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Following the Pugmarks, Bandipur - Abhi Madangeri

Over a delicious breakfast of idli, vada and dosa near Channapatna, we listened to a story of a person from Holland who had traveled across India in search of the tiger, and on not sighting one, he went back and declared on his blog, "There are no tigers in the wild in India, it is a hoax". It reminded me of the famous Aesop's fable, the Fox and the Grapes. As we got into our car, I asserted myself, "We won't return back as the Fox, claiming the Grapes are sour".

 

Our journey started, with talks on different topics varying from current affairs to history, city life to wildlife, ladies-shopping to photo-shopping, gods to ghosts, and of course wildlife experiences. We reached the gates of the resort and birding had begun even before we checked into our rooms. Cottages in Bandipur are named after different animals and Gouri had specifically asked for the tiger and leopard cottages, because she believes we sight what we stay in, and hence, we occupied the cottages Chital, Elephant, Leopard and Tiger in that particular order.

We gathered at the Gol Ghar for photography related discussion, which was followed by a heavy lunch, post which,we were all set to head for the jungle safari. The safari started with Chitals, so one cottage was checked off the list.

Then after sometime we got a herd of Elephants, second cottage was also checked off the list. We sighted some Gaurs, and a long time was spent with a Peacock perched on a tree and a friendly Monitor Lizard just next to the track.

After that it was a long ride across the terrain without sighting anything, though we did stop in between to shoot some birds. Almost at the end of our safari, we slowed down to observe an alert Spotted Deer. A forest department jeep in front of us had seen something in the nearby bush. We were waiting behind them for quite sometime before asking them to move forward. As we moved a few meters ahead, excitedly I said 'Stop' in unison with our naturalist Basavanna, the third cottage was checked off the list.

A Leopard was sitting inside the dry foliage, but we couldn't wait there for it to come out, as it was time to leave the jungle. The last cottage name was still on the list, and so was one last safari.

After a review session of the images shot during the safari, an interesting photography discussion and a delicious dinner, everyone retired for the day. Plans to try our hands at star trails didn't materialize due to clouds, but a couple of us got busy shooting the Fruit Bats inside the resort. 

A short nap and we were up for the early morning safari. We entered the jungle to be greeted by Spotted Deers and lots of birds. We stopped at a salt lick to shoot a huge flock of Plum Headed Parakeets, when our driver Pradeep received a call and the voice across the line said, "A Tiger is walking on the track". By the time we rushed to the spot, the Tiger had disappeared inside the dense lantana. We turned back to position ourselves near an open area where we thought the Tiger would cross. The tiger was lying below a bamboo thicket partially visible, but none of us could see it from where we were waiting. Before we could have a glimpse of it, the stripes had disappeared again, only to appear behind us near a water hole.  Majestically, it walked towards us, crossed the track behind our jeep, scent marked its territory and disappeared again.

Checked out and checked off the tiger cottage, to return back to Bangalore, and now as I write this I am having some grapes, and the grapes are sweet.  

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