Shilpa Sebastian R. treks through the jungles of Masinagudi and has close encounters with the wild kind

Our destination is Masinagudi, a six-hour drive from Bangalore. We hit the highway to Mysore, then travel on to Gundulpet and reach Bandipur. The view outside changes from one of busy traffic lights, buildings and hoardings to jungles and an orange sky. It is 6.30 in the evening and we still have a long way to go. We take the Ooty road, which passes through the Mudumalai forests and then onto Masinagudi. It is almost nine and the roads are pitch dark. The check posts are the only points where we stop.

The next day up at 5 we go on an open jeep safari vulnerable to animals, the chilly winds and the rain. We are excited about encountering wild animals, especially elephants but the guide cautions us. “Never venture near a lone tusker,” he says. “It has either been abandoned by its herd or exiled.”

By the time we hit the deep forests, it is 6.30 a.m. All that meets our eye are plenty of deer grazing. Then, suddenly, we sight a giant squirrel lazing on a tree, an eagle sitting majestically on a branch, and a wild dog frisking in the green open fields. We are disappointed that we see no tigers or elephants even though we spend a good two hours in the woods. “It all depends on luck,” says the guide.

We head back to base for breakfast and decide to take a walk across the various plantations in the vicinity. It is almost noon when we start. We sight a wood pecker and the seven sisters. Masinagudi is a bird watchers’ paradise and trained bird watchers have set up certain points for this, says our guide.

As we walk we sight wild dogs, plenty of deer, and four gaur walking majestically across the plantation. Excited, we stand still and watch them at close quarters as they march past. A few yards further we see a peacock walking past, his long, beautiful feathers trailing behind him.

All that walking makes us hungry. After a heavy lunch and rest its time again for our evening safari. The guides hold up huge spotlights that they flash across the forest to help us spot the animals in the dark. The moment we spot one, the engines are switched off and we are asked to sit still and observe them till they vanish into woods.

We spot a wild boar with its young ones, rabbits, whose eyes gleam a bright red, and a herd of elephants. There is a sudden commotion — someone spots a black panther. But it melts away into the shadows and I miss the black beauty.

Though there are the Moyar and Pykara lakes in the area, the guide takes us to a small stone hill with a tiny waterfall which has not yet discovered by tourists. Animals come here for a drink, and we see fresh elephant dung! An elephant has just passed by and we leave quietly. Getting there

Masinagudi is a three-hour drive from Mysore.

What not to miss

The midnight safari

Where to stay

There are plenty of resorts, with each offering you a range of activities, depending on your time, fitness, age and budget.

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