Animals By Rouletabille
I was not a wild life lover then.  I had seen a couple of ads on TV that said ‘If the buying can stop, the killing can too’ and stuff.  I had never been to a jungle to sight animals.  I had trekked in the jungles, accept the occasional chirping of the mynah or the woodpecker’s peck, nothing else was heard or seen.

I was adamant that the next long weekend would be in a jungle, and that I should spot a tiger.  After a lot of evaluation, we decided to go to Nagarhole National Park ( NP ) and had taken a 2N/3D  package from Jungle lodges and resorts. 

Nagarhole NP covers an area of 572 sq. km the altitude of the Park varies between 700-850 metres. The maximum temperature reaches 33 degrees C and the minimum is 14 degrees. The Park mainly consists of moist deciduous forest in the northern and western parts and dry deciduous forest in the south-eastern part. A unique feature of these forests is the open grassy swamps, locally called hadlus, where the grass is lush all year-round. The swamps are numerous due to the high rainfall. Plantations of teak and species of eucalyptus cover much of the park.  The name Nagarhole is derived from the Kannada word `Naga’ meaning `snake’ and `Hole’ meaning `streams’. A number of streams snake through the rich tropical forests of Nagarhole.  These forests are ideal for elephants. 

Apart from the elephants, the principal wildlife is the tiger, panther, chital, sambar, and sloth bear. Primates include langur, bonnet macaque and slender loris. Notable carnivores are tigers  (in larger numbers than in Bandipur National Park), leopard, jungle cat, jackal, wild dog and sloth bear. Herbivores include elephant, spotted deer, sambar and gaur. Over 250 species of birds are present, including the malabar trogon and malabar pied-hornbill and birds of prey such as crested hawk-eagle and crested serpent-eagle.  Nagarhole is part of a protected complex that includes Bandipur, Wayanad and Mudumalai wildlife sanctuaries.

Finally the weekend arrived. We left Bangalore on a Friday morning.  Kabini River Lodge is situated 5 km off the Mysore-Mananthavadi Road, in the south western part of the Nagarhole NP. This place is called so as it is on the banks of the River Kabini which is a tributary of river Cauvery.   Kabini Dam on the river, forms a lake, near which the lodge is located. 

The route to Kabini is Bangalore – Mysore – Mananthavadi Road…there are lot of sign boards that enable s can reach the lodge easily. It takes about 6 hrs to reach Kabini from Bangalore.  The road leading to Mysore is bad, and the roads in Nagarhole towards the Lodge are equally bad.

The lodge has accommodation of 3 types – tents, cottages and rooms in a guest house.  This guest house used to be thehunting bungalow of the local Raja.  It accommodates guests now.  The rooms are well equipped, but there is no TV or AC. Your tent / cottage / room opens to the lake or to the jungle, and the scene is treat to any nature lover.  Food is served in Golghar ( round house ) which is close to the lake.

The schedule at Kabini is very tight.  Most people reach the lodge at around 1 pm, and hence people have lunch on arrival.  After which there is about 2 hrs for rest.  People can take a walk and see the property or walk by the lake.  There are 2 tree houses in front of the lake.  One can climb up and have a view of the surroundings.  The water of the dam has immersed several trees, and hence you will see the dead trunks of the trees jutting out of the water.  There are a variety of birds perched on these branches.

Everyone is supposed to report at the Golghar at 4 pm for Chai Biskoot, after which you are assigned to a forest guide.  The Chief Naturalist here is Mr. Sarath, he will tell you about the NP and its flora and fauna, the number of elephants, tigers, other wild cats, deers, and he will explain fundas like prey base, tiger census etc.

The Evening Safari lasts for about 2 – 3 hrs.  You are taken in a 4 wheel drive Mahindra jeep – the best bet  for the jungles.  The driver and the guide know exactly where to look for animals, and they recognize all the sounds.  Kabini has a large variety of animals and plants, and perhaps nowhere else can one see so much of it.  Elephants, sambhar, spotted deer, gaur, wild boar, sloth bear, wild dogs are spotted regulary.  You are also sight  peacocks, jungle fowls, Crested serpent eagles, exotic mynahs among others.

After the safari,  the Lodge screens a wild life film.  I was shown a film by Natgeo, about a panther.  It was too good.  The film was shot in Nagarhole NP.

It was time for dinner.  Kabini also has a bar, with a good choice of drinks.  Dinner is served in Golghar.

The next day starts really early.  A chai wala wakes you up at 5.30 am and gives you either Tea or Coffee, depending on what you ask for.   At 6 am, a jeep comes to your room / tent / cottage to take you for the coricle ride.    Coricle is a small flat tray shaped boat, made of bamboo bark, whose bottom is flanked with rubber.  You are given life jackets for safety.  You are taken on a ride in the lake for about 45 mins.  I am told that the lake is about 70 ft deep in summer, and can get about 100 feet deep in winter.  Am also told there are crocs in the lake, hence it is not advisable to put your hands in the water.  The dead trees that stand out of the lake make a very beautiful view.  There are  a variety of birds in this place.  After the ride, we are taken back to the lodge.

You are free for the entire day.  Once can sit near the lake, or spend time on the tree house. One can get a guide and also go for trekking in the jungle.  Or, you can just sleep in your tent.

In the evening, it is time again for the Safari.  It is easy to spots the eleghants, deers, gaurs and langurs, but not the tiger.  After the safari, we were back at the lodge.  Instead of the jeep safari, one can opt of a elephant safari.  Kabini has a couple of domestic elephants for this purpose.

In the evening, a different wild life film is shown.  After which one can have dinner and sleep in peace.

The next morning, we opted  for a safari again instead of the coricle ride.  Most people opt for the Safari , just in case we get lucky and spot the tiger.  But, we were not lucky.  I think we have to go back to Kabini again for this. It was about 11 am on day 3, and hence, it was time to leave Kabini and head back to Bangalore, to our homes, our office and everything else.

The trip was sooo satisfying, that I decided that I have to see a tiger asap.  After Kabini trip I have developed  a special love for tigers and have read up a lot of content about tigers on the net in my free time.

Getting there :  Road is best.  Bangalore – Mysore – Mysore Mananthavade Road – Kabini.  Kabini is about 80 kms from Mysore. Nearest railway station : Mysore, Mangalore ( 146 kms )

Nearest airports : Mangalore ( 135 kms ) and Bangalore ( 236 kms )

Where to stop : About 30 mins into driving from Bangalore towards Mysore , Kamat Hotel is on the Mysore Road.  This place is the best bet for breakfast buffet.  Idly, vada, sambar, chutney, masala dosa, kesari, kichadi, upma and fruit juice are on the menu. You will get the best coffee ever here, which is also in the menu.

Café Coffee day is also close by.  The queue here is longer.  Those who like pudding, cakes, puffs, samosas, mousse and tarts can stop here.

Best time : Summer is the best time, te water holes are dry and hence lot of animals visit the lake as this is the only water hole source available.  It is not easy to sight animals in the winter – during the rainy season, as there are lots of water holes, and hence the animals can remain where they are. Trip duration :  3 days

Where to stay : Kabini River Lodge ( A Jungle Lodges Property ) Email : Reservation@junglelodges.con, info@junglelodges.com Ph : 91-80 – 25597201 / 91 – 80 – 25597025 / 91 – 80 - 25597025

Jungle Inn 68 kms from Mysore, 20 kms from Hunsur.  It provides tented accommodation, and provides all the activities that Kabini provides – Jeep safaris, wild life film screening, coricle ride, the extra item is the tribal dance in the eveing.  They also take people to a Tibetan Monastery.  Contact : Infodesk@karnatakatourism.com

Chilligere Estate It is a homestay set amidst coffee and pepper plantations in South Coorg,  is about 10 kms from Nagarhole NP and about 8 kms from  Wyanad Wildlife sanctuary. They do not offer organized Safari’s and Coricle rides. Once needs to make arrangements for these separately. P.O. Box – 167,  Manchally Village & Post, Kutta, S. Kodagu. Pin – 571 250. Ph : 08274 – 244265. Mobile : 94485 82496. Contact : Mr. T. T. Somaiah / Mrs. Banu.