Sheroo is visiting his aunt in Bandipur. Taking an early morning stroll through the forest he is amazed at the sights.
Gowri, my aunt who lives in Bandipur has been inviting me to visit her. So get your jungle gear and come along. It's a long way from Ranthambhore. Situated at the foothills of the Western Ghats, Bandipur was once a 90- square kilometre hunting reserve of the Mysore Maharaja. In 1973, it went on to become a larger-800 square kilometre National Park and part of Project Tiger. But other than us tigers, there are lots of other interesting denizens in this jungle.
I'm taking an early morning stroll through this forest with Gowri. The early bird catches the worm and the red-wattled lapwings are literally doing just that. Cormorants, kingfishers and a lone darter drying his wings, sit on skeletal trees at a lake. Breakfast on their mind too. As we continue our stroll, a little barking deer disappears into the shrubs. He's is a shy creature and but he can bark all right! A herd of Gaur, ( no, they take offence you call them Indian Bison because they are not ) are grazing on a patch of green while a wild hare makes a quick dash across. Further ahead, a peacock downs his brilliant blue tail. Blue highlights are everywhere, more peacocks as we go along. Every now and then, above our heads there are flashes of blue — blue jays and king fishers!
Look carefully in the trees and you can spot Crested Serpent Eagles, Hawk Eagles, hoopoes, drongos, babblers, green pigeons, Paradise fly catchers and more.
Up ahead, we come across a rarely seen group as they lie lazily on the grass. They are the dholes or wild dogs. They hunt in packs and can down a gaur or a sambhar deer. What is that rustling in that bamboo thicket? An elephant herd with two young ones. Elephants are in plenty here and hot summer months see them migrate to nearby Nagarhole on the banks of the Kabini. The forest this season is a beautiful green in stark contrast to the hot summer which saw a lot of forest fires. The gentle chitals (the spotted deer) and sambhar bound across into the bushes as they see us, “Relax, we‘re not looking for breakfast!”
Gowri insists that we trek up to Gopalswamy Betta. As we go up, it gets cold and we are surrounded by mist. All through the year this cloud of mist remains. ‘Mist'erious, isn't it? This is the abode of Lord Gopalswamy (Lord Krishna) and Gowri is keen that I visit the temple to pay my respects.
Looking down from the top, I spy a water hole. As we go down for a drink, Gowri has a story for us; a crow once drank from it and turned into a swan. Ever since, you don't see any crows here. Or swans either! Lying on one of the huge rocks dotting the place afterward — this feels like heaven.
A Children for Animals and Nature Unlimited (CANU) Initiative
From Sheroo's Jungle book
In the forest
This forest is a happy mix of dry, deciduous and tropical. So you have open grass lands, shrubs in parts while some areas have thicker and taller vegetation. There's one tree you must keep your eyes open for — the Crocodile Bark tree. The bark of this tree resembles Mr Croc's skin. Silk worms feast on its leaves and it has another little secret — the tree trunk can actually store water!