If you have not seen lions, tigers and elephants for real, Bannerghatta National Park in the state of Karnataka, South India is the place to go. It is located about 22 km from Bangalore, the capital city of Karnataka. Established in 1978, the park is home to a number of herbivores that roam freely and carnivores that are safely separated by huge gates and moats. The harmless herbivores include monkeys and deer, while the wild carnivores include lions, tigers, cheetahs, panthers, leopards and hyenas. Visitors safely roam the park inside caged mini-buses called “safari joy rides” and are not allowed to leave the buses. The park also takes care of reptiles, birds and amphibians in cages.
Other attractions within the park are a serpentarium, butterfly park, crocodile farm, and a zoo with elephants, rhinoceros, zebras, porcupines and other regular zoo animals. The park also maintains a sanctuary for rescued animals, usually from circuses. Also in the park are sightings of chipmunks, which are very rare in India.
Also found within the park are scenic hills, reserve forests, a natural rock formation called the Hajjamana Kallu, ancient temples, and a Zoological Garden that is rich with tall trees, dry deciduous forests, thorny scrubs, and streams. The religious places inside the park are the Champaka Dharna Swamy Temple that is dedicated to Vishnu, Sridevi and Bhudevi, and Suvarnamukhi Hill with a small shrine that is dedicated to Narasimha. A couple of kilometers away is the Suvarnamukhi pond, whose waters are believed to have healing powers.
The park is open every day except Tuesdays. The park is crowded with visitors on weekends, which is why it is advised that people come before 2:00 p.m. while there are still tickets available. Tickets for the Grand Safari, Lion and Tiger Safari, and Zoo are available at the ticket counter. Visitors are then led to form a line to ride the “safari joy ride” buses. The Lion and Tiger Safari is 11 km long, while the Grand Safari is 16 km. At the end of the safari ride is the butterfly park or butterfly conservatory with 20 species of butterflies and a few moths fluttering freely over shrubs, plants and a waterfall. On sale is a special CD featuring the butterflies of India.
For the tired and hungry visitors, there are a number of stalls and food carts around the children’s corner selling traditional Indian snacks, including peanuts and roasted corn. Inside the park is the Hill View Restaurant that is managed by the Jungle Lodges and Resorts. There are more foods on sale on weekends. There is still a variety of foods on weekdays, but weekday visitors normally come with packed food. For those who wish to spend the night and make the most of their visit here, there are jungle lodges, tents, and dormitories.
A visit to Bannerghatta National Park is a very good precursor of India’s history, botany, wildlife, and natural treasures. The area enjoys cool and pleasant climate the whole year round, with an average temperature of 15-22°C. The best time to visit is from September to January. Visitors need to prepare money for entrance fees to the zoo, safari rides, nature walks, elephant ride, and butterfly park, and additional fees when bringing along a camera or video.