One of the best wildlife adventure opportunities in India is a tiger safari in the dense forests of the Western Ghats.
Bandipur, Nagarhole, Wayanad and Mudumalai are four national parks spread across 3 states of India. Together this interconnected group of national parks form the largest free habitat of tigers in India and the whole world. About 570 tigers are estimated to live in these jungles.
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The unapologetically wild terrain of Bandipur was once the hunting destination of the royal family of Mysuru. It is now a national park and tiger reserve which constantly battles the ambition of mankind that threatens to encroach into the forest area.
It is an ecological hotspot where one can find peahens, antelopes, monkeys, elephants and many exotic wild species. Among carnivores you are likely to spot sloth bears, leopards and black panthers besides the beautiful royal Bengal tiger.
The Jungle Lodges resort is a public private partnership venture of the Karnataka government and tiger tops. These group of eco-resorts provide the most ethical adventure opportunities in the wilderness of Karnataka.
A one-night stay package comes with three wholesome meals and 6 hours of wildlife safari spread into two sessions. The first session starts in the afternoon at 3:30pm.
Tigers are elusive creatures which remain in the deep forests away from the tourist eyes. Their stripes help them to camouflage in the dense jungle.
As the jeep roars through the dusty roads into the jungle you will find many monkeys jumping around the trees and playing tricks. You’ll hear the shrill sound of peacocks and peahens.
Spotted deer and sambar playing around freely is a sight to behold, but also indicates that the predators are not around.
The best time of the year to spot the tiger is between February and May, before the monsoon. The dry and hot weather forces the tigers out of the dense jungles to come to the lakes for quenching their thirst.
The forest guide carefully follows the sound of birds and the footprint of carnivores to trace the tiger. They do not carry any gun in the jeep as the tigers here are not man-eaters.
Even if you are not able to see the tiger in your first session you will be mesmerized by the beauty of the Indian jungle. If you have ever read or watched Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, the scenes from the book will come alive in front of your eyes.
The sunset at Bandipur is one of the most glorious photographic moments of my travel treasury. On our first safari, we could see a tiger sleeping in the bushes.
It was too far for our DSLR camera to take a clear picture, but those with 400mm lenses managed to capture some brilliant images. That’s the kind of lenses you normally need for taking good pictures in the Indian Jungle.
The next 3-hour safari begins at 5:30 am the next day. There is a wakeup call at every cottage in the resort at 5 am and high tea before the safari begins.
Even in summer, the early morning wind is pretty chilling in the forests. The chirping birds and the morning blossoms show you a different side of the Bandipur jungle.
It was after almost 3 hours of driving slowly, tracing the footsteps and waiting patiently at one spot in the jungle that we started to leave with a heavy heart.
It was then that we saw the most beautiful beast in the world blocking our road and enjoying the morning sun. For once, no one complained about a roadblock. People were thrilled and excited to see the tiger at a distance less than 5 meters from the jeep.
Tiger safari in India is not for the restless souls, nor for the weak in the heart. Unlike Africa where pride of lions can be photographed in the deserts, tigers here live in dense forests.
Photographic opportunities are less, but the thrill is as much as an African safari. It’s hard to find ethical wildlife experiences these days, which is why I strongly recommend the JLR Badnipur safari.
Recommended by Sinjana from Backpack & Explore