Every trip to Bandipur starts with silent prayers at a temple preceding the forest. A prayer to get a glimpse of my favourite predator – the majestic Tiger.
This time, as I prayed, I decided to bribe the Lord with a coconut if he answered my prayers.
But the journey starts way before Bandipur, from Bengaluru. An early morning train to Mysore, followed by an enjoyable ride in Karnataka Sarige. The bus ride takes us along a visually rich landscape. As I look out of my window seat, I’m in awe of the worldly beauty around me. We reach the park at 12 noon and settle into our rooms at the forest department cottages. Langoors, wild boars and herd of deer are common sightings near the cottage premises.
If you are lucky, you might get to see a leopard stroll past your cottage. A full moon night would make the rosettes stand out in magnificence.
This was my 6th safari in Bandipur. The safari starts around 3:30 PM. With a choice between a canter or a jeep, I opted for a jeep. It’s easy for the jeeps to navigate through less frequented routes. These routes provide a blissful scenic arena for sightings. A perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of routine city life.
Close to 1.5 hours into the jungle, we were on a route close to theMasinagudi border. As the jeep went up a slight slope, we saw a striking yellow and black stripped animal rise up and run into the bushes. “Tiger Tiger!!“, was how everybody in the jeep gasped. There was no prior warning call from the deer. The obvious reason being, the tiger was enjoying his nap. We maintained our composure and moved ahead to check if we’d have any luck in spotting him again.
Through the tall grass, appeared a broad forehead with white and black stripes. An alert and calm demeanour. The hazel brown eyes locked in the direction of our jeep. My dream was staring right at me. Enchanted by his powerful stance, I looked on blatantly admiring the beauty of this beast. We had landed on the perfect spot where this majestic male tiger looked right at us. He was 10 to 12 ft away from our jeep. Dashes of white and black lightening-shaped stripes ran through his velvety yellow-orange skin. Aah, to touch his fur would have been a different experience altogether. It was a mesmerising sight. The pre-monsoon showers were an added bonus. It made the entire frame picturesque and alluring. A wildlife photographer would call it their dream shot.
This massive male is a rare sighting. Our driver had seen him only 4 to 5 times before. He is fondly known as the Moyar king because his territory lies along the Moyar road. Adult male tigers have a massive body and are close to 3.1 m in length. They are infamous for being very shy around humans. We were lucky to have seen him for a short span of 20 seconds. The moment was so emotional for me that I was in a dilemma. Is this real? Am I actually seeing him? Should I click a picture or admire him? I decided to capture this moment and I have shared this beautiful image with you below.
As he got up and receded into the bushes, we decided to race to the water hole behind, hoping to see him again. “A few more minutes to admire the Moyar king, please God”, I thought. Behavioural patterns suggest that Tigers cool off at waterholes after a sumptuous meal. We decided to gamble with whatever time we had to get a glimpse of him. We spent the next thirty minutes waiting near the waterhole in pin drop silence. Unfortunately, he was a no show. Close to 6:30 PM, it was time to head back to the cottages.
A tiger is a rare sighting in Bandipur National Park. The park has a large area, close to 900 sq.km. Only 20% of the park is open for tourism. Each tiger occupies close to 30 sq.km. an area which gives us around 7 prominent Tigers in the tourism zone.
My prayers were finally answered. I am grateful for this experience. It took close to 19 safaris to end my dreaded tiger jinx. My yearnings were finally answered. I must count my blessings. Next time I go to Bandipur, I must not forget to take the promised coconut offering for the temple deity.
I have to give credits to Manoj Prabhakar, Jungle Dreamz for arranging this wonderful trip. Right from accommodation to safari, he made sure we had a memorable experience. I look forward to more jungle expeditions and tiger sightings with Jungle Dreamz