If you happen to be in Bangalore just killing time with no clue of where to usefully spend some time without getting trapped into the big shopping complexes that the city has in plenty, I would strongly suggest a visit to the Bannerghatta National Park on the outskirts.
Well connected by bus service including the luxury low-chassis high-seat Volvo air-conditioned bus, the Park is about one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours’ drive from the city centre, depending on the traffic at the time of your trip.
The Bannerghatta National Park, BNP as I would call it hereafter, is a big protected zone of forest area reserved for conservation of wildlife. It does look in stark contrast to the real estate/construction activity in the peripheries around the park. The commitment of the Government and the patronage of the public, in large numbers during holidays, give hope that the Park will continue to exist and sustain its ecology in spite of the rapid urbanization happening all around.
BNP comprises a huge area of land with enough trees as forest cover, a few water bodies and some dry, rocky terrain in the middle that can accommodate a variety of wildlife – animals small and big, reptiles, birds and a variety of flora attracting insects, particularly butterflies. A small portion has been earmarked for the zoo where animals are kept in caged or fenced enclosures.
BNP opens at 9 a.m. and offers a jungle safari of roughly an hour’s duration throughout the day. Mini-buses fitted with wire-mesh windows with a small opening for camera take visitors through the jungle. The vehicles ply winding in loops up and down rough terrain through various zones according to the family of animals. One is able to view deer and monkeys wandering through grass and trees, bears playing together in the open, and lions, having been fed well in the morning, lazily basking in the sun right on the middle of the road. I saw a huge black snake, roughly 6 to 7 feet long, appearing from nowhere and quickly crossing the road, wiggling its way through bushes and vanishing in a jiffy before I could get the camera ready.
Elephants were quenching their thirst in the lake. About a dozen lion cubs held together in captivity were happily playing and when they heard the sound of our bus, they all came together to an opening in the fence from where they could see our bus well. I was not sure who was more interested – the tourists in the bus looking at the cubs or the cubs in the enclosure looking at the bus!. Tigers were prowling in a separate zone. A Bengal white tiger was sitting in meditation, unmindful of anything happening around it.
The driver and the attendant are very considerate, stopping the vehicle whenever we wanted to have a better look. They are very camera-savvy and voluntarily help to take snaps for those who could not get a window seat, by taking their cameras and clicking for them from the driver’s side window.
Once the safari is over, the vehicles come out of a protected zone and ply fast through an open road to the entrance of the zoo. The safari ticket includes the zoo entry fee also. However, just about 100 meters to the final stop is the butterfly park. It is advisable to request the driver to stop here and get to see the butterfly park, and then proceed to the zoo. It will save walking of this stretch.
The butterfly park is a nice idea – a green-house enclosure with enough flowering plants and other ingredients to attract butterflies. While the literature says some 30 to 40 varieties of butterflies frequent this place, unfortunately on the day I visited I could only see the two predominant species – the common crow and the common rose occupying the entire park. Still, I was impressed by the sheer number of butterflies I could see in the enclosure. In the garden outside, I came across a swarm of blue tigers and small yellows. I would have loved to see more varieties, but that did not happen. You have to buy a separate ticket for entry to and use of camera in the butterfly park.
Walking back to the zoo takes about 10 minutes. The zoo, considering the size and the population the city it serves, is not impressive. Compared to the Mysore zoo, this is nothing. Still, it provides a brief break from routine for the people of Bangalore, enabling them to have a leisurely stroll around the vast area looking at the various animals and birds in captivity, sit down and share home-made food and let the children play in their play zones.
Depending on one’s interest, one can easily take half-a-day to a full day at BNP and get back home with the satisfaction of having spent the time and money for a good cause, than splurging on unnecessary shopping and eating out. Children would definitely love to go on the safari and play in the park inside the zoo. Bangalore weather makes it all the more enjoyable.
Information on the current tariff and other facilities available at BNP can be viewed at www.bannerghattabiologicalpark.org.