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The Ghost, the Stripes and Chariots of the Last Empire: Karnataka - One State, Many Worlds

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Chakra

The Ghost, the Stripes and Chariots of the Last Empire: Karnataka - One State, Many Worlds.

 

Let me start by admitting plagiarism in the title of this report. “One State, Many Worlds” is the tagline of Karnataka State Tourism board. I have a habit of stealing catchy lines. “Endless horizon of my arid Eden”:  was stolen form a Namibian travel company.

Never mind, let’s move on. It’s a little a late and for various reasons I’ve been away from ST for a while but better late than never.

In April 2019 I needed to travel to India for a family matter and decided to add a bit of wildlife and history to my trip.

But where to?

  • Somewhere not too hot (Madhya Pradesh was out) 
  • Not somewhere where thirty jeeps surround a tigress and “nature lovers” make all sorts of noises totally oblivious to etiquette of wildlife watching (so Tadoba and the circus around Maya were out)
  • Somewhere where there is more to enjoy in the jungle than just Tiger watching (difficult to find in Tiger reserves. Tiger centric tourism is ruining the experience for nature lovers in India)
  • Easy access to lots of mouth-watering food, culture and history.
  • My wife wanted to continue with pilgrimage to absolve her off her sins of abusing her husband all the time , so that has to be fitted.
     

So, I decided on Karnataka: still a relatively less explored state by Western tourists compared to many other places in India. It is indeed a place of many wonders. I'm aware that several members of ST are planning a trip to karnataka in the future and I hope my first hand experience will benefit them and future travellers. 

I'm grateful to @Galana for his wisdom and to @madaboutcheetah for his practical advise. 

The itinerary was looking like this. 

 

1. Fly to Bangalore (I’ll stick to the old names that I grew up with): the IT capital with plenty of flight options from UK.  

2. From airport drive to Mysore and its amazing palace (only second best in India to the Vadodra palace in Gujarat IMHO, when it comes to the days of Raj). Overnight stay at Mysore.

3. Mysore palace in the morning and then hop, skip and jump to nearby Nagarhole ( two nights )  and Bandipur Tiger reserves ( two nights) in search of the elusive burning stripes.

4.Couple of days of escape from the heat and crowd to the little-known verdant BR Hills and wilderness camp (how wrong I was!). These are all part of the huge Nilgiri Biosphere reserve spanning across three states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, which has been severely deforested over the years.

5. After these three reserves, will begin the immersion in culture, religion and temple hopping to see the very few remaining wonders of Hoysala empire architecture from 11th century. The most exquisite carvings which will blow Taj Mahal out of the water. A pilgrimage of climbing a few hundred stairs in hot midday sun to cleanse my soul at Shravan Belgola. Stay at Belur for two nights. 

6. LOOOONG drive the UNESCO heritage site of the sprawling ruins of Hampi, the capital of Vijayanagara empire. The last Hindu empire which withstood the onslaught of Islamic invasion for two centuries before being sacked. The city which was even more majestic than Constantinople in its heydays. two nights there.
I find it regrettable than in my school days we were taught hardly anything about the culture and dynasties of “The Deccan” or Southern India. Ninety percent of teaching was on North India.  I have many things to catch up in the South.

7. A quick trip to the almond colored rocks of the dusty town of Badami housing the cave temples from fifth century and the only other UNESCO site of Karnataka,  the archaeological institute of Aihole and Pattadakkal
 

I was also hoping to interrupt the history lessons with some sleuth bears, eagle owls and a few other birds in between.

 

I wanted to keep drivetime within four hours in between accommodations and only drive to Hampi was an unavoidable seven hours. Instead of another eight hours drive back to Bangalore I decided to fly out of the tiny Hubli airport which was convenient and time saving.

Most of the ST readers will be unfamiliar with these names , so here is a link to the Google Map and a screenshot to help with your orientation.

 

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1N2rACzKsTriQFjH6ELn7RZS2KcBsT36G&usp=sharing

 

 

image.png.3cf7f3db1fad598ad7683dfec6433c9e.png

 

 

Let's start with the national bird of India. I've always felt light is everything in photography. Cameras and lenses are mere tools.  I have seen peacocks aplenty but could not resist taking a shot as the light was just right.  Peacock green was the color that I properly saw for the first time. 

 

image.png.1ee940aaeded0cbab3b5a6e4432afb1e.png

 

 

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TonyQ

@Chakra this sounds like a fascinating itinerary- I look forward to your report 

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Chakra

Caught my favourite airline Emirates from Birmingham to Dubai. Time well spent by watching a whole series of Billions, a brief stopover at DXB to taste some gold coated chocolates and another short flight to Bangalore arriving just in time for a cup of Malabar coffee.

We have not driven in India for nearly twenty years and no way I was going to try that in my holidays. So, a small Dezire car for two of us and an amazing driver cum guide cum food connoisseur cum wannabe politician named David, was arranged for us by our trusted travel agent Meera from Narmada travels.

In India a good driver will make or break your trip and I always have a chat with Meera in advance to know more about the driver. So far, I have been very lucky with the drivers in India and David’s service could not be faulted.  Of course, someone who shares his name with Sir David Attenborough must be having some of his skills.

There is a reason why Bangalore had raced ahead of other Indian cities. Due to terrorism concerns, for foreigners obtaining a local Sim card for mobile phones is one of the most cumbersome processes. There is a long thread about that in TA. I was well organised but not expecting a great service. I was super impressed. Seamless process, Vodafone sim, eight hundred rupees for a month of unlimited calls and most importantly two gigs of data every day. Activation process was simple. The coverage was not brilliant in the middle of jungle but otherwise pretty good.

On the way to Mysore David pointed to some hills which were the shooting location for the biggest blockbuster movie of India: Sholay. I knew all the dialogues by heart in my school days but never knew about its shooting location. There you go: no end to learning.

Arrived at Southern Star hotel in Mysore late afternoon a bit jet lagged. My wife never experiences jet lag especially when there is a prospect of shopping and so I was dragged to the famous Kaveri Emporium to stock up her Sandal wood soap stock. I ended up buying a cheerful sandal wood Elephant. The craftsmanship is stunning.

Sandal wood used to be the life blood of Karnataka. Almost exclusively grown in Karnataka it is a prized and very expensive item. The aroma is one of the sweetest that I have ever come across. Sadly adulterated and fake sandal wood products are common and one must stick to the very few Government outlets.

I'd have happily bought this table if it was not costing as same as my entire holiday.  
 

Inlay work on rosewood - the intricate work was spectacular but too heavy to bring home. But a visual delight! Coloured materials like ivory shells, mother of pearl, horn and sandalwood are inserted into depressions in a rosewood object to form pictures that normally flush with the matrix

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My lovely little Ellie and some Sandal wood soaps

 

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On the way back went up to the Chamunda hills to see one of the biggest Nandis (Nandi is the bull who carries Lord Shiva on his back) in India. This Nandi was massive.

 

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Of course, that made me more jet lagged and tired.  

Recipe to cure jet lag: Laccha Paratha (bread which opens in layers) and Chettinaad Chicken!

If you haven’t tried Chettinaad cuisine from Tamil Nadu you must try it once. It is not your average Indian Curry house Friday night takeaway.

I think once is enough for western palate and you must take necessary precautions and be prepared for the aftershock next morning. It is a sensory assault from a combination of star anise, whole red chillies, fennel seed, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, peppercorn, cumin seeds and fenugreek, dried flower pods, and kalpasi (black stone flower). The richness of the gravies is increased by addition of tomatoes, coconut, ginger and garlic.

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Slept like a baby, ate a hearty south Indian breakfast and proceeded to Mysore palace as soon as it opened by 10 am.

 

 

Edited by Chakra

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Chakra
5 minutes ago, TonyQ said:

@Chakra this sounds like a fascinating itinerary- I look forward to your report 

Thanks very much my friend. I hope to keep you interested and strike the right balance between wildlife and culture. 

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Chakra

The desperate attempt of Mysore Royal family to please and emulate the British Raj is forgiven for their support to propagate art and culture and keeping the Hindu tradition of Dussehra very much alive. I
thought I'd not be allowed to take any photos inside. But in this day of smartphones the authority had given up, so managed to get a few with my cheap phone. My other half of course got better results with the fruit from Eden.
Someone even had a proper camera and guards did not tell him off. 
Opulent is an understatement but it did not look gaudy, quite pleasing actually, just like Versailles. 
The craftsmanship is truly unparalleled. Each and every pillar is carved with the most intricate design. It had burnt down once but again beautifully restored. Probably one of the best palaces in India. 
Mysore is indeed a city full of beautiful buildings. You should see the residence of the Police Commissioner ! 
Clearly the British knew a thing or two about grandeur and pomp. 

Apologies for poor quality of interior shots. 

 

The main entrance to the Palace opens to the Public only during the Dassera festival

 

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The fabulous Kalyana Mantapa is an octagonal open hall which is brightly decorated. Especially noteworthy are the floor tiles, the balconies , the slender cast iron pillars and the tinted glass ceiling.

 

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The three storeyed giant columns intricately carved. You can even see some period ceiling fans here ( Mysore city got its first electricity supply in 1908 )

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One of the many features where the local traditions of craftsmanship is shown at its best is in the woodwork made of teak and rosewood.

 

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The arch work and intricate carvings on the ceilings

 

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These  tasks belong to Maharaja's favourite elephant Gajendra and it frames the photo of him in Dusserah celebration.

 

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Durbar Hall ( the Diwan-e-Am ) is a huge open hall along the width of the palace on the first floor. The rows of massive pillars are the special attraction of this hall

 

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The private audience hall called Ambavilasa ( the Diwan-e-Khas ) is the most decorative of all the areas in the palace. This is where the golden Throne of Mysore is positioned

 

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On the rosewood doors,frames and lintels you can see the finely done inlay work. At first it may look like intricate painting on the door. If you look closer, these are ivory chips embedded onto the surface of the rosewood

 

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The walls facing this open hall is painted with large oil paintings depicting the Mysore Dasara. Each of the 26 paintings' theme is a function or ceremony related to Dasara56980869_2566920473337887_6881727786579394560_o_2566920466671221.jpg.513564bca82121b62058288d2d427d7d.jpg

 

 

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Ornate ceilings  with depiction of tales from ancient tales of Mahabharata and  Ramayana

 

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The gallery for royal court watching the proceedings : 

 

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Outdoor sculpture

 

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Edited by Chakra

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Galago

Looking forward to your report. I'm one of the STers going to Karnataka in November, so it's great to read a report now. 

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Chakra
6 minutes ago, Galago said:

Looking forward to your report. I'm one of the STers going to Karnataka in November, so it's great to read a report now. 

@GalagoThanks very much.  I'm sure you'll have a great time.  I'll try to cover the safari arrangements , food, accommodations etc as much as I can, but please do feel free to ask. I'd be glad to help if I can. 

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wagtail

A fabulous report. I have been to Karnataka from Goa a couple of times, staying at Old Magazine House for birding, but realise how little I have seen of what this wonderful state as to offer. I look forward to your next update:)

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Chakra
7 hours ago, wagtail said:

A fabulous report. I have been to Karnataka from Goa a couple of times, staying at Old Magazine House for birding, but realise how little I have seen of what this wonderful state as to offer. I look forward to your next update:)

@wagtail Wow !! I'm impressed and jealous.  Old Magazine House is one of the most sought after sites for birders. It was on my radar but Dandeli was a long way north.  Will be much easier from Goa, just about 3.5 hours drive I think.  Any future travelers to Goa who want to add quality birding should seriously consider adding  Ganeshgudi and Old Magazine House to their trip. 

Thanks for reading.  I was born and brought up in Calcutta but knew very little about Karnataka and its wonders. 

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Chakra

"Hello darkness, my Old Friend
I come to you again". 

 

Black Panther: these words immediately exude an aura of mysticism, supernatural power, wisdom and elusiveness. From the wise Bagheera the Black Panther of Jungle Book to the spectacular Marvel Comics Superhero. 
But that is a total misnomer.
Firstly, the actual creatures are not jet black, more like very deep brown. I have attached photographic proof and you can easily make out the spots. Photographers like to make them look darker for even more stunning effect. 
Secondly Panthera is a genus covering all the cats. it's not a species. Panthera leo = Lion. Panthera pardus = Leopard. 
So my scientifically trained mind tells me we should call the famous "Blackie" of Kabini forest as Melanistic Panthera pardus with single nucleotide polymorphism due to nonsense mutation !! 
Tell that to Marvel Studios as a suitable title of their Superhero movie. I think they'd prefer Black Panther ! 

 

Mr Zuckerberg  had completely ruined my life with his inventions and acquisitions where I like people watching. 
Instagram has many evils, but it has opened my eyes to work of some truly spectacular wildlife photographers. Tim alman and Felipe DeAndrade to name a few.

A few years back I came across this guy called Shaz Jung from India whose fame was spreading like wildfire.  Reason: he seemed to have a hotline with the elusive Black Panther of Kabini and was producing spectacular shots of Blackie. 
Shaz Jung is related to the royal family of Nawab of Pataudi and he had also opened a jungle camp in Kabini, called Bison. People started flocking into that camp hoping to have a glimpse of Blackie through his expertise. 
There are a few other Black panthers in India,. In fact Dandeli reserve in north Karnataka has one. But they are extremely elusive whereas the Blackie of Kabini seemed to be relatively more visible. 


Very soon Shaz Jung had hit 10K followers in Instagram, became an associate of National Geographic, went on Nat Geo assignments only and looked like he lost interest in children of lesser gods.  
I had originally planned to stay with him on my trip to Kabini but several friends warned me about his family's haughty attitude towards mere mortals. In fact, a ST member wrote to me privately after her terrible experience at the Bison. So I dropped  the idea and instead stayed at Kabini River Lodge of JLR ( Jungle Lodge Resorts, not Jaguar Land rover): an absolute gem. 

Since then Bison camp has a new manager and things have improved. 

 

I'll discuss the pros and cons of staying at Kabini river lodge in details later. 


Blackie is also acting very pricey nowadays. In fact, last year for more than six months he was not seen after a fight with another male leopard. People thought he had died. But thankfully he reappeared. 


My luck with wildlife is not great. I had spent two weeks in Yellowstone and practically everyone I met had seen a grizzly bear, but no luck for me! 
 

Prasanna Gouda, head ranger and the man who decides the fate of the poor travellers put me in a jeep going to zone A for my first safari. I had absolutely zero expectation of seeing Blackie. He has not been sighted for several weeks as far as I could overhear. 

The couple who joined us in the Jeep had been coming to Kabini for last nine years and the husband had only once seen half of Blackie's tail sticking out of the bush. 
The drive went on as usual with deer, peacocks and monkeys. But all of a sudden, we spotted another jeep stopped in the middle of the road. To my utter frustration I heard that the occupants of the other vehicle had a brief glance of Blackie and his girlfriend, but the lovers had quickly disappeared into the thick bush. Just five minutes back! My usual luck! 
Our driver decided to wait on the spot a little longer in case the leopards reappear. Fat chance: I thought. 
Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed and when I had given up hope completely, the gentleman from Denmark sitting behind me exclaimed : " I see something." 
Lo and behold: The Prince of Darkness appears from the bush, climbs a tree, picks up a nice fat branch and promptly falls asleep. I haven't seen a lazier leopard in my whole life. For one hour we waited hoping that he would come down but Blackie just kept an eye on us and flicked his tail to tease us from time to time. Very soon this news spread like wildfire and jeeps started arriving thick and fast. We were in prime position ! I saw a jeep from private Kaav Safari lodge and I'm sure @madaboutcheetah  was there. In another time I'd have tried to make acquaintance but not now. In fact the Kaav Safari lodge jeep was trying to sneakily get between two of the JLR  jeeps which led to sharp exchanges. 

Blackie was very cool about the humans surrounding him and was not bothered. 

We  waited for nearly ninety minutes as everyone was hoping he'd come down but sadly no.  I felt like  going to him and pulling his tail to get him off that tree.  The idiot even yawned a few time and stretched to give us false hopes. The sun was setting and eventually we had to leave the park. 
I didn't really get the coveted head shot or an action shot but if I complain about that God would be angry with me. 
First day, first safari, first hour at Kabini and I have seen The Blackie! 
The bragging rights were mine for next few days. The annoying loudmouth braggers would come to the evening tea table and shout: "I have seen this, I have seen that!" 
I'd listen with feigned interest and after finishing the coffee quietly say, " I saw Blackie on my first safari." They had to reattach their jaws to their mouths. 

 

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Edited by Chakra

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janzin

Wow, what a beautiful cat! And what amazing luck to have seen it on your first try!

 

Karnataka and Kabini are definitely on my wish list so really enjoying this report.

 

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JayRon

Awesome, and very lucky so yes, it gives you the bragging rights ;) ... I never seen a black leopard, but I saw a white lion in Kruger last year, so I think I can relate to the feeling :) 

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Atravelynn

Blackie AND inlaid woodwork.  You have outdone yourself this time and deserve bragging rights!

Edited by Atravelynn

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madaboutcheetah

Thanks a lot for writing this up, @Chakra - so, this was March, 2019?  

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xelas

If only @Chakra would not be such a solo type of a traveler ... but luckily he wrotes such delightful trip reports! 

 

The Mysore palace is out of this world. I wonder if we will have any extra time to visit it. 

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Towlersonsafari

what a sighting  @Chakra  i am enjoying this report as much as I enjoyed your last one-ie very much!

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Zim Girl

Enjoying this a lot.  Love the mix of wildlife and culture. What luck to find the black leopard!

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xnegvx

Awesome @Chakra. Seeing Blackie on your first safari within the first hour is very lucky indeed. Looking forward to rest of your report.

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Chakra

@janzin @JayRon@Atravelynn @madaboutcheetah @xelas @Zim Girl @Towlersonsafari @xnegvx and all others who have taken the trouble to read : Thanks. Yes , lucky would be an understatement :D 

@madaboutcheetah  : you are correct. It was end of March. I've checked my itinerary and to be precise the momentous day was 26th March 2019.

@xelas : I'm a terrible co-traveler. I thought you have learnt that  first hand after our brief trip together to Plitvice:unsure: But if you can fit the Mysore palace then go for it. You'd be in peak holiday season so must get there first thing in the morning. The palace is also lit up on Sunday evenings with one hundred thousand twinkling lights ( I don't know who counted those). That is a sight to behold ! 

Before posting any more pics I should share my two cents about Kabini itself as I'm sure lots of people  are interested to find more about logistics. I'll be back shortly. 

 

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xelas
6 minutes ago, Chakra said:

I'm a terrible co-traveler. I thought you have learnt that  first hand after our brief trip together to Plitvice:unsure:

Just the opposite, Chak. And even if you think differently, there are always Sujata and Zvezda to keep the situation in balance.

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Galago

@xelas My thoughts too because I'd love to see the palace. We travel from Bangalore to Kabini via Mysore, don't we? So perhaps we can stop there en route. 

@Chakra How amazing! Of course, you realise that you have now raised our expectations to unmanageable heights and we'll be expecting a welcome from the Prince of Darkness on arrival :rolleyes:

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Chakra

Now comes the practical bits !

 

Kabini or Nagarhole (pronounced as Nagar-Ho-Lay meaning Serpentine River) or officially Rajiv Gandhi NP, named after late prime minister.

 

Pros:

  • Proximity to big cities so less time spent on travelling.
  • Good density of tigers with sighting frequency comparable to other well-known reserves
  • Plenty of other animals (especially big tuskers) and birds and of course the Ghost! Practically all the animals one can expect to see in Indian jungles.
  • It does get hot but due to proximity of river basin the temperature is not a killer even in early summer, unlike northern India reserves. Open during monsoon season as well.
  • Zone B is very scenic with the wooded area and the backwaters
  • Large number of accommodations ranging from super costly Evolve Back to budget ones
  • Camera lens and body hire possible from just outside the entrance gate
  • Clear distinction between two zones and vehicle numbers very tightly regulated so you don’t get the feeling of overcrowding
  • Most of the drivers are knowledgeable and they communicate with each other

Cons

  • Proximity to the two metropolises of Bangalore and Coimbatore means that it is very popular with residents.  I know my friends often go to Kabini as weekend trip from Bangalore. So, try to avoid weekends and local holidays.
  • Not possible to book safari online beforehand.
  • Safari jeep allocation is totally controlled by JLR and JLR guests will have priority. Unfortunately, there is a bias towards frequent Indian visitors who tend to get the jeep safaris more often than foreign guests.  I experienced this in Bandipur as well and I am an Indian:angry::angry:  Some of these frequent visitors behave very pally with the staff.
  • You are expected to have at least one boat safari out of four safaris. IMHO the boat safari is not that great. I have done a few of these before in other places like Periyar, Kerala and although there are chances of seeing big mammals, but the chances are much much better in jeep safaris. I pleaded and begged to change my boat safari to a jeep safari and was successful just before the allocation. But in summer the water level falls, and boat safaris may stop putting more pressure on jeep safaris.
  • If you are unlucky enough to get a canter safari, not everything is lost. Of course, they make a hell of a noise, but they follow the similar routes to the jeeps and do have large open windows.  Unfortunately, they can’t move very fast so may not be able to reach the place of sightings in time even when informed by other drivers.
  • The drivers were mostly good but that is also variable. I had one driver called Amjad who was a superb birder and interested in photography, like pointing to me a “backlit” monkey. I had another one who was least interested in anything other than a tiger. I did not have any dedicated naturalist in the jeeps which was a disappointment. High end private lodges like Kaav will almost always have a trained naturalist which makes a huge difference.
  • Kabini River lodge is quite a big complex and feels a bit impersonal. Food was average but that’s not a problem for me. Good spread. 
  • Kabini is very expensive by Indian standard.
  • There is not a great deal to do in between safaris other than birding within the resort grounds and perhaps a “culture” trip to local villages.  I enquired about guided walks and no staff showed any interest.  There was “Koracle” ride on small boats made of leaves and bamboos, but no one was interested to go there sitting in unprotected sun. Perhaps in winter it’d have been better.

 

Accommodation options 

After extensive research and advice from others I had zeroed in on three resorts.

JLR Kabini river lodge, Serai Kabini and Kaav (pronounced kaw) safari lodge.

As you know I was originally planning to stay at Shaz’s Bison camp but had mixed feelings about that after e-mail exchanges and talking to my Indian friends.
Kaav and Serai were super prompt in replying and I had good vibes. They also arrange guided walks with their resident naturalists.

JLR is partly owned by government and brands itself as the main agency for Karnataka tourism. Kabini River lodge is the jewel in their crown and the most expensive one. Their lodges are best placed all over Karnataka and often very close to the safari gate entrances. Their online booking portal is very easy to use, and I had no problem in booking from UK. They operate on a fixed schedule. It is possible for a single traveller to stay with a reasonable single supplement.

Kaav appears to be the best of the lot when it comes to comfort, personal service and number of guests. It has a swimming pool.

But neither Kaav nor Serai could guarantee me jeep safaris. I think the external lodges need to be in good books with JLR. I heard that Shaz had problems in that area and guests from Bison were herded into canters regularly or pushed out in the water on a boat.  If you are going in peak season and staying in an external lodge be prepared to go on a canter.

 

Therefore, JLR Kabini river lodge it was for me, but based on my conversations with @madaboutcheetah and @Buckeye5 I also recommend Kaav and their naturalist Ashwin. Bison are also improving I heard.

 

Kabini river lodge: It has three different types of accommodations. If I was travelling alone, I’d have gone for a tented cottage or brick cottage (without air con). But I was travelling with She Who Must Be Obeyed, who said that she was prepared to sponsor the stay at Maharaja Cottage which was the only type of accommodation with air con. Fantastic. So, I booked the Maharajah cottage. It was expensive!!!  But I really thanked her in the middle of the day for the air con.  The tented cottages can get hot and I think the brick cottages are better options. The property faces the river and there is a breeze most of the times so one can go and cool down there.

I was very happy in Maharaja Cottage  (MC2) and settled down nicely like the last Viceroy Lord Mountbatten (who visited this place). Her ladyship went for a relaxing spa.  MC2 was towards the farthest end of the property and we didn't have any neighbours giving me total seclusion.  I don't know why but it reminded me of Lower Sabie camp in Kruger. 

In the evening it felt like I was sitting by seashore as wind picked up and the water was lapping continuously. I did not get chances to do too much birding as mornings and afternoons were occupied and the birds were in hiding in midday sun.  I spotted couple of otters from my balcony, but by the time I had got my camera and ran to the fence they had disappeared so I got distant shots.
The food was average. Staff very friendly and not at all like government employees.

Try to be friendly with the rangers and go and talk to them beforehand to see if they can accommodate you in jeep safaris.

Kabini is divided into two zones : A & B.  Zone A is the one where Blackie lives and has more chances of tiger sighting as well. But I felt Zone B was much more scenic and interesting with the backwaters and submerged trees and more birds. In fact, we missed a tiger sighting by a few minutes in Zone B, so it’s all in luck.  Jeeps can only go to one zone, but I believe canters can go to both zones.

I think that more or less covers Kabini but please ask if you have any burning questions. Some photos of the surroundings.

 

Following the footsteps of Lord Mountbatten : 

 

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"Ottering" from my balcony

 

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Tented cottages 

 

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The backwaters 

 

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Standard south Indian menu for breakfast

 

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Make your own "paan" 

 

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This is the signature of JLR  resorts : a bunch of sweet Elakki bananas hanging all day in the restaurant. Just grab one if you are feeling peckish.

 

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No one is interested in Coracle ride 

 

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Wood which is as costly as gold. Feeling Groovy :P:P

 

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Rose wood tree 

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Boardwalk to roam around 

 

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Tourists lucky to get into a jeep

 

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Edited by Chakra

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xelas

Great set of useful informations @Chakra. When you will be at the photo section, please add details about equipment and settings. 

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TonyQ

Wow, lots of really useful practical information. Really helpful detail.

Your photos are great, and the black panther a star!

 

I enjoy the food information. We loved the food in South India.

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Chakra

 

Next day we were once again allocated jeep safaris in Zone A on both occasions.  I thought the last safari on third day morning would be a boat safari and pleaded with them to change that to a jeep safari in zone B. I used all the right words, praised the head ranger claiming to be his number one follower in Facebook and managed to get the boat safari changed. I think this was possible because it was mid-week in a relatively quiet time, and it was just two of us. In peak season and specially if you were travelling in a big group it’d have been impossible.

The mornings are misty to start with but quickly clears up. I was far from pleased with the morning driver who seemed to be interested in finding tracks and big mammals only with little interest in birds or smaller creatures.  Anyway, I did spot a few birds on the morning drive and other usual suspects.  The drive was not too dusty.

 

Some pictures from the morning safari :

 

Striped neck mongoose 

 

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A bristly boar

 

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Hill Mynahs 

 

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Treepie

 

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Flameback I guess ? 

 

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More mongooses or is it mongeese ? :)

 

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A little Fawn 

 

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Lapwing red wattled

 

 

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National bird back again 

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Afternoon safari driver Rajesh was much better and shared a few interesting tidbits with us. Spotted a dust bathing elephant and a pair of Dholes. They had their bellies bulging. I didn’t think it was the pupping season so assumed they had a kill recently.  It was lovely to watch them play and then they raised the tempo proceeding to mate! 

 

The beautiful silence of the forest : I love the sound of silence 

 

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Mud bath

 

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Cast away antler 

 

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This photo proves large feet size is not directly proportional to the size of certain other member 

 

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Amorous Dholes

 

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I was quite satisfied with the sightings. It was getting dark so unlikely to see anything else today, when Rajesh’s phone rang. He muttered a few words and then barked at us, “Hold on tight please.” His whole persona changed. Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton rolled into one and like a speed demon he rocketed towards the source of that call breaking all the rules and regulation of the NP, while we clung onto the iron bars for our dear lives bouncing up and down like popcorns in frying pan . Often, you’d come across lone trees in the middle of the roads. Rajesh would drive straight towards those trees and veer at the last second. After about five to ten minutes of experiencing the Formula One driving first-hand, he stopped abruptly and declared triumphantly, “Mama!”

I said, “Mama Mia !!”.

 

The Backwater Tigress Mama was in front of us :wub::wub:

 

 

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I need a break now. Will return shortly. 

 

 

Edited by Chakra

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