For our annual family holiday, we had decided to spend a few relaxed days at Kabini River Lodge, this year. Set in verdant Nagarhole Sanctuary, beside the serene blue Kabini River, the lodge is very picturesque. Barely 5 hours drive from Bangalore, it a popular holiday resort; one has to book weeks in advance for a couple of days’ stay. We left Bangalore at seven am and took a short break in Mysore for breakfast. When we reached Kabini a sumptuous lunch awaited us. A jeep safari into the jungles was planned for the evening. However, we opted out of it to spend a relaxing time in front of our cottage, with the soothing sounds of the Kabini River.
Next day, braving the chill, we had set out in the early hours on a safari into the Nagarhole-Bandipur Sanctuaries. An hour into the drive, the nearest we came to wildlife was fresh tiger footprints on the riverbank. One has to be very lucky to catch a glimpse of a tiger; our guide enlightened us, since they are very few in this region (around 80). Of course antelopes and deer abound. We were also particularly unlucky in not seeing any elephants, in a region famous for them. Dejected, we turned back towards the resort. A few kilometers down the state highway, the jeep suddenly stopped. “Alli nodi”, whispered our excited guide. Metres away from our jeep a majestic family - a tusker, a cow elephant and a baby - were crossing the road. I froze, too stunned and awestruck to click the camera. As they retreated into the shelter of the jungles, the scene remained implanted in my mind. This magnificent tusker and his family had appeared on the tarred main road, of all places. Elated and scarcely believing our good fortune, we rushed back to have a hearty lunch at the resort and exchange our safari tales with the other groups.
In the afternoon, as the others took a siesta in the tranquil surroundings, I took a stroll around the resort. Kabini River Lodge in the days of the Raj had been used as a lodge for the royal hunting groups. It has now been transformed into an elegant river lodge for tourists who want to get away from the madness of the city. The buildings of the hunting days have been retained and remodeled into tourist lodges. Apart from these buildings, a few elegant tents and cottages have been erected on the riverbank.
As you drive into the resort area, next to the administration office stands an old and refurbished Maharaja Lodge overlooking a flowering tree. Down the lane, there are a few tents on the right and an imposing Viceroy Lodge on the left, standing at right angles to the Maharaja Lodge. In the colonial times, Wodeyars were the rulers of Mysore. However, like all the other princely states, though the king ruled the state, the ultimate power lay with the British. The hierarchy is clearly indicated in this small hunting lodge too - the old Maharaja Lodge pales in comparison to the Viceroy Lodge. Going inside the Viceroy Lodge, one is greeted by a lot of memorabilia of the colonial times. Photographs of the Wodeyars and the British troops and furniture of those days are displayed. In a hall converted into an auditorium, runs an audiovisual on the flora and fauna of the region. Behind the Viceroy Lodge is a gazebo (Gol Ghar), a dining area for the tourists.
In the evening, there are boat rides in the river. We spotted a variety of birds - Storks, Egrets and also a lone Eagle. At twilight, when the sun coloured the entire sky in crimson, contrasting with the dark hues of the jungles, we returned to the riverbank and retreated to the comforts of our cozy cottage. Lying on a hammock by the riverside, with no TV, phones or the Internet, it was amazingly relaxing. I loved the fact that our toddler learnt ‘E' for 'Elephant’ the right way - in their natural habitat rather than in a picture book. My take on Kabini – an ideal place to relax, learn a bit of history and enjoy the jungles.