Destinations - India Wild Life

Kabini | The Wilderness Wonder | A Step by Step Guide

Written by Poorna & Brinda

Kabini is a wonderful wilderness. It has everything a wild life enthusiast aspire for. Lovely forests. Amazing wild life from common langurs to the big cats. Huge population of birds. Beautiful backwaters of Kabini reservoir. Enthusiastic naturalists who knows the jungle at the back of their thumbs! Excellent choices for stay. All these things make Kabini as on of the sought after destination in the country.

We have been to Kabini many times. Every time, we have come back with surprises. The recent visit was in June last year before the start of the monsoon. The rains had started but was not in full swing.

We will take you through Kabini wildlife experience through the eyes of a curious wild life buffs. Through the eyes of our camera. Then we will tell you in detail about Kabini – step by step.

If you stay away from Kabini river lodge – the safari start point – the drive to it throws up some fantastic sights. Like this one. Of the glorious backwaters. The dam wasn’t full when we went in June and there wasn’t much water.

Please click on the pictures to see them in larger size.

The panoramic view of the backwaters on the way to Kabini river Lodge run by Jungle Lodges and Resorts of Government of Karnataka.

Kabini

Kabini

We signed up for three safaris. Two in the mornings and one in the afternoon.

Morning safari No 1 @ Kabini (Also known as Nagarahole National Park or Rajiv Gandhi National Park)

We reach the Kabini river lodge. Our safari is to start around 7 AM. Kabini river lodge managed by Jungle lodges and resorts was the hunting lodge of erstwhile Mysore Royal Family. The heritage structures with chimneys look elegant amidst greenery.

Kabini

We are ushered into a canter. Incidentally on all the trips we have been to Kabini, we have never stayed in Kabini River Lodge. Canter which is a larger vehicle is the mode of transport if you are staying in any other place other than Kabini River lodge. If you are staying in Kabini river lodge, then you will be taken in smaller Jeeps.

We start and it is a quiet road flanked by forests as we reach the main gate of the park. From here we enter the park through forest roads.

Kabini

Kabini

We drive straight to the backwaters through the forest road. There is not much of water which helps. The driver takes the vehicle on the dry tracks to the edge of the water body. Kabini backwaters is a treasure trove of wild life. You don’t have to move from here anywhere and still see all wild animals!

Kabini

The backwaters with broken trunks of trees look surreal.

Kabini

Kabini

Add to that the shadow play by the sun!…..

Kabini

Our first sighting is huge herd of deer. There are hundreds. Scattered all over. It is a sight indeed!

Kabini

Kabini

Kabini

Kabini

Then the next was herd of elephants…..

Kabini

Kabini

And then appeared bisons……

Kabini

There were few winged beauties as well……Painted Storks

Kabini

We move on. The recent summer rains has rejuvenated the jungle. This is not good for wild life sighting as the waterholes gets filled up and chances of sighting big cats gets difficult.

Suddenly, out of the blue our naturalist asks the driver to stop the vehicle. We all are excited hoping that he has sighted a tiger. But we are not disappointed. He asks us to look at tree at a distance. A leopard is resting on the branch of a huge tree! It is at a distance and we could see it clearly through the binoculars. It is amazing to see how good these naturalists are in spotting the animals.

The leopard possibly has a kill and is resting after a hearty meal!

Kabini

Kabini

The naturalists are expert bird watchers too and keep showing us different types of lovely birds.

Kabini

Kabini

Kabini

Kabini

Kabini

Driving in the forests and looking for elusive tiger is exciting as well as frustrating. We have been on many safaris in famed national parks in India only to come back disappointed. Tiger sighting is always luck.

Will we be lucky this time? The driver stops the vehicle and asks to look at a bush. “Do you see a tiger?” He ask us. Yes. We could see a tiger sleeping behind the bush. We wait for the guy to get up. After few minutes, he gets up and vanish inside the bushes! We could see the fleeting image of the big cat……

Kabini

We now return back and are picked up by the vehicle from our forest lodge. A lovely safari early in the morning is always refreshing start for the day.

After lunch we are ready to hop onto the evening safari. Will we be lucky this time? Will we get to see tiger in all its glory?

Evening Safari @ Kabini

We enter a different zone and this time we don’t go to back waters. Our first sighting is that of a langur.

We move around the jungle. There is not much of luck. Afternoon safaris generally are not great for sightings.

The naturalist gets a message on his cell phone. We could see enthusiasm on his face and the driver starts driving faster. It looks like there is some sighting.

We stop near a culvert on the road facing an expansive grassland. Lo and behold! What do we see? A Tiger sleeping in the middle!

Few more vehicles join and we all patiently wait. The cat is in deep slumber. He twists to the sides, gets up for few seconds and then go back to sleep. It is fun to watch the big cat in playful mood. Look at these pictures.

We had a feast of looking at the mighty cat from a close quarters. We now return back. Only to return for the last safari on the next day morning.

Morning Safari 2 @ Kabini

We are up and ready and reach the start point in time. The weather is perfect. Cloudy sky. A nip in the air. We start our safari in time hoping to see more big cats. Why can’t we be greedy!

We first sight a heard of wild boars.

This is followed by a sighting of a tusker. We watch the guy having fun. Taking mud bath. After few minutes he senses some one is watching him and gives a mock charge. Many in the vehicle are scared. The naturalist assures them not to worry as it is only a mock charge. We wait for some more time watching him and move on.

We see a big herd of deer. Few males are courting females! This looks like a mating season. The driver stops the vehicle and we watch the deer mating for the first time!

On the way, we notice a lovely family of samba deer.

The driver notices a pug mark. The naturalist feels that one of the big cats is somewhere around. We drive on and wait at Huli Kere or Tiger Pond. Both the naturalist and driver are certain that tiger will show up near the pond.

We wait. Samba deers show up first.

We notice an elephant slowly coming out of the bushes and walking towards the pond. He starts drinking water and take bath. He is now joined by another! They both stand next to each other and enjoy the bath. The setting is extraordinary. Pristine pond. Dead drop silence. Two elephants enjoying in the water!

Please check out this short video of the elephants here – https://youtu.be/WZBCGPLckT8

We return back. This morning we have not been lucky. Never mind. Tiger should only be an excuse to visit jungle. The experience of being there in the middle among the animals and see them in natural habitat is enriching indeed.

When we come back to the lodge, we meet others who had gone to another zone. And these guys were damn lucky with their sighting! One of them was a wild life photographers and you can notice it these pictures.

How we envy these damn guys……

We did not do boat safari this time due to low water levels. But we had done boat safari on our earlier visit two years back. Here are some pictures. The boat safari is a fantastic experience. For almost two and half hours you are treated to best of wild life. The surreal landscape of half-submerged trees, great variety of birds, crocodiles on the bank, elephants, deer or if you are lucky even the bigger cats on the bank! It is a lovely experience.

Please take a look at these pictures

Kabini Travel Information

Getting there

By Air – The nearest airport is Bangalore. Kabini distance from Bangalore is 230 KMs

By Train – The convenient railway station is Mysore which is well-connected to other parts of the country.

By Road – Though there are government buses running from Mysore to Karapur – as Kabini is called, the best option is to drive to Kabini either in your own car or hire a car either from Bangalore or Mysore. Many resorts in Kabini can arrange cars to pick you up from Mysore. If you are driving yourself, then the roads are in excellent condition. If you are driving from Bangalore, take the route via Mysore. Check the Google map here – https://goo.gl/maps/JagPuUaGZ4p

Stay Options

Kabini accommodation options are many. Kabini today have choices from luxurious Evolve Back – formerly Orange County – to workman like Kabini River Lodge. Kabini today like any other wild life destinations has also become a luxury destination. The accommodation in Kabini is bit expensive. But one does not have much choice on that.

Depending on your budget, you may choose any the wildlife resort/lodge. Whichever you choose, make sure they have permission to take you on three-hour jeep safari by Jungle Lodges and not one hour bus safari which is conducted by forest department. Resorts are allotted seats in the safari vehicles run by Jungle Lodges. Book the place only if they have permission for jeep safari. Also make sure you confirm your safari bookings with the resort before booking them

Of the available options to stay, Kabini river lodge comes with a free jeep safari and free boat safari as part of the package. Others will be charging extra for these. Kabini river lodge is most sought after and is a great value for money. One needs to book well in advance. Especially if you are targeting weekends.

Places like Kabini river lodge by Jungle Lodges, Water Woods – the place we stayed when we came to Kabini way back in 2000 is now beautifully renovated, Red Earth, Sarai by Coffee day group and Bison Safari lodge are located on the banks of the backwaters with nice view of Kabini backwaters. Other properties like Kaav Safari Lodge  from the Kabini backwaters but located in lovely places.

Pick your choice.

Travel Tips

  1. Kabini is a fantastic wild life destination. If you are looking for a real wild life experience this should be your first choice in South India.
  2. This is an all the year round destination unlike many national parks in North India which are closed during monsoon months. Only time the park gets closed is due to wild fires in summer. Always check with your hotel on park conditions, safari etc.,
  3. The best time to experience the park is between September to February when water level in backwater is high and boat safari is on. The jungle is green and lovely. Summer months of April – May are great for tiger sightings. But there may not be boat safari.
  4. We strongly recommend you to go on weekdays for a quiet and less hurried experience. Weekends see lot of crowd from Bangalore.
  5. Unfortunately, because of the lovely backwaters of Kabini reservoir, it has also become a luxury travel destination. Even if you are not a wild life enthusiast, you can definitely come to Kabini for a relaxation and rejuvenation.
  6. Being wild life enthusiasts ourselves, we would recommend you to go for at least one jeep safari even if you are there for relaxation. Who knows you may be lucky and sight a tiger!
  7. Carry a good hat, binoculars, camera while going on safaris. Make sure you don’t wear bright coloured clothes as well.
  8. While on safari look round and listen to what the naturalist say. Be curious.
  9. If you are planning multiple safaris, make sure you go to different zones each time. Talk to the naturalist in your hotel and make sure he ensures that.
  10. Our recommendation is a stay of minimum of two nights. This will allow you to do two Jeep Safaris and one boat safari at the minimum which will help in good sighting.
  11. Kabini can be comfortably clubbed with a trip to either Coorg or Wayanad or Ooty depending upon time at your disposal.
  12. Boat safari will not happen during summers if the water level is low.
  13. Some websites/agencies are promising Elephant safari. As far as we know, the elephant safari has been stopped for a long time. Even the website of Kabini River Lodge managed by Jungle Lodges – which is the sole agency for conducting safaris in Kabini – does not list Elephant safari as one of the activities.
  14. What are the other things to do in Kabini? Kabini and surroundings has a lovely rural milieu. It is a lovely place for long walks on the roads or go for a bicycle rides. Some resorts have facility for Kayaking.

Plan a trip to Kabini sometime for an enriching wildlife experience!

We would like to hear from you

Hope you enjoyed reading this post on Kabini. We would like to hear from you your experiences of this lovely place. Please do share this among your friends and inspire them to sight a tiger in wild!

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About the author

Poorna & Brinda

We are Brinda and Poorna from Bengaluru, the “Silicon city” or “Garden city” of India.

We travel together. We caught the travel bug 20 years back. On our honey moon, we traveled over the sea, in the train, by bus and in an aircraft! Our adventures probably started in that year. It continues, ever since.

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