From Coonoor we take private cars to drive down the infamous Kalhatty Ghats road. Signs reminding us that ‘Speed thrills but kills’ and ‘Ghats drive could be last drive’ along with a countdown of each of the 36-hairpin bends make our journey an interesting one. Large notice boards remind us of the number of accidents, injuries and deaths on this road over the past 5 years! We finally arrive in one piece at our Jungle retreat and head out for our safari in Bandipur Tiger reserve.
On our two-hour trip, we see langur monkeys, spotted dear, peacocks, egrets, a hawk eagle and a spotted owlet peeking out from a nest hidden in the bark of an umbrella tree. Our driver is eagerly looking for something else and 90 minutes into the trip as the light starts to fade, he spots her…… a female leopard hiding deep in the bush. At first, it’s hard to see her and then as I look closer, two pale green eyes stare back, fixed on the truck and all inside. She is standing her ground and is motionless, blending seamlessly into the background foliage except, those mesmerising aqua green eyes. There’s a noise and she move quickly; her lean body and amazing camouflage is revealed as she passes the back of the truck. She is not big as the tiger but is built to run and to hunt.
As she moves into the bush there is a shout… elephant ahead, and we move forward to be greeted by the sight of a large male elephant about 50 meters from the roadside. Later, after an amazing meal at our jungle retreat, we head back to our cottage and find a very brown cute frog (no, it wasn’t John!) in our bathroom. It’s the end of another amazing day, and I close the bathroom door and put the lid down on the toilet to make sure that we are both safe and sound for the night ahead.