It was individual and authentic. And I was treated like a family friend, not a paying guest.
Nagarhole & Bandipur
Under consideration for UNESCO World Heritage Status, Nagarhole was once a private hunting reserve for the royalty of Mysore. Considered one of the best-managed parks in India, Nagarhole is situated northwest of Bandipur National Park, separated only by the Kabini reservoir, a sprawling expanse of water used by humans and wildlife alike.
To the south, Bandipur National Park is a tiger reserve and sanctuary home to crocodiles, pythons, the ox-like gaur, sloth bears, antelopes, and Indian elephants. However, Bandipur has recently come under threat from human pressure; not only do elephants destroy the crops of local farmers in their annual migrations, but vehicles traveling on a highway cutting through the park kill large numbers of animals each year.
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Go on an afternoon game drive with two top naturalists. Nagarhole supports the largest density of herbivores in Asia; species include the muntjak, chital, sambar, four-horned antelope, gaur or Indian bison, wild pig, Asian elephant, common langur and the monnet macaque.
Because of its wide range of endemic species, birdwatching in the area is unparalleled; “race” your naturalists and see who is the first to spot beautiful wisps of color zipping through the air. Species include malabar pied hornbill, green imperial pigeon, spot-bellied eagle owl, white-bellied woodpecker, and many more.
Kabini River Boat Safari
Embark on a boat safari along the Kabini in Bandipur National Park. Here you will have the opportunity to observe the marsh crocodile and water-borne birds, species rarely seen on vehicle safaris. There are also pockets of backwaters along the Kabini filled with fish that are excellent places to see indigenous birds. You will also see immense clearings of formerly forested paths leading the water – these foliaged alleyways were created by herds of elephants. If you are lucky, you will see them cooling off in the river from your boat.
Visit with a Kuruba family, whose ancestors lived in the national parks before they came under governmental control. Chat with them over coffee about their intriguing culture, which is quite different to any of the other customs you may have witness in India, due to the tribe’s centuries-long isolation.
Orange County Kabini
Bordered on two sides by the Kabini River, the Orange County Kabini is a luxury resort modeled after a traditional, tribal village, with palm-thatched roofs. The resort’s eight cottages are split into two categories, either overlooking a pool or an open-air Jacuzzi; all cottages feature satellite television, plush beds, climate control, en-suite bathrooms, living room, and mini-bars. The Orange County Kabini has three restaurants; the Honey Comb, which serves international and regional cuisine in an open-air setting bordering the Kabini River; the Kuruba, a specialty eatery serving kebabs and grills; and By the Kabini, a private dining experience under an intimate, thatched-roof pavilion on the shores of the Kabini. Amenities include an infinity pool, a spa offering Ayurvedic treatments, a large, spacious family pool (complete with waterslide), and a serene reading lounge with views of the Kabini River. Visitors should note that there are a series of performances and activities, including tribal dances, rides in bullock carts, and, of course, interactions with Meenakshi, the resident elephant.