The lights were lined around the path – or whatever path we could make out in the dark. You see, a reserve forest after sundown is quite a spooky sight without any artificial lights to speak of. Thankfully my phone still had enough charge to run Google Maps. We had been driving for at least 7 hours and had reached Bandipur within the stipulated time, hurrying in parts so that we entered the protected area before the gates close. The guest house we had booked – a Country Club resort located inside the reserve forest – was still a few kilometres away. But the lights gave us some hope that we had, after all, neared our destination.
We followed the path and kept our eyes out for any signage. Suddenly, as we took a turn, the closest lights vanished. And appeared a little way off. We flashed our headlights, slightly jolted by the sudden change. And then we realized, scampering in all directions, was a herd of deer. And the light was nothing but their twinkling eyes.
Extremely excited, we moved ahead only to reach our guest house in another 10 minutes. Now each of these resorts had arranged for electric barbed wires to surround them. But the lack of much noise around gave it this aura of danger, adventure and excitement all at the same time.
The next morning, promptly at 6, both of us were wrapped in our khakis and denims, waiting patiently in front of the forest bungalow, waiting for our ride. We had booked ourselves for a safari – one that was to last 2.5 hours and would take us to the interiors of the jungle.
And so it did. Except, me being me and the luck I bring to jungle safaris meant that at the end of a nice, cool but bumpy ride, we had managed to see several exotic birds, a massive Neel Gaai, gazillions of deer, some peacocks and wild boars. No tigers, not even the tail of one. And that can be quite disappointing because there had been sightings of the royal beast for the past two days too. However, the Neel Gaai had made us quite happy and the absence of an elephant while we were alone in the car was also a blessing in disguise. (Okay, we may have YouTubed a lot of ‘Lion attacks tourist’/ ‘Elephant charges safari vehicle’ to freak ourselves out!)
The last time I came to this forest region had been two years ago on a trip to Masinagudi and a missed tiger sighting That trip was fun in a different light. Again, we had managed to see absolutely nothing but were still feeling on top of the world because of the thrill which comes with being in a jungle. Come to think of it, none of my trips to any reserve forest (Sundarbans in West Bengal, Kaziranga in Assam, Jaldapara and Jalpaigudi in North Bengal, Corbett in Uttarakhand etc) had ever been fruitful. So much so, that in Jayanti Hills and Buxa Tiger Reserve the guard had tried to falsely uplift my mood by pointing out what he ‘claimed’ to be footprints but was later revealed to be marks made by my sister’s heels. (Why she wore heels to a safari is a completely different story.
However, if anyone wants to see any wild animals I would very strongly recommend Tadoba for Tigers, Sundarbans (for Tigers again, but in the wild with not so much as an armed guard with you), Pobitora (in Assam for Rhinos) etc. I have to still see Tadoba and hopefully that would be quite soon as well.
Till then, Fingers crossed! And here’s to hoping that safaris would continue to be as fun and I always company which I love.
Bandipur at a glance:
Stays: There are many. But you will have to do your own research on the available options. It is a good idea to book in advance.
Distance: 220 kms from Bangalore . And 80 kms from Mysore or 70 kms from Ooty.
Best to avoid the traffic situation in Mysore, so you might want to time your drive likewise.
Good for: A weekend getaway. Or within the week to avoid the crowd. But 2 days are more than enough.