Kabini – A Green Galaxy!
Kabini – Hearing this word during my childhood only put the image of elephants in my mind, trying to cool off, for Kabini river was like an oasis during the scorching summer days. Originally Kabini was the name given to the river, a major tributary of river Kaveri. Now it is a popular wildlife destination.
How to Reach:
Located about 60km from Mysore and 205km from Bangalore, Karnataka, Kabini has swiftly grown to be a favorite among wildlife enthusiasts and those seeking to escape the cacophony of the Urban culture. It is a 40 minutes’ drive from Mysore and and about 4 hours from Bangalore. The nearest airport is at Mysore.
It comprises the south-eastern part of the Nagarahole National Park and is spread over 55 acres of forest cover. Back in the days of the monarchy, this portion of forest served as the private hunting zone. Kabini has served as a hunting hotspot for both Indian and British royalty alike. It was declared as a national park in the 1980s and a tiger reserve in 1999. Apart from being a ‘murder the defenseless’ zone, Kabini was headquarters for the Kheddah operations.
Let me give a little ted talk about Kheddah. Fortunately, or unfortunately Elephants have been a very popular part of Indian culture, traditions, and history. And Lord Ganesha being one of the most loved deity in India kind of added to it. From being a part of culture to capture and care for elephants in the 5th century, it became a business just like other things under the British rule in India.
This was practiced widely in Karnataka, some other parts of South India and Assam. The mahouts mounted on domesticated elephants mostly female, would instill panic to a herd of elephants by lighting fire and making loud noises. They would then lead the heard (Read chased) through a funnel shaped path into an enclosure where they would then be trapped.
This system was first introduced by G. P. Sanderson in the late 1800s in the Kakanakote forest on the banks of Kabini river of the Mysore state (You read that right, what you now know as Karnataka was originally called the Princely State of Mysore pre-independence). Thanks to the sensible souls who introduced the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 that banned the practice of the gruesome Keddah practice.
Best Time to Visit:
Summer: For all the wildlife enthusiasts, the months of summer are the best time to visit. Many wild animals migrate to Kabini from the neighboring forests to beat the heat in the river Kabini.
Winter: For those who wish to just kick back and unwind, the months between October and February are the best. The cool temperatures, the lush green canopy, the salubrious breeze is a treat to all the senses.
Monsoon: Between the months of July and October, i.e., during and just sometime post monsoon, the agricultural fields around Kabini are gushing with blossoms of marigold. This is surely a sight to behold for the young and the old! I must mention the sightings aren’t great during this season. And when the showers are raging, the national park could be closed. Going on a safari isn’t going to be a pleasant journey either, thanks to all the slush!
About the Safari:
Kabini Safari in the recent days has entertained the wildlife crazy folks with sightings of Black Panthers, Tigers, and herds of the gentle beasts (I mean Elephants, if you didn’t know by now)along with deer, wild dogs, Indian Gaur also known as bison, peacocks etc. There is a common saying in the jungle that “For every big cat we see four would have seen us!”
You don’t just wake up one day and say “Ok today I am in the mood to see a tiger” and go on a safari, and a tiger will be waiting with garlands and a band set to welcome you. The sightings are entirely dependent on a lot of factors videlicet the season, time of the day, the availability of food/water in the deeper sections of the forests, your luck, the good kharma points you have accumulated from all your previous births.
We didn’t have enough Kharma points, so our safari was uneventful. But a friend was kind enough to share photos from his adventure with you guys. So here is a glimpse of what you could see at Kabini, courtesy of Kishore Sabareeshan. Do visit his insta profile for a sneak peak into the jungles of India.
The safari happens twice a day, once in the wee hours of the morning between 6:30 AM to 9:00 AM and at dusk between 3:30 PM and 6:00 PM. There are 3 modes of transportations.
Boat Safari: This is arranged by Jungle Lodges and Resorts(JLR). And the rates are included with the room tariff if you are staying at The Jungle Lodges. Many other resorts also offer boat safari. But all these resorts go through JLR.
Jeep Safari: This is also arranged by JLR and follows the same protocols mentioned in the boat safari section.
Canter (Minibus): This facility is offered by the government as well as Jungles Lodges, or any resort you stay at, who again go through JLR.
Many resorts in Kabini offer safari bookings. It is convenient if you are booking your safari seats through the resort you are staying at. And the duration is also better in this case. The drivers are determined to try and get you a decent sighting, as they are usually tipped well by satisfied customers if they’re shown any wild cat or elephants than just galloping deer. However, I must warn you that the prices for safari if you book through the resorts are exorbitant and start from INR 2000+taxes per person and are dependent on the resort you are staying at (based on how talented they are at looting you) and the season.
You could also choose to book the safari from the government forest office at Dammanakatte. The rates are around INR 450 per person. If you have made up your mind to do this because of the difference in the pricing, hold on. While the pricing seems normal in this option, it has its challenges. During the peak season (i.e., summer and winter) you’d have to go stand in long queue at least an hour prior to the safari start time to buy your safari tickets. And during the weekends, even an hour’s time is not sufficient. And after all the toiling you need to have prayed hard to all the deities you can remember to get a driver for your canter who is has enough patience to take you through the right routes and stop and bring your attention to any 4 legged creature. I am telling this from personal experience, that I had a better knowledge and an eye for at least the pug marks, if not its owner.
Owing to its popularity, a lot of resorts mostly luxurious have emerged in the vicinity of Kabini forest. Jungle Lodges and Resorts, The Bison(Not to be mistaken for the animal), Waterwoods, Evolv Back, Kaav, Serai, Red Earth etc to name a few. While all these places offer safari and other activities during your stay, they may charged additionally. Most of these places lure guests through their beautifully decorated social media profiles. I’d caution against falling for them and suggest you do your research before booking.
We recently stayed at The Bison and Waterwoods. The Bison provides a luxurious and yet a good jungle experience with their ambience and the location. They are also have some rescued horses and a camel, along with few dogs and cats. Along with being adorable these (not wild) dogs give you some authentic “being in the wild” experience with their poop and pee in a lot of the common areas. We enjoyed our stay with good food and atmosphere in the luxury tents, however felt that the place is extremely over-hyped and over-priced. The place is not well maintained and could use some upgrades.
Waterwoods is a beautifully located resort with good food and service. If you don’t mind rooms in a hotel kind of a setup located on the banks of the river, then this could be your go to place. They boast of a good-sized pool (closed due to the pandemic) and a huge farmland on their property perfect for a nice stroll.
Although heavy on your pockets, a couple of days stay at Kabini will not disappoint you.
Even a day’s trip to this forest,
Will be one of tranquilizing rest,
At the same time give you an adrenaline rush,
I assure you your spirits will not crush!
You could be witness to some spine-chilling tiger’s kill,
Don’t judge the cat for this is nature’s drill,
On one side it gives and the other it takes,
That is nature’s way to balance, but yes it aches!
Kabini – A home to the wild,
A feast of glowing marigold field,
An escape from the urban breath,
Another of nature’s magnificent bequeath!