Gundlupet: Staying at a rest house in the middle of Bandipur Tiger Reserve is a dream come true for many wildlife enthusiasts and that too when the rest house is aged and surrounded by lush green forests. Like for example the Bandipur Guest House owned by the Karnataka Forest Department that has completed a glorious 100 years.
Playing host to thousands (may be lakhs) of guests, the Guest House is a landmark in itself and to commemorate this feat, the Forest Department is preparing to celebrate in a grand way.
The Guest House was built by the British at Moolehole Range of Bandipur National Park in 1917. The Forest Department has now painted the century-old building to give it a new look.
Although Bandipur has now been declared as a Tiger Reserve, bureaucrats, and people’s representatives used to make a beeline to the Guest House for weekends and on public holidays. Some of the influential persons also used their political clout to stay in this Guest House. Often, the Forest Department personnel used to have a tough time in taking them to the forests and bring them back safely as there was a constant danger of wild animals attacking the vehicles in the core forest area.
As the Guest House is located in an eco-sensitive zone, wild animals were disturbed by frequent movement of vehicles in their vicinity and one more cause for worry was officials indulging in late-night parties singing and dancing in a drunken state. The Department officials later banned stay of public in the Guest House.
Sensing danger to wildlife, the officials had also planned to demolish the structure instead of renovating it. But as an afterthought, they set up a watch tower atop the building that will help in forest conservation. The watch tower gives the forest guard a view of a vast expanse of the 1,200 sqkm forest area, out of which 900 sqkm is core area.
The watch tower provides a good view of Wayanad, Moolehole, Himavad Gopalaswamy Hill and Kundkere Ranges of the Tiger Reserve. The watch tower is used by the guards and officials to spot forest fires during summer.
Moolehole Range Forest Officer Sunil Kumar said that the erstwhile Mysuru rulers and the British constructed this Guest House in order to facilitate their stay while travelling to Ooty. The Guest House has a Mangalore-tiled roof and is built using good quality wood and sand. The building has undergone many renovations over the years. The building has solar lamps and water is supplied from a nearby borewell.