The fluting whistle of the Oriental Magpie Robin carries on the clear air over and over. A whooping langur swings lazily from a nearby tree, tossing some Ferrari-red fruit like a pensive professor toying with a pen. The cicadas buzzing in the bushes kick into high gear, rubbing their wings in a beautiful Circadian symphony. The sun is almost ready to drop below the tree line in front of me, when the alarm call of a spotted deer sensing a predator brings the forest to a sudden stop.
I’m not inside the jungle, although I might just as well be. My private wooden deck at the KAAV Safari Lodge is on the periphery of the buffer zone of the Kabini forest, a part of the Nagarhole wildlife sanctuary in Karnataka. So, although I haven’t gone on safari this evening, my vantage point gives me a ringside view of many interesting interactions on the forest floor (and in the tree tops too!) as I sit and sip my evening coffee on cosy wicker chairs. A dish of delish hot snacks keeps me company as the moon rises.
It’s time for me to head to safari. Not the morning and afternoon forays into the forest that I have reserved for the next day. No, this is a novel ‘tiny safari’ conducted by the boutique resort’s inhouse naturalist –Sujith Surendran. It’s a night walk around the property, spotting the vast variety of spiders and their webs that call it their home! The exciting stroll elicits everything from a psychedelic scorpion (lit up beautifully by a UV torch) to a peek at the surface of the moon through their powerful Celestron NexStar 4SE telescope. Sujith is not only knowledgeable about the arachnids, but also gives each one an interesting personality and back story, which makes it all the more fascinating.
What’s equally amazing is that despite there being so many creatures outside, there’s not a single bug or being inside my beautiful room other than me! The earthy yet luxurious interiors have just the right mix of contemporary style and local craftsmanship. I especially love the glorious metal mirror above the twin basins. And the textured walls of the bath area. I also like how they use the pods from the surrounding trees as an artistic element, instead of cut flowers.
The room has plenty of space to pad about in, while the floor-to-ceiling windows give it a light and airy feel through the day. At night, the sleep quality is excellent, as the bed is big and firm and the soft linens are pleasantly fragrant. I’m also happy to see that their reading lights offered the unique feature of switching between cold white and warm yellow, the first time I’ve seen this in any hotel room the world over!
Fresh the next morning, after a good night’s sleep and scarfing some excellent coffee and cookies, I am off on an exciting wildlife adventure into the Kabini forest in their gorgeous multi-level safari vehicle. I get to see FIVE magnificent tigers gambolling around a watering hole, the glossy red-brown Giant Malabar Squirrels feasting atop a neem tree and a yellow-eyed Crested Serpent Eagle with its kill, among many other denizens of this rich jungle. I may not have met a leopard or the famous black panther of Kabini, but I’m ecstatic with my experience anyway. There’s also a fantastic river safari as well as a coracle boat excursion for those seeking different kinds of excitement.
Back at the lodge, I enjoy a sumptuous al fresco breakfast of South Indian fare and fresh fruit. All of their meals are wholesome, delicious and served from a lovely open kitchen by well trained staff. I often choose to eat in my room to adhere to social distancing norms. But for better times, there’s also a stunning living room, well-equipped pantry and two comfortable observation decks shared between the four rooms that, I imagine, would be great places to connect and unwind over food and drinks with other wildlife enthusiasts when I wanted to.
Later, I walk over to see their lavish luxury tents and the sylvan swimming pool. Though closed for guests during the pandemic, it still shimmers a deep and alluring aqua under the roots of a spreading banyan tree. The next time I visit, I know where I will be found when I’m not off pursuing panthers!
Where: Malalli, Cross, PO, N.Belthur, Karnataka 571114
Phone: 099958 03861