The first ‘wild’ destination of the year 2009 was unanimously chosen – Kabini! After earlier visits to Jungle Lodges Resorts at Bandipur, Bannerghatta, K.Gudi (B R Hills), Dubare and Bheemeshwari, we decided to zoom towards Kabini River Lodge at Karapura this time. Naturalists at Bandipur and K Gudi had strongly recommended this resort to us.
Strong willpower (our day started at 4.30am!!! yawn..) and the motivating prospect of a great wilderness outing enabled us to wake up early. Another big reason was the daunting traffic when Bangaloreans wake up and rush towards filling their cube space :). Hey, but it was a public holiday! All right, Rahman music was the background score for the drive exiting Bangalore at 6 am. Reaching the outskirts of Bangalore was a breeze and we reached our favourite breakfast halt, Kadumane, as it was just opening to greet the new day. Fuelled up, we continued on our way towards Mysore. An elegant woolly-necked stork flew above, marking the start of a wonderful bird-watching trip. We had to give a miss to Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, although we vowed to make a trip there the next time. Passing through the villages of Jayapura, Hampapura, we spotted many common coot, grey herons, egrets in the tank bunds and small water bodies around. The roads were in good condition throughout our journey. At around 11 am, we entered the Kabini River Lodge complex.
At the reception, we completed check-in formalities and were instantly charmed by the place. Besides the tents and cottages, there is a Maharaja Lodge and a Viceroy Lodge. This place used to be a hunting lodge for royalty in the olden days. With an hour to go before our tented cottage would be ready, we walked along the Nature Trail to explore the surroundings. The resort is situated along the backwaters of the Kabini reservoir. As we walked, we could see cormorants, sandpipers, a greenshank basking in the sun at the edge of the water. The tall trees were a haven for a variety of birds, and theirs was the only sound we could hear: red-whiskered bulbuls, asian koel, a juvenile male asian paradise flycatcher, racket tailed drongo, black drongo were some of the birds we saw here. The flowering trees were teeming with purple sunbirds. A first timer for us was the grey-headed mynah. As we headed back to our tent, a common flameback woodpecker flew past. We pitched tent right there right away :). As we headed for lunch to the GolGhar, a grey wagtail munched on its lunch outside. After a yummy lunch (as in all Jungle Lodges resorts), we sat outside our tent watching a large pied wagtail live up to its name – wagging its tail :)). A golden oriole flew past, and boy, we were already having such a great time!
At 4 pm, after a cuppa chai, it was time for the safari into the Nagarahole forest. The safari was in open jeeps and this enabled excellent views for everyone! We chatted with the naturalist who accompanied us about the birdlife at Kabini. As we passed the village, he pointed out a pied bushchat to us. Indian roller and barn swallows abounded in the area. Inside the forest, a huge serpent eagle perched high on a branch, welcomed us to the jungle. Scanning all around for a tiger or leopard, we continued on the safari. Nagarahole, Bandipur, Wayanad and Mudumalai forests are all part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Nagarahole is especially known for elephants. During summer, elephants congregate in huge groups on the banks of the Kabini. According to our guide, predators find prey in abundance in this forest. Four types of deer reside here – spotted deer, sambar, barking deer and mouse deer. We saw many spotted deer and sambar. A lone barking deer rushed into the bushes as we passed. Voila – an elephant and a young tusker. As they moved along deeper into the forest, we drove past the backwaters. Here, a magnificent darter bird searched for food, black ibis and oriental white ibis cooled off in the heat. A white breasted waterhen hurried along, while a sandpiper and common greenshank looked on. Suddenly, our guide was very excited. A group of 3 Malabar Pied Hornbill were spotted in the trees above, and they flew around for several minutes, giving us a good opportunity to clearly see them. Everyone was thrilled! As we headed further in the forest, a big group of Indian gaur (bison) marched along. There was one calf, several males and many females. They looked absolutely smart with their stockinged feet :)). Langurs jumped all over the place. With dusk approaching, Malabar parakeets and Plum-headed parakeets seemed to be chattering noisily, exchanging the day’s happenings. We spotted several peacocks and peahens on the way. Darkness was falling and our safari was almost over. More sightings of serpent eagles, and we headed to the exit of the Rajiv Gandhi National Park (official name for the Nagarahole forest). We had been fortunate in having marvellous guides for the trip.
Back at base camp :), we relaxed for a while, chatting about the wildlife. After watching the screening of an informative wildlife movie in the Viceroy Lodge, we were ready to grab dinner and then, to hit the sack.
We were up and awake before the punctual wake-up call at 6 am. Refreshed and charged up after a hot cuppa coffee, it was time for a drive into the forest again. Our guide and naturalist accompanied us, back in the jeep, in the misty and chilly morning air.
An eager air of anticipation hung all around – what would we spot today?
In the forest, our first halt was at an elephant camp. We saw a one-month old mischievous elephant baby calf, prancing around its mother. The calf did not stay still for a single moment, its mother patiently looked on. We made friends with a 2 year old elephant calf. At the camp, elephant rides are available. Then, we were back on our way into the jungle. A stripe-necked mongoose walked along a hole, it was the first time we had seen this animal. We sighted several Malabar Giant Squirrels high on the trees.
Suddenly, our guide exclaimed – leopard!! LEOPARD??? And yes! On the branch of a tree, a leopard was lazily stretched out, tail hanging down, comfortably perched. We couldn’t believe our eyes!! The guide had been very alert and watchful, inspite of us bugging him with incessant questions about birdlife. For the next 10-15 minutes, we quietly watched the leopard lying still, opening its eyes just a little, giving us a cold glance. A fumbling little deer sauntered along, blissfully unaware of the danger. As it neared the leopard, realization dawned. With a shocked look, it jumped up and away from the sight of the predator. We watched the whole scene with our hearts in our mouths. The leopard did not seem interested in hunting. It had probably had its fill already, and was resting. What an experience! After a while, the leopard jumped off the branch and walked away, into the thick bushes.
The naturalist pointed out a flameback woodpecker, and then a great black woodpecker – it was HUGE! In the backwaters, we went on a short boat ride. The sun rays were just starting to filter through the mist, and cormorants were waking up to a new day. As we drove back, another beautiful sight greeted us – an Indian Pitta, a very colourful bird, flew past and sat prettily on a low branch, while we admired its colours.
Noisy hill mynas bid adieu to us as we reluctantly returned to the resort.
After a wonderful breakfast, it was time to start on our way back to Namma Bengaluru. One last time, we couldn’t resist the Nature Trail. So, off we went, scanning the trees and the water for birds.
It was time to say au revoir. Kabini beckons us again, with its abundance of fauna, and we will definitely return. An unforgettable trip, marked by the leopard sighting and the immense diversity of birds.