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#Kabini: What do you do when the wild calls?

April 18, 2015 15:00 IST
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Abhijit Masih answered that call and went on a safari to Kabini in Karnataka. And came back with a very special memory!

The naturalist suddenly asks the driver of the small motor boat to kill the engine.

He careens his ears to listen to the sounds of the jungle.

Seems eerily silent, save the peacock in sight at the bank near a bushy shrub.

A warning call by the peacock signalling movement... movement of a tiger.

From the balcony of my cottage, which is surrounded by trees, I can overlook the back waters of the Kabini river.

The large lake formed due to the damming of the Kabini river, on which is situated the Kabini River Lodge, a government of Karnataka run resort which is impressively managed and maintained within the Nagarhole National Park.

The Park is spread over the districts of Mysore and Kodagu in Karnataka and spread over an area of almost 650 square km.

The river Kabini, a tributary of Cauvery runs through and is the lifeline sustaining the varied wild denizens of the forest.

Just a 90-minute drive from Mysore on a smooth and traffic-free road gets you to the Kabini River Lodge.

The colonial property was once the hunting lodge of the Maharaja of Mysore with guests including the likes of King Edward, Lord Mountbatten and Lord Minto.

The accommodation includes individual cottages which are actually British styled bungalows with verandah, high ceilings and massive bathrooms.

There are also tents, which are more economical but not lacking any of the modern amenities.

The Viceroy's Lodge which forms the centre of the property houses a mini theatre where documentaries of the wild life at Nagarhole are screened in the evenings.

The Viceroy's Lodge also houses a somewhat inadequately stocked but reasonably priced bar.

This is not a regular resort but one which would sit perfectly with the wild life enthusiast.

It does not adjust to your pace and flow of the day but on the contrary it is somewhat regimentalised and run as a tight ship.

Each day is packed with two safari options, which is included in your booking tariff.

You could choose from either the Jeep safari or the boat Safari.

Since I was booked for two nights and could avail of four safaris, I decided on two Jeep Safaris and one Boat Safari.

 

The fourth was a backup if the first three were unsuccessful in spotting the big game -- the tiger!

While you can be sure of encountering numerous Sambar, Cheetal, wild boar, Asian Elephants and Gaur, the sole purpose for everyone is to spot the rare Leopard or better still the tiger itself.

The naturalists, even though they do this day in and day out, it seems they live for the thrill of spotting the tiger and helping others on the safari to share the experience.

There are numerous birds that you might not have seen before like the Asian Brown Flycatcher, Indian Roller, Peregrine Falcon or the beautiful Painted Stork.

But the sense of awe and fear defies reason when you are up close in front of a Tiger, with him staring back at you.

We were on the boat safari in the evening of the second day, cruising near the bank when suddenly the naturalist hears the warning call being given by a peacock near a thick grass covering.

There was pin-drop silence with another boat floating in next to our boat, binoculars and cameras at the ready.

On the other side of the bush, we could see three jeeps strategically parked.

The warning call has dual purpose; for the animals to flee and for the naturalists to converge.

After about fifteen minutes, there was a gasp from the left of the boat, followed by a subdued shriek.

The tiger had been spotted, coming out of the tall grass fleetingly and then going back again only to return and glare at the awestruck boatload of excited tourists.

The excitement was palpable with the thought that you are safe in water a distance away from the danger.

The misconception would soon be broken.

Just as we thought that he had moved elsewhere through the grass, we saw the tiger in full stride charge through the water and on to the other bank.

Thankfully, it was a shallow part of the water and away from the boat. It was an amazing sight and an unforgettable experience.

To witness the majesty of the animal in his natural habitat was unparallel.

William Blake's immortal words ring so clear:

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Wildlife tourism may not be too popular in India and the few that do choose the wild may not look beyond the popular forests and parks in the north and central parts of the country.

But Kabini is a fantastic option in the south, being so close to an air and rail head in Bengaluru and Mysore respectively.

Lead photograph: Srikaanth Sekar/Creative Commons

Photographs: Abhijit Masih

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