In the fringes of the Karnataka-Kerala border lies a thriving jungle, dark and mysterious. Nagarhole has always been known for its beauty and lush green cover in the monsoons. It is also known for the crazy main road sightings people experience while driving through the forest. I realized this firsthand this past June.
Ten minutes into our drive and we saw a Dhole, aka, the Indian Wild Dog, crossing the road! If that wasn’t enough to get us going, we saw 2 crested serpent eagles and a bunch of other birds within 3 minutes; that’s a better start than most proper safaris! No wonder this main road is recommended.
The catch in Nagarhole is that the forest guards keep a close watch on the timestamp, ie, when you get in and when you get out of the jungle. Hats off to them for their vigilance, because today, Nagarhole is one of the healthiest forests in the world!
Anyway, we continued on our drive, and about 30 minutes later, we had to halt for a couple of minutes because of an epic roadblock: 2 dholes tearing apart their kill! We whispered in excitement as the 2 canines battled for the leftovers of what seemed to be a wildboar, and finally one of the dogs gave up and ran away, letting us watch the triumphant dog devour his spoils for a couple of minutes. What a wild, wild, jungle this was!
This fellow almost looked like Clint Eastwood from the old Westerners; a cheroot in his mouth and a scar on his face.
We were soon to exit Nagarhole with this happy memory and the joy of having to do a safari the very next day!
Day 2: Monsoon is not your typical cat season, and we were very aware of this fact. As we started off on our safari, we were greeted by 3 elephants on the main road. After having spent a few intimate moments with these giants, we continued and eventually entered the lush green forests through the official safari tracks.
As we penetrated deep into the jungle, I could just see why this forest is regarded as a healthy one; it looked alive! Lush grasslands, dense green bushes, filled up waterholes, and a lot of prey all around – a nature lover’s dream!
The slight drizzle added to the beauty of the jungle, and my objective of this safari was simply to enjoy the pristine untouched forest and nothing more! Another lovely hour passed, and we got to see a tusker going about its business. What a beast!
It was truly amazing how the greens in the forest made me feel so fresh and energized; i felt truly alive! The air was as fresh as can be, and the jungle sounds resonated with a primal part in my soul.
With 30 minutes more to go, we reached a nearby waterhole where we crossed paths with another safari vehicle. The naturalist for this vehicle had told us that they had just seen a tigress quench her thirst at the waterhole about 5 minutes back. After giving us the good news, he took off with his vehicle, and our interest was cranked. Our naturalist, a very calm individual, said there’s no point expecting her to come out again, and suggested that we should check this spot on our way back. My first instinct went against what he said, but then I told myself, “I’m sure he knows better.”
We went further and after a while took a U-turn only to head back and see a male tiger cross one of the paths! This was hardly for about 5 seconds, but hey, it was a tiger! Though only a couple of us in the vehicle got to see him, it was still a rare moment.
We headed out quite happy; I counted myself luck to have spotted a tiger in such a dense jungle that too in monsoon. (Tigers in Nagarhole have a lot of grassland cover, so they rarely come out in the open unlike Kabini, which is at the fringes of Nagarhole with very different vegetation and more open areas)
As we left, we thought we’d check the waterhole to see if the tigress would come out, but we didn’t – we saw a big male instead! Now, this could be the same male that crossed, but hey, it counts as 2 sightings. This guy was huge; his orange looked so beautiful amidst the greens; I tried clicking whatever i could and then just watched him look at us from a distance. His orange then dissolved into the greens and left all of us on a high; a tiger high!
Where we stayed: Since our trip was mainly a leisure trip, we stayed at Tholpetty Wild Life Resorts in Kerala – just about 8 kms from Nagarhole.
Safari recommendation: Jungle Lodges and Resorts. Their office is located about 2 kms from the Veeranahosahalli gate at the Hunsur side entrance of the park. These guys are the best at safaris across Karnataka! (I usually stay at JLR in Kabini and Bandipur, but at Nagarhole, they do not have accomodation; they just run a pure safari camp)