As dawn steals over the horizon, guests at the Bandipur Safari Lodge gulp down cups of steaming tea, sleep abandoned for a visit to the Bandipur National Park. The eco-tourist resort, located near the park, offers a memorable jungle safari. The in-house naturalist par excellence, Basavanna HS, is already at the wheels of the open jeep; he guides visitors into the jungle twice daily, always with undiminished passion.
The sun spreads its golden rays as vehicles are registered at the Forest Office before the jungle safari. Basavanna takes one of the many rough, winding dirt tracks into the thick forest, watched calmly by a herd of chital deer. A distinct call prompts him to identify the source, while we city dwellers vainly try to spot the bird! The early morning mist adds to the mystery of the jungle, and there is a surreal air about the waterholes teeming with birds like the cormorant.
There is magic at every step of the jungle safari! Jungle fowl dart across the path, sambar (deer) watch curiously, dhole (wild dogs) relax under the bushes, and a langur (monkey) poses languidly on a branch. Suddenly a movement behind the trees heralds the arrival of big, black gaur (Indian bison) which thunder across the track. With expert observation of markings and signs, Basavanna takes the turns affording the most “sightings”, which are largely dependent on the naturalist’s knowledge and interest. He also gives details of each species, drawing upon his vast knowledge and experience, thus making the jungle safari an enriching experience.
With a shrill cry, a peacock hops off a branch and strides across the grass; suddenly it stops, whirls around, and begins a slow, languid dance, flashing brilliant colors, as if aware of an enthralled audience. As a fitting finale, a herd of wild elephants comes into view. The matriarch trumpets and advances in a “mock” charge to scare away intruders and ensure the safety of the calves! It is a spellbinding moment, despite a hint of danger, but Basavanna adroitly reverses the jeep, and the herd crosses the track.
The “road” meets the highway cutting through the jungle, and Basavanna crosses over to the opposite side, where more wildlife awaits! All too soon, it is time to leave, but not before the forest has worked its magic on city “aliens”; indeed, for some, like me, the jungle safari is a life changing experience.
Bandipur: booklet published by the Forest Department, Karnataka
Sanctuaries and Wildlife of Karnataka: S. G. Neginhal
Personal experience of safaris in Bandipur National Park
Personal Interviews with Basavanna H.S.