Bandipur: A Ride On The Wild Side

Bandipur National Park at Dawn

I like lazing on the beach sipping vodka and listening to the waves. Majestic mountain panoramas take my breath away. But if had to choose one, just one place where I feel calm and at peace, it’d have to be the jungle. And so this week, I decide to take a short trip to the Bandipur National Park, just 80km from Mysore.

My earliest memories of Bandipur date back to when I was nine years old – the exact age my son is right now. Back then, you would often have to brake for tuskers crossing the highway, and if you woke up early enough spotted deer would be grazing right outside the door of your cottage. Jungle Lodges and Resorts has just inaugurated “cottages” in addition to their rooms, and I persuade my in-laws (aged 73 and 72) and my nine year old to tag along to check them out. At this point, I must say that while the Jungle Lodges Web site leaves a lot to be desired, the online booking process is simple and hassle-free.

A rocky start!

A rocky start!

After a rocky start (as you can see!), we make good time, arriving at Jungle Lodges in time for lunch (drive time = 4 hours from Bangalore; road brilliant up to Mysore, decent up to Gundlupet, bad from there to Bandipur). The property is clean, well-kept, and spacious. My mother-in-law suffers from osteoarthritis and is unable to walk the winding, paved path up to our cottages; staff members are genuinely helpful, putting a chauffeured electric golf cart at our disposal for the duration of our stay, and even offering to deliver our meals to the cottage (they are otherwise served as a buffet at the Gol Ghar, a common dining area).

"Hornbill" Cottage at Jungle Lodges

"Hornbill" cottage

The food at Jungle Lodges is nothing to write home about, but it’s not bad either. The cottages aren’t luxurious, but they are more than comfortable, and the private balconies overlooking the hills and the landscaped gardens more than make up for any shortcomings. Warning: no TV, no AC, no WiFi, in fact – no acronyms of any kind. Suits me just fine.

After a brief rest, we set off on our first jungle safari in an open-backed jeep. I’m quietly pleased to note that Bandipur is just as wild and untamed as ever. We make a total of four trips into the forest, of two hours duration each. Here’s what we see:

We also see two sloth bear right in the middle of the dirt track, but they’re skittish, and I don’t manage to get a picture of them. No cats – although those in another vehicle report spotting a leopard crossing the highway.

Gopalaswamy Betta Temple

Gopalaswamy Betta Temple

I’d recommend this visit to anyone looking for a quick, quiet getaway. Take a good book, maybe a board game or some puzzles if you like… there’s really nothing to do other than relax. If you want to maximize your chances of seeing wildlife, stay for two nights; that way, you also get to see the stunning, 750-year old Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta, included as part of your package.

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