Dark rainclouds gather with an occasional thunder reverberating in the air as the mellow sunrays pierce through chinks in the cloud cover; rain drops beginning to fall one by one on the sun-parched trees and a flock of stunning peacocks dance under the grey skies. A perfect start for a spectacular drive in the Bandipur forest. The dance is a rare visual treat in a perfect setting with towering teaks trees interspersed with fiery red Gulmohar flowers, colossal bamboo trees and sparkling yellow labarnum flowers.
The Himavad Gopalaswamy Betta is aptly named since the peak is covered by dense fog round the year. It is also the highest peak in the Bandipur National Park. This temple was built by the Hoysala King Ballala during AD 131. Legend says that sage Agastya, performed intense penance and as a result lord Vishnu blessed this place and promised to reside here. As this was a place of worship and penance, it used to be called as ‘Hamsatheertha’, which means the lake of swans in Sanskrit.
Coming to Bandipur we realize that one should not miss the safari ride into the national park. It is the lure of a tiger sighting that had us all excited but the sanctuary is home to a large variety of flora and fauna and it is regarded as one of the best Wildlife Sanctuaries in India. The early morning ride to get to the jungle was amazing. It is freezing as we are travelling on the highway in an open jeep in the wee hours of the morning. Tracking the pugmarks and the alarm calls of the langurs and the chitals, the accompanying naturalist and the driver were able to track the tiger drinking water from a water hole. The tiger snarls at the noisy langurs and walks back majestically into the thickets. The driver says that it is a female who has given birth to a litter of four cubs. The beauty of the tiger cannot be summarized in words. It is an awesome experience to sight the tiger in a forest.
Watching an enchanting sunrise in a pristine forest is bliss indeed. The rays of sunlight enhances the beauty of the morning dew. The safari takes us through many winding roads inside the forest. Invariably we do come across other jeeps and exchange tips on the recent sightings. Many people board on the safari with the intention to spot a tiger. It is good to spot a tiger and appreciate its beauty no doubt, but there are many other interesting creatures in the forest. I see many butterflies nectaring on the lantana flowers. I recollect Jeffrey Glassberg’s quote “Beautiful and graceful, varied and enchanting, small but approachable, butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life. And everyone deserves a little sunshine.” They appear in a wide array of colors and patterns, I cannot stop wondering at the creator of these small creatures.
The Crested serpent eagle holding a snake is spotted by a fellow birder. The snake tries to move away from the clutches of the bird. But the raptor is determined and tears into the snake and starts feeding on it. A jungle owlet is spotted with great difficulty as it is very well camouflaged in the forest. The safari yields good sightings of the Gaur, chital, deer, mongoose, jungle fowl, porcupine and many birds.
The creaking sounds of the bamboo trees, the dancing peacocks, the chirping of the birds and the cicada calls still linger in my memories.