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Crispy vadas in the lap of mother nature

JUNGLE safari and the sunset on Kabini River. It sounded like a deal. The Kabini River lodge at a vantage point on the southern edges of the deep, damp Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka, made for an ideal weekend getaway from Bangalore.

Once the hunting lodge of the erstwhile Maharaja of Mysore, Kabini is today rated among the top five wildlife resorts in the world. Kabini is a tributary of the River Cauvery that surrounds the lodge. It is located at Karapur and spread over 55 acres. We hit Mysore early, stop for a piping hot ghee - soaked dosa breakfast, and then get back on the road for the final 80 km to the lodge.

As we enter the forest area we spot a pair of wild dogs or dhole -- their extraordinary bushy tails setting them apart from the domestic animal. These smileyfaced creatures are, in fact, one of the most efficient and ruthless predators. They hunt in packs, the strategy is to chase till the prey is thoroughly exhausted.

Along a mud track, we came upon grazing herds of chital ( spotted deer) standing in attention, as if evaluating the situation for any potential danger; across the river, a group of frolicking elephants paused occasionally to feed on the grass ( due to the dry weather, large herds can be spotted gathered on either end of the river through most of the day); a family of wild boars busy digging for tubers ignored our presence; on a tree next to a bamboo cluster a crested serpent eagle sat elegantly; and a Malabar Giant Squirrel hopped about from branch to branch... We reached the resort.

Colonial style architecture with a few luxury tents facing the Kabini River and the Viceroy Bungalow with a screening room and a small but well stocked bar. The communal dining area called the Ghol Ghar ( circular, open- to- sides gazebo) overlooking the river offered simple buffet meals. The package is one night two days and comes with all meals and safaris included. Six in the morning, there was hot coffee and biscuits waiting for me. At half past six, we set off for the morning safari, on elephant- back. The massive herbivore for its entirely rugged look is surprisingly gentle with people. Once you get into the groove with the rhythmic rocking, the ride is pleasant. The raised seating gives the explorer a better view of animals hiding behind small bushes. Nagarhole is tiger territory. But I have never been very lucky when it comes to the Big Cat.

Next on the menu was the drive to the backwaters formed by the Kabini reservoir. Here, we had an option of coracle or a motorboat ride. If you want to see more of wildlife and fauna, opt for a motorboat ride, though the coracle ride is an experience in itself. This circular tub requires a special way of rowing. The oarsman makes C- shaped strokes to keep the coracle in a particular direction.

As you go rolling over the brisk waters in this cup- shaped basket, the greenery unfolding on either side, you know what an adventure holiday in these parts means! Back in the resort after a delightful breakfast spread of steaming idli s, crisp vada s with coconut chutney and sambhar , I sat under a huge tree with a cup of hot coffee on the banks of the Kabini. It was birding time and I simply sat back and let the birds do their thing. Cormorants sat on the bare stump that jutted out of the waters; two herons joined them later; a pied kingfisher flew in, hovered awhile, and plunged into the waterC*


Day 1: Kabini River Lodge is nestled in the southern fringes of the Rajiv Gandhi Park. Leave Bangalore early by taxi. The 219 km drive to the lodge can be covered in close to five hours.

Day 2: Once you're in Kabini, everything is taken care of.

So just sit back and enjoy or plan a day out angling.

Day 3: The way back offers a few options. Mysore is 80 km away and Ooty is about a three- hour drive.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Mar 21, 2010
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