Kabini Diaries – Part I

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kabini river lodge

One summer night of 2011, the husband returned home after his graduation ceremony at IIM, Bangalore. To celebrate the occasion, he had been to Kabini with a bunch of his batch mates for two days. Ever since that night the girls and myself have been listening to his wish to take us to Kabini one day.

Our travel adventures are mostly restricted to North India because of his love for long drives and the fact that both sets of parents reside within a radius of ten kilometers from our place. Air travel for us is like that Bharat Darshan offer for Central Government employees; once in four (or five) years affair.

So this summer I was supposed to plan a vacation for Dad where the entire family was together. Just when I was about to click on ‘proceed to checkout’ on the Yatra flight booking, the man said, “Anyway we are going to spend so much on air travel for your Dad’s dream vacation, why not extend it to include ours too.” Thus the Kabini dream saw light.

There were lots of hurdles which kept looming over our heads and making us doubtful about our vacation till the day we actually flew. Anyway, all’s well that ends well.

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We had booked a Myles car for our five-day stay in Karnataka. Due to some mistake at the agent’s end we got our vehicle only after about two and a half hours spent sitting in the scorching sun. Thankfully we had booked our stay at Kabini from the next day onward. Otherwise we would have missed one safari.

The ride through the Bangalore-Mysore Expressway was one beautiful ride.

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These cotton candy clouds gave us company all along. After taking a break at Mysore for the night, we set out on our journey to Kabini the next morning.

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And as we approached closer to Kabini, these were the mesmerizing scenes that welcomed us.

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Covering these beautiful patches we finally reached Kabini River Lodge, located on the southern fringes of the Nagarahole National Park (Rajiv Gandhi National Park). This was the former hunting lodge of the erstwhile Maharaja of Mysore and was rated as One of the Top 5 Wildlife Resorts in the World by the British Tatler’s Travel Guide.

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Situated on the banks of river Kabini, the 54-acre property in itself is a pleasant treat. Lush green scenic views around the tented accommodations and the lavish cottages.

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This tent was our home for two days and we enjoyed every bit of the wilderness around it.

The very next morning, we woke up to this. Bliss!

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The Maharaja’s bungalow has a well-stocked bar and the interiors showcase the rich history behind it. The former hunting lodge that’s been converted, speak of erstwhile elegance and comes with comforts like charming accommodation and even a fully equipped conference room for those meetings that spell business as unusual.

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That’s the skin of a real tiger who died. It’s been treated and stuffed to give you an idea about the size of the deceased.

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That’s the bar. Tastefully done and well-stocked to suit your taste.

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The pictures on the wall speak of those old royal meetings, hobbies and adventures. Something that speaks of a culture gone by.

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The Kabini River Lodge, to me looked on the higher side when we were about to book. But the experience tells me that the property is absolute value for money. The entire experience from the stay, the weather, the staff, the safari naturalist, everything was just perfect.

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What I loved most about this jungle lodge is the time management. You check in around 12 p.m., settle inside your accommodation, relax for a while or go on a nature walk around the property, assemble at the GolGhar (the river-facing gazebo restaurant at around 1 p.m. for a lavish spread buffet. You can either go back to your rooms, or head straight for a walk around the place or enjoy the scenic view near the river. Assemble back at the GolGhar around 3 p.m. for a quick tea/snacks and head for the three-hour jungle safari.

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Once back, you’ll be served another round of tea/coffee and at 7 p.m. there’s a wildlife documentary showcased at the Maharaja Bungalow. By 8.30, dinner is served. Another sumptuous spread.

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The very next morning, you’ll receive a wake-up call around 5 a.m. Freshen up and assemble at Golghar around 5.50. Sip your morning cuppa and take your seats in your respective safari coaches. You’ll be back sharp at 9 a.m. and your breakfast will be ready.

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Around 10 a.m., you can take a round of the river on a traditional coracle or you can opt for a regular motor boat. On this ride, we got to know from our boat driver Mr.Nair that just 35 kilometers through the river and we could land in my home state, Kerala.

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There is also an Ayurveda Wellness Centre, a unit of Vishwa Vaidya Ayurvedashram, Mangalore. They offer ayurvedic treatments for a rejuvenating experience in the enchanting woods. Mom and Dad enjoyed their share of body massages. If I were to believe Mom, the treatment did help her with her aching muscles for a few days.

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All their lives my parents have slogged for the sake of their respective families and for us. I don’t remember them taking a vacation ever. This was probably the least I could do for them.  While Dad enjoyed taking the girls around the property and help them with the swings, Mom was eagerly sharing her Botany knowledge with the excited girls.

That did leave me with ample time with my camera and I went Click, Click, Click!

The best part about visiting such rich wildlife resorts is that you get to meet inspirational people who patiently and persistently capture wildlife with their larger than life gadgets that make you feel like beginners at school. We had the good fortune of meeting Kalyan Verma, the famous BBC documentary man and Janardhan N Doraiswamy, who organises wildlife tours nationally and internationally. He did give us quite a few tips on photography workshops and the tricks of the trade. Much appreciated!

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I leave you with this overview of Kabini River Lodge, a JLR initiative. The next post will showcase the Nagarhole National Park experience and my wildlife encounters. Stay tuned!

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14 Replies to “Kabini Diaries – Part I”

  1. What I’m jealous of is people who travel like this. I know I can, but I am not really built for it. I’ll melt very quickly. 🙂 That said, I’m glad for you and your picture post, quite a few of the pictures I think you’ve already shown. It took me on a virtual tour of the place. 😀 My favorite is the photo of the wooden walkway, and nature surrounding it. Lucky chechi.

    1. Vinay, you must go on a solo trip. Trust me, life will never be the same again. So much to learn. So much to experience. So much to gather. I am definitely a travel addict. And thankfully fate tied me up with another gypsy soul. In the initial days of marriage, our favourite pastime was just driving around the city aimlessly. A kind of spiritual exercise for people like us. 🙂 You travel through books, I know. 🙂 That wooden walkway and that wooden bench are places I would love to go back to. Such peace! 🙂

  2. lovely pictures Rekha, you are inspiring me to plan a vacation at Kabini soon.. wishing you many more happy vacations…
    take care

  3. So many hidden gems in India. This seems to be one such place. I had never heard of anything like this. So lovely!

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