Bangalore was named the third most visited city in the world by Lonely Planet in 2012. And this is hardly a surprise. The capital of the state of Karnataka is known for many things, among them, being the Silicon Valley of India, a Garden City, and the Rock capital of the country.
With a population of more than 10 million, it is vastly different from my hometown of Dehradun which has just 700,000 people. What I love best about Bangalore is its weather. Whatever the season, it seldom gets colder than 21° Celsius or warmer than 35° Celsius, making it perfect for taking in all the sights the city has to offer.
All Creatures Great and Small
Karnataka has rich and diverse flora and fauna, with a fifth of the state covered by forests. These lush tropical sanctuaries support a quarter of the country’s elephant population, an animal highly revered in the state; and 10 percent of its tiger population, India’s national animal.
If you want to meet the wildlife of India, Bannerghatta National Park, about two hours from Citadines Richmond Bangalore, should be your first stop.
Located south of Bangalore, the hilly place is home to one of the richest natural zoological reserves. The park has a zoo, a safari park, a pet corner, a butterfly enclosure, a snake house, an aquarium, and even an animal rescue centre where circus animals find shelter. It is animals galore at the more than 100-square-kilometre of thick forest and scrub land with tranquil streams.
You can spy lions, tigers, bison, bears, spotted deer, wild boar, and elephants. The herbivores are separated from the meat-eaters by huge gates and moats so animal instincts do not take their natural cause. Protected animals like cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, and panthers are kept in separate enclosures to be properly cared for. Within the park, there are also six rural villages with three large enclosures for sheep and cattle farming so you get to see animals in varied habitats.
Another place I love to visit for its wildlife is Hebbal Lake, north of Bangalore. The monsoon period which begins in June is the perfect time to visit this seasonal lake that dries up during summer. A 45-minute drive from the serviced residence will get you to this bird paradise.
Water birds like the Spot-billed Pelican, Eurasian Spoonbill, Little Grebe and the Spot-billed Duck can be spotted here. The 150-acre area supports about a fifth of the country’s recorded bird species, some of them rare ones from the Himalayas and other Central Asian regions. Being here is like being in another world altogether – totally tranquil. Walk by the lake beneath the towering trees that line it for an afternoon of quiet respite.
From the skies to the waters beneath, you cannot miss the Bangalore Aquarium, the second largest one in India. The best thing is that it is just 10 minutes from Citadines Richmond so you can easily pop in to visit the aquatic life. Also on display is the largest number of cultivatable and ornamental pet fish.
Up Close and Personal
If you want to do more than look, the Martin Farm an hour from the serviced residence is where you should go. Located off Sarjapur Road, the two-acre working farm has both domestic and farm animals. Donkeys, goats, cows, horses, rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs, ducks, chicken, finches, emus, pigeons and bantams – you can feed and pet them all. The place does not just delight children, it fascinates adults as well.
In Honour of Animals
Because Hinduism, which has a large following in Bangalore, has plenty of references to animals, several of the city’s temple attractions are dedicated to animals. One of the city’s more recognised landmarks is the Bull Temple, also one of the oldest temples in Bangalore. Built in the 16 th century, the temple features an almost five-metre monolith of Nandi, the bull incarnation of Lord Shiva said to have been carved from a single rock. During weekends, street musicians perform at the temple, adding to the festivities and celebration.
Right next door is another temple with animal references The Dodda Ganapathi Temple is the most famous Ganesha temple in Bangalore. Lord Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva, has a man’s body with the head of an elephant and the statue of Ganesha at this temple stands at 18 feet tall and 16 feet wide. During the week, this giant sculpture is decorated in various creative ways and that is part of the attraction of this temple. One of the most famous decorations was a butter coating on the idol which took over 100 kilograms of butter.
Bring on the Bangalore Goodies
If all this talk about butter has made you hungry, less than a 10-minute drive from Citadines Richmond is the Mavalli Tiffin Room. Here is where you can get earthy South Indian food representative of Bangalore’s best. Popularly known as MTR, the café that started in 1924 has some interesting signature dishes. Try the Rava Idli, a steamed semolina cake made with yoghurt, coriander, cashew nuts, curry leaves, and mustard seed that was said to have been created by MTR during World War II when rice was in short supply.
The Bisibele Bhath is a South Indian specialty that MTR does particularly well. The rice dish has lentils, assorted vegetables, nutmeg, cashes, curry leaves, and tamarind pulp and is served with raitha from curds, onions, and ghee. Fragrant, spicy, tangy, rich, and totally satisfying, it is comfort food from the south with every bite.
India is known for its sweetmeats or sweets and you cannot leave without sampling a few. MTR’s Chandrahara is their trademark sweet that is made with maida flour (a finely milled, refined, bleached wheat flour) deep-fried and served with a thick, sweet sauce made from khoa (a sort of dried milk).
For the best mutton stew and appam (a South Indian pancake), Koshy’s Jewel Box and Parade Café, also 10 minutes away, is my recommendation. Go early though because by nine in the morning, they are usually sold out.
When you have had your fill, head to M G Road, one of the busiest roads in the city with one side entirely lined with shops. About 10 minutes from the serviced residence, here is where you can buy Mysore Silk, a silk produced in the state of Karnataka. Get some Mysore Silk scarves, shawls, or sarees and bring home some Bangalore fashion. Sandalwood crafts and products also make great gifts.
Bangalore is a city with something for everyone and animal lovers will not be disappointed. This city, known for being an IT hub with a dynamic night life, still has enough wildlife to charm any naturalist into attesting to its animal attraction.
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