When my pal told me about these series of wildlife sanctuaries in Karnataka, I was slightly sceptical of the feasibility of going to them with a family, specially a 4-year old kid. This scepticism was given the usually dismal facilities and condition of anything that the country provides today in the garb of naturist vacations…
However, I Googled some arbit names, and came up with this website www.junglelodges.com. It looks like a normal resort site, but at a closer glance I was surprised to note that it was a Govt. of Karnataka venture. They have about 8-10 sanctuaries under their belt, and each is a discovery by itself!
To cut the long story short, I discovered that Kabini River Lodge, at the south of Nagarhole National Park, was one of the top 5 wildlife resorts in the world, voted by a prominent British travel guide. I just had to go… a brief discussion with the wife sealed the deal!
Driving about 5 hrs from Bangalore, and 1.5 hrs from Mysore, I was pleasantly surprised by the following:
1. The supersmooth roads to the resort except for the last few stretches.
2. world class directional signs all throughout the journey, even in the remote wild.
3. The remoteness of the lodge and the genuineness of all claims in the website
4. The amount of wildlife we encountered even on the highway leading to the resort (Can you imagine there is a national highway right through the forest, with no streetlights, and elephant/tiger country on both sides)
When we reached the resort, we found that our cottage was the nearest to the river, and what a place it was! Neither words or pics can describe it. We strained to hear a sound other than natural ones. The silence was stunning, so were the views and the pristine surroundings.
A day at the Kabini river lodge comes for approx. Rs. 7,000, which includes everything. Yes everything! Bed tea, meals, safaris, entertainment, cruises… What more can you pack in a day?
I won’t go into the details of our schedule, cos that would spoil the surprise. Instead, I would ask everyone to ensure that even though you would feel extremely lazy and want to just slob around in the meadows or in the extremely comfy armshair in your balcony, DO NOT MISS ANY OF THEIR ACTIVITIES, including the wildlife movie in the evening. For the indulgent, there is a bar too.
In a nutshell, we saw the following in our safaris:
1. Tiger killing a sambar
2. leapard waiting in the trees to pounce upon a herd of deer
3. hundreds of elephants – including a huge bull who decided not to like us and charged
4. crocs lazing on the river banks
5. massive python squeezing a massive gaur
6. ugly and dangerous wild dogs chasing a bull gaur – In the royal years, killing and mounting a wild dog in ones drawing room was the ultimate proof of your hunting skills
Apart from this, the scenery was breathtaking. The evenings were surreal, and dawn was like a fantasy artist’s creation. And our cottage was fantastic.
For the gorgers, the food was excellent in parts, but good on the whole. Don’t miss their desserts, but then my bengali origins have given me a sweet tooth.
A comforting word for pestered parents – Your child/children will be surprisingly quiet. The place does that to them. Even for the extra-hyperactive kids, there’s enough to keep them busy.
The best season is March – May, but early June’s also perfect, as we discovered.
A word of caution – there are a couple of private resorts nearby that you might be tempted to go to. But don’t waste your time.
My web searches have proved that Kabini is the best option for the wild in us – Go for it!