Nagarhole National Park Karnataka, India

JLR Kings Sanctuary & Kabini River Lodge

Nagarhole, the quintessence of tranquility, is an adobe of endless chirps, gigantic trunks and ethereal predators including the melanistic panther, all woven together in an intricate balance in the cycle of life. Located in the South-western part of Karnataka, the deciduous forests lie between the districts of Mysore & Kodagu. The serene atmosphere of the jungle makes it home to a plethora of birds, deer, elephants, wild cats and the enchanted Black Panther. In our trip to the wilderness we stayed at JLR Kings Sanctuary and Kabini River Lodge. Join us as we embark on a journey to uncover the prominent yet pristine forests of Nagarhole.

Tired of being home and locked up due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we a group of 5 close friends (Arjun, Ananya, Tanya, Yashas & Abhilash) on the 17th of July 2021, watched our chauffeur Mr. Ashok bind and tie our luggage with a rainproof sheet to secure our bags. The vehicle we traveled in was a clean and sanitised Toyota Innova provided by Skyway International Travels which made us very comfortable. With high spirits, we boarded our car and waved goodbye to our parents. We were all really excited to be finally going to Nagarhole. According to our plan, our first destination was JLR Kings Sanctuary. We hit the road at 6:00 AM and connected to the Bangalore-Mysore Highway (SH17). At around 9:00 AM, we made a pit-stop for some simple South-Indian breakfast at Hotel Ramya, Mysore. After having breakfast, we resumed our journey at 10:00 AM. We saw a lot of villages and livestock on our way. We pulled over to take a quick break so that Abhilash could complete his presentation. We reached JLR Kings Sanctuary at 11:30 AM.

Set in the midst of 40 acres of mango orchards, lush lawns and various other Indian and exotic fruit bearing plants and trees, Kings Sanctuary is an eco-friendly property with 23 air-conditioned luxury suites and cottages, swimming pool, conference hall and a wide range of activities for both adults and children including the jungle safaris into the national park accompanied by naturalists. We were welcomed with lemonade after which we interacted with Mr Manohar about the recent sightings (spotting of flora and fauna). We then filled the required forms and checked in at 12:00 PM. Mr. Manohar drove us to our Villas, which were thoroughly sanitised, in an electric car (buggy) and made us feel at home. The 2 villas that we shared on double and triple occupancy basis were spacious and each had a separate living area, bedroom and a balcony with a splendid view. The bathrooms had an alfresco bathtub and shower area with an indoor shower option as well. We settled in and went to the Golghar (a hut like structure where food is served) at 1:30 PM for lunch. The buffet was a full-course meal which had both Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian options. We were impressed by their No-touch  buffet system i.e every dish including dessert (a delicious pineapple soufflé) was served by their staff as per our needs. After a hearty meal, we got back to our villas to change and freshen up for the much-awaited evening safari. We quickly grabbed some snacks and hot beverages served in the Golghar and got into our jeep driven by Mr. Lakshman. Mr. Vijay accompanied us as our naturalist. We headed out of the resort at 3:30 PM and entered the forest. We were first taken to an area called Waterhole, where a tiger was spotted the previous day. Due to lack of any movements in the area, we resumed our drive. We spotted bisons, langoors, peacocks, wood peckers, herds of spotted deer, serpent eagle, sambar deer and a lone tusker. We went back to Waterhole to try our luck again. As we approached the area, we got excited to see two jeeps parked there.

However, we were disappointed to hear that the tiger had gone back into the thick bushes after her bask in the sun. We got back to the resort at 6:45 PM, just in time for refreshments. After relaxing for a while, we had dinner which was served at 8:30 PM. The hot gulab jamuns were the highlight of our meal. We decided to go on another safari instead of the nature walk in the morning, as the package includes only one safari and a nature walk. We ended our day after playing  table tennis and carom at the activity room and went to bed early so that we’d be well-rested and ready for the morning safari.

In the morning, the resort staff rang our doorbells at 5:30 AM as a wake up call but since we couldn’t contain our excitement we were up and ready well before this.                We reached the Golghar at 5:45 AM for some hot beverages with biscuits and boarded our jeep at 6:00 AM. Our driver and naturalist were Mr. Lakshman and Mr. Nipun respectively.

Needless to say, we went to Waterhole again, but unfortunately the tigress wasn’t there. After driving past many birds and deer we finally caught a glimpse of a tigress and her two cubs as they slid back into the bushes. As we waited for a few minutes, closely looking through the thick bushes, her majesty appeared again and slyly prowled back in. While waiting to see the tiger again, Yashas was having a bit of a hassle and really needed to use the washroom. Our driver immediately took us to the forest department restrooms which were close by.  We happily returned to the resort and wrote the names of the animals that we spotted on the sighting board. Hungry by then, we grabbed a filling breakfast and went back to our villas to freshen up and pack our bags in order to check out at 11:00 AM.

As soon as Mr. Ashok secured our luggage, we hit the road. During the 2 hour drive to Kabini River Lodge, we saw a lot of cattle and agricultural fields. Located by the banks of the River Kabini and on the southern fringes of the Nagarahole National Park, this former 54-acre hunting lodge of the erstwhile Maharaja of Mysore was rated as One of the Top 5 Wildlife Resorts in the World by the British Tatler’s Travel Guide. We checked in at around 1PM and were guided to the Maharaja Bungalows. The rooms were really spacious, had vintage furniture and felt homely. We then headed to the golghar to have lunch which was a spread out buffet with a lot of options. The buffet started with hot soup and a variety of salads & as for main course, there were different Indian breads, curries, a dish or two from different cuisines (pasta/ noodles), some good old steamed rice and rasam. There were quite a few options for non vegetarians, which were kept separately. For the sweet toothed (like us), two dessert options were provided.

After a scrumptious lunch, we headed back to to our room to get ready for the safari. This time, as planned, we wore matching Camo T-shirts but also carried our hoodies as it was raining and the ride was going to be windy. We boarded our jeep which was driven by Mr. Lokesh who is a driver cum naturalist. Mr. Aniket accompanied us as a naturalist and asked us to keep our hopes up in spite of the gloomy weather considering the recent sightings . As we left for the jungle, we passed through tiny villages and vibrant marigold fields. Luckily, it had stopped raining as we entered the forest and we could hear and see a lot of bird activities including chirping and singing. Captivated by the pictures of the black panther at the resort, we were eager to go to his territory and see him but were disheartened as we couldn’t find him.

Then, we continued our ride and saw two beautiful peacocks sitting on the fences (installed to prevent elephants from destroying crops on the village side) with the backwaters in the background and we also saw mongooses, bisons, spotted deer, wild boars, sambar deer and a variety of birds like yellow throat woodpeckers, serpent eagle, rocket tailed drongo, an emerald dove and a small flock of little swifts. As we continued to go around, we stopped our jeep immediately as we heard alarm calls (a warning given by animals when they spot predators) from a bison and langoors as well. This got our hearts pumping and we were on our feet searching for the predator. Few seconds passed and a bunch of deer bolted across the road right in front of our jeep and there she was, a tigress. She was vigilant as she walked slowly to cross the road in front of us. She took a glance at our jeep and then disappeared into the bushes. Satisfied with the majestic sight, we headed back to the resort. Per usual, we had our refreshments, showered and got ready for dinner. Dinner was a large spread just like lunch and the chicken tangdi kabab stood out. We got back to our rooms and decided to go to bed as we had an early morning boat safari.

The next morning we were ready and on our feet before we received a wake up call at this resort too. Then we headed towards the backwaters to board our boat behind the cottages and the maharaja bungalows. We were provided with life-jackets and were briefed about what to do in case of any emergencies. The naturalist who accompanied us on the boat helped us spot a serpent eagle, rocket tailed drongos, chirpy bulbuls, yellow throat wood peckers, painted strokes, peacocks, little swifts and a crocodile. After going around for a while, we spotted Mr. Kabini, an old elephant with tusks all the way down to his feet. His walk was distinctive and truly amazed all of us. We got back from the fun boat ride and headed towards the Golghar for breakfast. Breakfast was available in two cuisines, Indian and English. After breakfast, we headed to try out the different soft adventure activities like hemp net climbing and others within the resort campus. By 11:00 AM, we were all packed and set to check out. Mr. Ashok drove us back to Bangalore.

TIPS:

  1. Carry hoodies and beanies
  2. Carry a pair of binoculars and a camera
  3. Carry scarf/neck warmer and gloves
  4. Carry a pair of shoes for safari
  5. Get into the gym on time

The forests here are a thing of beauty but what also impressed us is that each of these resorts, in spite of being amidst the jungle, do not fail to maintain the everlasting greenery and serene atmosphere of the wilderness. If you love and admire nature even in the slightest way, Nagarhole will steal your heart. We’d go back there again and again because even a lifetime of safaris isn’t enough.

 

We thank Jungle Lodges & Resorts Limited and Skyway International Travels, Bangalore for sponsoring this trip and making it a memorable one.

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