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

Ooty - Bandipur – 4th to 9th, October 2011

Welcome. Holiday season in India. We (22 of us) decided to spend some time in the wild. We chose Bandipur ! - where have I heard that word before?

We found many of these frogs in one lake inside Bandipur National Park!

Ooty First – Nilgiri Laughingthrush!

I spent the 4th and 5th night in Ooty with my family in a friend’s house. It was as usual great fun and a lot of partying. The weather was perfect. Sunshine and blue skies…

From the wildlife point of view I could not resist making a quick visit to “Doddabetta”. Being one of the highest peaks in South India, this hill attracts a large amount of tourists. In the morning at about 7am as the tourists begin trickling in a peanut vendor opens shop at the entrance. If you are interested in birds like me and wait for a while near this vendor as he sets shop, a group of “Great Tits” arrive. Soon they begin to feast on the boiled peanuts that the tourists invariably drop.

Patience and out hops a “Nilgiri Laughingthrush”! It is quite funny that this rare and shy endemic bird breaks cover and boldly hops among the ever growing tourist legs! The poor photographer with his long lens and huge tripod, intensely focused on the small brown bird is soon mobbed by the hundreds of tourists as he struggles to get a focus through the maze of human legs! Funny indeed!

Nilgiri Laughingthrush. 

Bandipur – Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR)

On the 6th morning my family descended to Bandipur. It took me about 2 hrs to drive the short distance as almost everyone who had a car seemed to be on that road that day! Some of them surely must have escaped from a prison? I felt a lot safer in the midst of wild animals later that evening!

Afternoon we grouped (four families, the other two would join us next day) at JLR ,Bandipur for a three nights stay. All of us were quite excited and full of anticipation. We had six safaris to look forward to before we head back to the human jungle…

6th - Evening – Wild Dog Chase! 

We entered the forest at exactly 4 pm. Later, we were approaching a T-Junction when we saw a few “Spotted Deer” dash across and in hot pursuit was a single “Wild Dog”! As we watched, the "chase" vanished into the undergrowth. One less deer soon I thought! Later another vehicle told us that there were actually nine wild dogs in that pack.

There was lot of excitement about a leopard sitting on a rock that evening. Some saw it, some did not. Those who waited saw it again, those who moved on did not. Back at JLR at 6.30 pm many who had seen the leopard showed us the images they had taken – envy – what went wrong, why did we not see it - tomorrow we also shall see it!

7th Morning – Gaur – Mother and kid! 

We entered the forest at exactly 6.30 am. At 7 am I was able to shoot this wonderful “Indian Muntjac”! There were plenty of “Gaurs” and “Elephants” all over the forest. “Stripe-necked Mongoose” was a common sight along with “Spotted Deer” and “Sambar Deer”.

Barking Deer or Indian Muntjac. 

At one place we saw a mother Gaur standing on the road with her kid. Few other Gaurs were grazing around. Normally, they disappear on human approach, but this time to my delight she just stood and began licking her kid and allowed close approach! Any photographers delight!

A bold mother! 

7th Evening – Leopard Sighting! 

We must see a cat. Basavana was driving. We had the usual sightings of Spotted Deer and Gaur to begin with...

Stripe-necked Mongoose! 

At about 5 pm we saw a very alert Spotted Deer herd. One male deer we staring intently into the bush. Many were calling in alarm. We knew something was around, a cat for sure! We waited in silence for a few minutes, nothing! We moved on… later, at the reception center, Sanjay form “Country Club” showed me stunning images of a leopard on a tree with a “Giant Squirrel” kill! He shot this at the same point where we had sensed a cat – just after we left!

Alert Leader! 

One kind safari bus driver told us that there was a huge tusker at “Moolapura Kere”. Good idea, the light is good let us shoot… we soon reached the tusker.

My son shoots me, shooting a tusker! 


And then (6 pm) we were waiting at the “Mangala Dam” area when we heard a Sambar call in alarm. Move! Soon we saw the Sambar with its tail raised and leg stamping. Surely a cat! As we waited at the “Moolapura Junction” a cat crossed the road! It was a leopard. Just a glimpse – blessed feeling indeed!

8th Morning – New born elephant Calf! 

This morning after the usual sightings and searching for the cat we were returning when we came across a herd of elephants. We noticed a new born calf being carefully protected by its mother. We waited a while and the herd settled down. At one time the mother and the new born were some twenty feet from us. Such a pleasure! At one time the mother and aunt actually charged at a Langur and chased him away. Soon, as it usually happens, a few other vehicles came by and the herd disappeared into the undergrowth leaving us with a nice feeling…

New born with mother. 

8th Evening – Tiger, Tiger, burning bright! 

Where is the tiger? No one had see one recently. Where have they all gone? We must try harder! Immediately on entering the forest we saw a “Sloth Bear”! It ran away. Let us check “Siddrayanakatte” – no luck. Time is running out. Ramesh, let us take a chance and head towards ‘Shetty Kere”. There is too much growth and no view line sir. No problem, just go.

5pm on the road to “Shetty Kere”… huge pug marks – fresh! The marks suddenly ended indicating the Tiger must have jumped off the road on our approach. Excitement.

Fresh pugmarks! 

What to do? Reverse, wait or go ahead? Something said go ahead and a minute later we saw a huge tiger on the road walking away from us! The “Shetty Kere” – Male”!

We followed for a few minutes as the tiger made its way through the weed and at one place, sprayed on a small teak tree and then we lost sight of the wonderful animal! We saw him again crossing the road behind us as we heard another vehicle approach in front of us and then he was gone for the day! We were the lucky nine that day! Thrilling as one of them described the whole episode back at camp. Three in the jeep had just seen a free roaming wild tiger for the first time in their lives! Hip Hip … party time tonight!


Tiger Spraying! 

Tiger - final look! 

9th Morning – With the kids! 

Shetty Kere was quite that morning! 

This last round I was with the kids. There were eight of them. Very well behaved. Some of them with some top class cameras. They wanted to see a tiger too. We tried hard but no cat luck that morning… sorry kids, we shall try again, soon!

Lekhs -Budding Photographer?

Summary :

We had a blast. All 22 of us. The forest was vibrant and full of life. First time I saw all the top four – Wild Dog, Sloth Bear, Leopard and Tiger! Indian Muntjac, Stripe-necked Mongoose, Spotted Deer, Sambar Deer, Wild Pig, Hanuman Langur, Bonnet Macaque – All! Not to forget a large number of species of birds…

Will surely be back…

Vijay Cavale
October, 2011