saggy figures plod their way down a steep brown rock. Residents of Parvati valley were right when they had told me that if a bear ever chases you, run downhill, not uphill, for bears cannot climb down fast and also his hair blocks his view.
Must Read: The offbeat Bunbuni trek that I did in Parvati valley where the stories of bears showing up unannounced forced me to understand what should one do if chased by a bear.
Don’t worry about spotting bears in Daroji for finding them isn’t that hard as these animals are like moving black shadows amongst hillocks of Hampi boulders.
Wait, these two had stopped moving.
They seemed to be licking something off the rocks.
As soon as I recovered from my star-struck moment, I brought my camera into action.
When I looked closely at the black sloth bear duo, I saw that it was a pair of mother and son. Or maybe daughter, but I would never know. My zoom lens wasn’t that big.
After my euphoria became more manageable, I wondered since when bears have started licking off rocks? Was I back in the Peru Amazon jungle where the parrots lick clay walls to get their nourishment quotas?
Luckily two kind forest officers from the Bellary forest department climbed up the watchtower with their families. They told us that the bears come out in the evening to eat the liquid honey and jaggery that the forest officers smear on the granite rocks of the sanctuary.
But is it right to feed these wild animals human-made products? The environmentalist in me asked bluntly.
We have to feed the bear otherwise they go out of the forest and into the villages to find food.
You don’t want that.
One of the officers chuckled that if I go near a sugar cane field at night, I might get to see some hungry bears chilling by the fields sucking some ripe sugar canes.
Again, you don’t want that.
Sloth bears are known to be aggressive, but mostly in defense, or for their favorite food which includes (but not limited to) wild berries, ants, termites, mangoes, sugar cane, and honey.
The previous complaints of the villagers against the bears that they enter their villages at night or attack their children or cattle have reduced since the Daroji sloth bear sanctuary has been set up and the bears are given proper food.
I wonder if bears were revenging their captured cousins. You don’t know?
Sloth bears had to be listed under the Indian Wildlife protection act for their numbers declined drastically as many local people were capturing young cubs to train them to dance and entertain people. Even illegal mining in parts of the forest is threatening the bears.
If you are from India or have visited India, you must have seen animals shows on the road. Occasionally, a snake charmer tries to earn his daily roti by putting up a show where he pretends to make a snake dance on his tune. Someone would bring a monkey or a langur on a summer afternoon to make the children laugh.
I remember snake shows on the poorly-lit streets of my hometown in Uttar Pradesh and the seasonal circus with tigers and elephants who performed on the direction of a stick.
Slowly these unjust activities have disappeared from big Indian cities, but we know that in smaller villages and some enclosed mohallas some poor animals are still trying to do something that was never their job. And we talk about a career change!
The bears didn’t like our attention switch or maybe they ate all the sweet relish from where they were sitting, for now, they both had started their tortoise walk again.
Soon the two found some new sweet-smeared boulders and got busy eating. I watched them and wondered if I also appeared that disheveled during dinner time.
While the mama bear clutched onto a rock and pushed herself up, the baby stood on two feet and tried a new posture to eat. But within a second their positions were interchanged and I felt that I had seen the real-life Baloo of the jungle book.
While watching the two bears eat their heartful, I asked the officers if they know the origin of the name Daroji. They said that the locals believe that the name has come from the Hindi word darwaza or door/gate as the land that now forms Daroji was considered to be the gateway to the city or shall I say ruins of Hampi. Some internet resources that I read later confirmed this story.
But let me know if you have heard another reason behind the origin of the name Daroji for at first I thought it was a tribute to some rich businessman of India.
Here is another
beer bear story related to Hampi.
Do you know Jambavan the lone bear in the entire monkey army of Sugriv? Oh if you didn’t get it I am talking about the Kishikinda chapter of Ramayana where Ram takes the help of Sugriv to get his wife Sita from Ravana, the saint who became a demon. Anegundi, the town near Daroji, was also known as Kishkinda for they say that Lord Rama had met Sugriv and Jambavan, the bear, there.
Life does come around in circles.
But let’s not make Daroji national reserve all about bears for you can also find jackals, peacocks, leopards and wild boars there.
Soon the mama and baby bear slurped away all the jaggery and walked on.
But only in a few moments, I saw them with another bear, a friend perhaps?
What were the three doing? Eating.
The sun had almost set behind some untimely clouds, and the bears seemed to be enjoying their dinner.
Seeing them I became hungry so we said our goodbyes to the officers and their territory and drove out of Daroji, home of the Indian Sloth bear.
The golden rays of the setting sun filled our car. We rode by a scrubby jungle that became more silent with each passing minute. Soon we were out of Daroji leaving the cute bears in their home knowing they are safe and fed for the night.
Now it was our turn.
Suggested Read: See how my nature love makes me roam around in the countryside of Manali, Himachal Pradesh
Tips and FAQs on visiting the sanctuary and spotting sloth bears. Clearing misconceptions about Daroji bear sanctuary.
I would also love to explain or disagree with the reviews of the Daroji sanctuary on Tripadvisor that broke my heart.
Some people have said that the roads to the sanctuary were bad, one needs to have a lot of patience for they were made to wait for two hours, 500 rupees is too much to just see bears who are not worth it, no toilet availability so avoid, only a glimpse of bear, and much more blames on either the bear or the authority, I am not sure.
For all these reviewers I can only say that even if one doesn’t like a certain place you should not leave incorrect information about it. That’s my only request.
- No one can make you wait at a national park to spot an animal. Depending on your luck or the mood of the animal or the weather, you might see the animal or might not. Its nobody’s fault.
- 500 rupees that the government of Karnataka takes to enter the sanctuary with a car are to feed the bear, pay the officers, and maintain the place.
- The sanctuary has a toilet for both men and women. While driving from the main gate to the watchtower, you would see a building on your right side. That has many clean toilets. Ask the guard at the main gate or at the watchtower to understand the location of the toilet if you can’t find it. Carry your toilet paper.
- You might only get a glimpse of bears for they would come out and go back if they aren’t happy with the environment or feel threatened. Making noise at the top of the watchtower certainly doesn’t help.
- The best way to see the bears is to reach the sanctuary around 5 pm and wait for them to come out for their evening meal in the pleasant weather.
- Also carrying a camera with a big lens or a binocular might help to zoom in and see the bears from far clearly.
How big is a sloth bear?
Sloth bears can be as high as 6 feet in length, and males can be as heavy as 140 kg, while their female counterparts can weigh as much as 95 kg.
What is a typical sloth bear lifespan?
The average life span of sloth bears in the wild is about 20 years.
Where are sloth bears found?
You can find sloth bears only in Sri Lanka and India. In India, Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary Gujarat and Ratanmahal Sloth Bear Sanctuary are the two places apart from Daroji to go look for them. These are the three sloth bear sanctuaries in India.
Just check Google for “sloth sanctuary near me” and you would find the nearest sloth bear reserve.
What is the sloth bear population in Daroji bear sanctuary?
More than 130.
How many sloth bears are left in the world?
Sloth bear around the world is estimated to be between 7000 and 10000.
How to reach Daroji sloth bear sanctuary, Hampi?
Google Maps work well and point you to the Daroji sloth reserve if you are driving from Bellary, Hampi, Anegundi, Kamalapur, or any of the nearby areas. Do look out for the signboards painted on roadsides by the government of Karnataka.
Distances to Daroji sloth bear sanctuary —
From Bellary – 50 km
From Hampi – 15km
From Bangalore – 340 km to Hampi + 15 km.
What are the Daroji bear sanctuary timings?
The sanctuary is open after 2 pm and stays open until 6 in the evening. But the best time to spot sloth bears is around 5 pm so you might want to plan your trip to reach Daroji around that time.
Are you allowed to walk inside the Daroji bear sanctuary, Karnataka?
No. Only vehicles are allowed. Also, you don’t need to dress for hiking as you can’t do any hiking there.
What are the places to stay if you wish to visit the Daroji bear sanctuary, Hampi?
I went to Daroji from Sanapur where I was staying on my Hampi trip.
I stayed at the beautiful Hotel Gowri in Hampi that is one of the most peaceful and nature-ridden places that I have ever stayed in. If you are looking for walking up in bamboo cottages with views of lush paddy and only birds to listen to, you should consider Gowri for your Hampi stay.
Browse the prices of Hotel Gowri and book it for your upcoming Hampi trip here.
If you don’t want to stay in Gowri, then here are some of the other places to stay in Hampi.
Places to stay that are away from the main Hampi.
Hostel Wayfarers Hampi — Wayfarers seem a clean, hassle-free hostel with mix bunk and female dorm rooms, double room with a balcony, and tents next to the riverside. Located close to Anegundi so away from the main Hampi, this hostel has a restaurant and bar at the property though don’t expect any local food here.
See the prices and book Wayfarers here. Do opt for an airport shuttle while checking out if you are coming to Hampi by air.
Places to stay near the Hampi ruins area.
Gopi Guest House – Gopi is a place for people looking for simple and clean rooms near the Virupaksha temple and in the main Hampi ruins area.
Gopi guest house comes with a rooftop with views of the river and a restaurant.
See the prices and book Gopi guest house here.
Archana Guest House river view — Located near the main temple ruins, Archana Guest House has double rooms with beautiful views over the river from the restaurant and room balconies.
See the room prices and book Archana Guest House here.
Shankar Homestay — If you are new to the Hampi area or India altogether, I would recommend staying at Shankar homestay for they have got amazing host reviews.
Even though rooms do not have panoramic views of the river and the temples, set amidst a farmhouse Shankar homestay could be the nature break you are looking for. Only 2-3 km away from the main temples, Shankar homestay has double rooms and some of them come with a terrace.
See the prices and book Shankar homestay Hampi here on Booking.
Stay options in Hampi for the Luxury lovers.
Clarks Inn Hampi – Clarks Inn is a hotel located in the Kamalapur town of Hampi. Clarks Inn comes with a range of amenities to make you feel comfortable such as toiletries, hairdryers, wifi, hot shower, kettle in the room, et cetera.
Check the prices of Clarks Inn and book it here.
Hyatt, Hampi – Located at a distance of about one hour from the main Hampi area, Hyatt is located in the Bellary district. Hyatt is always a recommended option for people who love to stay in comfort and choose a luxurious stay for their families.
Hyatt comes with an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center, and an all-day dining room. Go here to see the prices and book your stay in Hyatt.
Would you love to go to Daroji Bear Sanctuary on your next Hampi trip? Tell me.
Want similar inspiration and ideas in your inbox? Subscribe to my free weekly newsletter "Looking Inwards"!