Sunday, October 17, 2010

Kabini (Nagarahole National Park)

My first trip to the Kabini Jungle lodges camp!

My first tour without my buddies!

One of the most awaited destinations covered!
This tour was organized by the Toehold Travel & Photography Pvt. Ltd and I was one among the 15 odd people in the group led by Jayanth Sharma and Giri Cavale. An Innova taxi was arranged for 5 of us without vehicles to travel to and fro to Kabini.
Day 1 - The route to Kabini is through Mysore and most of it is good roads. The route is: Bangalore-Mysore-HD Kote (Antharasanthe)-Karapura Jungle lodges (Hint: Mysore-Mananthavadi road) and takes roughly around 5 hours drive from Bangalore.
The Kabini Jungle lodges camp is located outside the National park at a distance of about 4-5 kms on the riverbanks of the backwaters. After lunch and a small introduction later, we were divided into groups for the safari rides for the next 2 days to be led by Giri, Jayanth and Philip. The group comprised of both photographers as well as non photographers.
Our first safari started off with overcast conditions and the sky ready to open up anytime. Changeable Hawk Eagle, Brown Fish Owl, Crested Serpent Eagle were the first catches of the safari. We trodded along enjoying the greenery and listening to the varied sounds around us always keeping a watch on the surroundings for any unusual movements. After passing through couple of turns and crosses, after passing the Sunkadakatte FRH, we met another van of Orange County resorts and the driver informed there were lot of alarm calls going on just down the road. We moved ahead for about 200 mtrs and stopped and vehicle to check and scan the surroundings. Jayanth, Sadiq and myself started gazing ahead of us amidst the bushes and it took a whole five seconds for us to realize that we were seeing eye to eye with a "leopard". This five seconds nothing moved in the jeep and even the leopard amidst the bushes was sitting and had its eyes fixed on us! After this there was commotion in the jeep and the cameras were out and we were hoping the leopard comes out on to the road.

The leopard saw us, then crouched towards the ground, moved a little away from us, lifted its head to see us, then moved further down and then came on to the safari track, turned towards us and then sped away into the bushes on the other side, Phew! All this in a matter of 30 seconds! In the commotion I got a blurred sh, missed it yet again! ot of the leopard staring at us on the safari tracke
Thrice I have seen a leopard in the jungles and not once have I captured the beauty in an acceptable fashion! Hope my luck with them changes soon! First ride into the Kabini and we were blessed with a leopard sighting! Deers, Elephants, Gaur, Jungle fowl, Peafowl, the Langurs and the Macaques all made their presence felt in the jungle. After the safari ride assembling at the Ghol ghar we had a discussion on various ways of composing photographs and how inventive we can be, some much needed knowledge and gyaan! We had a good time cracking jokes and the revered Mr Prakash Subbanna was the star attraction cracking numerous jokes and making us ROFL!
Day 2 - Another overcast day and with no idea what was in store, we trotted along different routes in search of the elusive cats. Meanwhile multiple Crested Serpent Eagles posed for us as did the deers and the peafowl. We went along the backwaters, Sunkadakatte road and the Power line and could not spot anything, but the greenery all around and the cool breeze kept us engaged all the time. We could sense Philip's jeep parked at a distance and there was a clan of "Dholes" or "Wild dogs" around, 6 of them to be precise. Dholes are not so fearful of humans and are comfortable once they feel comfortable. We approached cautiously as to not disturb them moving slowly and parked at a distance.
We spent the next 45 minutes observing the clan's behavior and clan interaction and their various antics. Dholes are ruthless killers, one of them catches the prey by its neck while the others start attacking and feeding from behind even when the prey is alive! They hunt in small packs and converge on all sides of the prey before killing them. They usually hunt during the day and are inactive during the night. Pups accompany the clan on hunt only when they are about 8 months old. Even while resting alerst Scouts keep an eye on the surroundings watchfully inspecting all directions for any danger signs or prey signs. The clan is very closely knit and involve themselves in cuddling, body rubbing, nuzzling and playful antics while the scouts keep an eye on the surroundings. Scouts change and all members take part while the others rest.

We moved in close to get some full frame close up shots and the clan was right next to our jeep cuddling and playing. As you spend more time with them, you tend to fall in love with them, their dark coats shine with the sunlight on them and they dont look a bit ruthless they are!
As they moved ahead, we moved further ahead and waited for them, this continued for some time till they decided to vanish into the bushes. After this we scrolled through the other parts of the jungle, trailing a lone scared tusker for a while and came back to the same place after about 30 minutes and found the clan still lazing around. Giri and team who had till now missed the action were already there shooting them.
All good things come to an end and by this time we had to relently leave the place as the time was running out. Probably for the first time, we had to leave while the preadators were still there. We moved them hoping the clan grows in numbers and survives the test of time!

to be continued...

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