Masinagudi is a town located near the famous hill station Ooty in Tamilnadu, India. The Mudumalai National park is located near Masinagudi. There are numerous resorts for night stay and wild life safari is very famous. If we have luck we can see tiger, Leopard and wild elephants. The resorts occupying the wild life habitat have been vacated in recent times by the forest department. This has helped in increasing the tiger count in the National park. There are around 400 tigers in the forest now. The wild animals like elephants and tiger require larger eco-system to sustain life as they multiply. They mark their territory of 10kms in the case of Tigers. The Elephants can walk as long as 150 kms a day in search of food all though they usually walk 25 km/day on average.
We stayed in a homestay in Mavanalla 10 kms away from Mudumalai. We reached there for a night’s stay. There was a visiting wild elephant named Renovdo by the locals. As we went in the first week of August 2019 the place was very dry without greenery and water. This elephant has started hunting the residential areas for food. In the nights it gets into the homestays breaking the fence and eats all the trees and potted plants that are available. The day before we reached there it had uprooted the cement slabs in the neighboring homestay destroying the place. Our host showed us the video of that. We were awestruck thinking what if the elephant comes to this homestay tonight. The homestay had a bulb at the front, beyond 2 meters we couldn’t see anything. It was a very remote place and pitch dark. Now and then the maid there would go with a torch in hand and check if the elephant is standing nearby. I got to know that the giant elephants do not make any noise or vibration when they walk. Even if they come close to us and stand we will not realize unless we see them. Because their foot is god designed to be so soft, and they have a way of walking tiptoed. Nature’s beautiful creation indeed!
The hosts at the homestay were very nice people. We ate for dinner some Chapathi and Dhaal. Simple but hot and well made. The dining table was placed in open space with pitch dark greenery at our sides. Many cats were walking around the dining with dim lighting. Having dinner there was thrilling. The Homestay owner told us a lot of stories about wild dogs and Leopard that ate their pet dogs. I heard about the wild dogs for the first time there. The locals say the wild dogs, when they come in packs are the most dangerous that even the elephants and tigers move away from them when they are caught single. Worst thing is the wild dogs will not even spare the bones. Imagine a death without evidence! But this is not the case when a tiger or a leopard hunts. They leave back portions of meat and bones.
We occupied a room at the ground level which had a large full size glass window facing the building entrance. The thought of the wild animals breaking the glass and entering our room was a real nightmare. I was so happy to see the sunrise that I got up at 6 AM in the morning. This never happens usually when I am at my home. There were so many varieties of birds humming in the morning welcoming the sunlight. I came out of my room and saw how the place looks in the morning. It was indeed energy giving. The sunlight, the birds and fresh breath of the environment was so alluring. All my fear swept away and I was envying how lucky this homestay owners are to have such a beautiful home in the wilds.
In the morning we had a simple breakfast of Idlies (The traditional south Indian food) and left for the jungle safari. Our first target was to see a Tiger atleast. So we headed straight to Bandipur crossing Tamilnadu border. But on the way the sight was little disappointing because a recent forest fire had burnt many trees on our way. We would have seen atleast 300 deer all our way. Finally we reached the Bandipur Safari starting point. We bought our tickets and sat on the trekking van. We saw Bison, deer and Wild elephant. The forest smells of eucalyptus and other green plants. I just loved the oxygen levels in the forest zone. Kept deep breathing and enjoying the scents.
From there we rushed to Mudumalai for safari. The Safari at both Bandipur and Mudumalai closes by 6pm giving privacy for the animals. During nights the animals sit on the roads and enjoy their space. But there are some guys who take people on unauthorized safaris at night which are unsafe. We are accountable for our safety in those rides. The Animals can be spotted at late evenings and early mornings near the water resources, or where the deers are seen as they come to hunt. The singa val kurangu (Lion tail monkeys) sitting on the trees gives signal to the deers about the tiger or leopard arriving. We saw that where ever a herd of deer stand two or more deer don’t graze at all. They stay vigilant like our soldiers looking at different directions for any predator. Nature has all the knowledge and training. We have to just learn from them.
The wild animals don’t come near humans easily. They hate bikers, they chase bikes. Wild elephants sometimes chase vehicles. In the forest zone it’s strictly prohibited to stop vehicle on the road. We have to keep moving. Also the forest department fines anyone who stops the vehicle.
The tigers hunt humans if they turn man eaters. They hunt humans for the salt and taste they like. Leopards and lions don’t hunt humans. They only attack. The bear does not hunt. It eats fruits and worms. It attacks humans but not dangerous. The Bison is most dangerous. No animal can hunt it. It’s very strong and throws away humans to long distance with its head.
We watched for elephant dung on the way. If it looks wet then elephant is around and has just passed through that way. When elephant is out of sight we can only find them with their smell. Each animal has a smell. The Irula Tribal people are experts in handling these animals. They can train elephants with great skill. The Irula ladies were cutting the bushes on the road side at the stretch in which we are prohibited to get down from the vehicle. The men were boldly walking on the road for some forest duty. The forest department have employed many of the local tribal people in government services there. Because they know the forest. It’s their homeland.
The trip was full of adrenaline rushes and longing to see the wild animals upfront. We felt love and sympathy for wild animals. Thankfully the following week i.e. second week of August 2019 there was heavy spells of rain in the forest never before in history. God saved these animals is what I thought. Because they don’t have the luxury of the domestic animals to which we feed food and water from alternate sources.