Kabini National Park, in my mind, is one of the best national parks in the country and definitely the best one in peninsular India. Hence, this park is always in high demand throughout the year. Bookings need to be made at least a month in advance if not more.
Tusker in musth (mating heat)
And this rush is omnipresent irrespective of the budget limits. Even most of the premium accommodation options always run full round the year. So whether it is Jungle Lodges, Cicada, Orange County, Water Woods or the Serai, one needs to plan well in advance.
Male Sambar Deer showing off the wounds from a mating battle
The wildlife lover to Kabini National Park is exposed to the twin jewels of this place. One, the Kabini river and near bouts and the second is the thick and diverse forests of Nagarhole National Park (Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary) that runs contiguous with Kabini National Park.
Leopard on a tree branch – This is truly a Kabini only moment
While the Kabini river is best explored on a boat, the Nagarhole jungles are best suited for the jungle jeeps. Both these places offer great avenues to explore the wild in its true sense. But, the Kabini river area is where most water fowl and fishing birds are found. The odd pachyderm and tiger are also seen here.
The winding jeep tracks of Nagarhole National Park are the ones that lead the wildlife lover to the pride of this place, which is the leopard. People travel from all around the world to see the leopard sitting on a tree or a leopard carrying its kill to the top of a tree. Leopard sightings are fairly common in Kabini, though as it is always in the wild, sighting is a matter of pure chance.
Tusker crossing the jeep track. Everyone watches with bated breath
Even India’s national animal, the Royal Bengal Tiger is also sighted here quite frequently, though the dense foliage do not make for great visibility. Both Kabini and Nagarhole are very popular for its pachyderms. This stretch of forests houses one of the highest populations of the Great Asian Elephant in South India.
Painted Stork Family Sunning themselves on a Kabini Island
During the summer months, a lot of tourists and wildlife enthusiasts and photographers arrive at Kabini to see the grand spectacle of a massive herd of elephants (about 100-300) grazing together on the banks of the Kabini river.
Wild Dog (Dhole) looking for a scent trail
It is believed that during the summer months when the river waters recede, fresh tufts of grass make their presence felt and it is this very grass that is considered a delicacy by the elephants. And hence this mass congregation.
Hanuman Langaur and its supremely long tail
Kabini and Nagarhole are also known for another type of predator and this one hunts in packs. They are the Wild Dogs or locally known as Dhole. They look like your typical domestic dog, but pack a meaner look and possess a great killer instinct. The wild dog packs are known to bring down large opponents.
Lone tusker forages in the bamboo thickets
These forests also house other mammals like the sloth bear, spotted deer, barking deer, sambar deer, gaur, Malabar Giant Squirrel, hanuman langaur, bonnet macaque and wild boars.
Hanuman Langaur quenches its thirst
In terms of birdwatching, the river side offers great views of the black necked stork, black ibis, black crowned night heron, river terns, spot billed ducks, painted storks, darters, Great Cormorants, little cormorants, large/intermediate/little egrets, grey headed fishing eagle, brahminy kite, black shouldered kite and many more.
The Kabini banks - The congregation grounds for these Pachyderms
And when it comes to the jungle, the birds are much smaller in size, but offer a great balance of colour and sound. From woodpeckers to jungle fowl and from hoopoe to cuckoo and from peacock to Indian Roller, the jungle offer a magical concoction for the birders.
Common Hoopoe –A Silhouette
So depending on your preference, you will either take a boat and explore the river side or take a jungle jeep and explore the various trails inside the forest. The forest is open from sunrise to sunset, but jungle safaris are typically arranged for early morning and late evenings as these time slots are best for sightings and the slant rays of the sun are ideal for photography.
Wild Dogs cooling down in the rainwater puddle
A long weekend (3 days) would allow you to indulge in a total of 4 safaris (1 each on day 1 and day 3 and 2 on day 2). A normal weekend would give you 2 safaris. Most of the jungle stays offer their own jungle packages around these models. Such weekends or long weekends would include a half day drive from Bangalore to Kabini on Day 1 and another half day drive on Day 2/3 from Kabini to Bangalore. The distance is close to 230 kms and could take you between 4 and 6 hours depending on traffic and timings.
Spotted Deer in Monochrome
The time in between the safaris is spent relaxing in the countryside settings of the jungle stays. For me, this time is spent working on my photographs and sometimes I head out to the river for a stroll. You never know when the river otters show you their pretty faces.
A typical weekend day should cost you anywhere between 3,000 to 10,000 rupees per person per day. This would include your stay, your jungle safaris, your park entry fees, guide fees and your food. Tips, alcohol and any other local sightseeing would come at an additional cost.
Leopard enjoying its afternoon siesta
Personally, I prefer Jungle Lodges as they are within my budget and offer the best jungle experience through trained guides and naturalists. But, there are others who are nearly as good too. I had a great time with them during my long weekend at Kabini. When are you planning your jungle weekend at Kabini?