Quite the extraordinary thing about the Kabini area is the existence of a 60 sq km of static water inside the forest precincts, the result of a dam built across the river at Beechanahalli. The water bifurcates the national parks of Nagarhole and Bandipur, but unites a spectacular range of wildlife on its shores.

Animals from the giant tuskers to the mouse deer, from barking deer to cheetal, from herds of gaur to sambar, from the rare but definitely ‘spottable’ tiger and panther, to the sloth bear can be spotted here.

Painted storks, egrets, herons and ibis are some of the birds that can be spotted here. Vultures soaring high as the crested serpent eagle sits majestically, scanning the area, sitting on one of the wood stumps that peek out of the water’s surface, vestiges of trees that were submerged by the dam are common sights too.

Arati Kumar Rao
Elephants at Bandipur NP
Elephants at Bandipur NP

But then again, Kabini is all about elephants and more elephants. Some 1,500 of them roam free in the jungles of Nagarhole, of which Kabini is a primary part. And according to Project Elephant reports, there are 5,500 to 6,000 of them in the contiguous stretches of forests comprising Nagarhole, Bandipur, Mudumalai and BR Hills sanctuaries.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

To go on a safari in a jeep through the game roads of Nagarhole, reaching the backwaters at the edge of a thick bamboo jungle, and driving through a gargantuan collection of pachyderms, is one of the greatest wildlife experiences in Asia. With the single largest congregation of Asiatic elephants on the planet, this cannot be anything but simply unforgettable.

Jeep Safari

The jungles around have a primeval touch to them. Tall trees, huge bamboo brakes, remote ponds, hillocks and above all the backwaters. Hop onto a jeep and drive around. Early mornings are the best time. You can see the jungle waking up, the leaves and shrubbery washed clean with the dew. Peacocks call out to the denizens of the wild, while the grey langurs have already started to breakfast high up on the branches. Large herds of cheetal hang around by the side of the game road, mostly in a state of languorous repose, seemingly informed of the tiger’s itinerary!

Courtesy Jungle Lodges and Resorts
Tourists on a boat at Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary
Tourists on a boat at Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary

Evenings have a different kind of magic. The sun is busy playing a round of hide-and-seek from within the cluster of trees. Shades of grey and spots of brilliant light bring about a surreal feel. The elephants begin to assemble by the backwaters with the frequent shrill trumpeting of a frisky young elephant as it gambols around.

And then there is a water source in the Sunkadakatte area named Tiger Tank for the frequent sightings of the feline in its vicinity. The beautiful Bisalwadi Kere lake with its watchtower is another good point to spot big cats.

Rates and timings for safaris vary with the resorts, but the safari fee is usually incorporated into the accommodation package deal, which also includes vehicle entry, boat rides, park entry, guide and camera fee.

Boat Rides

Gliding along the water with the thick jungles all around, you will be able to observe, up close, various animals on the shores. While the birds take off in silence at the sight of your approaching boat, the animals continue to linger by the banks of the Kabini.

Atop an Elephant

Drive over to the Sunkadakatte Forest and you’ll have Kokila and her colleagues, Revathi, Sarojini, Sarala and Mary waiting for you. All of four tons each, these elephants patrol the place with a sense of authority. And they are willing to take you on their backs. Riding these elephants gives you a whole new perspective of the wild. Ducking and weaving through the branches that come at your face, or spotting a beautiful drongo or a red-headed woodpecker flying past as these gentle creatures sway rhythmically through the maze is a unique experience.

Courtesy Jungle Lodges and Resorts
Kabini River Lodge
Kabini River Lodge

WHERE TO STAY AND EAT

Jungle Lodges and Resorts’ Kabini River Lodge (Tel: 08228-264402-03; Tariff: 6,280-9,500 per person per night) offers Colonial-style rooms, cottages and tented cottages with all creature comforts. Over a 100 years old, formerly the property of the Mysore Maharaja, it now belongs to the Karnataka Government and consists mainly of two teakwood-studded buildings known as the Maharaja Bungalow and the Viceroy Bungalow. The tariff covers all meals, jeep safaris, coracle boat rides, camera fee and taxes. Plus there is free stay for chauffeurs at their dormitory, with a minimal charge of Rs. 50 for three meals a day. Meals here are served around a camp fire at the lodge’s Gol Ghar, a bar open on the sides.

Kabini River Lodge

Water Woods (Tel: 264421-22/ 31, Cell: 09945921303; Tariff: 12,000-17,000), located close to Kabini River Lodge, is a Colonial-themed resort. Price includes stay and all meals, per night on twin-share. Water Woods has six rooms and offers international fare.

The Serai Kabini (Tel: 264444/ 99, Cell: 09945602305; Tariff: 15,400-24,000), belonging to the Serai hotel chain, is another luxurious option here, with eight rooms, 11 cottages and a spacious villa. Safaris cost 1,400 (Indians) and 2,400 (foreigners) per person by jeep or boat. The resort is spacious and is set close to the Kabini river. They also organise boat rides, nature walks and birdwatching.

TIP Don’t mistakenly take the Mysore-Murkal-Nagarhole Road when you set out for Kabini from Mysore

When to go All year round, but best between September and May. For wildlife sighting, the best time is from November to June Location At the south-eastern end of Nagarhole National Park, by the backwaters of the Kabini river, 71 km from Mysore Air Nearest airport: Bengaluru Rail Nearest rail: Mysore

THE INFORMATION

Tourist Offices

Department of Tourism

Government of Karnataka

No. 49, Second Floor, Khanija Bhavan

Race Course Road, Bengaluru

Tel: 080-22352828

W karnatakatourism.org,

KSTDC

Central Reservation Office

Badami House, NR Square, Bengaluru

Tel: 43344334/ 37

Cell: 08970650070

W karnatakaholidays.net

KSTDC

A One-Stop-Shop

No 8, Papanna Lane

St Mark’s Road

Bengaluru

Tel: 43464351/ 53

Jungle Lodges & Resorts

GF, West Entrance, Khanija Bhavan

Race Course Road

Bengaluru

Tel: 40554055

W junglelodges.com

Tourist Information Counter

Bengaluru International Airport

Devanahalli. Cell: 08970650072

Kempegowda Bus Station

(Majestic) Bengaluru Tel: 22356246

Cell: 08970650075

Department of Tourism

Govt of Karnataka, KSTDC Hotel Complex

Ramdurgi Road, Badami

Tel: 08357-220414