Bandipur National Park and Safari

Bandipur National Park & Bandipur Resorts

This time in search of wilderness experience to Bandipur National Park. The tiger has been elusive for nearly couple of years now and I thought what better place to go for a birthday. I went on a solo trip and Bandipur safari lodge was economical than Kabini. Bandipur tiger reserve is famous for tigers, I was hopeful to spot one. After all it was the season ruled by Tigress Sundari and her cubs. I hoped the jungle would surprise me and it did. ​​

Bandipur National Park sits on the Mysore-Ooty highway, and the roads that lead you here are full of mesmerizing greenery. In all probability, just by driving through this road, you get to spot elephants and deers and peacocks. But the joy of driving through the jungle is a lot more different. And the thrill of that wildlife safari was what I was seeking for.

bandipur peacock

Bandipur Safari Lodge

While looking for Bandipur resorts to stay I decided to go with Bandipur Safari lodge run by Karnataka's Jungle Lodges and Resorts. For obvious reasons like they’ll cover everything related to my jungle safari needs apart from accommodation. The Bandipur safari proprietary rights lie with the JLR and hence best is to book your stay with Bandipur Safari Lodge. Any other resort you book with, will help you a canter ticket. Very rarely you get a seat in the jeep. Sometimes they accommodate in jeep and sometimes they don't. So best is to book with Bandipur safari lodge. A night stay would get you three times food, accommodation and two jeep safaris.

bandipur safari lodge
Me at bandipur safari lodge

I set out on a rainy monsoon morning for Jungle Lodges & Resorts. Although the Bandipur safari lodge is next to the highway, it’s hard to hear a sound once you’re inside. When I was booking the cottages, somehow I got the impression that the property is not big or spacious. However, the cottages are big and spacious, and the property is lush green, spread over a large area. I can comfortably say Jungle Lodges & Resorts (JLR) is one of the best Bandipur resorts. Even if you don’t book a stay at JLR, you can drop in for breakfast, lunch, or coffee and enjoy the lushness.

I have been to Kabini river lodge umpteen times. So I know there are few things that I can blindly expect out of jungle lodges and resorts' properties.

  • Knowledgeable skilful naturalists
  • Good food at Golghar
  • Camp fire and wildlife documentary
  • High tea with snacks
  • Disciplined wildlife safari
Good Food at JLR

Maharaja Cottage at Bandipur Safari Lodge

You can choose from two types of cottages: Viceroy cottages or Maharaja cottages. I booked a Maharaja cottage because viceroy cottage was sold out. The room was sanitized and spacious, very spacious that can accommodate easily four people. The Maharaja cottage included a study table, TV, diwan bed, and a twin bed. However, you won’t give relaxation to your pocket as they charge based on per person instead of per room. The bathroom was quite huge too.

The best part is that the room opens up to a private balcony where you can find a sitting chair with a greener view and chirping sounds of birds. The balcony is the only difference I could see from outside between the Maharaja cottage and Viceroy cottages. A sun bird pair had setup its nest in the balcony and it was wonderful to wake up to its cacophony. I spent my time between safaris reading book sitting in this balcony. The cottages sit at a significant distance from each other. Hence, you don’t hear the hums or whirrs of your neighbour. And if you’re looking for workations, I’d recommend this resort — the Internet connectivity is pretty good, and you get to sit in the lap of nature.

Food at Golghar Restaurant

Golghar give nutritious wholesome food and that is the best part of Jungle Lodges and Resorts. It is not your regular buffet, be it for breakfast or lunch or dinner. Mornings will have yummy shavige, dosas, poha, vadas apart from fresh fruits and continental breakfast. Lunch and dinner have their own yummy variety. It is not just the regular aloo but fresh beans, cabbage, pumpkins and squashes that fill the plate. I love the non veg they prepare too but my plate is usually loaded with healthy veg food. I stayed for four days, and the food wasn’t repetitive at all.

Jungle Safari at Bandipur National Park

Bandipur National Park is famous for tiger sightings. But on a wildlife safari, paying attention to other animal species and birds can make it very enriching. I got to see almost everything! Everything! Let me take you on a tour.

It was an afternoon, my very first safari to Bandipur. It was wonderful to feel the thrill of being surrounded with raw and enchanting greenery. I did a total of six safaris that I took in 3 days. The jeep is shared with other wildlife enthusiasts from the Bandipur safari lodge. Please pray that they have to be wildlife enthusiasts. Else it is a pain to sit with kids and tourists. We climbed a bit, what felt like a hill and entered into the Bandipur tiger reserve. The first thing we saw was a group of bisons. I love watching them! What a magnificent animal full of muscles. Bisons are sometimes called as Indian Gaur too. And a tiger just cannot bring down the male, it is damn huge and muscular.

indian gaur
Posing Gaurs

And the most interesting sighting of the day was the brown fish owl. I have a deep love for owls and to see it happily perched on the branch gave me immense happiness. It was calling out to its mate. when the barn fish owl gives out a call one can see its puffed up throat. You can notice this in the picture as well.

Wild Dogs at Bandipur National Park

Passing through the foliage and muddy road post monsoon rains we arrive to a pack of Wild Dogs. It is not easy to spot wild dogs. They’re shy and quickly run away when they see you. But this time, luck was on our side. That group stayed around our jeep for a while we admired them. On surface it felt like they wanted to hunt. They were looking around, moving here and there, gauging the vehicles. But then they must have walked for long. They sat for a while, played. Overall it was a good sighting.

wild dog dhole
Pack of Wild Dogs aka Indian Dhole

Bandipur Elephants

The next day safari started with sighting a majestic elephant herd. The herd consisted of the matriarch, another female, a sub adult and a tiny calf. Super tiny, joyful, playful calf. They were by a water hole drinking to heart's content. We were watching from a distance. Soon few other jeeps joined us. Everything seemed peaceful until suddenly the matriarch chose to charge at us. She left out a loud trumpet with flared ears and upright tail. It sent down a chill down the spine. Our guide told us to remain calm. And soon she realized we were not a threat and retreated. Can never forget this elephant attack experience in the jungle.

Indian Elephant herd
An Elephant Herd in Bandipur sipping water

And on another turn we came across a Makhna. It was bulky, muscular, and relatively more powerful than a typical elephant. Makhna are male elephants with no tusks. And hence their size is a way of defense. I had no idea that male elephants exist without tusks. I started reading more on it and got to know it is also a way of evolution. And more and more African elephants are also evolving without tusks. A nature's way to fight out poaching for tusks. Its sheer size made us reverse our jeep and wait for it to pass. We were afraid what if it came rumbling like yesterday? And the Makhna was in musth. We could see the secretion from temporal glands and the scent was so strong. Seeing such a gigantic animal from vicinity — it’s just another type of adventure.

bandipur makna
A bold Makna

And then the family at near a pond with temple in the backdrop. That whole scenery was such a beautiful place to be at. The family was munching on grass and playing in water. Everyday I would lookout for this family. Sunset or rain or shining sun, they would always be there.

Leopard Sighting at Bandipur

While we were driving aimlessly in the jungle we come to a halt, head on with a leopard and her cub. The cub is not really a tiny one, more of a sub-adult cub. The mother was probably used to humans and the jeep. She walked boldly towards us. The cub, though, not so bold. The cub backed and hesitated, hid in the bushes and was gauging the situation a lot more than the mother. The mother took just one call. To cross the path between the jeeps or to not. She took the leap and strode to the other end. What a graceful stride she has!

leopard bandipur
The Mom Leopard

By then few jeeps had come and we were all watching them in silence. Rule of the jungle is not to disturb them and maintain silence. The mother on one side and cub on the other end. The jeeps backed giving way for the cub. The cub took the leap too and joined with the mom. This was such a beautiful sighting.

bandipur leopard
Leopard cub

Tiger Sighting at Bandipur Tiger Reserve

Driving along the muddy road we arrived at a trisection. And it was filled with pug marks. Pug marks! These marks are definitely of a tigress and her cubs. But the cubs had walked all over the place and we had no idea which place the tiger would have gone. The guide had some ideas and we wandered in circles trying to locate the tiger. But it was difficult. We heard such strong alarm calls and stood for long. So strong! Probably the tiger was moving inside and not towards the road. This is what I came for. To witness the glory of tiger. We waited long, traveled the road a few times again, but we were still out of luck. Tiger? Where are you?

Few Memorable Sightings at Bandipur

The previous night had poured heavily. I had very little hope of seeing any action in the jungle. As we moved towards the muddy roads of Bandipur jungle, the aroma of mud and the freshness of morning covered in mist and fog started to tingle our senses. The dew drops were still on the leaves, and dark clouds scoured the sky. It was such a pure natural beauty that I wanted to be like this forever.

bandipur gaur
Pretty landscapes of Bandipur

Driving further this was the first time I noticed the huge webs weaved by Giant wood spider. The dew had neatly lined up on the web and the sun rays were just breaking through.

It started to pour heavily, and I began to pack my gadgets in the bag. And in between these rushy moments, we saw a sloth bear coming out of the jungle, sitting under a tree shade and putting its hands over the head to protect itself from the rain. It seemed like a kid who had forgotten to bring the umbrella but remembered their mother’s teachings. It was such a cute scene that it filled our hearts with joy.

Many more birds around. Pics to speak.

This was quite a fulfilling trip. I saw everything apart from the tiger but then the jungle gave me enough surprises. And this gives a reason to head back to Bandipur. :)

How to reach Bandipur?

Bangalore is the only international airport. The distance between Bangalore to Bandipur National park is nearly 250 km. You can also fly to Coimbatore airport, 175 km from the Bandipur resorts. From there you can opt for a car, bus or cab to the destination. Mysore railway station is the nearest railhead to Bandipur National park. I took a cab from Bangalore and headed to Bandipur by road. Took the Bangalore - Maddur - Mysore - Gundlupete - Bandipur.

bandipur elephant
Elephant by the Bandipur Temple

Bandipur Safari Booking

There are two ways to book the Bandipur jungle safari: one, you get a safari with your resort booking, and two, you arrive at the gate of the jungle safari campus to buy a ticket for the same. Mind you; there’s usually a huge crowd on weekends. I chose the first method and got safari included at Jungle Lodges & Resorts’ booking.

If you're staying at JLR, you don't have to worry about getting a Gypsy for the safari. If you're staying in Bandipur resorts like Windflower, Serai, Dhole's Den then you might not get a Gypsy but canter (the truck). The downside of a canter is that canters can't go deep inside the jungle.

There are many packages at JLR starting from 9900 INR per person. Remember the package includes accommodation, meal and jungle safari. Check their website for more detailed information.

Bandipur safari timings are from morning 6am to 9am and noon 3pm to 6pm. The canter is usually for an hour and leaves in periods.

Good luck with sightings and do drop a comment if you read my blog and had a happy sighting :)

A short vlog from the Bandipur Safari here

Stay at Bandipur

My recommendation would always be Bandipur Safari Lodge from Jungle Lodges and Resorts. Cos safari, food and accommodation is sorted. And everyone else safari will be dicey - Click here

But there are other Bandipur resorts to stay as well. If you are looking to relax in the jungle and not worried about wildlife safari then here are few more options. I have an eye on Bandipur Serai, it is very splendid and exclusive to look. But the next affordable to JLR I have found Dhole's Den Bandipur. It seems to have a good view from room. And every time I have asked for enquiry they have been prompt. Maybe someday I'll visit there. There is also Windflower Tusker trails and country club as options.

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bandipur
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