3 months of Coronavirus driven lockdown was tough life for many of us, from many perspectives. Hence when the lockdown was eased up and traveling was opened, we were keen to get out and quench our wanderlust. In these times, taking precautions and studying what options are safest for travel and stay are very necessary, and it seemed to us that going local is lot more sensible than traveling far and wide. So, we chose jungles instead of mountains or beaches, and we chose Kabini.
Kabini (220km from Bangalore) is an easy 4 hour drive from Bangalore via Mysore. The beautiful jungles of Kabini are tucked into the well preserved Nagarhole National Park. The park itself is 600+ sq. kms, but adding the adjoining preserves of Bandipur, Mudumalai & Wayanad, this is the largest protected wildlife in South India (2200 sq. km), making it as big as Corbett National Park. The Kabini River flows through it neatly dividing the plain (which is Kabini) from the hills (which are in Bandipur) and providing the gorgeous greens that Kabini is famous for.
We left Bangalore our home early at 5:30am, and at 9:30am, we were in Kabini, stopping by the roadside for our breakfast before checking into our resort for the weekend.
We had booked 6 safaris for our stay, and since the first one was late in the evening, we settled down for a walk along the Kabini behind our resort and spend some time at their swimming pool.
Getting a safari doesn’t guarantee you sightings. One has to keep searching for the whole duration through your camera lenses to spot what you came looking for
Kabini is known for herds of Elephants, Tigers but equally also Leopards including one Black Leopard (also referred to as Black Panther here). As these are pre-monsoon weeks with plenty of water and the occasional rain showers, there isn’t a need for animals to wander out from their dwellings making sightings difficult. One of our safaris was done in pouring rains. Still, here are a few of the clicks we could take. And, we spotted a Tiger in 4 out of the 5 safaris we went in.
We met some awesome pro photographers in this trip who spoke about their pasts, efforts, time spent with enchanted Kabini and obviously the amazing pictures they clicked. We made some excellent friends and perhaps our next 3 jungle trips are as good as decided. And Yes, one of them is Kabini, again.
Getting There –
Getting to Kabini is thru roads. It is a comfortable 1hr drive from Mysore (the nearest rail head) or a 4 hour drive from Bangalore (nearest practical airport). It is more practical to arrive in by 11:00 – 11:30am as most resort check-in is around that time and it gives you ~4 hours to settle down for your first safari of the day.
Where to Stay –
Kabini has a plethora of luxury resorts to stay, with most of them having their own private access to the Kabini river banks. Budget options also are aplenty including the option of staying in Mysore and driving down, though it is not very practical.
Safaris at Kabini –
There are 2 safaris daily – one in the morning departing at 6:30am, and the other in the evening departing at 3:30pm – both of which are for 3+ hours. These safaris are offered from JLR gate and Damannakatte gate. The forest has 2 zones – Zone A (the wooded zone with most tiger sightings) and Zone B (the prettiest jungles around the river basin).
JLR gate safaris are exclusive to JLR (Jungle Lodges, operated by the Gov.) and the nearby resorts (Orange County, Kaav, Waterwoods, Bison, Red Earth etc.) and can only be booked by their guests, preference being given to JLR guests over others. JLR guests are almost assured a Jeep safari whereas other resort guests will have to depend on their luck if they get a Jeep (seats 5 at present) or a Canter (seats 13 at present). JLR gate safaris can either go to Zone A or Zone B once they have entered. Nonetheless, it costs 2000 INR + taxes per person. Camera lenses above 200mm have an additional charge of 500 INR.
The Damannakatte safaris on the other hand are available to be booked online (https://nagaraholetigerreserve.org ) or in person at the counter – obviously online is the most preferred option. Damannakatte adds more safaris on the weekends but by reducing the time from 3 hours to merely 1.5 hours. These safaris are always in a Canter (seats 13 at present) and they run 3 canters per safari. These safaris are flexible and can roam in any of the zones – dependent on the mood of the driver and news of a sighting. These seats cost 500 INR per person. Camera lenses above 200mm have an additional charge of 500 INR.