How to plan a Kabini Trip – Tips & Tricks
[Image Courtesy Aravind Srinivasan, Suresh Basavaraju]
This article is from someone who has been visiting Kabini for last the 2 decades.
The article is not to miss if safari is one of the main reasons why you are doing this Kabini Trip. If my assumption is wrong, please skip reading this blog and book the best & cheapest hotel available in Kabini.
Why most fall into a Trap when planning a Kabini Trip?
When you search for Kabini in google, you get a plethora of resorts with amazing images and price range starting from Rs. 2000 to 20,000 and some of the resorts are so amazing and so inexpensive, why do you want to book elsewhere?
The problem starts after you book the hotel, and you dont realize that most hotels/resorts don’t have the license to take you on a safari.
Many resorts or travellers depend on Forest Dept Safari , and Forest dept safari has very limited seats and buying a ticket is a challenging and very confusing process. And also the safari there can be canceled with no notice.
Why Planning a Kabini is the Hardest?
Kabini unlike most other jungles/forests in the country is more complex to enjoy a quality safari unless you know your options.
- multiple safari options (state operated and tourism board operated),
- multiple kinds of resorts and
- multiple modes of safari [Jeep, Van & Boat] and
- Kabini is not even the name of a jungle but it is Nagarhole National Park and Kabini is the Southern Part of Nagarhole National Park that lies on the banks of River Kapila/Kabini
Anyways, don’t despair, will soon untangle the mystery of Kabini
What is this about different kinds of Resorts in Kabini?
Let me first start with the resorts. No, I am not talking about Luxury, Deluxe, Budget kinds, that’s a passe in Kabini. There are different kinds of resorts here which are very specific to Kabini. There are resorts:
- which are managed by the tourism dept,
- that are just associated with the Tourism Dept,
- near the fringes of Kabini and are NOT associated with the tourism dept,
- which are further away from Kabini, NOT associated with the Tourism Dept nor even close to the forest.
So there are four kinds of resorts per say and now you probably got a faint idea why some resorts cost so low and some are very expensive but the mystery is still yet to unravel but we will visit this soon. [BTW I will not name the Resorts of which belongs to which category as most of the owners are who I know them and I meet them often and don’t want to get into their bad books but at least this blog will help wildlifers understand what they choose]
What are the different kinds of Safaris and Modes of Safaris for Kabini?
Let’s now move to safari. To complicate matters, safari is offered in the same forest and in the same region by two departments of Karnataka State Govt.
Different kinds of safaris:
- one is from the Forest Dept and
- the other is from the Tourism Dept.
Different modes of safaris:
- Open jeep
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Forest Department safari
- No boat safari
- No Open Jeep safari
- Only Canter safari
- 60-80min safari
- Depends upon availability at the counter
- Can book safaris without a stay
- No online or over the phone reservation for forest dept safari
The only way to book forest dept. safari is to go in the morning by 10 am to book for the evening safari and go by 4 pm to book for the next day morning safari. There are very limited seats and it cannot cater to all.
Tourism department safari
- Boat safari available
- Canter / Mini Bus /Van available
- Open Jeep available, only with tourism dept lodges. But not available with tourism dept affiliated lodges.
- 2.5hrs safari
- Guaranteed safari
- But for this you need to stay with tourism dept lodges
So did I confuse with yet with all options there? Now, let’s visit the Modes & duration of the Safaris.
A safari is guaranteed if you stay in the tourism dept. lodges but if you are staying in the tourism dept. affiliated lodges, your safari is not guaranteed as they all have a maximum quota and if the number of guests is more than that quota, you know what happens!! You can imagine why I said, getting a safari from those (3rd & 4th category resorts) resorts is a tough call.
Guests of tourism dept affiliated guests get either Canter or the Boat and No jeep. But the Safaris of tourism dept is usually 2.5 hours.
Just because you stay in the tourism dept. lodges as they are the only one who runs jeep safari, you are not guaranteed one. Alas!! Because there is a restriction on the number of Jeeps that can go inside the forest and usually the number of guests are always more than that number and you know what happens. Guests are usually divided between the jeep safari and the boat safari.
During long weekends and festival holidays, the number of guests exceeds even the limit of the boat and the jeep and that’s when the canter comes into play. But usually, for a night stay, you are allowed two safaris and one will be in Jeep and the other is always in the boat.!!
Did I confuse you all or did I give enough info to make a judicious choice? I hope it’s the latter.
Plan your Camera and Lens too!!
You need a good DSLR and preferably with a good focal length lens say 200mm to 500mm is ideal lens focus for Kabini for birds and also in Kabini mostly leopards are always resting on a far-off tree branch and hence good focal length helps.
I am not a big camera/lens expert but this is minimum but please note that the fees for DSLR and high focal length lens has high entry fee charged by the forest dept. and lens more than 500mm attracts a steep fee 🙁 BTW there are camera/lens rental agencies in Mysore and also in Kabini – in case you are planning not to carry them but rent them out!!
So when planning and if you are serious about Safari and the quality of Sightings, even if it is expensive, choose the tourism dept. or the affiliated one but if you are a photographer and love your images, pick the jeep safari which means you need to stay in the tourism dept. lodges. I would ignore the 3rd and the 4th category resorts completely unless, as I said earlier, you want to come & stay there because you are close to nature and the resorts are amazing and safari is not a must.
BTW costing for category 1 starts from approx INR24,000 per night per couple while in affiliated one might start from approx. INR17,000 (assuming both of you will do both the safaris).
Finally… I hope I was able to decipher the Kabini riddle. Always be doubtful of cheaper rates for Kabini (the ones you see on some of the top online marketplaces of Hotels) as most probably these resorts belong to the 3rd and 4th category as explained above.
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- Please be a responsible wildlife tourist;
- No littering, No sounds, No feeding, no getting down from the safari jeep (when on safari), No phone calls.
- Remember that we are visiting their home and when we are there, let’s follow their rules.
Author: Manjunath M Gowda, wildlife lover and an avid photographer. A serial entrepreneur from Bangalore, takes wildlife trips 2-3 times a year.
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