If you are in Bangalore you must visit Bandipur during a long weekend. Its just 91 Kms from Mysore. So if you leave Bangalore at 7 AM , stop for breakfast enroute you should reach Bandipur around lunch. (Bangalore Mysore on a good day is 3.5 Hrs and Mysore to Bandipur is another 2 hrs).
Bandipur is on the Mysore – Ooty road and on the way you cross the historical Nanjangud Shiva Temple. (If you are religious drop by , its a small detour and worth it to visit a 1000 + year old temple)
An hr from Mysore you start entering forest area, and vast stretches of greenery that expand. These are foothills of the W Ghat’s and probably one of the finest eco reserves across the world. Bandipur, Waynad , Nagerhole , Madumalai are all one continuos forest stretch and probably have the best Tiger Conservation in practice.
As you drive past there is a high probability that you will spot many deers and sometimes even elephants crossing the road. We were lucky to see one which got the kids really excited. The jumbo was in no hurry to move and posed for some excellent close up shots.
We stayed at the Cicada.(Now called Serai) A property owned by the Cafe Coffee Day Group. The property is located right at the edge of the forest.
Its a quiet serene place, the architecture blends with the ambience. They have limited rooms, which are clean and efficient. Nice beds, good wooden flooring, modern bathrooms, classy but not soaked in luxury. The rooms have no TV.
Every room has a small portico with chairs where you can relax and listen to the birds chirping and maybe late at night a tiger roar.
In terms of activity there is limited stuff to do. The property runs into a few acres and you can explore it well within an hr. They serve excellent food – breakfast , lunch , dinner , tea. But there are no multiple restaurants. In the evening they play some movies in a small club room which also has some indoor games. DJ & Campfire are prohibited since its next to the forest.
The activity that you look around for is the trek to the forest. This happens in jeeps once in the morning and once in the evening. Its about an hr and the hosts really try hard to spot wild animals. Most of the time the Tigers, Elephants , Bisons are elusive and all you will see are Deers , Peacocks and Wild Fowl. We took 3 treks and finally on the last day were rewarded with a close up view of the Royal Tiger.
If you can get one view of the Royal Tiger the trip to Bandipur is worth it. And the Trek organizers claim that you do spot one every 3rd trip they take (The recent supreme court order on tourism to jungles may have impacted the jeep drives into the jungle , so please check with the hotel before you leave)
These tours are priced separately and when you travel do keep some warm clothing with you.
Other than the jeep tours there are small walking treks that you can take – again organized every morning & evening. But thats about it in terms of activity.
The Cicada is not cheap and we visited during the New Year Eve – a 3 night package in Dec 2010 was 25K, inclusive of food. ideal trip to Bandipur would be a stopover enroute to Ooty. And if you are going to Ooty do visit Destiny Farms.( http://vak1969.com/2010/06/07/destiny-farms/)
There are quite a few more hotels near Cicada/Serai , check out Windflower Resort also. Jungle Lodges also has a property close by.