Wildlife and Photography tour by Darter Jun 29, 2011
Last month I found myself on my way to Bandipur, one of India's best known protected areas and an important Project Tiger Reserve. The night before I was to leave for Bandipur, I had a dream about a forest fire which propelled me to write this short poem I wish to share with you.
I had a dream which I wish that I didn’t have,
A dream which ended with the extinction of some of my feathered friends,
Not a huge loss if you measure it on an economic scale,
But to my heart, it had the effect of losing someone dear,
Which ended up causing me………. a lot of pain
The dream only reaffirmed by belief that I should be doing more for the conservation of ecology; but as a short term goal, I knew I needed to be surrounded by the sights and sounds of birds. With this aim in sight, we set out for Bandipur.
The journey fromBangaloreto Bandipur was probably one of the most interesting road journey’s I had gone on for quite some time. The roads were mostly silent except for a tribal procession some 30 km before Bandipur while the occasional crest on the road gave us a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. The sound of silence, something I had not experienced for quite some time now, was so loud and intense that it created a feeling of guilt in my mind for having ignored this place of natural beauty for so long. Infact, many of our first-time tour participants were quite unnerved as it indeed was feeling which took some getting used to; the feeling created by the ‘absence’ of our everyday sounds. In the city; we are so used to hearing the sounds of cars, machines and the continuous hustle-bustle of daily lives that when we are transported into a place which does not possess these sounds, our mind ironically deciphers it as being ‘unnatural’.
As a contrast to being surrounded by blocks of cement and high-rise structures, we were enveloped by dense green foliage on either side of the road. We also took some time out to pause at an occasional tiny hamlet to take a look at their clusters of brightly coloured houses while the good village folk went about their daily chores. Even engrossed in their busy everyday routine, they were still happy enough to have a word with us when we asked them to pose for a photograph. I could not help but compare the stark contrast of their helpful nature with life in the city, where such a request would have been met with a curt denial or even a glaring look. A participant of our tour even was lucky enough even to be invited into a villager’s house to partake in their simple meal when he mentioned that his ancestors were basically from the same village.
Wanting to imbibe and take in as much of the beauty of nature as possible while doing justice to the photograph that started this journey, we took a detour to Ramanagara to try and spot some vultures. For the second time that day, we had a chance to witness one of the most beautiful landscapes I had ever come across. The hilly area surrounding Ramanagara with its picturesque view brought back the memories of one of India’s all time favourite movies ‘Sholay’ as some sequences of the movie were indeed shot here. Coming face to face with the subject which started it all, we were lucky enough to see 6 Indian Vultures perched on the face of a cliff. The serene gaze of their eyes almost fooled us into thinking that they were asleep.
Suddenly we were reminded of our own stomach growling incessantly. With an intention to give us some much needed sustenance, we decided to stop at a roadside eatery for some Iyengar food. The complex tastes and the savoring of each individual morsel of Dosa and Kesaribath was an experience which neither me nor my taste buds are likely to forget.
Our arrival at Bandipur was greeted with a chance to click some pictures of the Indian Koel eating some fruits off a fig tree. After these ‘appetizer shots’, our group of participants went on to click some more pictures of Red-vented Bulbuls and Tailorbirds. Some of us even managed to get a shot of a Brahminy Kite with its kill by its side- being harassed by a crow. Most of all however, the first few moments in Bandipur for me were not about taking photographs or identifying or spotting an elusive bird; I was just happy to be back there feeling more and more like this was the place I really belonged to. Moving to our place of accommodation, we found that the cottages which were allotted to us were designed around the themes of the Sambar, Leopard and so on. The effect of being surrounded by such themes was so soothing that I slept like I had not in a while. I feel a special note of appreciation is due to the staff maintaining the cottages as they were always eager to help us out and proceeded to make our stay very comfortable.
The subsequent Safari’s into theBandipurNaturalParkgave us a chance to be transported into the land of natural heritage. Moving on through dense wilderness, we saw Peafowl’s ‘dancing’ merrily while some Spotted Deer’s and Sambar took their chances to stare at us warily. They were probably wondering why we were breaching their natural habitat; looking at us as if we were uninvited visitors who did not belong to that place. If only wishes came true and I could speak their language, I would definitely have tried to convince them that I definitely belonged there.
Once we had moved past the Sambar’s, some curious Bonnet Macaques and Stripe Necked Mongoose came around to look at us. Moving on further, I had one of the best captures on my camera when we came upon a small herd of elephant’s right in front of us. The adult elephant in that group resorted to mock-charging us to scare us away. For a moment, we all had our hearts in our mouths. Probably the combined adrenaline we as a group had produced in that short span of 2 minutes would have been enough for us to outrun even the fastest 4 legged species present in Bandipur.
Tufted Grey Langurs, Gaurs and Wild Boars kept us constantly engaged over the walk while Grey Junglefowls, Red Spurfowls, and a variety of Woodpeckers and Parakeets made the whole excursion very colorful. The highlight of the Safari for me and probably a lot of participants was spotting the elusive Sloth Bear –a special occurrence that will remain imbibed in my memory.
Bandipur surpassed my expectations of a national park with its assortment of flora and fauna. Even if I could not capture them all on camera, their memories in my ‘mind’s eye’ would provide me with enough nourishment for a very long time to come.
Later than night, as we sat around a bonfire swapping stories and displaying photographs, we finally decided to call it a day. One of my last memories of the trip was that when the time to say goodbye finally arrived, with a heavy heart- we all bid each other farewell with a promise to see each other again soon. The trip, I am sure for me and everybody else too, was not only about rediscovering the beauty of nature and its natural inhabitants, but it was also about rediscovering ourselves as human beings. Over the years, all the dust, noise, grime and selfishness of the city and its dwellers have created many layers which have covered up our true selves. A trip to a place like Bandipur which is still virgin, beautiful and populated with the innocence of birds and animals helps cleanse us from deep within. At the same time, it goes on to instill a belief in ourselves; it is not yet too late to save our planet’s primary inhabitants. And that the key to saving our planet will be to find and maintain a fine balance between modernization and co-existence. Most of all however, it will be about identifying and discovering the feeling of ‘humanity’ in us humans
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