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Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bandipur - March 2011

This visit to Bandipur was full of Tigers! One strange encounter after another. What is going on?

Tiger rolls in fresh elephant dung!

Surprisingly, March 2011 was completely dominated by the tigers of Bandipur! Surprising due to the number of sightings we had and surprising due to the behavior we were fortunate to witness!

After my "intense birding" trip to Sikkim in January, I went on a family tour to Japan in February. We were lucky to just escape the great disaster that hit Japan in March!

From the first to the fifth of March, M N Jayakumar and myself were roaming in Bandipur. Various other friends joined us for brief periods during our stay, many of them seeing a wild tiger for the first time!

First a panther!

Barely twenty minutes after entering the forest we saw a leopard sitting on the road. It slowly got up and disappeared into the jungle thus kick-starting our trip. We then came across a pair of confiding wild dogs. They kept us company of nearly an hour and gave us plenty of photography opportunities..

Friendly wild dogs!

Tiger on road!

Towards evening, it was almost dark when we came across this wonderful tigress. She simply did not mind our presence at all. She walked unhurriedly in front of us and we had to slowly follow as it was almost dark and we had to exit the forest. We left her still walking slowly as we parted at the first available fork. Strange encounter in Bandipur I thought as I hit the sack that night...

Next morning at 8 am we came across another wonderful tigress! This one too walked slowly in front of us!! As we followed at a distance so as not to disturb her, another tourist vehicle approached from the opposite direction. Yet, she walked on unhurriedly only stepping off the road as she came very close to the vehicle. See... strange indeed!

Quite unusual for a tiger to walk without hurry so close to a tourist vehicle at Bandipur! 

Later that evening we enjoyed the company of a large "Stripe-necked Mongoose" before retiring for the day...

A very thirsty Stripe-necked mongoose! 

On the 3rd of March we just roamed in the forest enjoying the feel of fresh air and the song of several birds.

Sitting on the road!

On the 4th March, early in the morning we were moving slowly on the forest track when we heard a couple of crows and stopped the vehicle. We did not immediately see him even though he was out in the open! I wonder why? Ah! There he was sitting right in front of us on the road! He then got up and joined one of his siblings we could just see moving inside the bush. First time experience again in Bandipur!

Young tiger sitting on the road!

After spending some time here, happy with many clicks, we moved on for another wild dog encounter before retiring for the day...

Special morning!

The 5th of March morning yielded the most unusual experience ever for me with a tiger! It was 7.50 am. We were driving slowly on this forest road when I spied a tiger quite a bit in front of us. I guess by this time we were well tuned to tigers! As the animal left the road, we moved ahead and positioned ourselves near a small waterbody and waited in great anticipation. A sambar alarm call! Thrilling...look there she emerges from the grass!

The tigress emerges exactly where we were waiting...

And then she did the most extraordinary thing! She headed straight to some freshly fallen elephant dung and sat on it. As we watched with open mouths, she, with great relish rolled in the dung!! What is going on?

The only logical conclusion we could make as she moved on is that this clever tigress was using elephant dung to conceal her body oder from her prey? A moment to cherish for the rest of our lives indeed!

And then we had to return home!

Back again!

My wife had never seen a tiger in the wild! Yes, even after visiting Ranthambhore and even after twenty years of our marriage! Is it at all surprising that I was soon back in Bandipur with my wife and son?

On the 22nd of March we checked into Tusker Trials. Bingo! On the 23rd evening (5.15 pm) my wife saw her first ever tiger in the wild. The great male was coming right towards us when we saw each other! He quickly jumped across and hid himself in the thicket watching us all the time! I managed to get this one shot as a memento for my wife! She was quite thrilled and thanked god profusely!

First sighting for my wife!

We enjoyed the vibrant forest for three days with all the usual sightings including a lively panther that dashed across the road, several wild dogs, elephants, gaurs, sambars, spotted deers and wild pigs not to mention a large variety of birds!

A large gaur quenches its thirst...

What a March. I cannot help but think that the tiger population has certainly increased in the tourism zone of Bandipur National Park!

How can we leave Bandipur without experiencing the usual road-block!

Will be back...

Vijay Cavale
March 2011