While the last two posts were about my most recent trip to KASHMIR, this one is about my wildlife adventure in KABINI in KARNATAKA. It seems like I have taken a fascination with places starting with alphabet ‘K’. Read on!
A leopard is considered to be a prized sighting on a safari and I got lucky with two during my trip to Kabini last month. Both mother and the cub looked adorable as their lovely spots on their body shone bright and gold under the brilliance of the sun. While they cautiously waited to drink water, we patiently watched them with beaming eyes. This definitely happens to be one of the most memorable moments of my luxury train experience on GOLDEN CHARIOT.
My fascination with wildlife sightings happened in South Africa last year and I think it happened just at the right place. When I travelled to Johannesburg, the most important thing on my mind was game drive and spotting big five. Though I couldn’t make it to Kruger, I visited all the parks and zoo of the city. Above all, the self-drive safari in the Pilanesberg National Park (4th largest and a fascinating game reserve of South Africa) was the best that I did last year. This year Kabini gave a great start to my wildlife adventures. The wildlife neighbourhood around the lodge was once rated as one of the ‘Top 5 Wildlife Resorts in the World’ by the British Tatler’s Travel Guide.
Last month I was onboard Golden Chariot and as per the itinerary, our first halt was Mysuru. While the day began with a visit to the grand palace of Mysore, it ended with excited discussions of our wildlife sightings in the Nagarahole National Park. We travelled on a bus and it took us hardly two hours to make it to the Kabini River Lodge, the first eco-tourism venture of Jungle Lodges & Resorts Ltd, which further happens to be a joint venture of tourism and forest department of Govt. of Karnataka. It is a huge patch of land with a colonial touch in its architecture. The rooms are generally huge while some of the cottages open towards the Kabini river. Overall the ambience and the setting of the lodge takes one closer to wilderness. Also, Kabini river is a great place for the bird enthusiasts and photographers.
After we quickly settled in our big and spacious rooms and ate sumptuously at the Gol Ghar restaurant, most of the were eagerly looking forward to the safari trip that was slated to begin at 3:30 in the afternoon. After applying the essential sunblock and putting on my glares, I was all set for the day. Not to forget, my 55-250mm zoom lens was my best friend for the safari and we couldn’t wait to meet some beautiful creatures of the forest. In total, we were 50 people and we were divided in 2 safari buses and a jeep. While everyone started taking their seats with their families, I was not sure of my choice. First, I walked towards the first bus, stood in the queue and had a change of heart. I moved to the other bus. Trust me, I really got lucky. The members of the first bus were not able to spot any big animal while the members of the jeep got super lucky with a tiger, tigress, elephant and a leopard. Thankfully, my group also met lots of deer, a tigress and two leopards. So here I must mention that a good safari day is all about luck, some patience and experience of the safari guide.
After a drive of nearly fifteen minutes, we entered into a true arid jungle aka a dry tropical forest. What I knew was that Nagarahole National Park (Rajiv Gandhi National Park) has alway been known to be one of the best wildlife parks in the country and I had huge expectations from the safari. The guide and driver looked well-informed and made us hopeful by mentioning the recent sightings of the week. While the feeling of the wildlife adventure was still sinking in, a group of deer came with an assurance. Later, we saw many of them. Soon our safari bus stopped near a small water body (Tiger Tank) and our guide asked to maintain silence. He quickly briefed in more and informed us that a tigress had been regularly spotted around this river. For the first five minutes, we exchanged glances with each other and soaked in the serenity of the place but later we became impatient. We thought we would not see anything but as I mentioned above, it was a lucky day for me and the tigress came just then. It was a beautiful sight to see her walk and settle in on a rock. We thought that we would get to see her drink water from the water body but she acted lazily and sat down to relax.
The tigress was not very close to our vehicle but yet we could read every little movement of her. Capturing her in the camera was a tough task. I did give it a try with my zoom lens and the best I got is above. The whole fun was about savouring the moment. Suddenly we all became so involved and excited about the safari that even the non-wildlife enthusiasts couldn’t ignore this. After ten minutes when almost everyone had enough of her antics, we decided to move ahead and make way for other jeeps. All this while the tigress stayed at one place and kept to herself, oblivious to the fact that 15 human eyes were prying her.
Now, our expectations became higher. We ventured further deep into jungles. None of the jeeps or buses was following each other. Each one took its own route but yes the guides ensured that they informed one another. As I looked through my side of the window, I spotted a number of birds, two peacocks and lots of deer. I was hoping to see an elephant but what we saw next was a treat to the eyes. We stopped at another water hole (Gopala Devara Gudi Tank) where a leopard was sitting near the tree. Our friends from the jeep who had reached the spot before us saw it climb down the tree. When we reached, she was cautiously looking around as if it could sense some human presence. We tried our best to maintain pin drop silence but it’s tough with so many people. When I was happily clicking this one, soon walked in a baby cub from within the trees. Trust me, we almost shrieked in excitement but in silence.
The guide told us that this leopard mother and cub had not been spotted for a long long time and it was a rare day when we had seen them together. This encounter was super close. I also succeeded in making a small video of them. After this we did try to spot another tiger that another guide informed us, however, we didn’t reach in time. On the way back, we met a number of monkeys and deer and birds. Overall, it was a super fun day! When we all met for the dinner in the evening, we couldn’t stop gushing over our lovely sightings.
They say the best time for wildlife spotting (in most parts of India) is from April to June as the wildlife can be seen around watering holes. They come around to drink water. So pack your bags and get set for a ride into the jungles while I am preparing for my next wildlife adventure. Yes, it is coming soon! Keep watching my twitter handle @pendown5.
Thanks to Karnataka Tourism and Golden Chariot for making this trip possible.
This blog has been verified by Rise: R98aae0588472dac9bf1c86aaccdbf444