Bandipur National Park is located on the foothills of the Niligiri mountains in the Chamarajanagar District of Karnataka. A few weeks ago we visited Bandipur for 3 days. Here is a review of our trip :
How to get there?
Its approx 220 kms from Bangalore on the Mysore-Ooty highway. A fine road, totally worth a car ride. It took us 5 hrs, although you can reach in 4 hrs if you dont stop anywhere for break fast or photography. The cities seemed to fly past and the journey got over before we knew. We weren’t feeling tired either, I think we owe it all to the good roads.
We chose the Jungle Lodges for our stay. Its close to the National park and the package provides us with a trip to a hill-top temple and a safari ride in the afternoons. It seemed like a safe bet. Since we have been to Jungle Lodges at Bheemeshwari earlier it was familiar too.
The cottage at Bandipur reminds me of the typical Government Guest Houses with lemon yellow walls and spacious rooms. Its equipped with basic necessities like a cupboard, coffee table, beds and lamp shades. The room isnt very fancy. Please dont expect a hot water kettle, TV or phone. If you need anything you will need to walk down to the front office. In a way its nice. You will experience a rare kind of silence without your laptop, newspaper, TV or phone.
Tariff for the cottage is Rs 2750/- per day, per head. To be honest it feels a bit expensive so you can check out your options before finalizing on anything. The package includes food (breakfast, lunch, dinner & snacks), accommodation, early morning nature walk, a trip to the hill-top temple and of course the Safari Ride. The resort doesnt have a swimming pool so please dont carry your swim wear along.
The food is decent but not great. Invariably I end up with a bad stomach when I eat at any of the Jungle Lodges. Fortunately for me I carry along pills of Pudin Hara, so that helps. To get an early morning cup of coffee/tea served at your door step you need to inform the manager a night in advance. The breakfast was delicious but a bit surprising as for the 3 days that I was there they didnt serve dosas/ idles for breakfast. Hmm…. thats new. Anyway, the dishes they made were tasty so that made up. Lunch typically has an egg-curry which I found delicious. Every meal is started with soup (not that great) and ended with a kheer (fairly ok).
After the Safari ride they served pakodas with tea which people usually ate near the camp fire. In a cold weather, its really relaxing to drink a hot cup of tea near the warmth of a fire. The pakodas were perfect! Dinner always seemed better than lunch. The cafe management was accommodating enough to let me take some food back to the cottage for my baby. Yeah, she doesnt believe in buffets. She would rather eat alone.
Sri Krishna Temple
Its located on a hill top close to Bandipur and takes about 30 mins to drive up. The commute is provided by the Jungle Lodges as a part of the package.
This temple is located in the most scenic surroundings possible. The breeze was blowing hard and the clouds were touching the ground. I was feeling cold but could not stop taking snaps.
Please dont forget your jacket on this visit, you will need it especially if you are sitting in the hood less section of the jeep. Ladies inside the temple were making colorful garlands for the idol. I can not forget how rich and colorful that scene was, wish photography was allowed inside the temple. Guess some images are just meant for the mind.
Now for the most awaited event, what we all visit Bandipur for – the Safari ride. You can board the jeep at 4 pm near the front office of Jungle Lodges. The duration of the Safari ride is 2.5 hours. We went on both days actually. Do carry your binoculars, camera, cap, jacket and water along.
I think there are ways to enter the national park even if you dont go through Jungle Lodges. You will probably need to buy a ticket somewhere near the entrance to the reserve. However, its great to go through Jungle Lodges as you have a Naturalist for company who will guide you through the tour. The forest department has maintained the National Park without hindering the eco-system. The carnivores feed on herbivores for survival and nature is allowed to play by its own rules. The forest department tries to prevent poaching, felling of trees, etc; to preserve the wild life.
You can find lakes surrounded by thick bamboo jungles and leafless trees with artistically carved trunks. We spotted a herd of elephants from very close. There were about 7 of them and a 15-day old baby ele which was running around like a doggie. Its recommended that you maintain pindrop silence so you dont scare the animals away. Its another thing if you have a baby like mine who wails louder when asked to keep quite.
On both the days we saw almost the same set of animals – tusker, deer, antelope, peacock, Gaur, Sambar and langur. We could not spot a tiger although people who went on the third day saw a tiger with 4 cubs. Guess the tiger population is on a rise. Thats good news for wild life photographers. With the light dimming every hour and the jeep zipping through the forest you might find it difficult to click good snaps. For wild life photography a telephoto lens would really help.