Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Trip to Nagarhole (Kabini)

Our trip to Nagarhole was adventurous from the word go. To start with, we didn’t take proper directions and ended up driving some fifty extra kilometers.

We stayed in Sunkadakatte Forest Guest House. The guest house is right in the middle of the jungle (5 kilometers inside the jungle to be precise). It is some 220 odd Kms from Bangalore and 80 Kms from Mysore. You have to take the Mysore – Manathavadi road and then the road to Antarasante.

The guest house has three basic rooms with attached, clean toilets. It has an open, wooden floored veranda with comfy cane chairs. There is a separate kitchen in the backyard and a beautiful gazebo adjoining the cottage where the food is served. We landed there in the evening and immediately set out for the safari.

It doesn’t take much to realise why Kabini is one of the most popular wildlife destinations in Karnataka- situated on the picturesque backwaters of river Kabini, the lush green forest reserve offers fantastic sightings of large herds of elephants.

We just went berserk with our cameras. I am most fond of wildlife photography. It tests your patience, like no other activity and the difference between a great shot and an average one is just a nano second. Capturing a dust bathing elephant, or a muscular bison looking intently at you, or that kingfisher just before it takes the flight again- they say a picture speaks a thousand words- it can’t be more true in a jungle – just that here it speaks a million words.

We drained our camera batteries before we returned to the guesthouse and we had to charge them for the morning safari.

Now the big question hovering over us was how to charge the cameras (there is no electricity in the guest house). The guard looked helpless when he informed that the only place we can probably go and charge was the Kabini River Lodge run by the Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR). The resort was eighteen kilometers away from the guest house and the darkness was already settling in.

Nevertheless, we decide to drive down to the resort and charge our gadgets. The drive to the resort through the darkness was one of the most memorable drives of my life. It was a strange mix of excitement and fear. While passing the rough, narrow terrain- we crossed an elephant. The shrill trumpeting of the animal scared the living daylights out of me.

Kabini River Lodge is a gorgeous property often rated as one of the best wildlife resorts in the world. The staff was sweet enough to let us charge our gadgets there. On the drive back to the guest house I saw lot of village men sitting on the roadside with torches and sticks in their hands. The guard told us that they were protecting their crop from the elephants. Through out the drive I just kept praying that we should be spared any such encounters with the wild.

There is no electricity and that is the best part about the guesthouse. As the night falls the voices of the wild echo all around you- like the trumpeting of an elephant or the alarm calls of sambar and chital. Chitals and wild boars come conveniently close to the place. Staying here, I felt a lot closer to the nature than staying at any other resorts. We just kept gazing the sky for long time- the sky just wrapped us like a blanket of stars and we had fun spotting the ‘milky way’. There is something so pure about the silence of the nature- it just calms your senses.

The morning safari was equally incredible. Charging our cameras was completely worth it. The safari was full of ‘Kodak’ moments.

We saw herds of elephants, bison, spotted deer, barking deer, sambhar, wild boars and dozens of species of birds like white breasted kingfisher, brahminy kite, painted stork, black ibis and many others- the names (and all the trivia about them) of which only my wife would be able to tell (she is an avid ornithologist).

What made the trip even more special was my first sighting of a pack of Indian wild dogs. They are very rarely spotted. They always hunt in packs and often eat their prey while it is still alive.

And yes, the big cats were elusive as usual. You know I see many people describing their trips to national parks as unsuccessful if they don’t spot the tiger. Also, they spend the entire safari anticipating sighting a tiger, while completely missing all the other marvels that just pass by.
This happens mainly because of their ignorance about the wildlife. If you keep your eyes and mind open you can discover and learn so much about the flora and fauna of a national park. In fact, I always read up (mostly on net) on the terrain, climate, its inhabitants, and the flora and fauna of any place before I visit it. It always helps me to appreciate the place better.

Also, I have seen many people breaching the basic code of conduct of national parks. Make sure you never break the basic rules of the forest- don’t talk loud, don’t honk, don’t play music, avoid using flash, never throw plastic/wrappers, and other trash , don’t feed wild animals and never ever get out of the vehicle. Remember that you are a visitor in their habitat so please don’t overstay your welcome.

Jungle safaris always make me hungry and in breakfast we devoured on hot fluffy pooris and delicious aloo ki sabji. The cook at the guest house is competent and serves you unpretentious, lip smacking food.

Around four in the evening we went for a boat safari organized by the Kabini River Lodge. It is a refreshing change from the usual jeep safaris. Apart from animals and birds that can be sighted during the vehicle safari, the boat safari offers an opportunity to observe the Marsh Crocodile and other water birds. One can also witness large herds of elephants, peacefully feeding and getting on with their lives.

Words can’t describe my joy- when I saw a pack of three elephants (including a young one) swimming across the river to meet the rest of the gang on the other side. They were so quick that I couldn’t capture them in my lens. I think it is true that the most memorable picture from any trip is often etched in your mind and rarely captured in your camera.

The resort offered us a complementary dinner and an invitation to meet the man himself- Col. John F Wakefield (referred lovingly as “papa” by all). Mr. Wakefield can be accredited as the torch bearer of the eco tourism concept in India.

In his mid- nineties, John is the brand ambassador of JLR and is a treasure of knowledge on wildlife. Over a drink, he told us some fascinating tales of his encounters with the wild- his visits to various national parks, first meeting with Jim Corbett (both are hunters turned conservationists), setting up of the Kabini resort and many such gems.

His views on conservation and how controlled tourism can help the cause were enlightening.
I have never met a man who has a sharper memory than him- the way he could recollect the dates, people, places and incidents was hard to believe. I was surprised when he told us that till six months ago he was driving on his own to the jungle.

When he asked us how was the trip- I honestly told him that meeting him was the best thing that happened to me on this trip. He sportingly posed for us and gave me an autographed memorabilia.

Guys, if you happen to visit Kabini then do yourself a favour – go and meet Mr. John Wakefield. He is the real tiger of Nagarhole.

PS: To view pictures from the trip- click on the 'Nagarhole' icon on the right side of the screen.


Anonymous said...

Congrats on posting after a long gap ... great trip ... seems im not the only one crazy abt clicking pictures and capturing moments if u cud drive down 18 kms to recharge ur camera battery ... ur trip reminds me of my trip to a LION SAFARI near punjab ... there u mostly see the 'wild cats' and up close ... very close ...

kanika said...

that was a lovely travelogue, i visited that on mouthshut.
n pic of the trip are also very nice..

gurudev prasad said...

@ Sakshi

Thanks for writing in. Hope to see you soon.


Thanks Kanika. I loved some of your reviews on mouthshut. Keep writing.

Prabhash said...

Hey! Congrats on Posting finally. Good to see you have not lost "THE TOUCH".

Sunil Shinde said...

Guru, Loved your blog. I was in Nagarhole a couple of weekends ago. Unfortunately, the safari was cancelled because of monsoon, though sighted elephants. I guess Kabini is on my next to do list :)

gurudev prasad said...

Hi Sunil,

Thanks for writing in. Yes, you must do Kabini next and plan it in a way that you get to do the safari as well.

swabhiman said...

HI Guru,
Can you please let me know how to book the forest guest house from bangalore and what is the tariff.

Keerti said...

really nice and lucid writing... I checked for Sunkadakatte and find from the forest dept website that it is in Mangalore... ooops.

can u pls provide details on how to book it and does JLR provide boat rides to persons not staying at JLR. Thanks in advance.

Kaustubh said...

Is there Airtel or any other mobile coverage at resthouse and what about electricity ?

gurudev prasad said...

Hi Kaustubh,

There is Airtel coverage. i use the same network and I could make and receive calls. But there is no electricity- the place runs on solar power

Vippy said...

by any chance will you have the no. of guest house. ?