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Last Updated Saturday January 21 2017 02:31 PM IST

Following the elephant trails on the Nilgiris

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Following the elephant trails on the Nilgiris A herd of elephants, among the first we spotted on our trip. Photo: Jimmy Kamballur

That each journey is a different learning experience is a given. Especially when you are on a journey to discover wildlife, a lot hinges on one word. Luck. We embark on a journey into a wildlife zone.

We had booked our stay at Bandipur Tiger reserve forest for three days almost two months in advance. And as the day came closer all we could think about was - tigers. Last year, we had made a similar journey and all we had wanted then was to spot wild elephants. We were not so lucky then. This year, we wanted to spot tigers, but then, as the saying goes, spotting wild animals depended a lot on luck.

We were all excited as we started from Kottayam in the evening and drove through Thrissur - Vazhikadavu to Karnataka. We reached the check post near Mudumalai Tiger Reserve around 5 am in the morning. They allow vehicles to pass through the check-post only after 6 am. So we decided to take an early morning safari. We were slightly apprehensive as the safari began. But just beyond the first bend in the road our vehicle came face to face with a herd of elephants. It was our first time seeing wild elephants at such close quarters. And it seemed like our prayers from the year before were being answered.

Following the elephant trails on the Nilgiris Elephants on the trail : Photo: Jimmy Kamballur

Since we had to check in only in the afternoon we decided to spend a while at Masinagudi. We parked our vehicle near the dam and polished off our breakfast. Our discussions inevitably were about elephants and we did spot a few. This travelogue is more about the elephants we met on the Nilgiri ranges. And also the deer, the peacocks, Indian Gaur and the countless varieties of birds we spotted.

We - my daughter Angela, my husband Jimmy, friend Geethu and her husband Arjun made up the group. We reached Bandipur where we stayed at a green coloured house called 'Harini'. After a short rest we took the 3.30pm safari bus. There were elephants. And the usual jungle sights welcomed us. Our aim this time was to spot a tiger. Since that did not happen in the first outing we decided to go on another safari. There was no tiger sighting and we decided to call it a day.

Following the elephant trails on the Nilgiris A baby elephant. Photo: Jimmy Kamballur

The alarm went off at 5.30am and within minutes we were ready for the first safari of the day which was at 6.30am. Outside the house we stayed there were a herd of deer and some hanuman langurs who were keeping the photographers busy. We packed some biscuits and water for Angela and managed to get the first seat in the safari bus. This time too, we did not spot the tiger. We decided to take the evening safari and try our luck spotting a tiger again. We saw a lot of deers, peacocks, jungle fowl and monkeys. But that really did not satisfy us. We wanted to spot a tiger, and the beast was still elusive. We saw a group of documentary film makers who were waiting for the tiger too. Tuesday morning came and all we could think was about spotting a tiger. May be today, we would spot one. May be today would be the lucky day. We exchanged pleasantries with the driver and boarded the bus. At the first turn we saw a herd of elephants. The driver stopped the bus and we watched the elephants move about. the photographers took enough pictures and then we moved ahead. We spotted a herd of gaurs but, the tiger, the animal we wanted to see was not ready to appear before us.

Following the elephant trails on the Nilgiris Tusker charging the jeep. Photo: Arjun R K

After breakfast we drove out to Masinagudi. On the road we spotted a tusker and a herd close by on the road. The herd was crossing the road to the water-body which was on the other side. A safari jeep that came by honked and the tusker looked irritated. We parked our Punto someway off and waited. The tusker was agitated with the honking and charged the jeep. While we waited with baited breadth, we heard a noise from within the car. The little one who was with us was scared and she started saying lets go away from here. But we waited for the herd to cross and then drove on.

Following the elephant trails on the Nilgiris The baby elephant in the middle, being trained to cross the road. Photo: Jimmy Kamballur

We went all the way to Moyar dam and on our return, the same herd was making their trip back. We saw that there was a baby elephant in the herd. The big elephants took special care to position the baby elephant in the middle and then cross the road carefully.

We were back at Bandipur well in time for the bus safari. We had to try our luck and spot the tiger. The familiar sights greeted us during the safari. The driver, who felt sorry for us told 'animal sighting is a luck. We gave him a wry smile and got off the vehicle.

Following the elephant trails on the Nilgiris Sunset in the wild. Photo: Geethu Mohan

We decided to take a jeep safari which began at 5.30pm. We were all excited about seeing the sunset in the forest. As we waited for the sunset a herd of elephants walked up. There was a baby elephant in this herd too, and it was a sight to see how protective the entire herd was about the little one.

The sights and sounds of the forest as we waited for the sun to set was something I cannot describe. That evening is etched into our memories for ever. We had but one misgiving, we had not spotted a tiger. May be, next year we would get to spot a tiger.

Our Route

Kottayam - Thrissur - Vazhikadavu - Mudumalai

Bus Safari - For those staying in the resort - Rs 100 For people who are coming just for safari Rs 300 Jeep Safari - Rs 2000

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