30 km of wildlife: Driving through Bandipur-Mudumalai forest

Cruise through the home of elephants, deer and tigers

Driving through a forest is a beautiful experience. Unless, you are the driver. Then, you are caught between keeping your eyes on the road and sneaking a look at the animals that pop up in your peripheral vision on either side of the road.

But on the road that runs through the Bandipur-Mudumalai forest, there is only one option — Keep your eyes on the road. That’s because of speed-breakers every few metres.

Since the quality of the road is very good, these speed-breakers ensure that motorists don’t step on the accelerator. But the driver will be left frustrated.

You can’t step on the accelerator and you certainly can’t look at the animals. It’s a pain when your friends shout out — Hey…look…an elephant, a herd of deer, or a tiger. That is likely to bring out the animal inside you. Grrrrrrrr….

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Tough not to look

I took that route early one morning. It is open from 6 am to 6 pm. The route to the forest goes through Gundlupet. This town in Chamarajanagar district is the pit stop for people wanting to drive through the forest. Often, trucks would be waiting overnight. So, you might as well stop for breakfast in Gundlupet instead of standing in a long queue.

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Narrow road and speed-breakers keep you alert

Once past the gate, the two-lane road is very good. The speed-breakers begin once you enter the forest. It’s great for passengers. They get to take in the surroundings while the car moves slowly. The stretch of road through the forest is about 30 kilometres.

There is another incentive for the driver to keep his eyes on the road — there is a lot of truck movement on this road, which connects Bengaluru to Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Who wants to be hit by a truck in the midst of a forest. It is fun to drive through a forest. Getting stuck there is a different ball game.

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A lot of trucks use this road

Honk! Honk! Humans coming

A lot of motorists were stopping and taking photographs of elephants and deer. But authorities advise motorists not to stop anywhere on this route. It is better to take their advice. You never know when some mighty elephant might take offence to your presence and charge at you. Since animals do not follow any of the laws laid down by us humans, you can’t even sue the pachyderm.

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Lot of elephants on this route. Just don’t irritate them

Oh, but there is more to come from us dirty humans. When motorists stop, they end up blocking the narrow two-lane road. You might be tempted to honk, but then what if you end up irritating some elephants. A forest is a tough place to be in.

Yea… a lot of people do honk. I mean, we are Indians. Honking is our birthright. But, you never know when you might run out of luck and come face-2-face with an angry pachyderm or a tiger. Outside a cage, even an otherwise sweet-looking deer can prove to be a tough customer. Don’t even bother to apologise for all the dirty faces you made at animals when you visited the zoo.

Let animals sleep well

I appreciate the stand of the government of Karnataka over the decades to keep the road closed at night so that animals get a break from us noisy and dirty humans. And, I noticed several plastic packets thrown carelessly on the road. Somehow, I got the feeling that they may not have been discarded by animals. But anyway, who cares for my feelings!

There are a few places to eat at the Tamil Nadu border checkpost where you also have the option of turning left towards Masinagudi. Now, this road is narrower and heavy vehicles are not allowed. A few kilometres down this road is Masinagudi. Besides small eateries and resorts, you can also stop at a Cafe Coffee Day for some breathtaking views of the countryside.

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Cafe Coffee Day in Masinagudi

Places to stay

Bandipur is very popular with tourists. There are a few resorts on the fringes of this sanctuary. One good option is the Jungle Lodges resort in Bandipur.

Route map

Dhiraj Shetty