Well, an unexpected trip and with all the luck in the world heaped onto us. Joshua invited me to join on this adventure he had embarked upon with his brother Ajith who was back home for his holidays. I could not say no to him as he has been of immense help to me, still I could not commit instantly due to some problems, finally I agreed on joining the brothers on this trip. For those who dont know, Joshua is my colleague cum friend cum wildlife guru cum birding shishya... We travelled in Josh's flaming red Zen to Masinagudi with plan of visiting Bandipur, Mudumalai parks and Josh's estate @ Gudalur. We had arranged for our camping at quiet corner in Masinagudi. Josh is only keen on wildlife and a bit in photography; so this trip was only for wildlife, wildlife and wild life...
We took off for a day on Friday and reached Masinagudi late Thursday night to catch on some sleep.
Day1: I have been through Bandipur many times but never got a chance to go on a safari ride there. So this was my first safari ride here and also my first joint adventure along with Josh and Ajith. The safari ride started in a cramped forest department bus and so did our excitement levels... Half an hour into the ride, just as the thought of seeing nothing special crossed our mind - someone seated in front of me shouted Tiger, Tiger!!! Immediately all 70 legs on board sprang and jostled near the windows for a glimpse of the royal Bengal beauty. Many people dont know how difficult it is to spot a TIGER in the jungles here in south (I know some people who are still waiting for their luck even after so many years roaming the jungles). I forgot to zoom my camera properly, hands were trembling and somehow managed to peep out of the window and get a shot or two of the majestic beauty trapped in the camera and in my eyes for ever. The photography was not so good as I was seated in the last seat and the tiger was seen in front of the bus and the window next to me was sealed! The majestic beauty was an adult female (named Gowri); as she saw the bus she stared upon us with a no nonsense casual disdain look (as if to say I dont care who you are), neither was she perturbed nor disturbed and after walking next to the bus for a few steps vanished into the bushes after giving a final disdain look towards us.
It was / will be a memorable sighting (the first of the TIGER) for me and for josh too (this being his first in south india). He started praising me because he thought with me joining him, lady luck started favoring us.. but you never know it may be the other way too...
After the morning safari rounds we came back to quiet corner for some rest till evening. In the meantime we paid a visit to the rehabilitation centre @ Masinagudi run by an NGO (who takes care of all deserted, wounded, limp animals that include dogs, cats, monkeys, horses, donkeys, camel etc...) We did four safari's in a day at Bandipur... (other than the first round, for all other rounds we got the first 3 seats as the ticket issuer became familiar with me). Overall in all the 4+4 safari's @ Bandipur and Mudumalai and Masinagudi put together over 2 days we spotted the following mammals and birds: Tiger (Panthera Tigris) Sloth bear Sambar Deer Hanuman Langur Asian Elephants (many) Mongoose family Spotted Deer Wild Boars Indian Bisons (a herd of about 25) Malabar Giant Squirrel Indian Hare Mouse Deer Hyeana (still under speculation - no photographic evidence) Jungle Cats Pack of Dholes Indian Civet ---- Peacocks (numerous) Peahens Jungle Mynah Bee eaters Indian Robin Pied Bush chat Red Whiskered Bulbuls Spotted / Laughing Doves and many others...
Day2: We had a slightly different plan for the day - after the first 2 morning safari's @ Mudumalai we would go to Josh's estate @ Gudalur (he had some work there) and then again return back for the evening safari's. The safari rides @ Mudumalai didnt let us down as we got to see the Dholes, Mongoose family, Elephants, Sambar during the rides. On the last safari @ Mudumalai, there was absolutely no sighting except the Spotted deers, so the driver allowed us to get down and view the Moyar falls (this comes along the Circle road safari route). Imagine in the jungle, on a safari you get off the bus and walk to the nearby viewpoint to spot the majestic falls. This was completely different than the one I had seen the last time near Moyar village. Its the same river that gorges down @ different places creating majestic sights.
The experience @ Josh's estate @ Gudalur was also wonderful with me getting wonderful birding oppurtunities along with Ajith who was my guide cum encyclopaedia as we roamed around the estate. The estate is full of tea and coffee plantations (last heard at a particular rocky terrain porcupines are resident here and wild elephants frequently visit this as well as the neighbouring estates). We were served to a delicious meal cooked by the resident cook there (he was more than happy to serve us and Ajith in particular as he had come after a long time).
Some mammals and birds that we spotted in the Gudalur estate were: Malabar Giant Squirrel Malabar Flying Squirrel (first time for me) Racket Tailed Drongo (another first one) Red Whiskered Bulbul's Velvet Fronted Nuthatch Scarlett Minivet (male & female) Flame backed Woodpeckers Common Iora Shikra Crested Serpent Eagle
We left the place with me continuously harassing Joshua to allow me for a few days @ the estate. Me and Ajith did what all possible to get near to the Malabar squirrel and the Flying squirrel just flew away just above our heads. After the evening safari's @ Mudumalai we were back @ Quiet corner for the much required rest.
Day3: Being Sunday and just half a day at our disposal, we went on trekking early in the morning around Masinagudi accompanied by local guides who know the place in and out. It was a good trexperience and we almost bumped into wild elephants twice. (Luckily they didnt notice us, so we could slip away easily). Now trekking / walking is banned in the jungles by the forest department. On our drive back after a heavy meal at Kamat, Mysuru we visited the Ranganthittu bird sanctuary and hired a boat all for ourselves for 500rs.
What we got to see here is as below: Open billed Storks Spoonbills
Night Heron Stone Plovers Indian Cormorant Grey Heron River Tern Snake Bird and colonies of Bats.
After this Ajith went back to Mysuru enroute Kochi, Me and Joshua drove back home to Bangalore. It was a wonderful experience with loads of luck on our side and some good sightings. We were only not lucky to sight the Leopard and the Black Panther. Aslo we undertook drives along the Moyar road and the Singara road (where we saw the Civet, Mouse deer, Hare and the controversial Hyeana). Last time also on a similar night drive I had spotted the leopard along with my friends. Another first was that since I bought a car this was the first time I was a passenger and not the driver. Overall a wonderful weekend trip it was and looking forward to many such adventures with Josh. Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!