The drive to the city of Bangalore from the airport along the gardened pavement and through the cool breeze was unlike to the other big cities in India, but the congestion of the roads in the city was a total contrast to this pleasant driving experience.
My destination was “Kabini” which is the Jewel in the crown of the vast forested area of South Karnataka. Kabini lying in the shadows of Western Ghats and a treasure trove of wildlife .
Mysore is a four hours drive from Bangalore. A short drive from Mysore took us to the Cauvery river basin, the first glimpse of River Cauvery was rather a nostalgic moment. I remember, when I was a child, my mother used to sing a song to make me sleep...the song is about a little girl who spends her day playing with river Cauvery... makes paper boats and float on the top of the waves...makes music with her bangle and the pitcher...the river breeze plays with her hair…
The childhood memory made Cauvery my acquaintance in a moment…after a brief halt at Ranganatittu bird sanctuary situated in 6 km area in Cauvery river basin, which is the nesting ground of huge number of migratory birds like Painted Stork, Spot bill Pelican, Eurasian Spoonbill. Open bill stork, Black headed ibis etc, we started for Kabini in Nagarhole National Park.
Nagarhole National Park along with adjoining Bandipur National Park in Karnataka and Madhumalai National Park in Tamilnadu is a part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and together it forms the largest protected area in Southern part of India.
.Kabini River separates Nagarhole from Bandipur.Nagarhole National Park is also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park .This is one of the best managed parks in the country.
Naga in other word snake and hole is streams, the meaning of Nagarhole National Park is the forest with Snakes and Streams. Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary formed in the southern eastern part of Nagarhole.
We drove down further 90 kms to reach a famous wildlife resort at Kabini. The resort is situated in a wonderful strategic location beside the River Kabini.
We dumped our luggage in a tent, and went to take a stroll around the place. The resort area is forested with scattered cottages and tents, some of the cottages at are bang on the bank of the river. I thought next time when I visit this place I will do my booking well in advance so that I can stay in one of the river side cottages. Though the tents are not bad at all, they are big luxurious and wonderfully located.
We enjoyed the river over an elaborate lunch at the river side semi open dining area. It was a ten course lunch; we had to force our selves for a Jungle safari after the irresistible exotic local food.
The safari took us inside the Rajiv Gandhi National Park. Couple of Peacock and a hard of Bison greeted us as soon as we entered the park. The beauty of the park was mesmerizing
Mainly the vegetation is a combination of moist mixed deciduous forest and dry tropical forest and sub mountain hill valley swamp forest. This is the forest of famous sandal wood, rose wood and silver oak.
As we drove further into the forest and we could see few wild dog or dholes , normally they are shy creature , but they were in a different mood at that time..they played, fought , posed for our camera for long .
We would have spent some more time with the Dholes but we could hear the call of more than one elephant, we could infer that a hard of elephant some where around, we drove in the direction of the call, a hard consists of 8 elephants include a huge male tasker and 2 cute elephant calfs were crossing the road, they stopped and looked at us, we stopped at a distance, thought they might charge, generally the elephants are dengerous when they have small kids with them, ocassionally they charge the cars.
Bonnet macaque and spotted deers were in ample number in the forest.We also could see a few wildboars .Generally I am always absent minded while returning from a Jungle safari , the mind goes in a meditating state, this is the impact of being close to the nature, though I always enjoy this situation but for this I missed a close gilmps of of an exotic animal, a leopard, which just came out on the road and vanished in side the forest in no time .I thought I will change myself and be alert till I exit the forest gate.
In the evening we met a lot of wildlife photographers and enthusiasts from Bangalore . Bangalore has a wildlife culture due to the proximity of several big national parks.One can find them with expensive cameras and big lenses in some or other parks in the weekends.We spent a quality time with these new friends over the dinner and went to sleep early, since we wanted to take a boat ride in Kabini river in the morning.
Kabini a major tributary of Cauvery river took its birth in Waynad district of Kerala, then joins the other south Indian rivers like Panamaram River and Mananthavady River, then flows east ward and have her confluence with Cauvery and merges in to the Bay of Bengal.The river saperated Bandipur from Nagarhole.During the summer when the water points inside the forest dries up , the elephant from the sorrounding areas converge at Kabini and offers a great sightings of Asiatic wild elephants on the banks of the river.
As our boat was was sailing towards the forest we could see quite a few wildlife resorts nestled on both the bank of the river.An osprey displayed a fantastic show of hunting a big fish, we could also found grey headed king fish eagle , white bellied sea eagle , Little Heron, Cormorants. It was an amazing ride through the turbulant water inside the forest, lush moist green in different shades was feast to the eyes. It started raining, we could locate a group of drenched sub adult elephants in a mock fight ,. After a while we spotted two females with calfs proceeding towards the water, the experienced boat man stopped the engine so that they do not get disturbed by the sound. We observe them for quite some time; the babies were drawing our attention. We noticed that the little ones were always in the middle. Elephants are like humans, they are protective of their kids! All of them got down in the river played with the water; they looked like huge floating air pillows, gently tossed by the current.
We saw some of the tourists like us were drifting slowly down the river along the shoreline on an unique round shaped boat; I thought it was trilling and a great way to experience the river. Our guide told us that these boats are called Coracles, they are the traditional boats. I was excited to know that apart from the southern parts of India the Coracles are also used in the rivers of Ireland, British Isles, Vietnam and Tibet.
We spent a quality time during the lunch , it was drizzing, the cool breeze , the moist green and the smell of wet soil was rejuvinating .We were talking to one the the naturalists of the lodge, he told us that this is the most popular wildlife destination in Karnataka, because this place is easily accessible , Kabini offers a great sighting of wildlife , The amazing landscape consists of river , lake, forested water bodies , green valley, attracts people more than anything else, adventurous people go for
tekking in the nearby hill Kumara Parvatha and camp beside the back waters of the river.Kabini is also a hot destination for wildlife lovers all over the world.It is always difficult to get accomodation here due to the huge rush, it is wise to make the reservation well in advance.When I asked him about the wild life of this area he said apart from Elephant , Leopard,Dhole or Wild dogs , Wild Bores , Bonnet Macaque ans spotted deers and Bisons, what we have spotted during our Jeep safari, other animals like Tigers , Common Muntjac,Four horned antilope , Mouse Deer , Grey Lagurs , Lion Tailed Macaques are the major mammalian species found here.
He told us that in the afternoon he will take us for bird watching , Kabini has excellent bird life due to its diverse ecosystem .Over 300 species of birds has been recorded here We thought that cycles can be a better option for birding., our guide took us to the fringe area of the forest first then on the river bank,the colours of Malabar trogon was a real treat , no adjective I find good enough to describe the flying scarlets of a flock of scarlet minivers, We hard the call of a hornbill and followd the call , we pushed our bikes hard and were almost breathless to locate the Malabar pied hornbills.Other birds we could locate were Painted Storks, Crested Hawk Eagle,Lesser Golden Backed Woodpecker, Great Black Woodpecker,Brown fish owl, Brahamani kites , Scaly Breasted Munias etc.We completed a list of fifty three birds in an evening.
In the evening we decided to to have a camp fire beside the river, instead of fire we lit candles to symbolise camp fire.We can not destroy wood for our fun.We sang , dance, shared our forest experience, it was an amazing night , the sound of the flowing river, the Green darkness ,with the millions of stars above in the crear sky, the plough like moon had created a magical atmospheare. My senses were filled with the beauty of the nature. Post dinner we went for gazing the stars with the naturalist , we could locate the pole star and the “north” from the constalation Caseopea , this constatalation looks like an upside down “W” , if both the hands of this “w” could be joined and stretched further , the line leads to the pole star, other constations we could locate ware Perseus, Andromeda, Tarus, Gemini etc along with the planets like Jupitar and Mars.We chatted till late sitting on our deck chairs out site the tent, wished for an endless night.
The songs of the birds woke me up, I made a strong tea and got ready for the Elephant ride. Travelling on the elephant back was a thrilling experience. The elephant was walking through the undulated forested land, it was like a huge force was juggling us forward and backward, we were trying o keep balance at one hand and on the other the removing the brunch of the trees in front of our face, as the elephant was moving further inside the forest we were getting hurt by the trees , but after a while we got used to this adventurous ride and concentrated in the forest.First thing caught my attention was a black creature with beard, hanging from the trees, I could guess that this was a primate but I have never seen this species before, the mahut told me that these are the famous lion tailed macaque and this is endemic to South India. The Gaurs or Indian bisons normally look very big in size from a Jeep safari, they were rather looking small from elephant back .Suddenly a cold wave
passed through my spine , it is a leopard sitting on a brunch of a tree about 20 feet away, the brunch was leafy , I looked through my binocular and saw a kill was hanging from the tree just beside him, it was a spotted deer . The face was still intact and the tears dried up under the eyes, I felt sad, but this is the life , the predator and prey relationship, this is how the eco system completes its cycle .Leopard is a shy creature , it took few moments to vanish in side the forest.
We were praying for a tiger, I thought the gold and black stripes of the tigers would look majectic in this habitat. But forest does not expose herself in a great extent in a short visit like this.I will have to come back again for tigers and to visualise the extravaganga of the of the worlds largest Congregation of Asian elephants in the summer. I experienced a mixed kind of feeliing when I was coming out of the forest, at one hand the visit to this pristine land was an reward in it self, on the other I was feeling sad to leave this beautiful forest and be back to the civilisation. But well we have to go back to come again.
How to go :
Bangalore is reachable by flights from all major cities.
Kabini is 230 ( 5 hours drive) kms from Bangalore and 90 kms ( 2 hours drive) from Mysore .Start early to avoid the traffic Jam in the City.
Where to stay:
Kabini River Lodge . www.junglelodges.com
Cicada Resorts. www.cicadaresorts.com
What to do:
One can choose from a vast range of activities:
Coracal Ride ( traditional round shaped boat called a coracle)
Tribal Village Visit