Tiger Hunting in South India? This is where you go!

2nd Dec 2015


Photo of Tiger Hunting in South India? This is where you go! by Rimjhim Mukherjee

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.

Day 1

Bandipur Forest Rest House

Photo of Bandipur National Park, Bandipur, Karnataka, India by Rimjhim Mukherjee
Day 2

I woke up the next morning to a weird combination of artificial bird call alarm and actual birds singing outside. Soon, we entered the park for the morning safari. Still pretty contented with yesterday's sighting, I was watching out for birds mainly. The canter stopped few times with the guide pointing out a wild boar family that had wandered along our way and few sambar deer here and there. We were circling the circuit when a strong rotten smell almost made us vomit. Suddenly the driver pulled over near a bush. I was cursing the nauseating smell when a glimpse of yellow stripes was visible. It was too good to be true but eventually I saw what it was- a tiger with a kill.

A tiger with his kill. Bandipur National Park

Photo of Bandipur National Park, Bandipur, Karnataka, India by Rimjhim Mukherjee

Forest Rest House Canteen,Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

Photo of Tiger Hunting in South India? This is where you go! by Rimjhim Mukherjee

Inside the Forest Rest House Canteen,Bandipur Tiger Reserve

Photo of Tiger Hunting in South India? This is where you go! by Rimjhim Mukherjee

After a quick freshening up and an extremely homely South Indian lunch of chapatis, lentils, curry and chutney at the rest house canteen, I was ready for the star attraction of the day-the safari.

There are primarily three modes of entering the park- bus, canter and gypsy. If you are visiting in large groups including small children, bus is a good option. Photography enthusiasts must avail the gypsy to ensure better sighting and exploring the jungle at your own pace. However, the number of gypsies is quite limited so at least try for the canter as it is open on all sides, plus you get the advantage of height.

Last but not the least, adventure lovers, do go for the elephant ride. Discover the hidden depths of the jungle away from the rest of the crowd.

Safari Timings are separate for bus, gypsy and elephant. Visit their official website for updated safari timings as they change at times according to season and weather changes.

Ticket counter and Vehicle Boarding Point,Bandipur National Park

Photo of Tiger Hunting in South India? This is where you go! by Rimjhim Mukherjee

I eagerly hopped on to the bus for the evening safari and we finally entered the park. Mainly a combination of scrub jungle and dry deciduous forest, it houses trees like Teak, Sandalwood, Rosewood, 'Flame of the forest' among other trees. My fellow travellers and I were barely comfortable in our seats when our guide started to raise our hopes high. A male tiger was supposedly sighted close to a nearby water hole during the morning safari. We soon reached the area and many other vehicles had already made a beeline for the spot. Our driver somehow managed to squeeze the bus in and there he was!

"Muddy Magnificience" -Tiger sighting at Bandipur Tiger Reserve

Photo of Tiger Hunting in South India? This is where you go! by Rimjhim Mukherjee

The tiger was soaking in the muddy waters to escape the soaring temperatures of the hot and dry afternoon. Hardly caring about so many hyper excited tourists falling all over themselves to capture a decent frame of his. He enjoyed his afternoon siesta for almost half an hour. We were still wide-eyed with wonder when another celebrity walked in or rather ran towards us with delight.

Little Jumbo ran into the water, splashing and spraying all over. It seemed to be laughing and enjoying. I was mesmerised with the show that was going on. On one side is the tiger taking his mud bath and on the other is Mr. Jumbo exhibiting his antics. What a fulfiling day! Just one safari and it felt that the trip was a successful one. I was definite that my quota of luck was exhausted for this trip.

"Nothing like a cool swim to beat the heat"- Elephant in Bandipur National Park

Photo of Tiger Hunting in South India? This is where you go! by Rimjhim Mukherjee

Half hidden amidst the thick bushes, a tiger was relishing its two day old prey. He did not stay long though. He dragged his prey further in the depths of the jungle, probably feeling disturbed that so many pairs of eyes are on his lunch.

Two trips to the jungle and Bandipur justified its hype of showcasing maximum tiger sightings. I returned to the rest house with sheer ecstacy. Post lunch, I skipped the evening safari and explored the area around the rest house. The time passed in a wink of an eye such were the antics of the monkeys and the thrill of chasing bird calls finally to locate and photograph them. Soon, it was time for some tea and snacks. I watched a wildlife movie that the rest house authorities were playing for their guests. A dinner of idli, sambar, rasam and it was the last night in Bandipur.

I woke up for the last safari of this trip. I decided on an elephant trip for the last day. The thrill of facing the tiger is unmatched but feeling of being one with the jungle is totally a unique kind of joy. This joy was what I felt when we gradually lost the gypsy and bus tourists and headed inside the less traversed paths of the jungle. The serenity, greenery and solitude in the heart of the jungle, calms the mind and refreshes the soul of day to day worries, project deadlines and a million other tensions that we all live with.

Back to the forest rest house, I visited the nearby tourist souvenir shop. One can buy caps, t-shirts, key rings and other knick-knacks from here.

Other than the tigers and elephants, there are wild boars, sloth bears, civets, Spotted deer and Sambar deer among other animals. Birds include junglefowl, vultures, Indian rollers, Crested serpent eagles, bee-eaters, Hawk eagles, kingfishers, ospreys and others.

If you have time, visit Mudumalai National Park which is the adjoining forest to the Bandipur National Park and head towards Ooty along the same highway.

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