Born in 1974 under Project Tiger, Bandipur National Park in Karnataka, boasts the highest tiger population in the Indian subcontinent.
Now a park of 843 sq. kms, it was initially a 90 sq. kms. private hunting ground created by the then Maharaja of Mysore as Venugopala Wildlife Park. Embark on a tiger hunting trip to this place yourself and you will not be disappointed. And yes, do keep your SLR 'gun' targeted as the tigers here may emerge any moment. Being used to a large number of tourists visiting them, they are anything but elusive.
When to Visit: October to May
How to Reach:
By air: Bengaluru is the nearest airport. It is 215 kms from the Park. You can take Volvo buses/Non-A.C buses/taxis/rented cars from Bengaluru.
By rail: Mysore Railway Station is located at a distance of approximately 80 kms. from the Park. Again, a large number of buses (Volvo and Non A.C)/rented cars/taxis are easily available.
Prior reservation of buses/taxis is not that important as there are a lot of options from the city. Just head to the nearest bus stand or taxi stand or book a cab online.
I boarded the 7:00 am Volvo bus from Bengaluru and reached the park around noon. So that's a 4-5 hours picturesque journey via the Kozhikode-Mysore-Kollegal highway. You can start warming up the photographer in you once you start on this route. It is a long winding road flanked by tall green trees on either side. Deer herds are often seen crossing this road from one side of the forest to the other.
There are dhabas and small makeshift shops on the way between Mysore and Bandipur if you want brunch.
Deboarding the bus, it already felt as if I was inside the jungle. What with deer herds grazing at arm's length and several monkey acrobats leaping all around you. Torn between exploring the surroundings and preparing for the evening safari, I proceeded to the reception area to check in to my room. I had already booked (online) the room in Bandipur Forest Rest House two months back to avoid any last minute hassles.
Where to Stay :
Bandipur Forest Rest House: If you want to have a complete jungle experience, you must stay in the forest rest house. It gives you the feeling that you are spending the night right inside the jungle. Run by the forest department and Karnataka Tourism, it is located at a stone's throw from the park.
Another advantage of staying here is that the ticket counter for the park as well as the safari vehicle boarding point is also situated here. So you can walk from your room to the boarding point before safari.
Added bonus: As it sits on the boundary of the park, you always get to watch deer herds, monkeys and a lot of birds simply while strolling around the place.
However, make sure you lock the doors and windows properly or the monkeys will surely pay you a visit.
Book online a couple of months early as it is highly sought after due to its wonderful location.
In case you are not staying in the rest house, there are a lot of other options as well. You can reach the place and book on the spot or do an online reservation in other resorts also.