In a general conversation it came up that a trip to the wildlife sanctuary was due, especially since it was the season to spot the Big Cats. A quick call to JLR confirmed that they had few vacant rooms and thus the trip to Bandipur National Park materialized.
Since the road to Bandipur was in good condition, the distance of 220 Kms was covered in 5 hours. This included a stop at Kadambam for some yummy South Indian breakfast.
Since we had arrived early, I decided to catch up on sleep before lunch. The lunch was simple buffet that served South Indian food (We had similar food through out our stay). After lunch we had sometime before the evening safari started. Spent this time sitting in a hammock under a fig tree. The spot was ideal to watch birds as the figs attracted a wide variety of them. We spotted Koel, Lesser Coucal, Copper Smith Barbet, Purple Sunbird, Grey Hornbill, Ashy Drongo, Brahminy Starling, Pale Billed and the Jungle Crows.
Soon it was time for the safari and the expectation was to spot atleast one of the big cats. The conversation in the jeep was around stories of earlier spotting of cats; people didn’t pay much attention to the spotted deers that grazed along the road. Once we entered the jungles the conversations died, everybody was on the look out. Luckily the jeep we were in had some bird watchers. We would stop now and then to look at birds; for me the highlights were the Red Muniya, Crested Serpent Eagle, Honey Buzzard and White Bellied Wood Pecker.
30 minutes into the drive the jeep came to a halt, the sight that greeted us was 2 Male Sambar fighting and at a distance there was a female. With the jeep engine switched off, one could hear the antlers clash loud and clear. After watching them for sometime we carried on with our hunt for the Cats and as time went by we started hoping we would atleast see some gaur or elephants. As the safari was coming to a end our wish was granted we saw some elephants, but that was the end of it.
Back in JLR we exchanged notes and realized no one else had seen much that day. One could see disappointed faces everywhere. Early dinner and we retired to bed. We had to get up early for another Safari
6.15 a.m the next day everybody was ready to go. This time we had requested our naturalist to stop even when he spotted birds and not just for animals. 20 mins into the safari we came across a pack of wild dogs resting by a water hole. There were 29 of them including puppies. While we watched and followed them around they tried hunting a deer. Some of the she-dogs suckled their young. These were sights that I hadn’t seen before and thrilled to have witnessed this. But I was still hoping for a Cat.
Just as we gave up hope, the driver received a call; a sleeping tiger was spotted on the other side. He quickly reversed and headed there. All this while I think we were driving at a speed of 40/kms suddenly it was upto 80/Kms. Our fingers were crossed; in our excitement we ignored the bumpy road and kept praying that the Tiger would continue to sleep. The first exit gate was closed, we had to drive another 2 kms before the next gate, our prayers continued, and finally we were there but didn’t see the tiger. “Did he walk away, did we miss him?” These were the first thought and then a closer look into the bushes and there he was. We were hardly about 20 feet away, watched his every move without batting an eyelid. Suddenly he decided to move and what a sight it was to see him walk. He took 3 steps and settled closer. These 3 steps he took towards us made us realize that this might be as close as we could get near a Tiger in the wild. After watching him for some more time we decided to leave him in peace.
The conversation on the way back was about how each felt, what we liked about him. At the breakfast tables we could hear tiger mentioned after every 2 words. The excitement was evident. Since the check out time was at 11 we quickly finished breakfast and started back to Bangalore. I don’t have to specify what the conversation all the way was about.
More Pics in the link below