Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bandipura - Wishes coming true!

May 1-3 2009... Just after the previous week trip to Nagarahole, this time it was Bandipura calling... and till date this has been one of our most wonderful, luckiest adventures in the wilderness! As usual we were stuck finding no accommodation at Bandipura (the FRH were as usual out of reach for the common man and the resorts are all very pricey…), finally we stumbled upon a resort called “Tiger Ranch” near to Bandipura. Well we had no idea what place this is and how good it is and the information on the net didn’t help us too much as there were mixed feedbacks on this. As we are all only male group, we decided to give it a try and reserved a cottage for 1 day over the phone (after seeing the place, we decided to continue for the next day). We left home by about 6 and reached Bandipura at around 11. Just after the office building @ Bandipura, a road cuts to the left wherein you need to travel for about a km and to the right you will find a board indicating the route towards Tiger Ranch and Ambuja Farms. Well there are no roads here and its virtually a mud path all the way down till Tiger Ranch. This place is an isolated area surrounded by jungle on all sides and you get a real good feel of staying in the jungle by putting up here. As only few guests were there, it was fine. Food was okay and after lousing around for some time we left for the evening safari to Bandipura. May Day and you expect lots of crowd and we could hardly manage tickets for the bus safari. The safari ride was infused with rains for some time and sightings of the Crested Serpent Eagle, Sambar deer and a pack of Wild dogs relaxing in the sun. Got the Jeep Safari booked for the next day morning and we lazed around the forest office for some time till dusk and went back to the resort. As it had rained earlier, it was a virtual mud slide everywhere for my Alto unable to grip the surface and few harrowing moments (it’s a city car and these things happen if you tend to use it like an SUV!) What shocked us all the more was the loud music and partying at the resort as the darkness engulfed and there were more guests also who had driven in! The cottages were fine (sufficient for bachelors and families please stay away!) for our requirements and we instantly decided to check out the next day after living through the evening atmosphere. There are 4 rounds of the Jeep Safari of 2 hours duration each conducted by the Forest Department @ Bandipura costing about 1300/- in total and you can book only if you can speak well and they prefer not to book rides for people who visit there for more of a picnic rather than passion! The 8 am Jeep Safari ride yielded sightings of Wild dogs again with some distant tusker sighting and the ever normal Sambar and Deer’s & the Stripe Necked Mongoose. No great luck this time too. Scouting for a place for the day we stumbled upon “Hotel Bandipur Plaza” just on the outskirts of Bandipur National Park (i.e., just before entering the park limits when driving from Gundlupet). We booked a cottage for 4 for 1300/- for the stay and then went back to the resort to check out and bid goodbye. The poor sightings of morning dissuaded us from taking the safari rides in the evening and so we decided on paying Mudumalai a visit in the evening. Realized after reaching there that the park was closed for census activity and we came back to Bandipura after a drive till Thorapalli. After lengthy discussions on hiring the jeep again or not, finally decided on booking the Jeep safari the next day again scheduled for the 8am ride. The cottage at Bandipur Plaza was sufficient for us to spend the night. We were up early next day with plans of a bus ride before the jeep safari and we managed to book the 6:45 am bus ride in midst of the big holiday crowd gathered. Langurs, CSE, Stripe necked Mongoose, Deer’s, Sambar and a few minutes later just near the Wesley road junction we could see many jeeps parked and lo behold! A leopardess was making its way down from a tree!! Still in the moving bus I could hardly manage still shots of the beauty, nevertheless what a start for the day! (We got to know that the leopardess along with her cubs was chased by a pack of wild dogs and they had climbed up here, but the cubs were missing!). A few meters’ down the road we found the pack of wild dogs too (Wild dogs are lucky sightings for us as in each and every place we get to see them while many people hardly get the chance!). All excited and charged up, we were again amidst the greens in the jeep ride passing by the same place where we saw the leopardess with faint hopes of her comeback but with no luck. 30 minutes into the ride and finally along the same Wesley road (Kambarlikalar junction) we saw a female elephant with her calf trying to cross the road. After 10 minutes with them and just 5 minutes down the same road we could sense something moving behind the bushes… and instantly realized it was a Tiger as we could slightly see the bright golden orange coat of the beauty. To our delight and surprise we also realized there were cubs around. We had to avoid a few jeeps and the buses by moving ahead and came back to the same place and then started the waiting game! Ahead of us was Mr. Krupakar’s jeep (the same person who has shot the “Wild Dog Diaries” and was once kidnapped by Veerappan along with his companion Mr. Senani!). All of us excited, sitting on the edge of our seats, praying no more disturbances occur, sensing one of our best wonderful wildlife moments just near and the environment suddenly vibrant, all eyes literally popping out … the wait was nearing its climax! Realizing the tiger moving, the other jeep raced ahead and we stopped a little behind and the Tigress peeped on us right in between the 2 jeeps to check how safe it was to cross the road! Sensing no danger at all the queen slowly walked across giving us a lifetime sighting so close by and then followed the little bundles of joy one after another joining their mom ahead. Full credit to the jeep driver Sunil who spotted the little ones first and ensured we got to see the family together. 20 minutes and all over the surroundings was back to normal telling us these are regular things happening, its only you people find it exciting! Leopard, pack of Wild dogs, Elephant with calf and now a Tigress with her litter of 4… What else could we have asked for? We came back to the reception office and as soon as the news spread, there were many people wanting to have a look at our lucky sightings and also popped a few questions like? Were you not scared seeing so close? What if they had attacked?... (Who has the time to think about these questions as we wait for that perfect moment when you get to see these majestic beauties up so close, and they maintain their distance until and unless provoked!) Still with the excitement soaking in, we checked out of the hotel and our way back till home were discussions only about the same! Hope this luck continues in the future too… Our sightings included all of these: Crested Serpent Eagle; Black Kite; Brahminy Kite; Brahminy Mynah; Chestnut bellied Nuthatch; Rose Ringed Parakeets; Peacocks; Indian Roller; White breasted Kingfisher; Green Bee Eaters; Flame backed Woodpecker. Common Langur; Sambar deer; Chital; Stripe Necked Mongoose; Elephants; Wild dogs; Leopard; Indian Tiger. Care for the nature and the nature cares for you!
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