Karnataka’s forests teem with life and the state is home to a healthy population of tigers and elephants that roam its untamed mountain ranges and valleys. One such spot, Kabini is a favourite haunt of wildlife enthusiasts and photographers as it provides sightings of animals that are usually elusive in other areas. The shadowy beauty of the melanistic leopard or Black Panther is a rare sight indeed and Kabini is one of the few places in the world where one can view this magnificent creature in its elements.
Kabini is best visited between September and May and for animal sightings, the best period is considered to be between November and June. Summer temperatures range from a pleasant 22 degrees Celsius to a rather steamy 40 degrees. During winters, the temperatures oscillate between a nippy 10 degrees to rather warm day time temperatures of 32 degrees Celsius.
History of Kabini
In the days before conversation, Kabini was a royal hunting lodge and venue for the indulgences of many a prince and viceroy. Spread over 55 acres, this reserve is now part of the expansive Nagarhole National Park and provides a refuge for many endangered species.
Activities and Sightseeing at Kabini
There is no better way to immerse oneself in the wilderness than a wildlife safari. Safaris are conducted twice a day in Kabini, as you enter the forests on designated routes. Early morning safaris are the best time to witness most of the animals of the reserve, who step out for water and food before the temperatures rise. Evening safaris are considered a good time to spot the spots, i.e. the leopards that rule this corner of Nagarhole. Summer time is an ideal season for observing wild elephants as the large groups of pachyderms gather around the shrinking water bodies. Summer safaris skirt the dry river beds during this time of the year. In the mornings, visitors can hop on the back of elephants for a ride.
Navigate the Waters
The boat rides on the calm waters of the lake provide a different and unique perspective of the forest. Visitors can marvel at the different avian species that nest around the waterways. Freshwater crocodiles can be seen sliding in and out of the water on the banks, basking in sun. The motorboat rides are conducted twice a day. A memorable sunset paddle on the rafts, pedal boats, rowboats, and kayaks is always recommended.
An Ornithologist’s Paradise
Birdwatchers come to Kabini forest reserve in droves, some armed with powerful cameras, as they try to identify and record the various bird species that call this place home. Over 350 species of birds have been identified around this pristine riverine landscape. Some of the birds that can be viewed around the lake include grey-headed fish eagles and ospreys. Great cormorants nest on the dry stumps of trees. During guided nature walks you can come across some of the more inland species like the Malabar Lark, Malabar trogon, Indian Pitta and the glorious Malabar pied hornbill.
Nature Walks and Campfire
Nature walks are a fun activity in Kabini reserve where guests are accompanied by experts of the terrain. There are bicycle trails for some fun on two wheels. An interaction with some of the locals in nearby tribal villages adds a cultural flavour to this experience. Evening campfires set the stage for unforgettable memories of an unforgettable trip.
Gateway to Nagarhole
The main range of Nagarhole National Park is just a km away from Kabini reserve. Kabini is part of a larger protected wilderness area which includes Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary. The Nagarhole River is the lifeline of the region and meets the Kabini River to form an extensive riverine area. This stretch of Karnataka (and bordering Kerala) is one of the world’s best remaining habitats for the wild Asian elephants.
Lodging at Kabini
Here are some options to stay in Kabini Forest Reserve.
Sunkadakatte Guest House is right in the middle of the forest, has no electricity and offers a setting that can be described as ‘cut-off from the world’. This well-maintained refuge in the jungle is a perfect choice for those who seek serenity with no modern distractions. The open verandah is a great place to lounge as the dark sets in and the forest comes to life with sounds of predators and prey alike.
The colonially themed Water Woods offers a more lavish experience for those who seek luxury in the verdant settings of the forest. An in-house spa is one of the highlights of this resort.
The Kapila Bungalow is situated at the entrance gate of the reserve forest and provides comfortable accommodation and all the modern amenities. Tariffs also include many activities and experiences.
How to Reach Kabini
One of the advantages of Kabini is that for such a wild place, it boasts great connectivity. The forest reserve is only 80 kms away from Mysore and 230 kms away from Bangalore.
Mysore is the nearest city from Kabini Reserve Forest, around 60 kms away. SH 33 is the route to follow towards the Nagarhole range where Kabini reserve falls.
Getting to Kabini from Bangalore is a pleasant four to five hour drive depending on the stops you take. The distance is around 230 kms via the NH275. Enjoy travelling through important cultural centres like Ramanagram, Maddur, Mandya, Srirangapatna, Mysore and Antharasanthe.
The nearest railway station is Mysore junction, 62 kms away. You can rent a cab from there and reach Kabini in around 90 minutes via SH 33.
The nearest domestic airport is in Mysore, 62 kms away via the State Highway 33 and the nearest international airport is in Bangalore 250 kms away, a four and a half hours journey via the NH275.
Images of Kipling’s Indian forest are conjured when one thinks of Kabini. It remains a pristine refuge to India’s flagship species and many other lesser known but equally precious animals. Feel the legacy of Karnataka in its most primeval form. As the gushing life-giving waters of the Kabini River endlessly flow, soak in the beauty of the verdant landscape, while just beyond, a prowling predator slowly stirs the approaching night.