A trip to Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary
Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary is a popular wildlife destination of South India, located in the state of Karnataka. On the banks of one of its prime attraction, Kabini River, one can easily spot wild animals like elephants and tigers. The national park is located on the southern-eastern part of Nagarhole National Park and covers an area of 55 acres of forestland, water-bodies and steep valleys.The surrounding areas of Kabini include Bandipur National Park, Mudumalai National Park, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, and Nagarhole National Park. These together are a part of the largest protected area in Southern India-about 2,183 sq km of wilderness.
We decided to book via the famous Jungle Lodge resort(JLR) which is owned by the Karnataka State Government. It is actually one of the few Jungle lodges which is actually profitable and in some ways better than the other lodges in the area (like Red Earth, Orange County etc). Bookings generally happen many weeks in advance in the peak season but we were lucky to book a room 10 days in advance. It cost us about 10K INR per person which is kind of high but given the favorable reviews of the place, we decided to go ahead.
Kabini JLR is located about 200 Kms away from bangalore (my location) and on average takes about 4 hours or so to reach. But this time it was ” “special” (special in the negative sense). The shortest route (Bangalore – Mysore highway) was blocked by protesting farmers due to a high court decision to provide water to the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu. So we took the long route to Kabini via channarayapatna which about 80 Km additional (so 1.5 hours added to the travel time).
We (Shashank and Greg) pushed off from bangalore at 6.30 am in the morning and cruised through the Bangalore-Tumkur highway. The weather was pleasant (Monsoon season) and the streets empty due to the protest.About 2.5 hours into the trip, we reached the famous “swathi Delicacy” near tumkur. It was quite crowded (as usual). A big biker’s group (all with the RE Himalaya) was present;probably returning from or on the way to another trip. We moved to the first floor and gourged on Masala Dosa, Puri and Upma. Really tasty. The joint is not too expensive either. So highly recommended for a weekend morning drive as well. Post the satisfying meal, the long roads beckoned again and we were on our way. After another three hours or so of drive, we finally reached Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary and our location, the Jungle Lodge resort. There are a big bunch of resorts all spread within an area of few square kilometers.
The facility is wonderfully maintained and the staff are nice and courteous.
We spoke to the official at entrance office, checked in, got our brochures and proceeded to our rooms.
Before giving us our keys, the official briefly provided us an overview of JLR, the directions to our rooms and more importantly that lunch would be served soon at 1.30 p.m. The villas at JLR are wonderful and were built pre-independence, renovated but still retaining their heritage.Each of the villas are surrounded by very well maintained gardens. In addition, each of the villas has an independent set of staff catering to the needs of the tourists which makes it very convenient.
We unpacked and after a quick 20 mins nap, proceeded to have our lunch at “Gol Ghar”, the location for lunch for all tourists. It has enough seating for at least 70 people and is located right next to the backwaters on the river front.
Next to Gol Ghar is also an area which has a Ping Pong table, carrom for some recreating activities.
The lunch buffet is part of the per night package and the spread is quite decent , comprising of at least 15-20 dishes prepared fresh. The taste wasn’t bad either; can’t complain really given that you are in the middle of a forest.We finished our lunch quickly since we wanted to some time to take another nap and the evening safari was scheduled for 3.30 p.m. I was inclined to get some shots of the backwaters with ND filter but drowsiness got the better of me.
So after another quick nap, we reached Gol Ghar again for some early tea and snacks and pushed off to the safari. We were lucky to be seated in a Safari Jeep which had some very experienced photographers (with some very expensive equipment). Also it was obvious that they frequented the kabini safari since they knew the forest ranger. Thanks to them, we were able to guide the jeep to select known locations where tigers had been spotted in the past.
The safari lasted for almost 2.5 hours, half hour to enter the deep forest. The forest is quite dense with thick undergrowth due to recent rains. We covered many trails and traveled many kilometers on path laid through the thicket ; however we were unlucky that evening. The yellow terror was not to been in the greens anywhere; in fact we waited for almost an hour near a watering hole but to no avail.
A peacock, dew ducks and turtles were all that we spotted. Since it was the rainy season and most predators find water deep within the forest without any problem ; they have little need to venture into the open. It was especially unfortunate since we hardly located even any rare birds except this one (a changeable hawk eagle).
Obviously the group was pretty disappointed but it was expected since finding any select target animal in a jungle safari is always a matter of chance; especially the elusive tiger.As we exited the forest, an elephant was spotted in the bushes.
Not exactly saving grace though since it was barely visible. With darkness creeping in, we went back to the camp. We discussed the safari over evening tea and snacks. Some people on the neighboring tables had actually already starting processing the images taken on the safari.
After the evening safari, we were called to watch a wildlife video documentary on tigers. It was the story of luxmi and her cubs in the Kanha National Park. It is a very good 40 mins documentary and worth watching if available online somewhere. There is well stocked bar adjoining the video room ; we were inclined to have a mug but given that the wake up call was 5 a.m the next day, our better judgment prevailed. By the time we were done here, it was time for dinner. As expected, good buffet with enough variety to please most. But we were not hungry yet; the ping table caught in the adjacent play room caught out eye. While none of my group members were good at ping pong, we played for almost an hour. (It was actually my first time playing ping pong). The play room has a lot of hung posters illustrating the rising animal-man conflict. Post burning out some calories, we added some back with a sumptuous dinner buffet at Gol Ghar. With a full stomach, we bid each other good night and headed to our respective rooms.
The day began very early since safari starts by 6 a.m. Since we went on the jungle jeep safari the previous day, we had the option of either going on the boat safari or the jungle safari in the morning. We decided to go on the boat safari since we received the news that a tiger had been spotted by folks on the boat safari the previous day. Of course that doesn’t imply that we would get lucky like them but it was worth taking a chance nonetheless. We had our morning tea & biscuits and proceeded to the boat safari.
The motor boat can accommodate about 12 people comfortably and ride takes one across the beautiful Kabini backwaters which passes through the Nagarhole reserve. On both sides of the river, the banks have been selectively cleared up to a certain distance. Animals come out into the open to eat, drink water etc and that’s when they are visible to the tourists.
We spotted a lot of animals and birds on the safari; from a cormorant drying its wings in the morning sun
to an egret hunting for fish in the waters
from a peacock resting on a bark
to a common kingfisher sitting with its belly full. We found this little fellow fishing but it was too fast for a proper capture.
There are a plethora of birds and animals that be can viewed on the banks of river ; actually not limited to the banks. Dead tree stumps breaking through the water house many colonies of cormorants and snake birds.
However, we were unable to sight a tiger !! Well, that’s bad luck for you.
We returned from our trek to have a hearty breakfast at Gol Ghar.
Overall the visit was quite good except for the part that the tiger was not sighted. However the stay at JLR is quite expensive in my opinion; the amenities provided, rooms etc are fantastic but might not be required by all. There are cheaper alternatives available and worth a try.