Mudulalai and Bandipur – Leopards and Elephants
Mudumalai Tiger Reserve sits in the state of Tamil Nadu, and Bandipur National Park borders it in the state of Karnataka. The road connecting Ooty to Mysore runs through the two parks, and is only open from 7 am to 9 pm (presumably so the animals can have exclusive late night parties with bottle service).
We had previously seen wild elephants in Sri Lanka and were pretty nervous about running into them again, but spotting a big cat did not seriously cross my mind. Then, very shortly after setting out, just as the sun was rising, a giant feline ran across the road in front of us – maybe 100 yards away. It was backlit, so it was hard to make out the coloring, but the shape of the body (and especially the tail) were unmistakeable: a wild leopard, out for a morning jog.
After that the animal sightings just kept coming: tons of grey langurs and macaques, herds of spotted deer, and even a mother and baby sambar. Bicycles make for wonderful safari vehicles: we are quiet enough not to scare the animals, and slow enough to be able to take long look – but theoretically fast enough to get away if anyone charges. (Dmitry actually spent the night prior to the ride looking up how to deal with a charging elephant on the internet. Turns out, there is no agreed-upon method.)
We’ve had pretty good luck conjuring animal sightings in national parks, and it happened again this time. About 20 seconds after I said I would really like to see an elephant in the river that we were riding alongside – one appeared! He was slowly crossing the water, with a mahout on his back, perfectly framed by the trees.
After that, we saw another (chained) mother and baby. No wild elephant sighting this time, but given our failure to figure out how to deal with elephant charges, that is probably for the best!