Last Sunday, I decided to take on the sweltering Bangalorean heat by making a neat trip out of it. While most of the city dwellers sheltered themselves in the air conditioned shopping malls and restaurants, I badgered my friends (who also happened to be my kind hosts) to accompany me to a national park.
The Bannerghatta National Park is less than 2 hours from the south Indian city of Bengaluru.
Hot Tip: If you don’t have your own vehicle, it’s advisable to pre-book a cab for a comfortable ride to your destination.
We reached Bannerghatta at 11 AM and rushed to a roadside dhaba for a quick breakfast. The fare served here is mostly south Indian (idlis, dosas & uttapams). The food is brought to your table almost instantly, is filling, and very light on the pocket. The taste, unfortunately, isn’t much to boast about.
This national park is open from 10 AM to 5 PM, but the tickets are always in short supply as Bannerghatta happens to be one of the most visited tourist attractions of Bangalore.
- Book your tickets in advance if you can. (Their website lets you do that but insists that you register first).
- If you can’t do point-1, ensure you reach early as the wait-time for the AC-volvo-bus tour is 2 hours on an average, and the queues to the ticket counters are long.
We missed doing both point-1 and point-2, but that ensured we took the non-AC grand tour in a bus with caged windows. This was the cheapest option and also allowed us to take decent pictures as the “cages” had circular holes to click pics through. The AC buses, by comparison, are comfortable, but pictures through glass can only be half as good. The best (and also the most expensive) option is to hire a jeep that accommodates 4. There are very few jeeps and you rarely stand a chance to book one unless you’ve pre-booked.
After you have your ticket in hand, you are made to stand in a single file (school-picnics, anyone? 😛 ) as the park-assistants do a headcount and direct you to a waiting area which has several brick-roofed hut-like structures. After a 15 minute wait, you finally have your turn!
The 3 of us were extremely lucky to get the best seats in the bus… right behind the driver and the bus conductor! So, we had a dashboard-view & the window-view, without any passenger blocking our shots. To add to that, the conductor would confirm the animals that we spotted and tell us in advance of the ones to expect.
We spotted our first wild animal within minutes of entering the forest-area. The bus screeched to a halt as a huge bison growled and crossed the road, and then it passed by my window! I fumbled with my camera as I was overwhelmed by its size and the power in its growl.
We next saw a few deer for some fleeting seconds before they hid out of our sight. After 5 more minutes, our bus reached a lake and we were mesmerized by the beautiful sight of a baby-elephant splashing about in the water. The calf then ran to its mother who waited on the land. The elephants looked stunning with their black thick skin glistening in the afternoon sun.
We spotted a couple of bears too, one of which was busy eating inside a ditch. The black fur looked soft and dense, and the bears could easily fool us into thinking they were soft-toys had they not moved. In the next enclosure, we saw an adult Bengal tiger prowl about and raise its long tail skywards. Let me tell you now that I looked into the eyes of the tiger as it stopped by my window, and felt a little like Pi (Patel) from Life of Pi. We saw a few more tigers – some sleeping, some wandering about the deciduous trees, and one pooping (those poor creatures have no privacy, I tell you)! We also spotted a handsome white tiger before our grand-tour ended (quite grandly, I must say).
Summer is the best time for wildlife tourism as the high temperature forces the animals to hang around near water bodies as they drink and bathe. This makes it easier to spot them.
Let me know if you’ve been to a national park or a wildlife sanctuary. If yes, how many animals did you spot? 🙂