After 4 months of planning atlast we were doing the wildlife safari in Nagarhole. Never knew that the Kabini River Lodge aka the Jungle Lodges and Resorts was so much in demand that one had to book 2 months prior! Anyway, the wait was totally worth it. You cannot get any closer to the nature and wildlife, I suppose.
We stayed in the Maharaja cottages for 2 Nights – 3 Days. (After all this was Mysore maharaja’s hunting lodge and so why not live like him for a couple of days :)). That means a total of 4 safaris. Did we get to see a lot of wildlife? Yes. Did we see the big cats? No. Even though some of the other jeeps saw leopards and/or tigers (not one multiple), we were not lucky enough. May be it is Nature’s way of saying, ‘You live so close-by, come again!’. Are we disappointed? No. Maybe a wee little bit.
Flora – Nagarhole forest is beautiful. The main trees found are Rosewood, Teak, Sandalwood and Silver oak. You can see only young sandalwood trees now due to extensive Sandalwood smuggling that happened in the past.
Fauna – You go to safari in jeeps or boats; each vehicle takes a different route. You will mostly spot the chitals, gaurs, elephants, langurs, etc if you go by the land safari. And the lucky ones will see the big cats! You may also see the giant squirrel and definitely some exotic birds near the river banks, water holes and in trees. If you are a bird lover, you should take atleast one boat safari. We opted for one boat safari and 3 jeep safaris.
Stay – Jungle lodges and Resorts is run by the Government and therefore people are a little apprehensive. Let me tell you, it is a very nicely maintained facility. We opted for the Maharaja cottages. The rooms are spacious and the bathrooms are big and clean, with shower head. All the toiletries including the toilet paper are provided. You get fresh towels everyday. More or less a 4 star facility without any frills. No AC or TV in any kind of room or cottage. There are ceiling fans. With a high wooden ceiling and plenty of meshed windows, there is abundant ventilation. The Maharaja cottage comes with a water cooler and a mini fridge. There is a divan in the cottage which will be useful if you are travelling with a child.
Weather – Since we travelled in late January, the weather was pleasant. Jackets are needed for the morning safaris. It was very foggy on one of the morning safaris. Surprisingly not many mosquitoes and/or insects. Did not use the mosquito wipes/repellant that I carried.
Food – Typical south indian cuisine buffet is provided for all 3 meals. Bread and Eggs are available for breakfast, besides idli, vada, dosa, etc. Chapathis and Rice are provided for lunch and dinner. You can buy soft drinks at Gol Ghar(restaurant). Kent RO water filters are installed at several spots. You can always buy the bottled water from Gol Ghar. There is also a bar if you want to chill out.
Staff – Be it the naturalists or the helpers, they are extremely nice. Never had anybody wait for me with a cup of coffee in hand, near the door. They are ready with the hot beverages when you are getting back from safaris. Even in a 5-star you have to call the room service to get a cup of coffee. From what I heard, the tips collected is very minimal(IMO). For a place that is always full, I would have expected much more. I would guess it is because people do not notice the Gratuity box that is available in the Gol Ghar. Apparently, end of the month the money is distributed amongst all the employees, equally, including the sweepers. I think their service deserves a good tip!
Miscellaneous – The cottages face the kabini river. The water is quite deep and has crocodiles. Hence, swimming is discouraged. You can see a lot of birds just in the vicinity of your cottage. You can also take a coracle and a boat ride. Both are complimentary. If you have the time, take the nature walk. A naturalist will walk you inside the campus and educate you on the flora & fauna. Saw a lot of weird-looking spiders and a huge owl during this walk. Even this is complimentary.
Also, try to see the documentary, ‘The Truth about Tigers’ http://www.truthabouttigers.org/, screened in the evenings. If you missed it there, see it on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/truthabouttigers).
The trip was a memorable one! Will try to be back in Summer again and see if we are lucky spotting the big cats!
For more on the nagarhole flora and fauna – http://www.ecoinfoindia.org/lldb_rajivgandhi_np.php
Wikipedia page – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagarhole_National_Park
Jungle Lodges and Resorts – http://www.junglelodges.com/index.php/resorts/kabini-river-lodge.html