As the onion dosa at Mysore fills up the empty spaces in our stomach, we resume our journey towards Ooty. The real beauty of road trip was to be seen when we entered the Bandipur Mudumalai National Park. Declared a National Park in 1974, Bandipur once served as the hunting ground of the Mysore Maharajas.
We travelled along the picturesque path passing through Bandipur National Park in Karnataka followed by Madumalai National Park in Tamil Nadu which is the home of rich flora and fauna! Bandipur National Park in Karnataka is a division of India’s biggest Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and famous for its tiger, elephant reserve and protected sandalwood trees. Owing to its appealing flora and fauna and favourable location (hardly 80 kilometres from Mysore city) it’s a major wildlife lovers’ tourist destination. Bandipur National Park covers an area of 890 sq km housing some of the most exotic species of flora and fauna. Bandipur, along with Nagarhole National Park, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and Mudumalai National Park, has forest cover spread over an area of 2183 sq km. It is the largest protected area in south India and a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
Bandipur National Park is popular for being home to over 75 Royal Bengal Tigers. Asian Elephants and chittals are other prime attractions of the park. One can also spot other wildlife like sambar, wild boar, jackal, gaur, barking deer, langur, etc. as well. Sightings of King cobra, viper, rat snake, python, common cobra, etc. are also common in the park along with various species of trees like Sandalwood, Rosewood, Teak, Bamboo etc.
Although the journey through Bandipur forest area is tourists’ delight but certainly unfavourable to the lives of wild creatures as there’s a high record of cases of fatalities of animals by speeding vehicles. I would strongly suggest you to reserve a day for Bandipur national park. The best time to go is early in the morning or in the evening when maximum spotting can be done. You can even get there directly from Bangalore and have a forest safari in the afternoon same day. If you’re travelling solo and can’t afford a full jeep you may opt for the bus-safari, keeping in mind of the tourist rush and its inferiority over an open gypsy. And there is also provision for short elephant rides inside the Bandipur Park.
As the Karnataka state border ended, Madumalai Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park of Tamil Nadu welcomed us. It was the first wildlife sanctuary to be established in south India and a part of Nilgiri biosphere reserve, being located on the northwestern side of the Nilgiri Hills in Nilgiris district. This declared tiger reserve is the residence of numerous endangered species like elephant, Bengal tiger, leopard, bison etc. The diversity in biome is quite striking in Madumalai… you’ll find tropical evergreen forest, mixed deciduous forest, moist teak forest, dry teak forest, secondary grasslands, shrubs and swamps, everything in Madumalai forest!
The variety in fauna is no less remarkable… Madumalai wildlife sanctuary boasts of about 227 species of birds (around 8% bird species of India), 55 species of mammals, 21 species of amphibians and 50 species of fishes! To accommodate increasing number of wildlife lovers, the forest department in charge of Madumalai National Park has built many lodges and resorts inside the forest which is indeed a good step in the promotion of wildlife tourism in the place. Like Bandipur national park, in Madumalai also you’ll get the chance of availing forest safari and elephant ride. Unlike Bandipur, Madumalai is more liberal to permit its tourists to use vehicles to explore different corners of the park. The elephant feeding camp and Kallatty falls are among few things which you shouldn’t miss once you travel to Madumalai wildlife sanctuary. Spending a night in the Madumalai forest, illuminated by billions of fireflies, in the months of April-May is surely an experience of lifetime!
Forest authorities also organize trekking trips and campfires. Camping inside the park is allowed with the permission of Bandipur range officer.
Bandipur can be reached either from Bangalore (246km or five hours by road) or from Mysore (100km or two hours by road). Both Bangalore and Mysore are connected to Mumbai by air, road and rail.
When to Visit:
The best time to visit Bandipur is between October and June, which is also the perfect wildlife and bird exploration season.
There are quite a few accommodation options in Bandipur. Bandipur Tourism Board has Jungle Houses within the park. One can also find cottages, resorts and guesthouses just outside the park offering budget accommodation. Stay at resorts also includes tour of the park.