Bandipur diaries 1

Bandipur Forest has been a family favourite ever since my children were little. We usually drove to Bandipur from Bangalore, pausing at Mysore for a break on the way. The last couple of times though, we took the train to Mysore, and then road (either bus or taxi) to Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) at Bandipur, where we always stay. From Mysore, the bus service to Ooty is very convenient with the bus halting, on request, right at the gate of JLR.

This new year, we were fortunate to be able to go for a couple of days during the week just before Sankranti (12th-14th Jan 2023), and off the peak holiday season, when there are fewer visitors to JLR and Bandipur Tiger Reserve / National Park.

About Bandipur Tiger Reserve board at JLR
Board at JLR
Forest road Bandipur
Main forest road in Bandipur. The road remains closed to traffic between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. to minimise accidents with forest animals.

Over two days, we went for two afternoon (approx 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.) and two morning safaries (approx 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.). With an area of about 900 sq km, Bandipur Tiger Reserve is estimated to have over 170 tigers. From the fresh pug mark tracks, it was evident that there were tiger movements.

Tiger pug mark
Tiger pug marks, but the magnificent creature eluded us. (Pic: 14th Jan 2023)

The tiger apart, there is so much other life in the Bandipur Forest. There are over 300 leopards, so its quite likely that over four safari rides, one will not be disappointed.

A leopard spotted in the distance behind the foliage in one of the valleys was hard to photograph (Pic: 12th Jan 2023)
The leopard we saw during our previous visit (Pic: 28th Mar 2022)

At this time of the year, elephants are in plenty in Bandipur. As the forests in Mudumalai (south of Bandipur) start drying out, elephants migrate towards Kabini via Bandipur. The Kabini river backwaters recede, giving space for fresh grass to sprout, and this is what the elephants travel for. So in addition to the 2,500-odd elephants in Bandipur, there are a few hundred more. One of the frequent visitors to Kabini and Bandipur reserves whom we met, mentioned that over the previous four days, he counted over 215 elephants, all moving in herds of six or more.

We encountered a herd of six, with four females and two calves. In the wild, it is the female elephants who live in bonded family herd units. It was amazing to see how three females surrounded the calves to protect them, when our vehicle stopped to look at them. In fact, one of the bolder females walked slowly towards our vehicle, as if to tell us to move on now. The fourth female had already crossed to the other side of the pathway.

Elephant herd
Elephant females shielding the calves (Pic: 12th Jan 2023)

We also saw a mother with her little tusker calf scrambling behind her. They were heading to a pond.

Baby elephant behind mama elephant
In mama’s footsteps (Pic: 12th Jan 2023)
Quenching their thirst

The following day, we sighted a lone tusker. Males in the wild usually move around solitarily. This one was visibly in musth, with fluid oozing out of the gland near the eyes. Musth is when the testosterone levels in a male elephant is elevated and is characterised by high energy and aggression. It was a good thing our vehicle was far away. The tusker gave us a full performance – throwing mud on his back, walking up to a tree and breaking off a branch, rubbing his trunk and then throwing the branch over his back before showing us his rear and walking into the trees in the distance.

Watching the tusker elephant
Watching the tusker (Pic: 13th Jan 2023)
Tusker having a mud bath
Tusker having a mud bath
Tusker in musth
Tusker breaking off a branch
Back of elephant
Tusker walking away into the forest

During our previous visit to Bandipur in March 2022, we’d seen a similar lone tusker, but he soon stopped his drama when he realised there was a tiger on the other side of the road.

Tusker rubbing his trunk (Pic: 30th Mar 2022)
Tiger sighting brought so much thrill and joy (Pic: 30th Mar 2022)
Tiger in the process of marking his territory (Pic: 30th Mar 2022)

We saw many more creatures at Bandipur that will feature in the next few posts.


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