Monday, May 10, 2010

The call of the wild!

As I mentioned in the last post about the Jungle Lodges resort, this was my third (and my son’s fourth) trip to Bandipur in the last few months, and the highlights of the trip are the jungle safaris. We always opt for Basavanna H.S-- the most knowledgeable, experienced and interested naturalist it has been our privilege to know.

Before the evening safari on the day we reached, there was a hint of rain, but it passed quickly. It’s always a magical time as one heads out towards the jungle, surrounded by the distant hills, the forests on either side, and the boards saying “…be a silent passer” (though few maintain that!)

After registering the vehicle in the reception center, Basavanna drove in (he painstakingly takes a different path each time) to a jungle freshly awash with rain, redolent with the intoxicating smells of nature and a tang in the air that is alien to city dwellers. We were greeted by a solitary langur looking at us nonchalantly as he made himself comfortable against the branches! Next were herds of chital, gaur (the Indian bison) and elephants, some sambar, and of course, birds like the peacock and whopoe. On our last visit in April, we had come across just one herd of elephants (and the dramatic experience of a mock charge!) (see but this time there was a large number, and a couple of mothers hurrying their babies to safety. Apparently, the elephants which had migrated to Kabini earlier had come back, after a few showers promised more water and food! My aunt, being a thorough city bred, was extremely apprehensive and scared of the safari, but after seeing Basavanna’s expertise and skill, relaxed enough to enjoy it! After a while, we came out on to the highway and crossed over to the other side—back again and to the opposite side—Basavanna does not spare the slightest effort to cover as much as he can, and all the while, with the utmost patience and cheer.

Apart from the wildlife, I am always fascinated by the different shades of green in the jungle, the lovely, rough winding paths and the play of light and color when the sun’s rays stream through the leaves, and the light of the setting sun casting a surreal glow over the vegetation and water holes.

The next morning safari was equally rewarding---herds of chital, gaur, sambar, birds and of course, elephants, some at the salt licks provided by the forest department. One of the herds, accompanied by 2 babies, wanted to cross the road, and when Basavanna reversed the jeep to give us a better view, protested (twice!) with a mock charge! It was indeed a bit scary, but after having seen his adroit handling of a similar situation last time, we were quite confident! Credit must also be given to him for my aunt succumbing to the magic of the forest, even after this incident! My photography skills and small digital camera are both very limited! but after handing it over to Basavanna (a very accomplished photographer) at the most picturesque moments, got some wonderful images, which you can see here—including the little turtle, still as a stone by the path. For graphic images of the inhabitants of the jungle, see this : As I have said in earlier posts, seeing a predator would be a bonus, but it is really not important in the context of the vast treasures of the jungle.

There was just one sad note in the day—the sight of a solitary elephant in pain, a result of the firecrackers planted underground by villagers to stop elephants raiding their crops. At first sight, we did not notice anything amiss, but Basavanna’s keen eyes detected the swollen mouth and dribble. It slowly made its way to a salt lick, watched by a gorgeous peacock perched overhead. It was a poignant sight, and one that for me at least, cast a shadow over the beauty and enjoyment of the wild. If only human beings practised some compassion and tolerance and thought of alternative means to deter animals, instead of inflicting pain and injury and threatening their very existence.

I’ve always enjoyed reading and teaching John Masefield’s poem “Sea Fever”, but only now do I truly understand what he meant by---“It’s a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied”! This time I will not end by saying that chances of going back are dim, for we are already planning the next visit—the lure of the jungle grows stronger! I still hope that some of my "online friends" will visit one day--once you experience the beauty and magic of the Indian jungle and see the magnificent wild creatures in their natural habitat, life is never the same again!
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Bandipur beckons yet again!

My post of April 15 was titled “Bandipur beckons again” and I ended by saying that chances of going back were dim!! But here we were, back again on May 4, the third trip in six months –need I say more! This was a sudden and short trip, mainly to accompany a visiting uncle and aunt from Kolkata, but also because one doesn’t need an excuse to go to Bandipur! My regular readers/friends will know that the central figure in our Bandipur safaris is Basavanna H.S, the naturalist, whom I’ve written about earlier ( So we first had to check if he would be free, and then check the accomodation, as this is the busy season. However, thanks to the help and efficiency of Manjunath of Jungle Lodges resorts, we booked cottages for a night. Being at the resort is always such a pleasure—one gets the warmest welcome, the best of accommodation, facilities and meals amidst very homely surroundings, and of course, the natural beauty and weather add to the experience. This post is especially for those who have not seen my two earlier posts on Bandipur--the last one at for my online friends abroad, at blogit and AC, and specially Betty, Stanis and Janice-—I hope this tempts you to visit India!)

The Bandipur Safari Lodge is part of the Jungle Lodges and Resorts organization, and is the first one as you reach the area. There are 12 ordinary and 10 special cottages, but only in name, the ordinary ones too are no less special! The 12 are named after wild animals—dhole, tiger, chital etc. Some of them have the murals of the animals painted on the inner walls, (with matching linen and curtains) and are truly works of art. Last time was the elephant cottage, and this time we stayed at the chital cottage, with a spectacular mural(see photo)painted by Sangeetha Kadur. The special cottages are named after birds of the area. The landscaping is very aesthetic and well maintained. Flowers of every hue add splashes of color to the scene. A circular “gol ghar” is the setting for the elaborate and sumptuous buffet meals, of excellent quality, variety and service. Moreover, at one end of the buffet table, chefs prepare customised dhosas, omelettes and the like! (There is also a restaurant called Pugmarks for day visitors).

After checking in at 12 noon, there’s ample time to freshen up and walk around till lunch at 1.30 pm. Hammocks and benches near the cottages invite one to spend a lazy afternoon under the trees! Any direction that one looks out to affords scenic views of the hills and countryside. After a quick tea at 4, it’s time for the jungle safari in a jeep (or van if there are large numbers) with a naturalist—it is an immeasurably enriching experience. (Read about this on One is pampered again with hot tea/coffee and delectable snacks on return, around 7 pm.
The resort has a conference center (with an attached bar) where a wildlife documentary is screened at 7.30, before dinner. We have seen different ones on the last 3 visits, all really worth watching. After a very elaborate and multi-course dinner, one can sit around a bonfire, under a clear starry sky, or retire to bed, lulled by natural sounds, a reprieve from the TV and music which is by default a part of our noisy city lives.

The morning is an early start, with tea at 6 am followed by another jungle safari. Those that wish can opt for a nature walk/trek with a naturalist. This time we met another naturalist, Gurudutt, who has joined Bandipur recently--it is heartening to see young people following their passion for nature and trying to safeguard our wildlife. All good things come to an end, so after a breakfast fit for a king, it’s time to say good bye.(The 2 day program includes a drive (after breakfast) up to Gopalaswamy Betta, the highest peak, which affords a panoramic view of the countryside below. An ancient Chola temple is also an attraction there).

Apart from the accommodation and facilities, the service at Jungle Lodges is excellent, and the staff extremely courteous, professional and helpful, exuding a rare warmth.

Warning: Bandipur is addictive! you will want to return again and again!