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Old 23rd May 2016, 14:38   #1
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Default Bandipur: In search of Stripes!

It was perhaps the hottest summer ever recorded in Bangalore's history and the proverbial mercury was touching 40 degrees - something we had never experienced ever! Everyday life was becoming monotonous and the relentless heat didn't help things either. We, the workforce, puttering along the streets of Bangalore made it a point to leave early to office and late from work, and in the process, beat the summer sun. Corporates are clever and they setup a very nice and comfortable 23 degree environment at office. When the entire crowd, happily seated in their cubicles and cabins till sunset decides to call it a day, chaos reigns supreme on the streets! This resulted in traffic that was almost unbearable specially when you are driving a 2 wheeler and a Volvo from BMTC's stable comes up stealthily @ 100kmph behind you and parks right next to you at a signal, offering you clouds of dust and heat to feast on.

The only respite to all this was the TBHP Travelogue section. For a fleeting moment, reading travelogues from other fellow BHPians set the mind free, and allowed the mind to get lost on virtual trips, treks, drives, and other adventures - all in the cushy comfort of an ill fitting "ergonomically designed" chair at office. I feasted myself over these travelogues and read through pages and pages of stories, pictures and experiences and enjoyed every bit of them. I took the pleasure of going through such travelogues during lunch time, tea time and during every other "break" I could manage - and indeed, this helped the mind free itself from the daily humdrum of life's monotonies. However, something was tugging at the heart - a yearning to do one such trip myself. As I read through hundreds of trips and experiences, I wanted to go on a trip myself and be a part of the experience!

Of course, one cant really do everything what the heart wants because we live in a very practical and logical world where real life takes more priority than dreams and desires. It was difficult to take days off from work, and commitments at home with a playful and stubborn toddler and a working wife meant practical needs took higher precedence. All this said and done, that tugging feeling was growing stronger everyday. Something had to be done about it!

The timing could not be more appropriate and I happened to come across a travelogue from BHPian stryker, who had just posted wonderful pictures and updates from his little weekend jaunt to Bandipur. Now, this particular travelogue interested me more because Bandipur is a place that's not too far from Bangalore and yet, it was just far enough to satiate the hunger for a drive on the highways and quench the thirst for some "time out".

I had all the "push" I could get from these travel tales and I decided to take the plunge! I wanted to do a trip to Bandipur and it would be a trip to help fine tune my photography skills, a hobby that I pursue whenever time permits. Now that I had the idea to visit Bandipur, I put forth the idea to TBHPian girimajiananth and he was all excited about the trip. Now now, before we make unicorns out of horses, its important to get home minister approval first and that was my next challenge .

The missus was also pretty busy at work and a working mom's life isn't all that fun. The approval was tough to come as the missus would not be a part of this trip - it would be just me and girimajiananth, who would be going on a mission to shoot wildlife - through a camera, obviously. This is how it seemed at the time when I wanted to tell her (or rather.. ask her) about the plan to go to Bandipur:

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My wife and I have already been to a few Safari's at Bandipur and Kabini long ago and going by her prior experiences with safaris (having found nothing except deer and peacocks), she gave a sarcastic approval, wishing me luck with A-A-A-L-L-L-L the tigers and leopards we were going to spot (and capture in our cameras)! She said OK - and also told me to have fun on the trip and enjoy it. You see, my wife understands my passion for photography and whenever I talk to her about the the potential my camera has, she always casually tells me to take it out and get some good photos. Of course I get blamed for not shooting good portraits of her (the way she wants them) and feels that her smart phone front camera can capture better portraits (err, selfies), compared to my rather expensive DSLR. This has always been a casual remark and nothing too serious and so, when she acknowledged the photography-factor and said I could go on the trip to Bandipur, I was literally shocked! "That's it? You're saying I can go? Really? ... " This was my reaction when she said OK :

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Now that the most important approval was in place, Ananth and I planned to visit Bandipur during a weekend so that we don't have to hunt for approvals at office. However, being in a team which works during weekends, this meant I needed to take leave from office, while Ananth was spared of this additional hassle. Imagine asking your manager for a leave during the weekend! This on its own deserved a small meme and I could not control putting this up:
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Luckily, my manager approved it without much hassle and finally, it looked like things were falling in place for a weekend trip to Bandipur! Next stop was looking for accommodation. I didnt have to look far and wide for this as BHPian stryker had put up details about JLR Bandipur. Went straight to their website and looked for cottages around the dates I planned to visit. Luckily they were available. Quickly, we did a budget analysis and found out that a 2 day trip with 4 safaris and the onward and return journey with food stops, etc. would cost us approximately 7K. Add lens rentals, camera equipment and other misc expenses into the picture and we were looking at a final cost of 10K per person. With the budget cleared off, I went ahead with the booking, only to get a nice (rather massive) shock! The JLR reservations & booking website showed a pricing of 22-24K and this was just for the stay and safaris. With all our additional expenses, the total now came up to a jaw dropping 30K !!!! On checking further, I just realised that I had wrongly budgeted for the trip considering the prices shown on the JLR website as "per night" rather than "per person per night". This fostered an uneasy gloom settling in my mind as it was something that I had grossly underestimated and overlooked, and could even make us cancel the trip.

Now, spending 30K on a weekend is something that Ananth and I were uncomfortable with. The price was just too steep and we really didn't have a budget for this kind of expense, specially since it was an unplanned trip and was happening impromptu. Although we did not want to lose out on the safari experience, we were forced to reconsider our options. Now, we were leaning more towards the feeling of letting go of the entire plan and just going some place else. The trip to Bandipur was doomed!

... Continued in Part 2 .....

Last edited by vsathyap : 23rd May 2016 at 16:13.
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Old 8th June 2016, 16:38   #2
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Default Re: Bandipur: In search of Stripes!

The fact that we could no longer go to Bandipur was sinking in and it didn't make us feel good, after we had planned everything else. We somehow convinced ourselves that we will visit Bandipur sometime in the future and consoled ourselves with this fact.

With Bandipur out of the window, we then started looking at other nearby alternatives where we could get a long-ish drive and fine tune our photography skills - after all, we had gotten approvals for the trip and it was essential that we made full use of that! So moving on, we looked at options like Ranganthittu Bird Park near Srirangapatna and Bannerghatta National Park - a lot closer to home. We even considered Kabini, but again, looking at JLR's exorbitant pricing, we decided to chuck the plan.

While still doing the research on where to go, a simple and very stupidly basic idea struck me - if going to Bandipur JLR for 2 days was a problem, we will just plan for 1 day. Of course the safari's and chances of sightings would be cut in half, but hey - something is always better than nothing... right ?

Remember this - something is always better than nothing - as this line would come back to haunt us soon!

Right! So, went back to the JLR website and checked prices for a single day's stay and safari - everything worked out perfectly to my earlier budget. Sadly, we would be missing out on the extra safaris! We thought we will somehow manage to get a seat for the extra safari once we arrive at JLR and negotiate with the JLR team.

So, with everything set, we were ready with everything - bags packed, camera batteries recharged, lenses rented, camo clothes on, car fueled up - we were ready to go!

The day started early at 5:30am and I was supposed to pick up girimajiananth near his house. Thankfully, neither of us is a timing-slouch and we were heading out towards NICE road from Kanakpura main road by 6:30am. The cool & crisp morning air did wonders to our summer-soaked selves and we were in high spirits from the word go! Very soon, we joined the BLR-MYS highway and this notorious stretch of tarmac needs no introduction. We hit heavy weekday traffic almost immediately and were just hopping about around 50kmph, thanks to heavy bus traffic. Once we cleared the Wonder-La stretch, traffic eased up a bit and we were cruising at a steady 80-95kmph. The City's iVtec was doing its thing - humming along effortlessly as we muched mile after mile in the comfort of our seats, discussing everything from TBHP travelogues to new eating joints in BLR!

Very soon, we passed Channapatna and we were looking for a breakfast stop. Although we had planned on having breakfast at Mysore, we thought a quick "idly-coffee" break would help us with the journey ahead. so, we stopped at Hotel Shivalli, just before Maddur and after Channapatna. GMAPS puts this hotel here:

After a quick and yummy breakfast of steaming idlys and strong filter coffee, we resumed our journey and we were approaching mysore by about 9:30am. Any guesses where we were heading to in Mysore for our breakfast? Bonus points to you if you guessed GTR! For the uninitiated, GTR in Mysore is this super awesome typical "Mysore style" hotel, with its old style building and table arrangements. GTR is famous for its crispy Masale Dose, though the legendary quality has come down a bit these days. So, we turned on Google Maps once we reached Mysore limits and simply followed the thick blue line on our phone screens. In about 10 minutes, we arrived at GTR.


As it turns out - GTR was closed. We had picked the wrong day to travel - it was Ramanavami day and the hotel was closed for business on the occasion of the festival. Cursing our bad luck, we decided to head to Hotel Siddartha for breakfast. After finishing a leisurely breakfast at Siddartha, we proceeded towards the Ooty Gundlupete Road. The iVtec hummed along and within no time, we passed Nanjangudu and were approaching Gundlupete. Note that the road from Mysore to Nanajagudu was being 4-laned, so it took us a little more time to reach than expected - not that we were in a great hurry or anything.

Moving on, we crossed Gudlupete on some amazingly smooth asphalt, all the way from Nanjangudu. Once past Gundlupete, we crossed the Himavad Gopalaswamy betta road and were almost at Bandipur. Jsut a few km to go and we finally arrived at JLR in Bandipur, at around 11:30am - 12 noon.

The weather was super hot and we felt like having entered an oven, from the cooled cabin of the car. Checking in was smooth and we were briefed about the itinerary for the coming day.

JLR Pathway leading to the reception area:
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Dining Area:
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Soon, we checked into our room - which was called "SAMBAR". Each room in JLR is themed on an animal that's native to Bandipur and nearby reserves.

Finally - our room:
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Inside the Sambar:
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Old 8th June 2016, 17:11   #3
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Default Re: Bandipur: In search of Stripes!

So, once in the comfort of our rooms, we realized that the temperature was too hot (there is no AC here!) and decided to take our minds off the heat and do something else. So we mounted the H-U-G-E Lenses on our cameras and started capturing some test shots - just as a rehearsal to the grand moment when we are face to face with a striped or spotted cat!

We were being quite overconfident about the entire "cat sightings" thing - we had a reason to be. A white board at the reception area lists the sightings for each day for the last 7 days. I saw that there were tiger sightings almost daily and in the last 5 outings, there were tiger sightings continuously. WOW - I thought to myself - we're sure to get something in the next safari! Now, I can go back and tell my skeptical wife that there are TIGERS in Bandipur and we go to see one in our very first outing from JLR.

Anyways, after fiddling with our cameras for over half an hour, we were hungry and went straight to the dining area. Lunch was good - the usual fare with rice, rotis and some vegetables and sambar/rasam/curd. Special mention to the staff of JLR who were extremely helpful and willing to go the extra mile to make us comfortable.

I specifically did not want to have a heavy lunch, but as most of us tend to, I over ate and the heaviness after lunch was a pain - specially in that humid and hot environment. Somehow, i managed to pass time by getting lost into my smartphone while girimajiananth enjoyed a brief siesta.

Time flew quickly and soon, we were getting ready for our Safari. We were super excited and arrived at the reception area by 245 pm. We were asked to sit in a vehicle, which was a topless version of Mahindra's Bolero. Now, being ardent TBHPians, we went on to discuss Mahindra vehicles and why they were so popular. We were seated in a metal can on 4 wheels - the vehicle had not seen a water wash or shampoo in years probably, and was very shabby. The seats were hard and the leather-ite cover was intact in a few places, rest of the seat being tattered to bits. There were makeshift beams for a makeshift tarp over our heads. The Tyres were smoother than Gordon Ramsay's gourmet sauces and my monopod fell into a hole which was created by a thing called rust. The safari vehicle basically looked like Jeremy Clarkson!

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(Note that the picture above has been sourced from the Telegraph UK - they are the sole copyright holders and this use is for demo purposes only!)

Others soon joined our vehicle and we were off to the Bandipur Reception Area. Coming back to the Bolero and why it sells so much - the vehicle simply started with no drama on the first crank and pulled neatly over rocks, sand, dirt and over the couple of hairpins that are mandatory, to reach the reception area. The suspension was comfortable - and we gently bounced when the vehicle went over humps. Again - I was super impressed on how it handled and behaved - a similar reason why we all cannot dismiss Jeremy Clarkson! Although hes old, shabby, fat and speaks crazy, he cannot be dismissed - there is something about him that simply makes us accept him for what he is!

So, we finally made it to the reception area where other occupants from our vehicle alighted and a couple of others, with similar lenses as ours came aboard. It looked like ours would be a "camera" vehicle and I liked everything about what was happening.

While waiting for the safari to begin, I was looking at the other vehicles and buses which were waiting for more people to join. Surprisingly, I spot one of my fellow buddies who was with me in my trip to Leh-Ladakh. We greet each other from our vehicle seats and soon, the safari starts. We wish each other good luck for the sightings and we start off on our safari!

Tigers, here we come!

Last edited by vsathyap : 10th June 2016 at 14:34.
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Old 8th June 2016, 18:16   #4
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Day 1: Safari 1:

As we enter the jungle, everyone in our vehicle settles into their serious "spotting" mode and we start looking for anything with stripes or spots. Just a few meters into the jungle, and ironically for us, we spot a Sambar. It was right on the trail and quickly went away into the bushes as we approached closer.

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After the customary photo stop, we went deeper into the jungle and stopped again for a quick photo shoot of a couple of birds. Note that I'm no ornithologist or bird-fan, so apologies if I don't know names of these winged creatures. Experts on the forum can contribute their knowledge in this area!

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Moving on, we spot a peacock and a peahen in the distance and they looked like a couple discussing something seriously.

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Soon, Jeremy Clarkson stops ahead and we spot a common "Hoopoe" almost invisible in the brush, and one more high on the branches. We do justice by capturing some pictures of the bird and ask our spotter/driver to move on - we were hungry for stripes. He did a quick check on his cell phone by calling up other JLR drivers to see if they had any sightings - no luck so far. So, we moved along, deeper into the jungle.

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Next, we spot a woodpecker and it was dancing around a tree. Took some quick shots and moved on.

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After some time, our spotter stops Jeremy Clarkson in a big jerk and points quickly and excitedly in the distance. I was super excited thinking that we had our first tiger - but I was super disappointed to know that it was an owl in the distance. I looked for 2 minutes and couldn't find a damn thing in the direction everyone was looking at. I had to use the camera as a binocular to peep into the distance and only then, I spotted this massive owl sitting on a branch. It was so far and so well camouflaged that I had a really hard time spotting it!

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After taking pictures to everyone's hearts' content, we moved on to spot the Jungle Fowl and a peacock - high up on a tree.

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This was near a watering hole and there were some alarm calls in the air. Our driver stopped Jeremy Clarkson and called his buddies over the cell phone to check if anything was happening and also informed them that there are alarm calls in the air - where we were stopped. Almost within a minute, 3-4 JLR vehicles came to where we were and stopped their vehicles. The bus with my Leh-Buddy also arrived in some time and stopped. We halted here for over 30 minutes, listening intently to the sounds of the jungle. My heart was pounding and my arm was tired carrying the massive lens - but i was holding it ready - just in case something pops right out of the bush.

After 30 minutes of waiting, other JLR vehicles slowly dispersed into the jungle and we were quite disappointed. Our driver started the Clarkson and we moved on. After some time, we spotted this peacock which was dancing - it had its feathers opened up and it was a wonderful sight to watch. Took some pictures of the dancing peacock and moved along.

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Soon, we spotted a Serpent Eagle high on the branches. While I was busy taking pictures, our driver started Clarkson and went and swung wildly and stopped the vehicle. Quickly, I realized that he had turned the vehicle around - in a position that offered us - the photographers - a best angle to shoot the bird at! Superb presence of mind I must say!

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While the light was quickly fading, our driver made quick calls to his buddies to check again if they had some luck with spottings. With replies in the negative, we started on our way back - and I was super disappointed. We did not see a tiger at all! Soon, we made good progress through the jungle and while on the route back, our driver stopped our Clarkson again.

This time, it was a spot-bellied owl. Again, the owl was so far away that I could barely see it, despite having everyone in the vehicle point it to me. Believe me - I don't have poor eyesight (or I hope), but I just could not see where the owl was! This was particularly embarrassing as I had to ask everyone again where it was sitting. Then, our driver patiently asked me to follow a tree's branch and look down and BAM! There it was - about half a km away, perched high on a tree branch - almost invisible to the naked eye!

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We were also told that the spot bellied owl was a super rare sighting and we should be very very happy that we got to spot one. In fact, its so rare that its equivalent to 10 tiger spottings and probably 2 black panther spottings put together! Oh well - I thought to myself - this sure is a good thing to have and clicked a couple of pictures of the owl. The light was almost gone and I had to set my camera to a never ever used ISO of 6400 to get the shot. I was sure that I would end up in a grainy noisy shot, but nonetheless, I convinced myself that a grainy shot is better than nothing and went for it!

To my amazement, and thanks to wonderful RAW Processing software, I was able to extract the images of the spot bellied owl from almost a greyish-dark patch of noise!

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Soon, the light went away completely and we were at the fag end of dusk. Night was setting in and quickly, we joined the main road. Right behind us, the bus with my Ladakh-Buddy joined the main road and their bus was having an extra ordinary amount of commotion. Our driver slowed down and asked them what the noise was all about and the bus driver said that they had spotted a leopard - hunting a deer! Our driver immediately asked why he didnt inform the other JLR vehicles and the bus driver said that it happened so quickly and it was so dark that by the time the others would have joined, it would have been pretty much impossible to spot the leopard again. This was like rubbing salt over a wound to us and we were quite disappointed that our safari had not given us any tiger or leopard sightings, though we had to be content with the spot bellied owl.

I am sharing the pictures of the leopard sightings, as captured by my friend in the other bus. All copyright and intellectual rights with respect to his images are his own and I am putting them up here only to make the travelogue a complete one.

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After coming back to JLR, we shared our experiences with the other guests at the resort over a cup of hot tea and piping hot bajji and pakodas. Later we headed back to the room to review our safari's photos. Soon, we went out to watch the Nature Video which is basically a documentary film on the jungles of Bandipur. This video was being played near the reception area at JLR. After the video ended, we headed straight to dinner and called it a day!

Last edited by vsathyap : 10th June 2016 at 11:08.
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Old 10th June 2016, 12:02   #5
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Day 2: Safari 1:

After having a good night's sleep, we were up bright and early, in time for our second venture into the Jungle. Hot coffee awaited us at the JLR reception area and we welcomed the coffee & biscuits with great enthusiasm! Nothing like hot coffee to start off the day!

Once done, we were ready for our second safari - and we promptly got back onto our beloved Jeremy Clarkson! Very soon, we were going up hill and entered the Safari Reception Area. This time again, we noticed that a couple of guys got onto Jeremy Clarkson and even they were carrying humongous lenses like us. Oh well - looks like ours was the designated Photography vehicle. Soon, we were off and this time, the driver took us to the jungles on the East, off the main road.

Soon, we were in the heart of the jungle with thick bushes everywhere. Jeremy Clarkson was handling the non existent roads with ease and took in huge craters without grunting or creaking.

Quickly, we stopped at one point where our driver showed us a Vulture sitting high up on the branches of a tree. He said that vultures were a rarity in Bandipur area and its good we caught one. By now, I was getting wary of these "feel good" statements by the driver - I thought these are some lines they use to make us feel good that we found something!

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Moving deeper into the jungle, our driver again made a few calls to his JLR buddies to enquire about their luck with sightings - the response was negative. Then, we spotted a peacock on the branches of a tree and stopped for a customary shoot.

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"Something is better than nothing" - this line started to haunt me now. All we were seeing were peacocks, spotted deer, lots of tiny birds, more peacocks and more deer. I started to picture the smug look on my wife's face when I would have to tell her that we found only deer and peacock - and would have to bear that "I told you so" dialogue that was becoming imminent with each passing minute. I was totally down - and even closed the lens cap, expecting our driver to turn around and head back to JLR.

Out of no where, there was a sudden stop - a sudden silence - and whispers of "Tiger ... Tiger... Tiger... Tiger!!!!!!" Our driver slammed the brakes and Jeremy Clarkson stopped without any drama! Right ahead of us - right in front of us, a Tiger had come out of the bushes and had started walking on the Safari Path. There were hushed murmurs with the name "Prince.. yes... yes, its Prince" - while I fumbled with the lens cap on that ginormous lens. Soon, the tiger was walking away from us, towards the East and we were frantically trying to get the magnificent beast in focus.

Jeremy Clarskson's diesel heart (what an Irony - Jezza hates diesels!) came to life and our driver floored the Bolero. I was wondering what the hell he was trying to do - he would scare the cat into the bushes again - I thought. Little did I know that our driver was trying to race ahead of the tiger to catch a better glimpse of him. Soon, we overtook Prince on the left and went almost 250m ahead of him and our driver turned Jeremy Clarskon left - to face North - and stopped.

There - Right There - was the moment we'd all be waiting for - our search for Stripes was answered - and the search had yielded a stunning result - and we were face to face with a massive Tiger, heading straight towards us! I must again thank the driver for his quick thinking and moving in ahead of the Tiger. You see, he also understands the requirements of Photography and its simple - LIGHT! As Prince approached us, he was facing the sun, and we as photographers had a field day in getting a perfectly exposed Tiger - walking right at us!

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When Prince came to within a jumping distance from Clarkson, he turned and went into the Bushes. Damn!!! We thought - that was a short sighting! Did I get enough pictures? Were all of them in good focus?!?!? These thoughts were speeding through my head.

Suddenly, our driver starts Clarkson and moves into the bank of a watering hole and stopped the vehicle. Again - we were surprised by this move but soon realized that the driver was the expert here and we should simply be ready with our cameras. Within no time, Prince pops up again from the bushes and heads straight into the watering hole! After taking a feel of the water, Prince decides to cool it off, and simply sits - in the water. We're going bonkers with our cameras and the excitement is hard to control.

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Our driver makes calls to his other JLR buddies and almost instantly, we hear the clatter of diesel engines and within no time, there were about 4-5 JLR Boleros parked right around ours, watching Prince enjoy his "me time".

Suddenly, we hear alarm calls from the East side of the jungle again - quite a few alarm calls and our spotters and drivers concur that there is a tigress somewhere nearby and she may come out in the open any time. It was a game of waiting and we did so for over half an hour. Nothing happened. Meanwhile, Prince was still in the water and he almost took a mini-nap. We had the privilege to watch a Tiger for over 30 minutes!!!

Meanwhile, our driver was frantically trying to reach another driver of a JLR bus, and somehow he was not able to reach him. All his fellow colleague at the watering hole tried to reach that other driver, but they could not get in touch with him. Anyways, after his quick Nap, Prince got out of the water and walked towards the bushes from where the alarm calls were coming. Soon, he disappeared into the thick jungle and even though we waited for a third chance to sight him, he didn't show up again.

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Excited from all the tiger pictures, we moved on and we started coming back towards the main road. Then, our driver's phone rang and there was news of a leopard sighting - this time on the West side of the main road. Frantically, our driver pushed Jeremy hard and we moved quickly towards the west part of the jungle. On our way, we quickly stopped over for pictures of a Barking Deer and a massive monitor lizard wonderfully camouflaged on a tree.

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Soon, we were at the spot where the leopard was sighted and sadly, it was no where to be seen! We soon came to know that a Safari bus (from the regular hourly safari) came by to the spot where the leopard was sitting. There was a lot of noise from that bus (excited children apparently) and due to the commotion, the leopard decided to move away and into the jungle.

As it turns out, the other driver who was un-reachable earlier - was at this very spot - where the leopard was sitting and even he was trying to reach us! Due to network issues, he was not able to reach any of us and decided to play the waiting game. this meant that there were parallel sightings! The lucky folks with this driver got to see the leopard for 20 minutes, sitting on a rocky ledge, basking in the morning sun!

All JLR drivers then circled the area for any spottings, but sadly, we didn't spot anything apart from a Peacock, which was majestically sitting over some rocks.

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Soon, our safari came to an end and we headed back to our resort.

Last edited by vsathyap : 10th June 2016 at 12:32.
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Old 10th June 2016, 12:53   #6
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Default Re: Bandipur: In search of Stripes!

Interlude: The Hunt for Another Safari!

Soon after our breakfast, it was time to check out of JLR as we had booked the single day package. We went to the booking office and enquired about the possibilities of another safari in the afternoon. They refused our request flatly, saying that safaris are reserved only for guests at the JLR and that we could try taking the regular hourly safari at Bandipur Reception Area. This was an option we could not take up as the govt. run buses have grills and glass panels on the windows of the bus and this meant we could not fit our lenses through the windows.

We frantically enquired all possible sources for just one more safari, but all replies were in the negative. However, we got to know from one of the JLR drivers (and another co-traveller on our earlier safari) that we can try our luck at Nagarahole where they had recently off with Safaris and as many people did not know about these, we may have a chance of getting on to one of the jeeps there. Mind you - nothing was guaranteed yet; we didn't even know if we could get onto a safari! All this was just an opportunity to get onto another safari - and we took it with open arms.

Happy that we found a lead, we did a quick GMaps analysis and after a couple of queries and positive responses from HVK groups, we decided to head towards NagarahoLe. More specifically, we were asked to go to a place called VeerannaHosaLLi where we could enquire about the safaris.

Very soon, we were back on the highway again, heading towards Gundlupete. In order to reach NagarahoLe from Bandipur, we had to head towards HD Kote and later, Hand Post - a famous landmark in this part of Karnataka. With Google Maps leading the way, and having good tarmac all the way, we were on the way to HD Kote. The road to HD Kote from Bandipur is absolutely amazing! Being a single laned State Highway, it takes you on nice twists and turns, passing along the banks of a massive Nugu Reservoir. I guess this is one superb road to try out during the monsoons - guaranteed to bring a big grin on one's face!

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We made quick progress and we arrived at the Check post gates of NagarahoLe Reserve Forest. Upon checking with the guard on duty at the gates, we were told that we had passed VeeraNNaHosaLLi and we needed to get back to the village there to find out about Safaris. We quickly traced our path back to the village and found a couple of safari vehicles parked under a tree. We spoke to a very nice person there and he said that we can arrange for the safari for the two of us! He also said that he will arrange for lunch at a local resort and we can come back to this point after having lunch. Thanking him profusely for his generosity and good nature, we went to have lunch at a nearby resort. Soon, we were back at VeeraNNaHosaLLi and got onboard the safari truck. This was a TATA Mobile - converted to a Safari vehicle. The open loading area of the pickup truck was converted to a high seating area and was covered with bits of tarp to cater to the rainy season.

We were heading on to the next Safari - into the heart of NagarahoLe reserve forests!
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Old 10th June 2016, 13:26   #7
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Default Re: Bandipur: In search of Stripes!

Day 2: Safari 2:
We were barreling down the smooth tarmac within the NagarahoLey Reserve, seated at a height that would give anyone with a sensitive tummy a good run for their money! We were told by our driver - who also happened to be our kind hearted host at VeeraNNahosaLLi, that we had to cover a distance of around 20-25km, which would take about 45 minutes. Finally, after being bounced around like a squash ball, we arrived at the NagarahoLey's Safari starting area. Again, we were made to wait here for what seemed like eternity. A few other people trekked onboard the TATA pickup and we were heading into the forest.

We were informed that there were black panther and tigress and tiger cub sightings recently in this area, so we were excited. Once into the forest, we saw that some sort of work was going on, and there were mounds of stones and mud on the sides of the safari path. On enquiring, we were told that some work is going on to lay out the safari path correctly, and that the JCBs and the Road Rollers doing their rounds would pretty much scare all animals away and that we should be less hopeful of spotting anything. So much for all the excitement!

As we trodded along, I really missed Jeremy Clarskon from Bandipur - this TATA pickup had the worst suspension ever! We were being jostled around like crazy and could hardly keep our cameras level. Our so called kind-hearted-host-cum-driver was apparently not "photo" aware and he drove on like he was attempting to scale a steep vertical meant for 4x4s.

Soon, we approached a watering hole where we spotted some birds (experts, please name these).

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Our photography-ignorant driver quickly moved on and stopped again and showed us a Malabar Squirrel - a common resident of these forests.

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I observed that the NagarahoLe forest was greener compared to Bandipur. The trees had a lot of greenery, the grass was greener, the watering holes were aplently and the place basically looked nothing like the stark and raw dryness that we had seen in Bandipur. We approached yet another watering hole and saw a kingfisher in the distance, as well as another bird (which I cannot name!)

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After a stop that can only be described as a "flash", we bounced along deeper into the jungle and spotted yet another Barking Deer.

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We resumed our bouncy ride and took at shot of the serpent eagle again, this time at NagarahoLe:

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We set off again, and were literally driving around the forest like one would do in a rally car! We stopped again (and I almost hit my head this time) and we spotted the Indian Gaur in the distance, happily munching on the plentiful grass.

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Again, our driver came to a sudden stop on spotting a Sambar in the distance:

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Even after requesting him to stop for a few extra minutes, he hurried along, while we were literally breaking our backs on the high seats. We crossed paths with another safari vehicle and spotted an elephant in the distance:

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It looked like we were now heading back to the main road and our rally driver was moving fast. We came near another watering hole where we saw a Mongoose feasting on the remains of a kill, perhaps 5-6 days old:

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We also caught a glimpse of another bird in the water:

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Our rally driver was pushing it hard and looked like he wanted to be out of the forest before it gets dark (newbie perhaps!?). While speeding along, we stopped momentarily to take a look at a fresh kill, barely few hours to a day old. The stench here was unbearable! We were easily 300-500m away from the kill and yet, the air was filled with a gut reversing stink! A group of wild boars were having a feat of the kill and we decided to move on after capturing a couple of shots.

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Again, the daylight here was fading quickly and I had to resort to ungodly ISOs to get a decent shot. Thanks to RAW processing software, the image looks usable here.

Soon, our rally-circuit was over - or so we thought. It was almost dark when we came out of the jungle and onto the Safari Reception Area. The other who had got onboard earlier trekked down, and soon, we were speeding into the darkness, to reach VeeraNNahosaLLi again. During this last stage of the rally, our driver assumed he saw something and applied the brakes so hard that I almost fell out of the vehicle! I just wanted to get off the back-breaker! Fast forward 45 minutes and we are back in VeeraNNahosaLLi. It was pitch black and there was no electricity here.

We thanked the rally driver for taking us on the back breaking ride and soon sat in the comfort of the Honda City. I set the navigation towards Mysore and we were heading back home via Hunsur, after what seemed like a roller coaster of excitement as well as disappointment!

We decided to halt and stay in Mysore for the night as neither of us wanted to drive on Mysore Road at night, specially after the bone jarring, back breaking ride that we had just had.

Last edited by vsathyap : 10th June 2016 at 14:29.
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Old 10th June 2016, 13:31   #8
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Default Re: Bandipur: In search of Stripes!

Early next morning, we checked out and this time - we were certain that we had to have Masale Dose at GTR. We headed to GTR directly and after having a solid breakfast of Idlys, Doses and hot coffee, we headed back to Bangalore. After the usual Mysore Road traffic, we reached our homes in BLR by 1130am.

Overall, our trip to Bandipur had given us a superb opportunity to take some photos, fine tune our photo skills and have a good time - away from the maddening city. Being back in Bangalore, only one thing remained to be done - a nice little travelogue on TBHP ! Who knows, I may have just inspired someone to get up from their seat and do that trip they were longing for ....

Until next time ...
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Old 11th June 2016, 10:05   #9
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Default Re: Bandipur: In search of Stripes!

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 11th June 2016, 16:18   #10
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Default Re: Bandipur: In search of Stripes!

You are indeed a very lucky fellow.

Spotting the striped beast in all wilderness is not a mean feat. I am aware of several friends who visit such places and return disheartened for not getting a glimpse of this majestic creature. Congratulations once again.

By the way, all images are vivid, sharp and clear. May I request you to furnish information on the equipment and gear used during this trip?
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Old 11th June 2016, 18:42   #11
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Excellent travelogue and luck has prevailed on you for spotting the striped beast! I hope you had walked back to your home with head high ��. I have been dreaming of making this safari trip for long but time is yet to come. Till such time I will be reading these trips in our forum !
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Old 11th June 2016, 19:17   #12
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Default Re: Bandipur: In search of Stripes!

It was indeed a great trip, we were lucky enough to spot the tiger on our first visit. A friend of mine who had visited Bandipur a few weeks earlier had spotted a tigress along with her cubs.

We did miss out on the dholes however. There was some road works going on inside the Nagarholey forest, the big noisy road equipment had driven away most of the animals.

Here are some of my exploits
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Old 12th June 2016, 11:40   #13
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Default Re: Bandipur: In search of Stripes!

Awesome, Magnificent, speechless. I am short of words here. The tiger pics were just superb. Lucky guys. Had 3 Safaris so far but no luck. Thanks for sharing the pics. A very well written TL.
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Old 13th June 2016, 09:08   #14
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Default Re: Bandipur: In search of Stripes!

very nice photos vsathyap and also girimajiananth
Apart from THE PRINCE you people have shot quite a lot of animals - through your cameras of course
Very good writing skills too vsathyap. Thanks for sharing!

First it was nkrishnap and now vsathyap.
I guess the handle name format brings luck in spotting those stripes in wildlife safaris!
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Old 13th June 2016, 10:39   #15
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Default Re: Bandipur: In search of Stripes!

Great pictures and a nice narrative. Recovering such sharp snaps from an IS6400 shot is commendable. Kudos to the photographer. What lens were you using for the tele? a 600mm bazooka?
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