Iam aware that Bandipur Tiger Reserve of Karnataka doesn't need a new blog post!Bandipur is so popular for its tigers and other exotic mammals and enough has been written already.But the question arises; is enough is enough when it comes to the tigers of Bandipur?!
|Tiger Pug marks.....Exciting to see this first!|
I have visited Bandipur prevously or had passed thru the reserve on way to Mudumalai or Ooty without taking a safari.But this time I was certain what to do precisely.I made the booking at JLR(Jungle Lodges and Resorts,Govt.of Karnataka undertaking)well in advance and went their with my family in tandem.
|Rugged terrain of Bandipur|
We drove from Bangalore in our car and reached Bandipur at 1pm.After checking in and completing lunch took some rest.The evening safari started at 3.30 pm.The safari jeep could accommodate 6 adults very comfortably.
We took our seats and started in right earnest.The expectation of meeting a tiger face to face at Bandipur was not just a desire but an overflowing yearning kept and not fulfilled for many years to come.
The safari took the road towards Bandipur forest office on the Ooty road and stopped there for a few minutes.Then we started and immediately took a mud road into the tiger reserve.But before all this we met a young tusker happily foraging on some leaves right by the side of the highway.He was cool with himself and had long tusks for his age.Comfortably took some pic using my Canon 400D and 55-250 IS lens.The tripod came in very handy.
|Chitals roam around freely|
A large herd of spotted deer welcomed us when we entered the mud road.There are plenty of Chitals in Bandipur which is a good sign as tigers do feed on them.We moved on and saw a few jungle fowls.Peacoks were perching on branches as well as on ground.
|Kuntu Tiger of Bandipur|
Then for thee first time we had a glimpse of the State Bird of Karnataka,the Indian Roller in full view very close to the jeep.The driver stopped the jeep for us to take some good pictures.We drove on and reached a place with a large water hole.The driver stopped the engine and pointed the finger to the left and spotted a lone elephant.It was hiding behind some trees and we thought it would come out but it never did.
Then we moved on and stopped near another pond.There we saw a lone Sambar Deer wallowing in whatever slush was remaining in that pond.It was fun to watch the single deer doing the mud bathing.I thought "What if a tiger comes to the pond and chases down the Sambar deer?!".
But nothing happened and no tiger came to view.The guide in the jeep kept on encouraging as on the possibility of sighting a tiger and described his encounters with the exotic mammal on his previous trips.
|Young Tusker.....Long tusks for his age|
We drove on and passed thru really nasty sections of the tiger reserve.The ride was quite bumpy and at the same time exciting.We saw no more elephants or peacocks but a swift hare came into view.It was a Red Naped Hare which is found in these parts of thee jungle.
Darkness was falling on very fast and we were completing our evening safari.No tiger, but elephants,Sambar deers,Chital,Rollers are good enough for an evening safari!
|Cool with himself........|
The food is typical South Indian and of course Dal and Rotis are available.The day time is very hot but night the weather settles down for more acceptable cooler temperatures.An early wake up was required as the morning safari starts at 6.30 am.
|Wallowing Sambar Deer|
We got up at 5.30 am and arrived at the start up point much before the schedule.A good coffee was refreshing enough to get some adrenalin flowing.The prospect of seeing a wild tiger was of paramount importance in all our minds one more time.If we are not seeing a tiger in this safari then we have to wait for the next trip.A trip to Bandipur is not possible every now and then!
|Red Naped hare|
Again the jeep stopped at the forest office and then entered another mud road.Various types of birds welcomed us with their morning songs and reinvigorated all of us.But where is the King of the jungle?!
Spotted deers were aplenty and peacocks were making their calls as usual.Then it was time to meet 2 Gaurs at a distance.They fled before any one of us in the jeep could take a reasonably good picture.Many Indians call the Gaur as Bison.Some people call them even Indian Bison.But they are Gaurs and bigger than the Bison found in the Americas.
The forest guards are aware of the places inside the reserve where the possibly of spotting a tiger is high.We were fast exhausting most of them and we were about to complete the morning safari as well.
|Aplenty at Bandipur|
But what happened next was very memorable.Our first encounter with a wild tiger!
The jeep took us to a place where there is a small waterhole which was a few feet down from the road.The guard leaned over and made a look."Tiger idhe" he said in Kannada."There is a tiger".......
|Quenching thirst even if its dirty water!|
The engine stopped and we also leaned and looked with excitement.There he was!With half of his body immersed in the dirty water was an adult male tiger!
This info was given by the forest guard.The name of the tiger was "Kuntu".Even though these are wild tigers all of them are named for easy identification.So our first tiger sighting in the wild is over and the credit goes to 'Kuntu"!
|Kuntu Full Release!No scent marking this.....|
The animal looked very cool and despite sensing our presence just stay put at the water hole.He was so calm and composed and I thought it may be even safer to go near him!But good sense prevailed and decided against any such blunder.More over you are not supposed to get out of the jeep inside the tiger reserve!
|Indian Roller...State Bird of Karnataka|
I could take a few pics and clearly saw the deformity in his legs with the zoom lens.He could have got a burn when he was young.But I was not sure.
The name Kuntu means handicapped.Kuntu has some sort of malformation in his front legs.The forest guard said that this handicap is there since its birth and not because of a fight with another tiger.We were there almost 15 minutes and the other safari jeeps also arrived to have a good glimpse of the special mammal.After cooling off in the water hole Kuntu finally got up and disappeared into the nearby thicket.
The guard asked the driver to take the jeep to another location slightly above where we spotted him,as there is enough chance of him walking into that part.The driver drove the jeep to that place and we waited for 10 minutes.But Kuntu never turned up there.
|Time to disappear.....|
It was time to get back to base camp and all of us where beaming with satisfaction in seeing a huge male tiger.We will come back for sure......