Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Off season in Bandipur

If you are a genuine lover of wildlife there really is no 'off-season'.

Wildlife need food and water to survive and they migrate to areas that offer them sufficient quantities of both.

Bandipur in March, April & May can be disappointing if you go only to see the tiger, elephant and gaur. The first is a rarity even if the season is right, you know that royalty has passed when you see their pugmarks overlaid on the dusty jeep track. I

It can even be more disappointing when you realize that while you spent a good twenty minutes waiting for that elephant to cross the road, this regal cat had a just come to the water hole a few hundred yards ahead, drank its fill and gone back into the shrub to lie up, perhaps beside its kill. We could hear it cough intermittently just about ten or twenty meters beside the road, in the thick lantana.

This is for the uninitiated. There are, if you know the secrets of the wilderness like my four year old, many other things that make the drive in the jungle interesting. He spotted a pair of striped neck mongoose foraging beside a waterhole.

A little further up the road he hissed, "Serpent eagle" and sure enough there was one on a low branch surveying us with its beady eyes. The driver was impressed.

Others followed; a changable hawk eagle, a graceful peacock, a hoopoe and many more that my son will soon learn to identify better than me.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Gangaswamy - version 2.07

An old boss of mine used to say that nothing was constant but change. It's inevitable.

I've known Gangaswamy for a few years now and I have a mental picture that had hardly changed in about half a dozen years. Suddenly, in 2007, I sense that the inevitable is taking place.

He has been an ebullient character. You hear him before you see him and it had been like that from the first time we encountered him in K Gudi, and then later at Bhadra. This time it was different. He's been shunted to Bandipur now and he seemed unusually subdued.

He always had something to tell you; about the jungle , the wildlife, his subordinates, the resort and anything under the sun. He was irrepressible when he had had a bit of some 'mood elevators' inside.

So when I found him draped on a chair with the earphones plugged in place and listening to music it was unusual. Out of courtesy he switched off the music and offered me a seat. "The season is dull, Sir. This Cauvery issue is not good for the tourist industry." I had been warned about agitating farmers blocking roads and stoning vehicles but the route I chose seemed to have no trouble makers. He was lamenting that fact that his resort that boasted 60% occupancy even on weekdays did not have 50% even on the weekend. I clucked in agreement but did not volunteer to add to the conversation.

"You know about the routine here. I needn't tell you anything", he seemed almost regretful. "Even the wildlife seem to share the mood , Sir" , he added. "There has hardly been any sighting for some time now".

I wasn't expecting anything significant. I had made this trip to appease my son. Summer was building and most waterholes were already dry. The grass was dry and prone to catching fire quickly. The big two, gaur and elephants, were migrating to Nagarhole rather than risk hanging around. The Kabini reservoir would see the largest assembly of the Asian elephants on it's banks in summer.

As a matter of fact we had just encountered a large bull gaur feeding beside the highway on our way to Bandipur. He was too engrossed in the leaves he was munching to be bothered by the traffic passing by.

We were prepared for a disappointing trip but in the end it wasn't all that bad. More of that later.