In the summer of 2013, I fell in love. I discovered cameras. This isn’t a post about my journey to becoming a photographer; you can read all about that here.
In the initial days as I found my ‘voice’ as a photographer, I prowled around wildlife and nature preserves in search of subjects from the animal and avian kingdom, gawked at some of the most amazing structures built by human hands and explored lands beyond the seas for delicacies. Over the last four years, I have come to realise that I’m uncomfortable being pigeon-holed as a ‘particular’ kind of photographer. I love to travel, and I love to take pictures and someday I’d like to be able to make a living from my passion. That’s all there is to it.
A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to spend a weekend at The Serai, a beautiful resort on the banks of the Kabini. If you have been following my blog, you will know that the Kabini wildlife sanctuary is where I took my first steps as a fledgling photographer. Since then I have travelled many miles documenting every experience as I grow in confidence and skill, but Kabini will always be special to me. Needless to say, when I received the invitation, I jumped at the opportunity to rekindle memories. Because, as they say, here’s where it all started.
Kabini is one of India’s most popular wildlife reserves. Its proximity to Bangalore, lush green landscape, elephant herds, tigers, and elusive black panthers all contribute to its popularity as a weekend destination. Situated on the banks of the Kabini river, the reserve is spread over 55 acres of forest land, valleys and water bodies. The Kabini river originates in Wayanad in the state of Kerala and empties itself in the Cauvery basin. A large lake, the lifeline of this sanctuary, is formed by a dam built upstream. This tiny piece of paradise is the perfect foil to the concrete jungle that Bangalore is fast becoming.
The Serai is nestled on the banks of the Kabini. This beautiful resort blends effortlessly with the sanctuary. I arrived in the early afternoon and was greeted with the customary Indian welcome. The skies were a bit cloudy but not cold as I expected it would be. The ambience was almost perfect for a laidback weekend. Kabini is the only wildlife park in India that welcomes safari tourists throughout the year, and my first look at The Serai gave me the impression that was the sort of place that would always be at full capacity.
Check in formalities complete, I changed into my wildlife gear and rushed for my safari. Every step towards my transport adding to the rush of nostalgia and excitement at the opportunity to relive my first visit.
The last time I was at Kabini, I had my first tiger sighting, and was also rewarded with a glorious shot of a full-grown tigress. I still remember the chills that ran down my spine as she walked past us into the bushes balefully staring at us, her gaze dripping with disdain. I wondered if I would see her again. More importantly, would she remember me?
Kabini is also home to a large number of leopards, and of course, the famous black panther everyone has been on and on about lately. Fellow photographers had sent me pictures of the Kabini black panther they had shot that very morning. Given how erratic wildlife sightings are, I decided I didn’t need the pressure.
Jungle Lodges & Resorts manage all forests in the state of Karnataka, an arrangement unique to the state, and all safari allotments and bookings are at their discretion. We had been assigned Zone B which dampened my spirits a little. The morning panther sighting was in Zone A and being allocated Zone B meant we were confined to the river bank. I envisioned long hours spent praying for thirsty animals.
Two hours of search yielded no results. The forest looked beautiful with its dense population of the teak trees separated by winding motorways. A large number of spotted deer, the occasional sighting of the sambhar and a few elephants my consolation prize. I even managed to shoot a grey-headed fish eagle. I had never seen this bird before, and it posed patiently for me as it perched on the river bank plotting its next dive.
Exhausted and a little depressed (you’d think I’d be used to this by now) I returned to the resort. The sun had also given up for the day. After a warm shower at the open to sky shower cubicle, I made my way to the resort’s human watering hole – The Outpost.
The Serai did not disappoint this glutton. WILDGRASS, their multi-cuisine restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, evening snacks, and dinner. The menu was lavish and quite delicious. No prawns though. Sigh.
All the rooms at The Serai face the waterfront. The views of the river are glorious. You can relax in hammocks or hang out with friends in the deep verandahs.
The Kabini river also presents an opportunity for boat rides. You can drift along the calm waters in a coracle or get some exercise in a kayak. If you do venture into the water, don’t panic if you see an elephant crossing. Smile and wave hello.
I have a thing for sunrises and sunsets and each one was magical and beautiful. The Serai is tranquil, and even for a Goan used to quiet, the silence can get deafening. But I loved every moment of the two wonderful days I spent here. I didn’t meet my Bengali princess, but that’s okay. I now have a reason to come back to The Serai again.