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This review now has 2 parts; part 1 deals with reaching BNP, car parking and ticket details, facilities outside the park so on, while part 2 deals with what is inside the park and safari details with photography tips.

PART 1

A visit to Bangalore City is incomplete if you don’t plan a trip  to Bannerghatta National Park (referred as BNP here after). Situated around 25 Km south of Bangalore city, BNP is one of the most exotic national park in the country. I was fortunate to visit the park on Aug 15, 2012 (and again on Jan 18) and had one of the best “wildlife” experience in my life. During my first plans to visit BNP, i did a detailed “Google” search on reviews about the park and was a bit disappointed with the results. All I could get was standard information like working hours and photos of the animals present at the park, but i failed to get a “traveler point of view” review, which prompted me to write one! In this review (which is nearing 8000 reads in 10 months), i try to feed in details a person should keep in mind while visiting the park (including some “amateur” photography tips) and not discuss the detailed flora and fauna present there, which eventually you are going to experience no matter what i say.  If you have some specific questions about the park, unanswered below, then please fell free to ask through the comments sections,i will be happy to answer them (if i know) and re-edit the post if necessary! 🙂 After reading this review, if you liked it, please do leave your valuable comments in the comments section at the end..Some one leaving a comment is the best reward a blogger can get.

NB: The times group has a very good compact city guide book on Bangalore which could be very helpful for you in exploring the city of Bangalore. Buy that book online from Flipkart here

REACHING BNP

If you are new to Bangalore, or say you are not familiar with the different roads and bus routes in Bangalore, the best thing to do, wherever your place of stay be, is to reach the Kempegowda Bus Station a.k.a Majestic Bus Station (Opposite to Bangalore City Railway Station). The most convenient (even though not the cheapest) way to reach BNP is to use the BMTC Vajra AC bus from Majestic station, platform 4, bus number 365. Board 365 itself and not any other similar numbers like 365A or 366. You may get ordinary, non-AC buses too, but taking an AC bus has its own advantages.First of all, the journey from bus stand to BNP will take around 1 and half hours in non peak hours and up to 3 hours in peak traffic. So its better to travel in an AC Bus. Also, the AC bus will be less crowded and you will have a bus conductor who can understand English. Plug in your i-pod or any entertainment device you have or plunge into the book you were reading, and have a happy, silent, cool and safe journey.

The cost of bus ticket for Vajra 365 (as on Jun 16,2012)  is 50 rupees one side. If you are planning to come back all the way to Bangalore city then DO NOT buy the ticket itself, instead ASK the conductor of the bus for a daily VAJRA pass. It cost 90 rupees (Again as on Jun 16,2012), but the advantage is that you can use that pass to travel for the day in any bus including non-AC buses (except AC Vajra to airport a.k.a Vayu Vajra) So if you are planning to go anywhere else the same day other than BNP, you don’t need to pay the bus fare! Even if you are going straight back to main bus stand you save 10 rupees!  BNP is the LAST stop for the 365 bus. Many people will get down at the penultimate stop, hence don’t get confused and follow them, the bus will take you all the way to the BNP.

For people coming by private car, taxi, bikes so on…

For those who are planning to reach BNP using their own vehicles, there is ample parking space available at BNP.  The parking fee will be collected even before you enter the BNP premises, just outside the old gate, by BNP officials itself (Which is on the way to the new gate). Simply put, on the way, just before you enter BNP, you have to pay the parking fees and you don’t need to get out of the car, they will come to you! 🙂 There are 2 or 3 spots where you can park your vehicle, all of which are walking distance from the entry and exit gates of BNP. I didn’t find any security persons at the parking places monitoring the parked vehicles, but generally it is a safe place to leave your vehicle and go, provided you lock your vehicle properly!

Below is the picture of a parking space which is just across the road,  near a Dosa Camp.. A privately run children’s play area and fun zone is present near this parking place.

ONCE YOU REACH BNP

The best time to visit the national park is when it opens! REMEMBER:The NP is closed on Tuesdays The official working hours for BNP is from 9AM to 5PM.  But the ticket counter opens only around 9: 30-9:45. With time, the crowd increases exponentially and if you are lazy enough to reach only around, say 11 AM, then come ready to stand in queue for hours! Get up early, reach the bus stand by 7-7:30 AM, you will reach BNP before 9. If you leave from bus stand anytime

between 8 AM and 10 AM, the traffic in Bangalore will be beyond your imagination. The outside of BNP will look deserted(in the mornings), you have the BMTC BNP Bus stand, a state govt “promoted” hotel and “Dosa camp” and a few shops which mainly sells “Lays”, bottled “desi” water and cigarettes. (Dont expect to get Kinley/Bisleri water or 3 star quality food anywhere near if you go in the morning). Better buy a bottle of water and a packet of biscuit before you begin!  By the time i reached (at 8:30 AM 🙂 ), the hotel was not yet open but the Dosa stall was, and trust me, the “Dosa” was good! The inside of BNP is a PLASTIC FREE ZONE so PLEASE  don’t throw away any plastic wrappers or bottles inside the park. Carrying a bottle of water is okay but remember to keep it inside your backpack, or the guards will ask you to leave it at the entrance.

“Mayur Vanasree Restaurant” is a hotel at BNP run by the Karnataka State Tourism development corporation. It opens around 11 AM, and it is the only hotel at BNP where you can get good food at reasonable price. The hotel serves both Vegetarian and Non-vegetarian food and their menu includes almost all food items which you get at a multi cuisine restaurant like Rice items, Noodles Items, Soups, Veg curries, Veg dry fries, Chicken curries, Chicken dry fries, Tawa times, Snacks, Tea, Coffee, Juice, Ice creams so on…. I had my lunch during my second visit from there and the food was good. 🙂 Packed drinking water is available at this hotel.

The purpose of my second visit to BNP was to collect more details about the “life outside BNP”. During my first visit, I reached BNP at 8 AM, and the place was quiet and lonely. But the second time, what I saw was a totally different atmosphere. People were flocking around the kinds of shops and stalls outside BNP. Different variety of food and fruit juices are available at the local stores. You can find shops selling fruits, fruit juices like Mango juice, sugarcane juice so on, shops which sell local vegetables, shops selling corn, kinds of baked food items so on. Other than shops selling food related stuffs, there are a lot of shops which sell fancy items like cap, dolls, variety of children toys, locally made craft items.

Near the “Dosa camp” there is a pretty big children’s play area which offers a variety of  ”joy rides”.  It can be called as a mini amusement park with rides like Giant wheel, a small merry-go-round so on. Horse ride facility is also present there. Do note that, this facility is not that of BNP, but is a privately run park, and hence safety and reliability of their services cannot be guaranteed.

The BMTC bus stand at BNP has a shopping complex along, and a lot of shops which sells standard consumer items  are present there. Another important facility at the BMTC  bus stand at BNP is a clean, spacious, well-managed TOILET. It is a pay and use toilet, but as a result of which, it is maintained in a proper way. Drinking water filling facility, both cooled and ordinary is also available inside the bus stand shopping complex.

All the buses towards Majestic and other parts of Bangalore leave from here.

WHATS “IN STORE” AT BNP

The BNP has 3 sections to visit The Zoo, The forest and a Butterfly park. The most important, obviously is the forest trip ( known as Safari) where you can come across the “wildlife” in its natural habitat. The ticket fare for the Safari is 210 rupees which also include the admission to the zoo. (For children and Senior citizens, there is concession). You may read in other reviews that depending on the day, the fee changes, but it does not. Every day, whether it be Sunday or Monday, it is 210 per head (as on 16 June 2012). You need to take SEPARATE ticket for your camera, which is 25 rupees per camera. The ticket to the butterfly park is available at the gate of the butterfly park and not at the main ticket counter. Regarding what is inside the zoo, forest and park, i am not wasting any space and time by writing about it, because almost every animal whose name a common man knows are found inside, if you visit all 3 sections of the park.

PART 2

INSIDE THE BNP

The safari starts only around 11 AM and hence you will be “advised” by the guards to visit the zoo till then, if you reach at the time of opening.You can do that, BUT the only demerit i find in that decision is that, during that time, i.e 9 30 to 10 30 or so, the morning cleaning work around the zoo will be on its course and hence it will be very chaotic .The upside is that you can see the zoo animals having their breakfast (Which is a pleasure to watch 🙂 ) for instance like the bear in the picture is eating its daily dose of sugarcane!

So, the zoo is like any other zoo, animals are caged, (but properly taken care of), some animals look at you in total despair ,some like the leopard doesn’t care whether you are there or not and keeps fighting each other while the zebra would love to get a touch of your hand on its forehead! Again as all zoo administration say, let me remind you DO NOT feed the animals. An out of context point here, if any of you really want to know the life of animals in a zoo and how a boy survived a long sea expedition with a Bengali tiger in a boat, read the Novel “Life of pi” by Yann Martil. It’s a booker prize-winning novel, and its an awesome read! Click on the Flipkart link provided here or at the bottom of this post to buy the book from the online store at discount rates!

Safari Buses queued outside BNP, waiting for the people

PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

The authorities take you for safari in a completely “iron grilled” bus, but beside each seat there will be a 10 cm diameter circular gap through which you can put your camera lens out! It doesn’t matter, on which side you sit in the safari bus (but try to get a side seat, if you are a photography addict), it’s all up to the animals to decide when and where to appear ,eventually you will find animals on both sides of the bus!  If you have a SLR camera then you “may” get some “respect” from others while taking pictures, but if you have just an ordinary compact camera (like i had) then you will struggle a lot, to capture images, as you and your camera will get surrounded by mobile phone photographers! The only thing which you can do is be attentive,spot the animals before others do!  So like “hit and run” it is “spot and run”  to the nearest view hole in the bus grill and click the pictures.SLR camera owners, don’t forget to bring your tele zoom lens (if you have them)!

Sometimes the animal will neither come to the left of the bus nor to the right ! Instead they will come and rest right in front of the bus, on the road! So be quick to reach to the front of the bus if you are sitting in the middle or behind. The bus glass is usually clean and hence you will get good pictures,but all that counts is whether you can make it to the front of the bus in time before other cameras flood the area! I managed to get the photo shown here by standing on one leg and leaning forward, i was almost horizontal to the ground when i clicked this! Please do visit my Facebook photography page for more photos taken with my compact camera during the trip and other pictures I have taken. REMEMBER: The way in is NOT the way out. So don’t think that you can  take  photos when you come back. There is no coming back! Hence if you find some real photographic moments just click! click! click! Another note to professional photographers; the NP is also a place of unbelievable natural beauty! Some landscape locations are beyond words. But unfortunately, the bus stops only when they spot an animal and NOT at scenic “hot spots”. So be bold enough to ask the driver to stop the bus and reverse if necessary (they do the reverse the bus when they spot animals) and take your shots at such locations. (End of the day it’s up to the driver to listen to you or not 😛 )

HERBIVORE  ANIMAL SAFARI

Initial few square kilometers of the park is dedicated to animals like bison, deer and other non-flesh eating animals. You can see them very closely, eating their food, or playing around. They generally do not come near the bus, but still you will have plenty  to see around during this part of the safari . A large number of deer family are found here.

BEAR SAFARI

Not just at the zoo, but even inside the forest you can see a lot of bear. I saw around 15 bear and they are really friendly! They come near the bus, pose for you and even give a shake hand if you put your hand out through the view hole! (Warning: Do not try it, i was just making a point!)

TIGER SAFARI

You can see a lot of tiger and tigress including white tigers. It is  a pleasure to watch the tigers coming near the bus! There are some “attitude” tigers too,who even after seeing the bus will not give a look at us, at least for a photograph! As i mentioned before, if you are lucky some tiger will come on the road and lie there for some time! (The bus does not honk them away, its their place and we are the visitors!)  Inside the tiger safari area there is a special zone dedicated to white tigers including artificial space for recreation!

LION SAFARI

During my trip, I was less fortunate to see the lions at close distance. It may be because, it was the wrong time we chose, or they generally do not come closer, but none of the lions came near the bus, even though we spotted many lions. In fact, all the  lion which i saw was taking rest at their bamboo parks and some lioness were taking a bath!

BUTTERFLY PARK

Once you finish with the safari, the bus will drop you at the gate of the Butterfly park. As the name suggest, they do have a lot of butterfly and a few monkeys too! As i mentioned  before, you need to take separate ticket to enter the butterfly park. The ticket cost is 15 rupees per head. Here also you need to take separate ticket for your camera. Unless you have an SLR, don’t bother to take the separate ticket for your camera provided you keep your compact camera or  mobile phone inside your pocket.

Once you get inside the park, a pathway will lead you to the “real butterfly park”! What i mean is, along the pathway, you will find monkeys jumping around and butterflies flying but the real park is a few meters down the way. You will find a big building which looks like an abandoned building from outside with a semi rusted door (as on Feb 13 2012!). Open it! Inside is the real butterfly park with thousands of butterflies swarming around!

Outside the artificial butterfly park, there  are benches for you to rest. Have a seat, listen to the twittering of birds, watch the monkeys playing around and squeaking, take a 10 minute break and then leave for the bus stand. The way out from the butterfly park will lead you to the BMTC bus stand. There is a shop inside the bus stand shopping complex where you can get CCD coffee (during my second visit, the coffee machine was not working 😦 )! You will find ordinary buses, which ply towards the  majestic but wait for the Volvo Vajra 365 to come, enjoy a relaxing ride back to the city! Dont forget to show the pass to the ticket examiner!

With time, everything changes! By the time you plan to visit BNP things may have changed a lot. Those who visited once should come again. A photographer who forgot to take his tele zoom lens should come again, people who decided not to go to safari should come again. After all it is “nature at its best”. We don’t know how long the park will survive the way it is and most importantly what if the world ends on Dec 21 2012? 🙂 (Oops…It didn’t end on 21-Dec-2012 😦 )So, hurry up, plan a trip to BNP! Wish you a happy journey and a fabulous time ahead!

This post has received a lot of international visits (data from WordPress statistics), hence i have added an extra paragraph  with some more information exclusively for foreign visitors!

FOR INTERNATIONAL VISITORS:

First of all the ticket rate for Foreigners is same as that for Indian citizens. I have personally inquired at the ticket counter regarding this during my second visit, and it was their reply that, for everyone, irrespective native or foreigner, the charges are same. 

The nearest airport is none other than the Bangalore International Airport and for reaching Majestic Bus station or any other important place in Bangalore, use the “Vāyu Vajra” AC Volvo bus service. The ticket fare from airport to majestic bus station is Rs: 240 and the bus number is BIAS-9. List of airport bus service to other destinations in Bangalore is available here. Remember, you cannot use the Vajra Daily Pass in Airport services, so buy the one day pass only when you go to BNP. At BNP, there is no difference in entry fee for foreigners or Indians. It is the same, so there is no need for you to pay extra money and buy the ticket ONLY from the ticket counter. No one can sell tickets outside the counter, so if some one approaches you with safari tickets, remember, they are trying to trick you! A tour guide is present in each safari bus, and you should pay them separately, if you use their service extensively. I leave it at your discretion, whether you have to seek their help or not. I suggest a 30 minute Google web and image search about Indian wildlife, before you begin as it may save you a few dollars! At the zoo, there are a few food courts which serves standard junk food! You may decide what to eat and what not to, once you reach there! A pay and use toilet is available at the zoo, but I suggest you to use it only if your nature’s call is so unbearable! (You can ask me whether this point is applicable for everyone. Well; No is my answer. If you are coming from an extremely clean hygienic environment, then even a slight change in hygiene will affect your immunity, so is the case with drinking water!). Summers in India are really hot and hence do bring a magazine along with you, which can be used as a “portable fan”, if your visit falls when the sun is out bright and strong! In the safari bus, if you are the ‘”lone foreigner” then you may get a chance to sit at the front seat along the driver and in that case you will have a fantastic journey. For that to happen, do a simple thing, ask the guide whether you can sit at that spot! They will generally oblige!

Who should NOT visit BNP

People who hate animals, who like to find fault in every state-run institutions, who likes to scream and shout when they see something beautiful and interesting, who like to have animals respond when they say “hi” to them or anyone who thinks they own this world, STAY OUT from this beautiful place, it is not for you!

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