Close encounter with a tiger - Bandipur National Park

Published on 8 June 2023 at 00:38

One of my earliest childhood memories was seeing a huge tiger right in front of me at a zoo. I was astounded by the size and power of this magnificent cat. Since that day, the tiger has been my favorite animal, and it was a dream come true when I embarked on a journey to the Bandipur National Park to encounter one of these magnificent cats in their natural habitat.

Where is it?

Bandipur National Park is located in the state of Karnataka, India. It is situated in the southern part of the state, near the border with the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The park is part of the larger Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bandipur National Park is known for its rich biodiversity and is home to various wildlife species.

How to get there

Bandipur National Park is approx. 80 km (50 miles) from the city of Mysore, which is well-connected by train. From Mysore we hired a taxi for the scenic 2-hour ride to the national Park.

Mysore itself is a city worth visiting with major sights like the opulent Mysore palace, the Chamundi Hill temples which offers panoramic views over the city or the renowed Mysore Zoo.

Where to stay?

We stayed at the Bandipur Safari Lodge. This  lodge offers comfortable cottages, which blend with the natural surroundings and provide a serene environment for relaxation. The rooms are equipped to ensure a comfortable stay.

The lodge organizes jeep safaris, guided by experienced guides who provide insights into the park's flora and fauna. A multi-cuisine restaurant serves a variety of delicious dishes, including local specialties, making this lodge an ideal choice for wildlife lovers visiting Bandipur National Park.

If you keep your eyes open, you can even spot wildlife within the lodge. A troop of bonnet macaques live here and different types of bird visit the area. At night, Indian flying foxes land in the tree tops to feast on fruits.


Bengal tigers, Indian leopards, dhole, Sloth bears, Indian elephants, gaur, large variety of birds.

The experience

During our stay in Bandipur, we embarked on two half-day safaris, fully immersing ourselves into the wilderness in search of India's most iconic creatures. The landscape of Bandipur National Park is characterized by a diverse mix of terrain, offering a rich and varied environment for wildlife.  The combination of dry and moist deciduous forests, grasslands, and water bodies of different sizes create an environment that supports a wide array of fauna.

Our jeep stopped at the lakes of the park, as these are hotspots for wildlife. We observed woolly-necked and painted storks, egrets and cormorants wading and foraging for food in the water and mammals such as the chital deer and different monkeys like gray langurs and bonnet macaques came here to drink water.

I had come to the park with one goal in mind—to catch a glimpse of a wild tiger. As our jeep ventured through the park, an electrifying tension filled the air. Our guide told us that encountering this apex predator required a stroke of luck, as many visitors would leave without  seeing a tiger.

However, luck was on our side! During our very first safari, our guide's phone rang, bringing exciting news. A tiger was nearby! Not wasting time, we raced to the location, our anticipation building with each passing second...and there we were, right in front of Prince, the largest male tiger of this park. Resting peacefully, he seemed unperturbed by our presence, emanating an undeniable aura of strength and grace. We all were captivated by his sheer size and presence Suddenly, Prince rose from his rest, initiating a powerful stride through his vast territory. For over half an hour, we trailed behind him, as he effortlessly moved through his kingdom.

The tiger then decided he had granted us enough of his majestic presence. In the blink of an eye, he vanished into the towering grass, leaving us awe-inspired. That day, a lifelong dream finally became a reality!

Filled with an adrenaline rush from this extraordinary sighting, our tour continued, revealing more interesting encounters. We observed different birds, monkeys and the ever-present chital deer.

Just as we were preparing to leave the park for the day, our guide's sharp eyes caught something in the distance. It was almost another spectacular sighting, but I just caught a glimpse of a leopard's tail. These elusive cats are masters of camouflage making them incredibly challenging to spot in their natural habitat.

The tiger sighting was the talk of the day in the lodge. We still couldn't believe how close we were to this magnificent animal.

Anticipation filled the air as the second jeep safari approached, scheduled for the following morning. Little did I know that December mornings in India could be bitterly cold. The morning was misty, giving the forest a mystical touch. We encountered Bandipur's herbivores on their morning walks: chital and sambar deer, wild boars and  gray langurs. The rare stripe-necked mongoose and the Indian giant squirrel were both a first-time sighting for me. The large diversity of birds was on full display with parakeets, peafowls, kingfisher and an impressive hawk-eagle.

The sun slowly rose and the warmth brought more life into nature. And we were still granted a great sighting. The largest inhabitant in the park made an appearance. A small group of Indian elephants made their way through the dense forests, munching on the lush greenery. I had initially overlooked these gentle giants, but the guide pointed their location out to me. Though photographing the scene was challenging, the encounter itself was nothing short of breathtaking. It was remarkable how these heavy animals move so silently through the jungle. The presence of these elephants served as a powerful testament to the overall health and thriving ecosystem of the reserve.



  • Tufted gray langur (Semnopithecus priam)
  • Bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata radiata)
  • Indian flying fox (Pteropus medius)
  • Indian giant squirrel (Ratufa indica)
  • Stripe-necked mongoose (Urva vitticolla)
  • Ruddy mongoose (Urva smithii)
  • Indian grey mongoose (Urva edwardsii)
  • Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)
  • Indian boar (Sus scrofa cristatus)
  • Chital (Axis axis)
  • Sambar (Rusa unicolor)
  • Indian muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak aureus)
  • Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus)


  • Asian woolly-necked stork (Ciconia episcopus)
  • Painted stork (Mycteria leucocephala)
  • Great egret (Ardea alba)
  • Grey heron (Ardea cinerea)
  • Paddy heron (Ardeola grayii)
  • Indian cormorant (Phalacrocorax fuscicollis)
  • Common myna (Acridotheres tristis)
  • Oriental magpie-robin (Copsychus saularis)
  • Indian paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradisi)
  • Brahminy starling (Sturnia pagodarum)
  • Asian koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus)
  • Red-vented bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer)
  • Bay-backed shrike (Lanius vittatus)
  • Coppersmith barbet (Psilopogon haemacephalus)
  • Brown-capped pygmy woodpecker (Yungipicus nanus)
  • Red-wattled lapwing (Vanellus indicus)
  • Common sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
  • White-breasted waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus)
  • Common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
  • White-throated kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)
  • Rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
  • Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus)
  • Sonnerat's junglefowl (Gallus sonneratii)
  • Brahminy kite (Haliastur indus)
  • Changeable hawk-eagle (Nisaetus cirrhatus)

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