Twenty five percent of India’s elephant population and fifteen percent of its tigers are found in the dense forests of southern Karnataka. Animal and bird sanctuaries and National Parks can be found almost all over Karnataka – even Bangalore, Karnataka’s largest city, boasts the Bannerghatta National Park on its wooded outskirts, though they are more common in the state’s southern extremes along the Western Ghats. Elephants, tigers and other jungle cats, varieties of deer, bison, boar, monkeys, among others, can be sighted in these wildernesses to which tourist access is easy thanks to both government and private enterprise that, apart from transport to and from the nearest cities or towns, also provide a variety of accommodation around the Sanctuaries and Parks. An overnight stay may even gain you the rare sight of a Great Hornbill outside your window!
The Bandipur National Park in Chamarajanagar District adjoining the state of Tamil Nadu and Kerala is perhaps the most well known of Karnataka’s wildlife sanctuaries; it is also one India’s first Tiger Reserves. Its 880 square kilometers (once the royal hunting preserve of the Mysore Maharajah) comprise of scrub jungles of stunted trees interspersed with bushes and open grassy patches gradually shifting to open dry to tropical mixed deciduous tree-cover– ideal country for about a hundred species of mammals and 350 bird species.
The Kabini Forest Reserve is another of Karnataka’s more favored wildlife destinations. It is easily accessible, the landscape is lush and green thanks to the river from which it draws its name. Sighting elephant herds, tigers and other wildlife is not difficult here, especially during summer when the waters of the massive Kabini dam recede to reveal rich grassy meadows. Once a favored shikar (hunting) hotspot for British Viceroys and Indian royalty, the only ‘shooting’ done here today is of the harmless variety!