Bandipur National Park, also a tiger reserve, is one of the most popular wildlife parks in the country. Once the private hunting grounds of the Maharaja of Mysore, it was brought under the Project tiger conservation plan of the government. It is also part of the Nilgiri biosphere, in Chamarajnagar district, and the beautiful blue hills serve as a picturesque background.
Vegetation: You will notice a variety of vegetation—scrub forests, moist and dry deciduous, bamboo forests (favorite of elephants), and wide open grassy areas.
Wildlife: It has a high density of tigers and elephants, and is also home to a large number of deer (such as the chital or spotted deer and sambar, the largest Asian deer), monkeys, gaur or “Indian bison”, wild dogs or dhole, leopard, sloth bear, mongoose and a large variety of birds.
You will notice many waterholes, “salt licks” (where salt is provided by the forest department) where elephants are commonly seen, and a small anti-poaching camp.
If you are a bird watcher, the dawn safari is most rewarding near the water holes, but even in the evening or later in the morning, you can be sure to spot a large variety, including black winged stilt, cormorant, lapwig, snake bird, kingfisher, eagle, jungle fowl, lapwig, woodpecker, shrike and common hawk cuckoo. In fact, almost 300 species of birds have been seen here. A splendid sight is the mesmerizing dance of a peacock during the mating season. Even nocturnal birds like the owl can be spotted.
There is a period of migration, when large herds of elephants are sighted as they move between forests. It is a magical sight seeing a herd led by a matriarch, urging the babies along. Do not be afraid if there is a mock charge, which is quite common—it is only a protective urge when there are calves in the herd.
Accommodation: There are a number of private resorts, forest department cottages and the Bandipur Safari Lodge run by the Karnataka government.
Safaris into the jungle were earlier organized by resorts and the forest department, but from September 1, 2011, only the Bandipur Safari Lodge, along with the forest department, is allowed to conduct safaris. The latter means trips in to the jungle, twice a day from 6-9 am and 4-6 pm.The forest department has a big bus, while resorts usually provide side open jeeps, and qualified naturalists accompany visitors. The forest department has an office outside the park, where all vehicles must register before entering the park, and on exiting. The park covers 880 square km, but only a part is designated as the safari zone.
Season: May to October is a good time to visit Bandipur, even though it rains intermittently during this time. However, you can be sure to see some species at least at any time of the year. Winter temperatures go down to 10C, while summer high is around 35C.
Even if you are not a wildlife lover, the sights and smells and sounds of the forest cannot leave you untouched, so do include at least one wildlife sanctuary in your Karnataka itinerary!
Tips: If you have your own vehicle, make a trip to the Interpretation Center near the reception, for valuable information on Bandipur park. Also visit the Souvenir shop (on the other side of the reception) and pick up some bags, shirts, coasters etc, with wildlife motifs designed by conservationist/artist Sunitha Dhairyam. (Some of the cottages of Bandipur Safari Lodge are adorned by her paintings)>
The nearest airport is Bengaluru, and nearest railhead Mysore. Take a bus/taxi from Bengaluru to Bandipur. You can also take a train/bus to Mysore, and then a bus/taxi to Bandipur.