This will go down as a very disappointing day in my travelogue: I missed spotting a tigress with four cubs by just a couple of minutes. In Bandipur National Park, Karnataka.
I was staying in Wayanad in Kerala but headed out for a safari across the state border in Bandipur; although not staying at the Jungle Lodges property there, I managed to be allowed just a safari in their jeeps.
The drive took me through roads cutting across forests in Kerala and Karnataka – a reminder of how human ‘development’ is disturbing the natural habitats of the wild.
On the way, I crossed the Muthanga range of the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. Just before the border, I also stopped at the aesthetically designed Sitadevi temple – with a pond created when Sita (wife of Lord Rama) is said to have wept there. Given below are signs at the entrance to the sanctuary:
And then we stopped at a waterhole where one usually expects to see elephants – and a forest guard whose job is to ensure passers-by don’t stop lest they disturb the animals. I dodged the guards long enough to grab some shots before continuing.
Karnataka has a peculiar problem: if you are not staying at one the designated properties around wildlife parks, you can either not go for a safari or have to take the silly open air canter (bus) full of shrieking tourists. The latter can’t even reach many parts of the parks; even these are sometimes not an option. Mostly it is a Jungle Lodges monopoly. A tad expensive for visitors.
Some signs and a picture of the souvenir shop at the entrance to the Bandipur National Park:
Two jeeps left Jungle Lodges simultaneously, each following its own trails. Saw the usual animals from the deer family, monkeys, birds and more. Did not click much of them – I was looking for the big mammals today.
And then we saw a small group of elephants. I always enjoy watching elephants going about their usual business of doing little more than ambling and eating with no ambitions greater than having a good time.
One big fellow was in a mood for performances – delighting us with stretching his trunk and himself as much as he could. The photos will explain better.
And then we got an alert from the other one about the tigress and her cubs – and our driver sped like mad. Hurtling away in the uncomfortable Mahindra & Mahindra jeep on an uneven dirt track, we had to hold on to the seats and balance our cameras lest we break something. Wonder how many rules the driver broke – he could easily have killed some passing wildlife?
We reached only to be told the tigress and the cubs had gone into the bushes. The others had seen them. We waited well over an hour, finally driving away just before it got dark. I still think and sigh about the missed opportunity.
On the way back, driving through the dark, I had been told to watch out for elephants on the highway. And I did see some small groups.
The most fascinating was one caught in my headlights. I stopped and watched as she got closer, crossed the front of my car and then pressed her forehead against the front passenger seat – curious what this thing was. I am told elephants have poor night vision. She stayed like that for a bit, and went on her way again. Awesome meeting! Wonder if a more aggressive specimen would have behaved differently? Unlikely.
And so what if I missed the tigers – India beat Pakistan in the semi finals of the cricket World Cup on this day!
Ajay Jain is currently on the Great Arabian Sea Drive, starting from Delhi and following the coastline all the way from Gujarat down to Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Follow all updates on:
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