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Rediff.com  » Getahead » What a boat safari on the Kabini river reveals

What a boat safari on the Kabini river reveals

Last updated on: September 21, 2016 13:20 IST

'What one experiences is the soft scented breeze from the Kabini river and sounds of invisible insects strumming their guitars,' says Rajesh Karkera.

At jungle lodges managed by the Karnataka government, one is introduced to these lessons: "Listen to the sounds of nature, observe and appreciate little wonders, dress in earthy colours, respect all life forms and learn to practice non-intrusive photography."

The ambience lends itself to understanding these lessons better.

Far away from the chaos of the city, you're out of the reach of television sets airing disturbing fights between states for water and bickering saas bahu sagas; no Facebook updates or WhatsApp messages to draw your attention away from the surreal surroundings; no dust, grime or pollution which we are so used to breathing day after day.

Instead, what one experiences is the soft scented breeze from the Kabini river and sounds of invisible insects strumming their guitars.

The jetty on the Kabini River

IMAGE: The banks of the Kabini river call out to you. Photographs and Video: Rajesh Karkera/Rediff.com

Every morning at Kabini feels fresh with a faint herbal fragrance.

It's an aroma which stirs your senses -- and without much knowledge, it energises and awakens you.

The first safari at the Kabini River Lodge provides you with two options: You can choose to travel by road in a jeep or take the river safari in a 16-seater boat.

Since it is 3 in the afternoon, a choice was made to take the river route today. It was decided that I would take the jeep safari the next morning.

Barely 100 metres away from my tent stands the boat which was to take me on the river safari.

A short video of the boat ride on the Kabini river.

The cool evening wind made the river look calm and quiet for the safari ahead.

Looking at the calm waters, my thoughts strayed and I wondered, "If only the roads in Mumbai were like this river. Then probably I'd spend less time travelling to work."

"The lesser one expects, the more the jungle will surprise you," said our guide and boat driver for evening.

True were his words.

How often we visit jungles and wildlife sanctuaries hoping to sight tigers and lions, and in the bargain we miss out on the beauty that is right there in front of us.

Just like this lovely Great White Egret, the first bird we spotted that evening.

A little Egret was busy hunting for fish in the shallow banks of the Kabini.

IMAGE: A flying Great White Egret and a Little Egret looking for fish.

Tugging ahead, slowly along the banks of the Kabini, our guide drove the boat past dead tree trunks and branches, which seemed to have grown from the riverbed.

Seated on these dead stumps were a variety of birds.

As we drove past, we spotted Cormorants perched atop these tree trunks.

IMAGE: Playful Cormorants relaxing on the dead tree trunks.

These playful Great Cormorants are excellent divers and can dive to considerable depths underwater when they hunt for fish.

But the ones we spotted looked like they had eaten to their heart's content and were just lazing around playfully.

Darter or Snakebird

IMAGE: A Darter also called the Snakebird, left, and a white Cattle Egret.

There were different types of birds like the Black Ibis, Purple Herons, the Darter -- also known as the Snakebird due to its snake-like neck -- and Cattle Egrets, from the Egret family. Also roaming on the shore were some Spot-billed ducks.

The driver shut the engine and let the river push us slowly and steadily closer towards its banks.

Just then we spotted a huge crocodile basking in the sun, with its mouth open, waiting for small Plover birds to clean its teeth.

IMAGE: The crocodile, which was basking in the sun, suddenly turned and disappeared into the river.

It was unaware of our presence for some time and everyone on the boat took the opportunity to click pictures.

Then, the wind changed direction. That's when the crocodile caught our scent, turned around and disappeared into the open arms of the Kabini.

During the ride, most of the occupants of the boat remained quiet as they respected nature.

Except for one man who was always eager to strike a conversation with the guide. In the bargain, he would end up obstructing someone's field of vision in the boat.

I chose to ignore him and focus on the elephant standing in the water, gleefully picking grass from the riverbed.

IMAGE: The patience with which this elephant was cleaning the grass and eating it was admirable.

The guide saw us admiring the mighty beast and shut the boat's engine again.

Slowly, we were floating towards the elephant, who was kicking the riverbed, plucking and eating grass, a sweet delicacy for elephants.

"Every day they have to eat food almost their own weight to stay fit," the guide remarked.

One good thing about Kabini is that the animal safari routes are never fixed -- be it on land or water.

The safaris are not completely time bound too. If all the occupants agree, then the guide will take you on different routes. And if you are tracking any animal to shoot pictures, they will oblige.

Along the way, almost all throughout the Kabini riverbank, we saw several Spotted deer.

IMAGE: Spotted deer of all sizes are found in abundance.

The largest birds on the water were Painted storks -- big, bold and beautiful.

IMAGE: These majestic Painted storks often use their wings to direct the fish toward their open bill which they submerge in water when hungry.

These majestic birds displayed a fabulous wing pattern as they playfully fought with each other with their yellow-orange bills and long legs.

These beautiful birds also have an incredibly long neck, which they hold outstretched when in flight.

As the sun began to set, we started heading back to the comfort of our tented cottage at the Kabini River Lodge.

IMAGE: The birds paint a pretty silhouette as the sun begins to set on the Kabini river.

We went to sleep, looking forward to the next morning when we would head out on the road safari.

The Kabini River Lodge is a part of the Karnataka government's Jungle Lodges & Resorts.
Tariff (all inclusive): 
  • Tented cottage: Rs 8,054
  • Room: Rs 9,662
  • Cottage: Rs 11,320
  • Maharaja cottage: Rs 12,204
Prices include all meals, two safaris of your choice by jeep or boat into the Nagarahole National Park and one coracle ride.
 
Distance by road
  • from Bangalore: 225 km
  • from Mangalore: 220 km
  • from Mysore: 94 km
  • from Madikeri: 90 km

The bar in the Viceroy Building inside the resort is not to be missed. Its colonial British era setting will make you feel like royalty.

Rajesh Karkera / Rediff.com