Once again in our untouristy mood we submitted to spontaneity and cancelled our home bound flights, re-routing ourselves into the jungles of Nagarhole, Karnataka. The drive from Bangalore to Kabini is about 6 hours, include half hour stop for a quick meal at midway Kamath. Try the various range of vada, idli, dosa breakfast, ragi dosa etc with fresh sugarcane juice and almond milk. Its a good road drive passing through Msyore.
We started our journey at 6am and landed at Kabini River Resort by 1PM. Hosted by Karnataka Government’s Jungle Lodges, the resort welcomed us with spacious colonial heritage rooms and an excellent south Indian meal. Spread over some 53 acres, its perhaps the best place to stay there. Gorging on delicious south Indian meals, we got ready for our first jungle Safari.
Next few days unfolded with more early morning and late evening safaris and laying back by the quiet Kabini river. The charm of Nagarhole jungles like every jungle is unique in its own way and intriguing in many others. Spread across 248 sq Kms, it is dense in parts and very open around a huge water body and majestic skies. With no more than 10 jeeps allowed at one time in the jungles, the visit seemed unobtrusive and, low on aggressive tourism (we loved that). The best part is that safaris are only conducted by the Karnataka state tourism department, no private vehicles allowed. Sharing its border with Bandipur National Park, Nagarhole’s conservation and ecotourism is credited to Colonel John Felix Wakefield, also known as Papa John, who may have hunted a tiger at 10 but went on to become legendary naturalist and conservationist.
As you enter the jungles, the not so shy cheetals (spotted deer) greet you with their innocent twinkling eyes. Though their carnivore counterparts, tigers, leopards, wild dogs (dhule), striped necked mongoose etc… like to stay away from the human gaze.
Deep into the wild bliss of nature, the passing of wild Asian elephants was an absolutely arresting visual.The Leopard spotting even more unbelievable.
This jungle is a total delight for bird lovers with over 270 species including the critically endangered Oriental White Backed Vulture (we saw the Malabar Pied Hornbill, Greater Grey Headed Fish Eagle, Changeable Hawk Eagle, Blue Tailed Parakeet etc ). The majestic Indian bison, Gaur, made a beautiful appearance before us, but soon became meal for Leopard, as we were told later.
The river resort itself is a great place. A few kms outside the jungle connected with a dusty rooted village road, Kabini Jungle Lodges carry old world colonial charm and history that can transport you instantly into the British era of hunters and explorers. Originally the hunting retreat of Maharaja of Mysore, the resort’s wooden bar chambers houses a few vintage photographs, nature books and a small collection of wildlife films that leaves you gaping. Even on a weekend it didn’t feel like we were in touristy hotspot as the sheer size and design of the campus gives you enough solitary corners.
Apart from the Jungle Safari, the KRL also organises the wonderful Water Safari, where you take the boat into the forested areas around Kabini backwaters. Overall a great experience with a wonderfully managed Resort, thanks to its staff, awesome food, and company of great friends that you always discover on the wild side! We are definitely coming back.
Where to stay in Kabini?
Kabini Resorts : There are plenty of places to stay in Kabini today, but we heavily recommend the Kabini River Resort run by Jungle Lodges. The Serai Kabini, Bison Lodge, Kaav Safari Lodge, Kabini Lake View Resort, Orange County Resort are some other places here to stay.