By Vivek B.
It was the last two hours of the SpiceJet airlines offer of travelling to any sector in India, for an all-inclusive fare of INR 2013 per sector. To my luck, only two cities were left - Bangalore and Mangalore. A random booking for 4 days to Bangalore was converted to a stay in the forest reserves of Karnataka. The Itinerary was to stay a day each at Kabini River Lodge, Bandipur Safari Lodge & K. Gudi Wilderness camp at the resorts of Jungle Lodges & Resorts Limited. As the resorts were located near the forests, I was little sceptical to travel alone and asked a friend to tag along.
We started early morning from Mumbai and hoped that our journey remained on schedule. Our flights landed on time. The airport was about 40 kms from the city and our next stop was the Bangalore City Junction railway station to take the Mysore Shatabdi express departing at 11:00 am. We had missed the BIAS09 Volvo bus to the station. We hired a taxi promising to drop us at the station before 11:00 am; however the taxi driver took in one more passenger to drop at Anantpur in Bangalore which was on the way to the station with a little diversion. Due to this we were about to miss our train!
To our dismay, by 10:30 am it was evident we would miss the train to Mysore. The road to the station was jam packed and even the driver was sure that we wouldn’t reach on time. He whistled to a rickshaw driver and explained our situation in Kannada. He told him some shortcuts to beat traffic, to break one way traffic rules and drop us at the back side of the station from where we had to start running. We didn’t understand a word they said, but it was evident that we had to run at some point. The auto dropped us at a point at 10:57 am from where we started running. We jumped the road divider and the station fence. We saw Shatabdi standing at the platform and started running as if the Earth was going to end and it was the last train to get away. Sharp at 11:00 am, we were into one of the compartments. Shatabdis are the fastest trains in India and are known to be always on schedule. We heaved a sigh of relief!
Kabini River Lodge
We arrived in Mysore by 1:00 pm as scheduled. Our first destination, Kabini River lodge, was about 25 kms form Hand post circle in H. D. Kote, about 50 kms from Mysore. The safari reporting time was at 3:30 pm. We lost half an hour figuring which bus to take as the sign boards were in an alien language and very few people could communicate in Hindi or English. We then found a red and grey KSRTC bus which dropped us to the Hand post circle at 3:00 pm. We hired an Ambassador taxi from there, assuming 25 kms could be covered in half an hour. We were proved wrong as the roads were bad and we finally made it at 3:50 pm. The staff at Kabini were courteous and accommodating, and agreed to take us to the safari if we got done with our lunch in 5 minutes. We did.
At first glance, the property was mesmerizing! After a delicious lunch, we hopped into a jeep for the safari to the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve. Sadly, it started to drizzle. We spotted sambar deer, langoors, elephants and a variety of birds. The drizzle soon converted into heavy rain, and we rushed back to our lodges. The day was tiring enough to make us fall asleep soundly after a sumptuous dinner. The food was delicious with local south Indian cuisine, including rice, sambar, rasam, chapatti and vegetables. Our tent offered decent facilities.
|Langoors and Deer on evening walk.|
Bandipur Safari Lodge
We then started for our journey to Bandipur Safari Lodge at about 10:30 am. Bandipur was about 90 kms from Kabini, and it was difficult to travel in the interiors of Karnataka without a private car. Reaching back to Hand post was easy in the village bus (Read article: DecodingIndian buses). The Kabini staff suggested we travel back to Mysore for Bandipur; however we chose to venture on untravelled roads. The biggest obstruction in the journey was language. We decided to take a shared taxi to Sagur, then a bus to Gundlupet, and then to Bandipur. Reaching Sagur was easy but there was no bus to Gundlupet from there. To our disappointment, we wasted an hour and took a bus to Begur which was 15 kms before Gundlupet. The untravelled route was full of farms and few residences, hence the low frequency of buses. We reached Gundlupet at about 3:45. We hired a private taxi at Gundlupet for the last 15 kms and he drove at the max speed of 100 kmph to enable us to reach the lodge at 4:00 pm, only to learn that all the jeeps had left. However the staff of Jungle Lodges arranged a safari bus of 20 people just for the 2 of us. Thank you to Jungle Lodges for this splendid gesture!
We spotted sloth bear, deer, langoor, peacock, peahen and variety of birds. The night ended with delicious south Indian dinner and time spent next to a camp fire.
|A langoor posing for my album.|
|A peacock displaying her plumage.|
The morning started with chirping of birds and the jeep was waiting for an early morning safari. We kept our finger crossed for spotting a tiger but instead spotted a leopard!
K. Gudi Wilderness Camp
This time to avoid making mistakes, we left immediately after breakfast at 9:30 am to Gundlupet. Upon crossing the road on the highway, you can signal for a bus from Ooty to Mysore to stop at the Lodge. We were lucky to reach Gundlupet and get a bus to Chamarajnagar without delay. The ride to Chamarajnagar was scenic and pleasant with better quality roads. It was easy to spot a taxi at Chamarajnagar for K. Gudi. The ride to K. Gudi was the most beautiful part of the journey with the Lodge situated right inside the BRT tiger reserve, up on the hill at an altitude of about 4000 feet. The place was very isolated and even the taxi driver chose to have company for the return journey.
K. Gudi was a great experience with deer, wild boars and elephants roaming around the camp. The place was devoid of electricity, and the only source of power was a generator which was put up for 5 hours a day. We reached right on time at 1:00 pm and managed to enjoy the delicious Kannada lunch. We played with a deer (which was almost domesticated) and clicked pictures of the birds around.
We then left for the evening safari with little hopes to spot wildlife. To our surprise we spotted maximum animals in K. Gudi ranging from deer, barking deer, sambar, mongoose, monitor lizard, Indian Gaur, wild elephants, variety of birds and a tiger!
|The Indian Gaur posing for the lens!|
|A monitor lizard in the wild.|
|A tiger lazing around!|
The evening safari was the best part of our trip. The already delicious dinner tasted more delicious and the sleep without electricity sounded more peaceful. The knock of the wild boar on the door failed to wake me up at night though my friend woke up.
The morning safari was more of a joy ride and we spotted many birds out of the 270 species claimed by the Jungle Lodges team. Our taxi to Chamarajnagar was ready at 10:00 am and we continued our travel to Mysore.
I have experienced the best hospitality at the property of Jungle Lodges and it’s a perfect blend with nature without sacrificing on basic comfort.
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Author Bio: Vivek is a consultant and financial advisor who’s always craving for travel. He is a vegetarian foodie always on the hunt for local dishes, can stay at any habitable place, and travel in any mode of transport, but can’t live long without technology. A gizmo traveller, who likes to carry all possible gadgets along. He tweets at @vlvek.
Edited by Rachana Vaidya.