Nagarahole, which means Snake River in Kannada, one of India's 18 official languages, was once the exclusive hunting ground of the maharajas of Mysore. That status helped to preserve the area's diverse animal and bird life. One government survey recorded 16 species of snails and 70 species of spiders that call Nagarahole home. Bigger creatures abound, including antelope, sloth bears, civets, spotted deer, elephants, wild dogs, tigers, panthers, bison, pangolins and boars. There are hundreds of kinds of birds and dozens of reptile species as well.
The Forestry Department offers tours by four-wheel-drive vehicles, but they are usually noisy, and the smell of diesel exhaust obliterates the rich scents of the flora. Thankfully, the drivers stall their engines at intervals. As the sounds of the forest fill in the silence, visitors may detect bison or deer in distant clearings or hear elephants trumpeting from afar. For a more organic transportation option, try a guided tour on the back of an elephant—the maharajas hunted in this style. You can also reserve an evening in a crude wooden watchtower called a machaan, where you can stealthily observe a watering hole as the creatures of the night go on the prowl. With luck, you might spot a tiger. Without it, you might just see the brigand Veerappan as he hauls you away into the leafy deeps to be held for ransom. Some vacation.